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Should I replace/upgrade my WRT1900AC (MU-MIMO vs Xstream)

Discussion in 'General Wireless Discussion' started by Mr_HoneyDo, Feb 17, 2017.

  1. Mr_HoneyDo

    Mr_HoneyDo New Around Here

    Feb 17, 2017
    Let me set the stage, I've been using SNB for years reading reviews and posts to make informed decisions, for that I thank you all its been a non-replacable resource, but this is my first post to the forum and I believe these questions belong on this page. I've also tried to find answers to the questions below via the same process and haven't quite found an answer/solution, hence this post.

    I currently have a WRT1900AC and for the most part I'm very happy with it. I've started to experience some issues (buffering) with it as I recently started using an Amazon Fire TV stick for viewing online content and most importantly streaming local library content (Netgear ReadyNAS 516) via PLEX (read kids movies). Before I was using an ethernet connected Samsung Blu-Ray player and its archaic DNLA interface.

    With the Fire stick, my laptop, my wifes laptop and a few other devices all connected to the 5GHz radio on the WRT its just too much to handle smooth video streaming (usually to all three devices simultaneously - Plex to Fire stick, and youtube to both laptops) and internet browsing from both laptops.

    Given that I started looking at new routers with a bit more bandwidth and thats when I discovered the MU-MIMO vs XSTREAM debate. So all that up there has led to the handful of questions below. My apologies for the long read and any insight/information/assistance you all can provide is greatly appreciated. Just trying to get/be informed.

    1) From what I can tell reading the forum posts and router reviews the biggest problem with MU-MIMO is that if the router has that functionality enabled there aren't any clients that support MU-MIMO yet (other than other routers). Is that a correct statement?

    2) XSTREAM is available/works now and doesn't require any additional compatibility upgrades (firmware etc...) from the client perspective, right?

    3) Would a XSTREAM capable router resolve the above described multiple simultaneous streams issue?

    4) If MU-MIMO routers were functioning as advertised by the manufacturers and hosts had supporting MU-MIMO capability would MU-MIMO or XSTREAM provide a better solution to multiple client/simultaneous streams issue? (this is the future proofing just be patient question)
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  3. Nullity

    Nullity Very Senior Member

    Jul 17, 2014
    Your buffering problem is likely not caused by lack of bandwidth but rather lack of processing power for Plex transcodes.

    What's the CPU usage on your Plex server when you experience buffering?

    Plex does not require much bandwidth (Netflix only requires 25Mbit for 4K streams). Make sure you are avoiding transcoding. This depends on what codecs your Plex clients support. Usually, h264 is the best supported codec to avoid transcoding.

    There's lots of info out there regarding Plex & avoiding transcoding.
  4. Mr_HoneyDo

    Mr_HoneyDo New Around Here

    Feb 17, 2017

    I'll have to check on the CPU usage hadn't thought about that, but it only happens in those scenarios where the kids are watching something via the Fire Stick and the wife and I are on our laptops (all on the 5GHz signal).

    They're H264 MKV rips of BDs. From what I've read on PLEX's site these files shouldn't require transcoding. I've been looking into that as well because I'm thinking of upgrading the ReadyNAS to a QNAP X82T series (i3 to an i7 processor).
  5. thiggins

    thiggins Mr. Easy Staff Member

    May 18, 2008
    Uncompressed Blu-ray rips will eat up a lot of wireless bandwidth, up to 40 Mbps. This may not sound like a lot, but if the device you're streaming to has a low signal level, it could run out of bandwidth.

    So first step is to determine what mix of radios you have in your devices. Best case would be all three are 2x2 802.11ac. If any are N, that device will eat up much more bandwidth. If that N devices is farthest away from the router, it will eat up even more.

    You'll need to determine whether you have a Gen 1 or Gen 2 Fire Stick. Both have 2x2 radios, but Gen 1 is 11n and Gen 2 is 11ac. Gen 2 comes with a Voice Remote.

    If you have a Gen 1, its 5 GHz max link rate is 300 Mbps. If it's Gen 2, the max 5 GHz link rate is 867 Mbps.

    Next, I'd move all three devices to the same room as the router and start your usual streams.

    Then, see if you can run the Plex stream to each laptop. Then try both laptops.

    This will tell you if you have a Plex problem.

    Now to your specific questions.

    MU-MIMO in a router doesn't do anything unless there are two or more devices that also support it.

    By "XSTREAM", I'll assume you mean routers that have a second 5 GHz radio. You are correct that any Wi-Fi device can work with an tri-radio router. But XSTREAM's automatic assignment of clients to radios to maximize total bandwidth doesn't work for everyone.

    It might, but also might not. Your best bet would be to disable "Smart Connect" and manually assign devices to different radios.

    I can't answer that definitively since I haven't run an A/B test. But note MU-MIMO works on downlink only and requires strong to medium signals to work.
  6. RMerlin

    RMerlin Super Moderator

    Apr 14, 2012
    MU-MIMO is an elegant solution that fails to deliver in real-life, due to poor implementations and lack of client support.

    XStream is a brute force solution that actually works - provided you manually allocate clients to specific radios and do not rely on automatic allocation. And that you don't have a problem with the 100$ price premium for that third radio. In some case, buying an extra AP and installing it on a separate channel might provide the same thing at a slightly lower cost. Especially since you already have a very good router, just adding an AP and setting it on a different channel would do the same thing.
  7. pege63

    pege63 Very Senior Member

    Jan 17, 2015
    Sweden, AngelIsland
    I think the "Smart Connect" works well and my clients "smartphones/tablets" switches between the NG R7000 A+B very well, when you move around here.
  8. sfx2000

    sfx2000 Part of the Furniture

    Aug 11, 2011
    San Diego, CA
    You're probably coverage limited - so changing out to something else isn't going to be very helpful - rather sort the WiFi itself - with the Fire Stick, use an extension cable and get it away from the TV and out into the open...

    The WRT1900ac is fairly stout on the Radio side - better than many others out there.
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