150 Mbps vs 300 Mbps – Comparison of 802.11 N Wireless Networks

Posted on Mar 13, 2013 | 10 comments

Wireless Network Speed Comparison – 150 Mbps vs 300 Mbps

Update: After numerous comments on this article, I feel a number of readers are missing the purpose of the demonstration. This article is meant to provide the average everyday user a means of visually comparing the speed difference between the two types of wireless connections. (150 and 300) I understand that there is a difference between Mbps, Mbps, etc, etc…however, the article is not geared towards the technically elite. It is simply a means by which the everyday person will be able to discern if an upgrade is worth their hard earned money. 

What does 300 Mbps mean? What does 150 Mbps mean? Will my internet be faster with a 300 Mbps wireless network card instead of a 150 Mbps network card? What is the real world difference in actual speed between the two types of wireless network cards? Should I go with a hard wired Ethernet connection versus a wireless network connection? These questions and many more are the questions I am asked when discussing any type of wireless network installation. After 13 years of working professionally in the computer field, I feel it is time to show actual real world results between the two wireless network speeds. In addition, I will compare them both to the good old hard wired Ethernet connection. Which one is best for you?

Wireless network speeds come in a variety of standards. Common wireless network standards are wireless 802.11B, 802.11G and 802.11N. For the most part both wireless 802.11B and 802.11G are not used nowadays for new network installations. 802.11N is currently the fastest stable wireless connection you can buy. 802.11N also provides the strongest signal allowing networked devices to maintain a reliable connection far away from the actual wireless router. While there are various levels of 802.11N, the two I will be discussing are the 150 Mbps and 300 Mbps variety.

Common mathematics would lead one to assume that a 300 Mbps wireless network will be twice as fast as a 150 Mbps wireless network. However, these numbers are feasible in what one would consider an “optimal” environment. Imagine placing your wireless N router in the center of a basketball gymnasium. It would be fair to assume that since there are no obstructions to block the wireless network signal coming from your wireless N router, you would probably have a decent wireless connection anywhere inside that basketball gymnasium.

However, place that same wireless router inside your home and that powerful wireless network signal now must travel through walls, floors and much more before it reaches your wireless device. By the time it reaches your wireless device, that signal has been reduced considerably. All these obstacles not only reduce the strength of the signal, but the rate at which data is transmitted.

In order to give proper real world results, three sets of tests were performed. Each set of tests included 1) an internet speed test from Speedtest.net and 2) a large file transfer from one PC to the other. These two tests were completed on the same two computers for all 3 types of connections: Wireless 150 Mbps, Wireless 300 Mbps and finally a hard wired gigabit Ethernet connection. All three sets of tests were done on the same 2 computers in order to provide the most accurate real world network results.

System Specifications of Control Computers

CPU - AMD Phenom II X4 965
Motherboard - GIGABYTE GA-990FXA-UD3
RAM - G.Skill 16 GB DDR 3
HD - Crucial 256 GB SSD
Power Supply - Corsair 750 Watt Professional Series
Graphics Card - Asus Radeon HD 7850 (1 GB DDR 5)
NIC (for hard wired tests) -
Operating System - Windows 7 Home

The components of the wireless network are as follows…

1) Verizon FiOS Actiontec Router – This router has (4) gigabit network ports that allow you to connect 4 wired devices to your network. The wireless antenna on the FiOS router has been disabled and the router only controls the hard wired network devices.

2) UniFi AP LR (Unifi Long Range Access Point) – This wireless N 300 Mbps access point is connected to the Verizon FiOS Actiontec Gigabit router and controls the wireless portion of my network. This access point can transmit data at the rate of 300 Mbps and is backward compatible to previous 802.11 standards. It is important to note that the access point is running in N mode only in order to squeeze the most performance from the wireless network. The access point is also operating a 40 Mhz channel.  (Wireless B and G standards have been disabled on the access point.)

3) Verizon FiOS Internet – 25 Mb Download  / 10 Mb Upload

Want to know how to install the UniFi AP LR on your Verizon FiOS router? Click the link below…

Boost Verizon FiOS Wireless Network Signal – UniFi AP

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The results of the 3 sets of tests are shown below…

150 Mbps Wireless Network Real World Speed Test

For these tests both computers were outfitted with a Rosewill RNX-N150 PCe which operates at a maximum speed of 150 Mbps. Both computers were connected to the same UniFi AP LR and were both roughly 30 ft away from the access point.

Large File Transfer

150 Mbps vs 300 Mbps - Wireless N Network Speed Comparison

In a real world scenario, the Rosewill wireless network card only had a maximum data transfer rate of 3.37 Mbps.

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150 Mbps vs 300 Mbps - Wireless N Network Speed Comparison

The Speedtest.net test had a download of 19.01 Mbps and an upload of 9.90 Mbps.

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300 Mbps Wireless Network Real World Speed Test

For this test both computers were outfitted with an Intel 2200BNHMWDTX1 which has a maximum data transfer rate of 300 Mbps. Both computers were connected to the same UniFi AP LR and were both roughly 30 ft away from the access point.

150 Mbps vs 300 Mbps - Wireless N Network Speed Comparison

In a real world scenario, the Intel wireless network card had a maximum transfer rate of 5.41 Mbps. This showed an increase of 2.04 Mbps for network traffic when compared to the Rosewill network card.

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150 Mbps vs 300 Mbps - Wireless N Network Speed Comparison

The Speedtest.net test had a download of 25.21 Mbps and an upload of 10.79 Mbps. This is an increase of 6.2 Mbps for the download speed and a .89 Mbps increase in the upload speed when compared to the Rosewill network card.

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Gigabit Ethernet Network Real World Speed Test

For these tests both computers were outfitted with a Realtek 8111E onboard gigabit network interface / port. The Realtek NIC has a maximum transfer rate of 1,000 Mbps.

Hardwired File Transfer

In a real world scenario, the Realtek network card had a maximum transfer rate of 32.9 Mbps. This showed an increase of 27.49 Mbps for network data transfer speed when compared to the Intel Wireless network card.

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150 Mbps vs 300 Mbps - Wireless N Network Speed Comparison

When compared to the Intel wireless network card, the Realtek Gigabit network card showed little difference in the download and upload speed.

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From the data collected between the three devices, it is clear that the claimed wired and wireless data transfer speed is no where the real world results.  Remember, those figures are for an optimal location which almost never occurs. However, the results from the test clearly showed a difference in both network data transfer speed as well download and upload internet speed between the three devices.

The 300 Mbps Intel wireless card showed a 61% increase in network data transfer speed, a 33% increase in the internet download speed and a 10% increase in the internet upload speed when compared to the Rosewill network card. It is important to note that the 150 Mbps Rosewill wireless network card could not utilize the 25 Mb FiOS internet connection to the fullest extent.

The Realtek network card showed a 600% increase in network data transfer speed. However, the differences between the download and upload speed when compared to the Intel network card were negligible. This is important to note because I am often asked if a faster wireless network card will help the download and upload speed of an internet connection. For the most part, internet speed is determined by the speed of your internet connection. However, the Rosewill wireless network card showed that it could not handle the full 25 Mbps / 10 Mbps FiOS internet connection.

So which network setup should you go with…150 Mbps, 300 Mbps or a hard wired Ethernet network? This all depends on your requirements. The Intel wireless network card clearly showed an increase in both network data transfer speed and the download / upload speed of the internet. Though the increase in network data transfer speed from the Intel wireless card is miniscule when compared to the data transfer speed of a traditional hard wired Ethernet network. So what should you go with?

For over 13 years, I have told my clients to run a hard wired connection within their offices. The fast network data transfer speed as well as the reliability that comes with a hard wired network setup is a must for any business.  If you are planning to stream video through your home network a wired Ethernet network is the best solution. Though there are times when one must go wireless. For these times, it is clear that the 300 Mbps data transfer rate is a great improvement over the old 150 Mbps data transfer rate.

Tags: 150mbps,300mbps,wireless,n,network,speed,comparison,gigabit,ethernet,transfer,rate,data,802.11N

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10 Comments

  1. Thank you for this article. This is exactly what I was looking for in deciding whether or not it was worth the extra money to buy a 300Mbps 802.11n adapter for my computer. Did you ever try comparing these same network standards with online video streaming? I know 802.11g really struggles with streaming video.

    • The actual bandwidth you will observe all depends on the specifications of your equipment and most of all, the distance between the router / access point and the wireless device. Video will be “ok” but never will it be similar to a hard wired connection. Don’t expect HD video to look spectacular. Maybe try out something like this if it works for your particular situation…

      Ubiquiti AirWire Wireless Ethernet Cord

  2. just wanted to thank you for your clear description. am in process of upgrading an old wireless card and was overwhelmed until i read your article. Great Stuff! Thanks! :)

  3. It’ll also save a lot of cash and time for those on a restricted budget.

  4. Thank you, thank you, thank you for this article/ comparison. I have a 25 mbps (megabit) internet speed. I was in the store today wanting to buy a router. The seller adviced me to buy the 300 mbps version, but he couldnt explain satisfactorily enough to me why the 150 mbps version wasnt good enough ( after all, my internet speed is only 1/6 of the router speed). After reading this article i still think the producers are deceptive since actual speed is so much lower than advertised, but after reading this article at least i understand there is indeed a noticeable difference between the 150 and 300 version. So i will end up buying the 300 version now. Thanks again.

    • Glad I could help. If you don’t have any older wireless devices (B or G devices) make sure to disable those two wireless specs on the router. Essentially, you want to broadcast “Wireless N Only”. This will make sure you have the fastest connection across a broad spectrum of devices.

  5. Great article. Exactly what I was looking for before deciding on a new wireless network dongle. If only all internet postings were so informative there would be a lot more hours in my day.

  6. thnks bro

  7. Jaime is an extremely helpful dude, but people are replying to a 2013 article in summer 2014 and the world has changed since then. There are also a couple omissions I’d like to add, for anyone troubleshooting why their 150/300/600M connections aren’t working like they “should”. With that in mind, I submit what I hope is a useful addendum.
    – – – – –

    “The actual bandwidth you will observe all depends on the specifications of your equipment and most of all, the distance between the router / access point and the wireless device.”

    NOT ALWAYS! :-)

    One thing this article doesn’t mention is congestion. I live on the 30th floor of an NYC Midtown highrise. I can view ~440 access points at any given time during the day. My TiVo is connected by a 300Mbps dongle over a 2T2R 40MHz width @ 2.4GHz and is 2.5m/8′ from the router; in the early morning, I can get 5.27M/sec transfers much like Jaime’s test, however by 9pm I’m lucky to get 2.91M/sec. Yes, it’s still a 300Mbps connection. But there’s so many other radios in the same space, we’re slamming into each other and shouting over each other.

    There is a funny phenomenon that occurs with this many “smart” routers trying to be smart, too. Many include things like spread spectrum and auto-channel hopping to avoid congestion; but when APs are this densely packed, they hop around and cause their own congestion! It’s a WiFi Channel Hop dance. As each router in range moves to a new channel, it creates a drop at a certain channel, other routers hop over to there, it becomes crowded, so they hop elsewhere. It’s very silly.

    Congestion even creates FCC criminals! Some people go outside the allotted channel space for USA WiFi, simply to find free air. It’s illegal and beyond the scope of Jaime’s blog, this is just an FYI that such things do occur. (Obviously very few American locations are as densely packed as NYC.)

    Channel width is very important in mixed environments as is frequency. The 5GHz range is much less congested here, due (I guess) to it’s apparent shorter range. However the article’s assertion we can make everything talk at .11n is infeasible when everything in your house wants a wireless connection these days. This is the channel width issue, ie. 20MHz vs 40MHz, single antenna units cannot do both simultaneously.

    Another issue not covered that’s important to throughput is the number of antennas. More = better. Both on your router and on your adapter. Some antennas you cannot see, they are on the PCB or inside the case. A router with only one antenna can only support one narrow channel, and probably only 1 TX / 1 RX stream at a time. With 12 devices simultaneously trying to talk to it, you might expect a slight degradation in your throughput.

    Anyway, as I said, people are commenting on a 2013 article that needs to be updated, because right after this was posted, 801.11ac stepped onto the mainstream stage. People have started referring to is as “gigabit wireless”. Sounds catchier than .11ac huh?

    If you can afford it, -always- go 801.11ac! It is the newest, fastest, and most robust wireless on the planet to become standardized. And just by that virtue, it’s “the best”. A side effect of that is, the routers that support it also support many advanced features like enhanced self-tuning firewalls and other various security and user experience improvements. But performance comes at a price; and that price is ~4x the cost of .11n routers & adapters.

    .11ac should be the King of Wireless, for, oh, 18 months or so. THBT will always be forthcoming.

    Thanks to Jaime for this wonderful blog!

    • Thanks for the comment Bill! Yes, this article is a little outdated…maybe I will get a chance one day in the near future to update it. One thing I will point out about 11AC though is, not until recently, there were not many actual everyday devices that utilized this standard. For example, only this year have we seen phones that utilize the 5ghz spectrum. One thing that I have been using with great success now are the MIMO routers/access points/devices.

      In the business world, clients tend to upgrade their offices every few years. So when I outfit their place, I prefer to use hardware that is more stable and robust than latest and fast. Clients tend to hate it when their wireless network is down in the middle of the work day. : ( While AC is great, it is always tricky to get the full speed potential in an office with 50 cell phones / tablets. Also, the 5ghz spectrum works best when there aren’t any obstacles. The 2.4ghz standard may be old but it still works.

      But like I mentioned two years ago, this article was written for the everyday user in Staples or Best Buy trying to decide on what to buy for their home. On a side note however, if you are in the market for a new router or access point and wan’t something stable and fast, look at the Unifi line of products made by Ubiquiti. Not only are they stable, I have seen a transfer rate of 10-11M/sec when a network is not congested. However, for those stuck with the Verizon FIOS router, you will need to read my article on adding an access point to get any noticeable benefits. Sorry FIOS, your router is crap…

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