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 Panasonic 11Mbps Wireless LAN PC Card

Page 2 

 Author: Tim Higgins
 Review Date: 7/8/2001


Performance - Quantitative


My testing for the HGC200 included my usual suite of Qcheck tests, plus a set of qualitative tests that were intended to check Whitecap's enhanced multimedia handling performance.  I ran the same tests on Whitecap and 802.11b test partners:

  • Whitecap setup: Panasonic KX-HGC200 card in a Compaq 1650 laptop running Win98SE.  Connecting to Win98SE desktop via a Panasonic KX-HGW200 acting as a wireless to Ethernet bridge.

Test Conditions:

Firmware/Driver Versions:

- Dynamic Channel 
Change:
Disabled
- Master Node:
No
- FEC:
Enabled
- Channel: 6

AP f/w: 2.04U
Wireless client software:
3.3.0.12
Wireless client f/w:
03.03.011

  • 802.11b setup: ORiNOCO Gold PC card in a Compaq 1650 laptop running Win98SE.  Connecting to Win98SE desktop via a D-Link DWL-1000AP acting as a wireless to Ethernet bridge.

Test Conditions:

Firmware/Driver Versions:

- WEP encryption: Disabled
- Tx Rate:
Automatic
- Power Save:
disabled
- Channel: 6

AP f/w: 3.0.35
Wireless client driver:
Variant 1, Version 4.00
Wireless client f/w:
Variant 1, Version 6.16

(Details of how we tested can be found here.)

The Results!

Test Description

Qcheck TCP Transfer Rate (Mbps)

[1Mbyte data size]

802.11b

Whitecap

AP to Client - Condition 1

4.0

1.9

AP to Client - Condition 2

4.0

2.0

AP to Client - Condition 3

3.7

2.0

AP to Client - Condition 4

2.6

2.0

Comments: This was a puzzler.  Try as I might, I could not get the Whitecap TCP Transfer rate above 2Mbps, which was just about half of the 802.11b rate.  Since the Sharewave Network Manager Bandwidth tab indicated that bandwidth was allocated 50% to the gateway card and 50% to my client,  my conclusion is that the behavior is by design.

Test Description

Qcheck Response Time (msec)

[10 iterations 100byte data size]

802.11b

Whitecap

AP to Client - Condition 1

4 (avg)
6 (max)

32 (avg)
32 (max)

AP to Client - Condition 2

4 (avg)
6 (max)

32 (avg)
33 (max)

AP to Client - Condition 3

4 (avg)
5 (max)

32 (avg)
32 (max)

AP to Client - Condition 4

4 (avg)
5 (max)

32 (avg)
33 (max)

Comments: The Whitecap numbers were so consistent, that again, I can only conclude that this behavior is by design.  I don't know what these higher-than-normal numbers would mean for gaming performance, where as-low-as-possible ping times are desired. 

Test Description

Qcheck UDP stream 
[10S@500Kbps]

(Actual throughput- kbps)

(Lost data- %)

802.11b

Whitecap

802.11b

Whitecap

AP to Client - Condition 1

495

492

0%

0%

AP to Client - Condition 2

491

491

0%

0%

AP to Client - Condition 3

489

492

0%

0%

AP to Client - Condition 4

445

492

0%

0%

Comments: This UDP-based test shows a slight advantage for Whitecap for the longest distance Condition 4 test.  But when I tried to run a 1Mbps stream, Qcheck showed that the maximum rate was limited to about 650kbps.  I suspect this may be a Qcheck limitation, but don't know for sure.

 

Performance - Qualitative


Sharewave emphasized that qualitative tests, involving looking at and listening to multimedia streams, should be included in any Whitecap evaluation.  So, armed with some encoded movie files supplied by Sharewave, I set up some multimedia based tests, mostly using a 2Mb MPEG file played on a Version 6.4 Windows Media Player.  My plan was to open the movie from the same Ethernet connected machine that I used as a Qcheck test partner, then move to each of my four usual test locations and see if the movie quality changed.  This test would be repeated with same Sharewave and 802.11b test setups used for the Qcheck tests above.

Well, the tests didn't yield the expected results of showing Whitecap's superior multimedia handling, and after discussions with Sharewave, I can explain why.  In a nutshell:

Whitecap produces its enhanced multimedia experience when the wireless network is carrying UDP data streams among multiple clients on a peer-to-peer basis.

Some explanation may help clarify the above summary: 

1) If you open an MPEG or MP3 file via Windows network browsing (Network Neighborhood) on an Ethernet or HPNA connected machine with a wireless Whitecap client, the TCP protocol is used. Assuming you're using the Panasonic Gateway, the TCP data then goes through the gateway's Ethernet/Whitecap bridge. This bridge DOES NOT support the TCP-to-Whitecap UDP "fast read" conversion that is provided by peer-to-peer Whitecap wireless connections. (This is not a technical limitation, but a product development priority trade-off, i.e. Panasonic did not add the "fast read" capability to the bridge.)  As a result, you don't get the Whitecap UDP-based enhancements.

2) The other key to experiencing Whitecap's superior multimedia performance is having multiple Whitecap clients on the network. This allows Whitecap to parcel out bandwidth as needed among clients, which it can't do if there are multiple data streams (such as playing an MP3 file and doing a long data file download or transfer) between just two clients.

Since I don't have multiple laptops and Panasonic doesn't offer a PCI adapter or USB version of its adapter, I couldn't test out Whitecap's multimedia enhancements.  However, Sharewave provided plenty of detailed test data to back up their claims, and I certainly don't doubt them!

 

Summary


Sharewave has an interesting story to tell with the Whitecap technology and they may very well have a jump on the competition by getting Whitecap's Quality of Service (QoS) features spec'd into the developing 802.11e specification.  But in my opinion, 802.11b just has too much of a head start for Whitecap to make much headway against it, even with Whitecap's multimedia handling advantages.

Unless you're going to build your network the way that Whitecap needs it built (all peer-to-peer wireless clients) and use it to primarily carry multimedia streams (MP3s, streaming videos) among LAN based clients (not from the Internet), and you don't care about 802.11b compatibility, then I'd pass on the Panasonic HGC200.   If you're really interested in trying something with better performance than 802.11b, wait a few months! The wireless networking world will soon get shaken up with Whitecap2, HomeRF2, and 802.11a all trying to wrestle market share away from 802.11b.   Then you can have the best of both worlds (802.11b and enhanced multimedia handling) with Whitecap2, and according to Sharewave, it should cost you less too!

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