So a while ago I purchased a Trendnet TEW-687GA bridge. It has a Gigabit port so that you can hit >10 MB/sec, as other Wireless N bridges only have 10/100 ports on the back.
Unfortunately I didn’t do my research properly. My Linksys E4200 only has a 2×2 antenna on 2.4 GHz, and 3×3 on 5 GHz. This effectively limits me to a max of 300 Mbps off of the bridge.
Moving on, I upgraded my media server to a Sandy Bridge system with a cheap motherboard. It is a Gigabyte H61M-USB3 and it has an Atheros AR8151 network chip. This thing gave me the biggest headache out of any networking gear I’ve purchased in the last few years.
With this bridge and a Realtek card, it was OK as all I had to disable is the “green ethernet” feature to ensure I get 100% throughput. With this Atheros, nothing I could do would get it to cooperate with this Trendnet bridge. It seemed like link speed auto-negotiation was the culprit, because it would work with full speeds for the first few minutes, then come to a crawl transmitting a max of 10 Mbps. It didn’t occur to me at the time that it was negotiating at the lowest link, as I did see on my router that the RX link was dropping to 7 Mbps.
I tried a few things, and the first was to see if the bridge had a new firmware. Nope! One release, ever.
Next was to upgrade my E4200 to Toastman’s Tomato mod: http://www.4shared.com/dir/v1BuINP3/Toastman_Builds.html
It helped a bit. The link was more stable, in that a ping test would no longer result in 75% packet loss. It was a stable connection, though it seems like the wireless signal strength needs a bit of tweaking. The Tomato firmware is my favourite router firmware. It’s fast, easy to use, and typically much more stable than any stock firmwares.
Not satisfied with just a stable connection, as I wanted the full speed that this thing had to offer, I stumbled upon this post about an XPS 15z that had various issues and happened to have the same network chip: http://en.community.dell.com/support-forums/laptop/f/3517/p/19434026/20091957.aspx
Atheros drivers are very difficult to find, and when I managed to find this set, with a driver date of 3/2/2012, I got a bit excited. After installing this and forcing the link speed to 1 Gbps I can stream all day!
I gave the bridge some longer cables and moved it into a better location so now it’s giving me ~95% link quality and 80-100% signal strength through two floors (router on 2nd floor, and bridge in the basement). Now to find a Tomato-capable router that has 3×3 on both 2.4 GHz and 5 Ghz. This never ends!