When I’m at home and relaxing, I love watching films and TV shows streamed off my Windows Home Server. We have 3 media centers around our flat that display the media on our TVs. The old laptop that had we’d been using as a media center PC in our bedroom was struggling to play 1080p files, so I decided to build a new Media Center PC as cheaply as possible. Doing this also freed up a laptop that I gave to my wife as she’s just quit her job and is going to work with me full-time from next week, so she needs a dedicated rather than shared machine.
Imagine my surprise, when my new Media Center still stuttered when playing 1080p mkv files and ripped blu-rays. It was better, but there still was a stutter. This didn’t make sense as my new system had a better CPU, a AMD3 Athlon X2 Dual Core 240, whereas my other Media Center PCs had slower CPUs (4200+ and 4600+) so it had more than enough power.
I started wondering if it was my wireless 802.11n connection on the new PC, because the other PCs are on a gigabit lan. I was correct – when I connected the new PC to a wired connection everything worked fine. I was stunned as my biggest files were only around 20-25Mbps, which theoretically should be well within reach of a 300Mbps (theoretical) 802.11n router.
After some investigation I realised that there is too much congestion on the 2.4Ghz band that early 802.11n routers use and I really needed a 802.11n router that utilised the 5Ghz band if I wanted to attain wireless speeds high enough to stream HD 1080p files. The free 802.11n router that Virgin Media gave me with my 50Mbps service just wasn’t good enough for the job.
I’ve just ordered a D-Link DIR-855, which still seems to be the best 802.11n router on the market a year after launch. According to reviews the DIR-855 has been able to stream two 1080p videos and also has Q0S to ensure that my media files get priority. To help this it’s a dual band router, so I can use the 2.4Ghz for internet use/other networking and the 5Ghz band exclusively for my media center.
The D-Link DIR-855 is pricey at £200 for the router and matching card, but I think it’s worth it as I’m certain it will last me at least 5 years as I’m not going to be streaming anything bigger than a blu-ray or a 1080p mkv file and these will around for at least another 5-10 years. Whenever I buy kit now I try to futureproof, as I’m tired of endless replacements. For instance, I think I’ve gone through around 8 routers in the 10 years I’ve had broadband.
The new D-Link DIR-855 router arrives this week, so I’ll let you know if it doesn’t deliver.