New Cable Modem – Big Performance Boost
I’ve been “renting” an old Ambit cable modem from Time Warner for about 4 years now… so $8 per month, 4 years, 12 months per year, that’s $384 that I’ve “spent” on a router/modem that’s MAYBE worth $30 brand new (Ambit, now uBee, is a cheap piece of crap). These things have a life expectancy of maybe 2 years, so they definitely got their money out of that device (and me).
Meanwhile, I’ve been having problems with my only-a-year-old Linksys router. In a future post, I’ll go in to the details about why I will no longer be a Linksys customer, and why Linksys is now on my NO RECOMMEND list.
While shopping for a Netgear router (which I DO still highly recommend), I stumbled upon a bundle deal, where I got a brand new router and a Netgear CM400 DOCSIS 3.0 cable modem. I had been meaning to upgrade, aside from saving that $8/mo “equipment rental” fee from Time Warner, I wanted to get the speed boost that comes with the newer DOCSIS specification – the Ambit was using DOCSIS 2.1 according to its firmware.
I went to SpeedTest.net both before and after the cable modem upgrade – mind you, I made sure that the ONLY difference between these tests is that the second one was performed after swapping out the Ambit for the Netgear cable modem, in order to keep all other variables as similar as possible, and therefore tightly control the outcome of the test. Because of this, both tests were performed on the crappy Linksys router.
What you can’t see, is that on the old modem (first test), my download speed hovered around 10 Mbps through most of the test, and only peaked out at 13 once. During the second test (Netgear modem), the download speed never dropped below 18, and was at 20 through most of the test.
As you can see, my download almost doubled, and my upload went up by a factor of almost 6!
Regardless of what you hear people say, or what the U-Verse / FIOS guy tries to sell you, 10 meg of bandwidth (10 “megabits per second”, or Mbps) is actually plenty for most people – gaming uses a stream of maybe 1 Mbps, and even streaming a movie only uses around 4 to 6 Mbps (depending on quality). So the improved download, although useful and welcome, isn’t really something I’ll see on a daily basis – maybe I’ll see improved stream quality if we have two streaming movies going at once.
More importantly, it’s pretty easy to get tripped up by that dinky 1 Mbps upload. Part of any download, whether you’re streaming, gaming, or simply downloading some software or updates, is that your PC (or game, TV, streaming device, whatever) has to send back acknowledgements for data it has received, as well as requests for more data from the server. Normally, these requests and updates are much smaller than the data you get back from the server, so you don’t normally notice any adverse effect caused by the tiny upload limitation, and in fact ALL providers typically allow greater download bandwidth and smaller upload bandwidth for this reason – this is known as asymmetric bandwidth.
The problem you run in to, is that if there are multiple streams / downloads all going on at once, you can quickly overrun the upload bandwidth! In my case, a live stream was impossible, and Voice over IP ONLY worked well if everyone else in the house shut down their streaming / gaming.
A digital photo can be anywhere from 2 to upwards of 8 megaBYTES (MB), so ONE photo uploading at 1 Mbps could take over a minute! Each byte is 8 bits, and an 8 meg (megabyte) photo would be 8 bits * 8 MB = 64 megabits (Mb) of data to transfer, divided by 1 Mbps = 64 seconds. The same photo will now take about 11 seconds!
AND FORGET ABOUT UPLOADING VIDEO at 1 Mbps. A typical YouTube video might be encoded at up to 4 Mbps (audio and video), meaning each ONE SECOND of video takes FIVE seconds to upload. A long video, like a tutorial, might be 20 minutes, which works out to 600 meg for a super high-quality render, which would then require 1 hour and 20 minutes to upload! At 6 Mbps, it would take just over 13 minutes.
So for me, the jump from 1 Mbps upload to almost 6 Mbps is going to be huge!
Who knows? I might even get a few more kbps after swapping out the crappy Linksys router for the Netgear one…