MediaFlex-o-maticBy CWNP On 08/21/2009 - 7 Comments
I'm talking about Ruckus's MediaFlex. Everything is automagic. No, seriously. Plug it in, wait a few seconds, and poof: you have an automatically-selected 5 GHz (40 MHz) UNII channel moving HD IPTV. Coverage? Not a problem with Transmit Beamforming (TxBF) - Ruckus's trademark feature. The AP was downstairs in the basement, and the two TVs were upstairs. Without TxBF, there's no way this could've happened in 5 GHz. Clarity? As good as the RG59 cable that our AT&T U-verse receivers were using prior to testing the Ruckus MediaFlex 7000 series system...and yes, I unplugged the RG59 cables before testing! :-)
What's really cool is that 2 HD streams didn't even tax the available bandwidth. I couldn't test 5 streams (we have 5 TVs) because I only had 2 client devices, but I have no doubt that all 5 of our TVs could've been moving HD channels without so much as a pixel out of place. :-) Their spec sheet says 40-60 Mbps of throughput, which is extremely believable from what I've just seen.
All of the UNII bands are supported and can be manually-selected, though the "SmartSelect" feature is enabled by default. If you already have 5 GHz Wi-Fi in your home (like me), or you have that pesky-neighbor-5GHz-Wi-Fi, then having a broad selection of 5 GHz channel options is sweetness. The AP is manageable via Web-UI, and it's brain-dead. If you can't figure out configuration of these units, you probably shouldn't watch TV either because you could probably hurt yourself. It's designed for TV installers who would rather be doing something less technical for a living.
If you've never seen these little units, they look like a decorative kid's toy. Clam-shell design, cool lights, and hard-white plastic. Very nice looking - far better than Ruckus's white dome BeamFlex APs. Perhaps Ruckus should make a clear plastic cover for the BeamFlex APs so that you can see that awesome antenna array. It would be like seeing the guts of a tricked-out Alienware Desktop computer.
We watched it authenticate and move data using AirMagnet's Wi-Fi Analyzer Pro, and the system is using PSK authentication and straight 802.11 data (not QoS data) frames. We had to think about it for a second, but that makes sense since there's only one application flowing to/from these units. No L2 802.11 QoS needed.
In the interest of ease-of-use, you can't configure the SSID or the PSK. At first, we were trying to figure out how you keep your tech-saavy neighbors from watching your TV with their cool Ruckus clients, but then we found the MAC filter. When you first think about it, this begs the question, "which is easier to configure, an SSID and PSK or a MAC filter?" But after some amount of thought, if you don't want to configure the client devices, you want to provide centralized network administration, and your clients can't be spoofed, it actually makes life easier to do it this way. It looks like Ruckus actually took the time to think ease-of-use through.
More or less, if you don't have (or can't get) RG59 or Ethernet cable to your set top boxes, you should go with this solution. It really is, "just like cable."
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