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In order to minimize signal drop-out at the far reaches of a house, where the antenna must be in one corner of the house due to practical wiring reasons, I found the "SmartBeam" concept in D-Link Whole Home Router 1000 (DIR-645) an intriguing concept. However, I'm a bit skeptical since two years of subsequent models with better data rates in the same product line do not include that feature.

Does the multi-channel support in more recent routers or some other new technology provide the same kind of coverage benefits, but in a different way? Or is there still a unique benefit to the auto-focusing technology? Are other vendors using it?

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I would have been skeptical even before knowing later models didn't include that feature. Sounds like marketing hype to me. Having multiple channels is more to do with minimizing interference between other wireless access points in the vicinity rather than overcoming long distances (as far as I'm aware). –  Austin ''Danger'' Powers Mar 16 '13 at 14:42
    
@Dan: The DIR-645 is a single-band N300 router - so not optimized for minimizing interference. What they hype is the directional aspect ("SmartBeam"). Regardless, your point that multiple channels don't help with distances is helpful in answering the question. –  Edward Brey Mar 16 '13 at 14:58

2 Answers 2

I have never used one of these, and so can't speak to it's actually effectiveness, but it's a general rule of RF that a unidirectional signal will be considerably stronger then an omnidirectional one, simply because all the power is focusing in one direction instead of everywhere. If this device is able to focus the signal in the direction of the devices as it claims, that would be pretty cool and should boost signal strength dramatically.

One possible reason that this isn't in future products is that it has 6(!) antenna's which would add a fair amount to the cost. Another is that it simply doesn't work as well as advertised. It seems to have good reviews, so it's probably effective.

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Interesting that the review you cited says, "D-Link is working on a dual band Smartbeam router for 2012 (will it have 12 antennas?!) so some may wish to wait." I wonder what happened to those plans. –  Edward Brey Mar 16 '13 at 14:59
    
Follow-up: I asked D-Link about a week ago about dual band Smartbeam and mentioned this superuser question. I never heard back. –  Edward Brey Mar 25 '13 at 0:45
    
@EdwardBrey Thanks for the update, the more I hear about this product, the worse it sounds. Please let me know if D-Link ever says anything, I'm curious as to what occurred with this product line. –  David Mar 25 '13 at 15:08

I haven't come across this particular product line before, but wireless networking is always interesting in how many innovations occur all the time trying to improve some aspect of wireless (better coverage, speed, user density, reliability, etc). Many of these innovations come out of the enterprise wireless market.

This product appears to utilize two innovations. First, it is using a beamforming technology, which has become fairly common in enterprise products and should be part of the 802.11ac standard.

Second, it sounds like an antenna array, similar to Ruckus wireless's offering. These are twist on the earlier AP arrays produced by companies like Xirrus. I have never used the Ruckus products, but I have heard numerous good things about them when it comes to coverage and performance.

My guess on why they didn't develop this line more is for one or both of the following reasons.

First, Ruckus (or some other company) has patents that cover this product. There may be legal action or negotiations over licensing issues.

Second, while this works for Ruckus at an enterprise AP price, the additional complexity and hardware doesn't work so well at the consumer price and sales may not have been as good as they hoped.

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