Wifi performance in smartphones analysed

Investigation requested: Broadcom versus Qualcomm


Trees, forests and wifi

Ideally, we would have liked to have identified the specific WiFi chip used by the manufacturer for all devices. Unfortunately, it proved to be an almost impossible task to find out this information for all the phones and we must therefore limit ourselves to mapping the SoCs used and any details regarding the WiFi standard.

It should be noted that Qualcomm is by far the most transparent of all chip manufacturers when it comes to the specifications of the WiFi chips of their own Snapdragons. On the site of the American chip giant you can simply search for the specific SoC and you will get to see an extensive specs sheet. Qualcomm displays the supported WiFi standards, maximum speed, supported channel widths, number of streams, QAM version and mu-mimo support, among other things. Incidentally, we found that this still does not guarantee that the implementation of such a Qualcomm SoC in practice 100% corresponds to the specified characteristics.

Rubbish specs

This is in stark contrast to manufacturers such as Mediatek, which only mentions '802.11a/b/g/n' on its website for the relevant SoC. The websites of HiSillicon, Samsung and Apple do not even contain specific information about WiFi chips, at least not related to the SoC. It is of course possible to find some information on the product page of a specific smartphone. This information is usually limited to the WiFi standard or, at best, to a statement such as '802.11ac wifi with MIMO', which we found on the iPhone 7 Plus product page.

Not only is the information generally limited, it is also sometimes contradictory to what we think we know. For example, Huawei's Y7 is equipped with the Snapdragon 435, which, according to Qualcomm's website, supports the 802.11ac standard. However, the Y7 does not provide this support, which suggests that this device contains a modified version of this SoC, or that Huawei has built in a separate, inferior chip for inexplicable reasons.

Two manufacturarers

Therefore, the answer to the question of which chip is in each device must largely be left unanswered. That is a pity, because we would have liked to have said a little more about compatibility with the two routers we are using for this test. With routers, it is usually relatively easy to find out whether a device is equipped with a Broadcom or a Qualcomm chipset. In any case, we thought it would be a good idea to link all the participating devices to both a Broadcom and a Qualcomm router to find out if there are any differences. We chose to select two models from the same manufacturer, namely the Netgear Nighthawk X4S R7800 based on a Qualcomm chip set and the Netgear Nighthawk X6 R8000 based on a Broadcom chip

Netgear R7800 Nighthawk X4S
Netgear Nighthawk X4S R7800

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