802.11ac on new MacBook Air slower than expected

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The new MacBook Air laptops that come with 802.11ac networking are not performing at their maximum capacities. According to an extensive review of the new 13-inch MacBook Air by AnandTech, limitations in the operating system may be preventing this from happening under certain circumstances. 

This was corroborated by a separate write-up on Ars Technica, which noted that the new Wi-Fi was observed as performing at just 50.6 percent (AFP) to 70.3 percent (SMB) faster than 802.11n.

To be clear, the new MacBook Air has no problem achieving a very high 533Mbps of data transfer in throughput tests. However, this performance was not mirrored in actual file transfer tests using the AFP and SMB file transfer protocols to move files across a local area network. According to AnandTech, the issue is likely related to a bug in OS X that limits the TCP window size when performing file transfers, limiting speeds to about 21MBps, instead of the expected 50MBps speed.

While the problem here sounds like one that can be easily fixed via a software update, it does underscore how easily things can go wrong when deploying wireless technologies. Issues with protocols, external interference, improper configurations and physical structures can all contribute to lower transfer speeds that can affect productivity.

Enterprises looking to deploy 802.11ac today need to be aware that they may not be able to reap its maximum benefits--not with MacBook Air laptops anyway.

For more:
- check out this article at AnandTech
- check out this article at CNET

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