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Faster Wi-Fi finally makes its way onto computers

Consumer Reports News: May 17, 2013 12:08 PM

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A laptop and desktop from Vizio—the Vizio CT15T-B1 Ultrabook and the Vizio CA24T-B0, respectively—are the first computers into our labs with the latest Wi-Fi standard, 802.11ac. Though it's up and running, it's still an emerging standard, waiting to be ratified by the Wi-Fi working group; still, 802.11ac should result in faster throughput.

Because it resides on the 5GHz frequency band, 802.11ac will run with less interference from other devices, including current computers, tablets, smartphones, microwave ovens, and cordless phones, which work on the same 2.4GHz band of the current 802.11n. In addition, the 5GHz band has more available channels, so people living in crowded areas (apartment buildings, for example) should experience less interference from their neighbors' Wi-Fi and other electronics.

For most users, the benefits of 802.11ac will come in the future. For example, with more and more content providers, such as Netflix, encouraging streaming video, demand will increase for faster Wi-Fi as well for more bandwidth. And as more consumers shoot home videos in HD, viewing those will also require a faster network.

We'll be trying the new standard out soon (though the Vizio computers were both tested and Rated, we don't normally test Wi-Fi throughput). Meanwhile, plenty of routers are available with 802.11ac, but not a lot of devices use it yet.

The Vizio laptop and desktop don't come cheap, at $1,500 and $1,275, respectively. If you're looking for a bargain, check out the new Toshiba Satellite L875-S7108, a 17-inch model that costs just $425. It had respectable battery life for a laptop that size, is the lightest 17-inch model in our Ratings, and was a very good performer.

For more details on these and other computers, take a look at our buying guide and laptop and desktop Ratings.

Donna L. Tapellini

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