With Microsoft’s new announcements, including the new Surface Studio PC – it seems like they’re finally trying to go after what remains of the PC market. Microsoft is finally at the table, trying to eat Apple’s lunch. With Apple’s “Hello Again” event tomorrow, it will be nice to see if Apple is going to take another year off, or if they’re finally ready to make some much needed updates and improvements to their Mac lineup.
After getting a new Airport Extreme to replace my old Buffalo wireless router, I ran across a strange problem.
The Xbox 360 S’ built-in wireless adapter would connect to the network, but only communicate at around 5mbps. This wasn’t a problem for most things on the Xbox, and I may have never noticed if I didn’t use my old Windows desktop computer as an HD dvr, but this was a huge problem for streaming recorded HD TV shows. To get great stutter free streaming of HD content via Windows Media Center, you need at least 70-80mbps bandwidth on the connection as a minimum. If it dips below that frequently, you may see issues when trying to control the Xbox while the media is streaming, or you could see the video stream stop completely.
After doing some searching on the web, it looks like this is a pretty common problem – though most people don’t notice it’s that big of an issue as soon as they get their Xbox live ports mapped (udp:88 & 3074 || tcp: 3074). Also, if you use your old pc as a media center – make sure the proper ports are open in your firewall as well.
The problem seems to stem from the Airport Extreme broadcasting wireless N speeds on the 2.4ghz frequency (so this may occur on any dual-band simultaneous wifi router). The Xbox sees that, and occasionally will use it, but then drops down to 802.11b pretty quickly. If you don’t have an extra $50 for the solution I opted for, a quick fix is to broadcast the 5ghz network under a separate SSID (network name), and disable N speeds for the 2.4ghz as shown here:
So this setup works, but still isn’t ideal – as your Xbox will get a max of 54mbps which is not enough to stream HD TV when streaming via the media center extender feature. If you have an extra $50 – we can go one step further to get maximum speed.
This last step can be done one of two ways – either buy a dual band wireless N bridge (also sometimes called wireless gaming adapters), or buy a xbox wireless adapter.
I ended up purchasing this the Xbox 360 Wireless adapter from my local Microcenter for $49.99 as it requires less cords and no power supply (it also happened to be the cheapest option).
Now some changes can be made to the Airport Extreme:
The 5ghz and 2.4ghz networks still need to be broadcast under different SSIDs (network names), but now you can bring N speeds back to the 2.4ghz network. (I tested with the 5ghz and 2.4ghz being on the same SSID with the Xbox dual band wifi adapter plugged in, and while it would jump up to N speeds if it had fantastic signal – it would still immediately drop down to 5-7mbps if I wasn’t holding the antenna.) Once 802.11n speeds have been added back to the 2.4ghz frequency, the settings should look something like this:
With that complete, you can now plug in your Xbox wireless adapter, turn your xbox on, and have it join the 5ghz network. Once joined, your xbox will no longer bounce around to B speeds and instead should stay at 802.11n speeds with some stability. After I completed this, you can see my results on the Media Center Network Tuning graph:
Paying $50 to make the Xbox 360 S live up to its stated “wireless N” abilities is quite ridiculous, and it is pretty terrible that Microsoft couldn’t just bundle the Xbox 360 S with a decent wireless chipset in the first place. Everything else in the house loves the new Airport Extreme, and we can finally get decent wireless signal in the backyard for listening to music in the summer. Now if I can just find the time to watch some TV shows we have recorded – like the last two seasons of Fringe…I hear it’s over now (we’re two seasons behind).