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December 8, 2017

Razer jumps into the wireless networking market with an updated Portal router

by John_A

After revealing a smartphone in early November, Razer said on Thursday that it is collaborating with Ignition Design Labs on an update to the latter company’s Portal wireless router. The device promises lag-free gaming using “key technologies,” such as the use of new 5GHz channels not typically offered on most wireless AC routers. Portal is also an AC2400 Wave-2 device, meaning it’s capable of reaching theoretical wireless speeds of up to 1,733Mbps.

According to Ignition Design Labs, Portal includes nine “large” internal antennas that handle four incoming and four outgoing 5GHz Wireless AC streams (433Mbps each), and three incoming and three outgoing Wireless N streams (200Mbps each). Two antennas may be dedicated for communicating with a second Portal router to create mesh-based coverage throughout your house.

The router includes four gigabit Ethernet ports for the local network, another gigabit Ethernet port that connects to your modem, and two USB-A 2.0 ports for sharing files, printers, and more across the home network. There’s also a Bluetooth 4.1 low-energy component for configuring the device using a smartphone, and for communicating with IoT devices.

The big selling point behind Portal is the FastLanes aspect. The router relies on the standard channels used on the 5GHz spectrum, but introduces four additional channels (FastLanes) that are typically used for commercial and military purposes. These channels fall under the Dynamic Frequency Selection umbrella, and can be used only if the router can automatically switch channels if it detects active radar signals in the local area.

To put this in perspective, all channels on the 2.4GHz spectrum are congested given that most electronic devices with a wireless component use this space. The 5GHz spectrum was a big sell because it was less congested, thus providing faster speeds. But now that those channels are filling up with Wireless N and Wireless AC devices, previously unused “reserved” channels are wide open and ripe for exploring … but only under certain conditions imposed by the Federal Communications Commission.

At its root, Portal is a mesh networking device. It connects directly to your modem, and can serve as the central wireless access point in your home with a 3,000-square-foot spread. But it can also communicate with one additional Portal unit to create mesh-based coverage providing double the distance. Connecting devices will only see one access point on their list of wireless networks, and will move seamlessly between the two units as you move throughout the home.

So what is Razer’s involvement with a router already sold on the market? The announcement wasn’t specific, stating only that the companies “collaborated to optimize features and performance of the Portal router specifically for gaming.” Razer’s product listing also mentions multichannel ZeroWait ZWDFS technology, which doesn’t appear on Ignition Design Labs’ own product listing for the router.

Our best guess is that Razer helped with an update that will optimize the device for gaming. Razer is selling the router now through its website for $150, and will make it available worldwide in the first quarter of 2018.

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