At yesterday’s Apple event, Cupertino revealed that some of its latest wireless devices will ship with next-generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi. However, not all of the devices discussed in the event will get 11ac – although Apple did mention updated Wi-Fi across its various products, and the inclusion of a feature called MIMO. Here's a deeper look into the Wi-Fi specs of Apple's new hardware.
iPad Air and iPad mini Retina
Both devices ship with 802.11n Wi-Fi adapters that are compatible with legacy 802.11 a/b/g. The new iPads are "dual-channel," more commonly referred to as dual-band, meaning they can connect to dual-band routers that can transmit on the 2.4GHz band (legacy band, better range) or the 5GHz band (faster, more robust with shorter range).
The iPad Air and mini's wireless tech also includes a feature called MIMO, which is an acronym for Multiple Input, Multiple Output. MIMO is a technology that was developed with the advent of 802.11n, so it’s not new. MIMO allows for multiple antennas in a device's Wi-Fi architecture, to create multiple data streams – increasing throughput.
MIMO streams are represented in Wi-Fi routers and wireless adapters as: 2 x 2 (2 streams for transmitting signal and 2 for receiving), 3 x 2 or 3 x 3. These all represent different antenna configurations.
During the Apple event, Apple execs stated that the iPads would support up to 300Mbps. Based on that spec, the iPad Air and new iPad mini use a 2 x 2 wireless antenna configuration that supports a maximum theoretical speed of up to 300Mbps.
New Haswell MacBook Pros
Both updated MacBook Pros ship with next-generation Wi-Fi – 802.11ac. Unlike the iPad Air and mini, the new MacBook Pros are likely using the same (or similar) Broadcom SoC 11ac wireless chipset found in the latest Airport Extreme, which is a 3 x 3 chip, capable of throughput rates of up to 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz band, and up to 1300Mbps at 5GHz. So the MacBook Pros have faster throughput capabilities than the iPad Air and new iPad mini.
Remember, those are theoretical data rates, and not the speed you will see in real-world performance. However, using a 3 x 3 wireless 802.11ac device such as the new MacBook Pro, with an 802.11ac router such as Apple's latest Airport Extreme, should provide very impressive wireless performance. We will test this out in an upcoming review when we get our mitts on this new hardware.