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WiMAX Inside: Features in detail

P1 together with Intel will be launching WiMAX embedded laptops tomorrow. Over the weekend we got one WiMAX-Inside laptop to review and here are our findings. We’ve done quite extensive testing on this WiMAX laptop and its going to be diffficult to put our findings down in one post, so we will be spliting it into smaller pieces for easier reading.

We did promise a full on road test of the WiMAX-Inside laptopn and that’s coming right after this, but in the meantime, let’s take a look at what the technology has to offer.

Hardware

At the heart of the WiMAX-Inside laptop lies the Intel Centrino Advanced-N + WiMAX 6250 module, a PCIe Half MiniCard that offers a combination of both WiFi and WiMAX connectivity in one power efficient package.

For WiMAX, the module operates on the IEEE 802.16e Wave 2 WiMAX standard running on 2.3Ghz, 2.5GHz and 3.5GHz spectrum. In Malaysia, all 4 WiMAX operators are using 2.3GHz. In theory, you should be able to connect to any WiMAX operator as long as the operator is willing to register your laptop on their network. So far P1 is the only one offering this service.

On paper, the module is capable of downloads up to 20Mbps and uploads up to 6Mbps on WiMAX. Since users will be moving around a lot, it also supports optimized handover which allows you to stay connected while on the move. This roughly translate to mobile connectivity, which means you can be in a car or a train and stay connected to the Internet via WiMAX. Although the module capable of doing this, the network must be able to provide mobile connecitvity as well. And in our findings, P1 is not yet offering mobile connectivity, but more on this in our roadtest report.

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Moving on…

The benefits of having WiMAX built-in is not just for aesthetic reasons but also for power management. In addition to not needing to carry around a fiddly dongle, you also get a longer battery life Intel claims. Lacking a non-WiMAX laptop with similar specs from the same manufacturer, we can’t really vouch for this, but during our roadtest, the WiMAX-laptop did show exceptional battery performance, though this could just be extra cells in the battery.

On WiFi capabilities, it supports the full gamut of WiFi 802.11a/b/g/n standards with transmission speeds up to 300Mbps. Of course, the 300Mbps support is dependent on your network’s 802.11n capability with 2 receive spatial streams for maximised bandwidth.

Connection Manager
Getting connected to a WiMAX network is fairly easy. Upon registering your laptop’s MAC Address with a WiMAX operator, you won’t need to do any authentication or configuration each time you go online. Currently we are only able to connect to the P1 WiMAX network as that is the only WiMAX operator the laptop could detect. We have to also point out, that even if the laptop could detect other networks, the network provider must setup its back end to provide a service to the the WiMAX laptop. And right now, we only know of P1 being able to provide this service.

Some of you might be wondering, if tyou can switch on both WiFi and WiMAX at the same time. the short answer is, no you can’t. You can run either WiFi or WiMAX but not both together at the same time. It is a pity because the laptop we got has the capability to share WiFi connectivity with other devices (something very simillar to MiFi) and having WiMAX and WiFi on simultanously can provide extra benefits such as a personal WiFi Hotspot powered by WiMAX.

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We’re not too sure if this was disabled deliberately because of possible WiMAX-WiFi interference as both frequencies run very close to each other, 2.3GHz and 2.4Ghz respectively. But considering P1 offers a WiMAX modem with WiFi connectivity running simultaneously, we don’t see why running WiMAX and WiFi at the same time on a lap top as a problem.

WiFi connectivity is pretty standard and it still uses the familiar Intel PROSet WiFi Connection Manager. Mind you that Intel manages WiMAX and WiFi on separate connection managers. We thought that this is weird as well, it would’ve made more sense for Intel to have a connection manager that can manage both connections allowing you to seamlessly between wireless connections.

myWiFi Feature
As an added feature, Intel has something called MyWiFi which allows you to tether your current internet connection to up to 8 devices over WiFi. So you can share your laptop’s connection be it LAN or 3G (via mobile phone or dongle). You can even share a WiFi connection. Unfortunately it is a pity that you won’t be able to share your WiMAX connection using MyWiFi due to the WiFi-WiMAX limitation.

For more details on the Intel Centrino Advanced N + WiMAX 6250 module, read them up here.

So how well does it perform in real life scenario? Check out our road test.