Should you buy a Wireless AC adapter for your PC/Laptop, yet?

We know that Wireless AC (802.11ac) is the latest Wi-Fi technology and it supports 3x higher speeds than Wireless N. Many popular networking companies have released Wireless AC routers in the market and some of them have good reviews as well (For example, have a look at: 1, 2). But what’s the point of buying a Wireless AC router without a Wireless AC client in our desktop/laptop?

Well, we can wait until we buy another laptop/desktop in the future with built-in AC adapter (which should be available shortly), or we can buy a USB-based Wireless AC adapter (Netgear, Belkin), plug it into a USB-port in the computer and start connecting to the wireless network at higher speeds.

If you have anyway decided to buy a wireless adapter (due to the lack of wireless connection in your PC, for example), you could as well buy this one over Wireless N adapters considering the small cost difference between the two. But what if you already have a laptop with Wi-Fi ‘N’ adapter built-in, should you still buy a Wireless AC adapter?

That’s actually a difficult question. Few people might want to buy the latest technology available and test it out with their systems. They are early adopters and they will buy these Wireless AC adapters irrespective of any reviews/articles. They are rarely satisfied without the best technology & highest speeds available, at that point of time. Being at the forefront/cusp of technology excites them.

But what about others? Well, many of us have built-in wireless adapters but they may be older (and slower). For example, there are systems (still) with wireless ‘g’ adapters or single band (1×1) wireless N adapters (150 Mbps). If you have one such system and are looking to upgrade to faster Wi-Fi, Wireless AC adapter is again a good choice.

But what if you have a Wireless N adapter (300 Mbps and more) already (either built-in or external)? In this case, unless there is a solid use case, there may not be a pressing need to upgrade to higher speeds anytime immediately. Demanding applications like HD video streaming, multi-player gaming, HD video conference, etc. might benefit from increased speeds.

There are two more reasons to buy the latest AC wireless adapters – One is its increased range and another is its capacity to provide better wireless connectivity in dense usage conditions. Of course, to take advantage of a Wireless AC adapter, you need a Wireless AC router, gigabit switches and gigabit network (Cat 6 cabling, etc).

With the release of Wireless AC technology, wireless connections are trying to match wired connection speeds. But, wireless connectivity does have some limitations like lower speeds/bandwidth, decreased speeds with increasing distance, interference (packet losses), wireless medium being a shared medium (bandwidth being divided among all connecting devices), etc.

Well, there is nothing like having a gigabit switch and connecting your network devices to its gigabit ports directly using Cat 6 cables/jacks, for best speeds/performance. But if you are unable to connect your network devices over the wired medium, we now have the Wireless AC technology which is very close to the wired medium as far as speed/performance is concerned. Either way, connectivity is getting better and better, in order to accommodate more demanding applications. Are you game for it?

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