15 Things you should know before buying a Wireless AC Adapter


As you can see above, there are at least four Wireless AC USB adapters available in the market, now. Manufacturers like Netgear, Belkin, D-Link and Edimax have released external Wireless AC adapters that plug into the USB port of a computer/laptop. So, whether you have an internal wireless adapter or not, you can upgrade to the latest Wireless AC connections using one of these.

802.11ac (Wireless AC or Gigabit Wireless) is the latest wireless standard that claims to support up to 867 Mbps of bandwidth. The Wireless AC technology succeeds the Wireless N technology which was the fastest wireless standard previously.

But before buying the latest Wireless AC adapter to match your Wireless AC Router/Access-Point, please note the following:

  1. Wireless AC/IEEE 802.11ac is the fastest wireless technology available in the market now. There are many Wireless AC routers/access-points for homes/small businesses. Wireless AC adapters (for computers/laptops) are being released now. The laptops released in the future will have wireless AC adapters built-into them and we may also see PCMCIA-based internal wireless AC adapters, soon. 
  2. Even though Wireless AC adapters claim to support maximum speeds of 867 Mbps, these are theoretical speeds and the real speeds are closer to half of the advertised speeds in practical conditions. Even then, the speeds achievable by the Wireless AC adapter is 2-3 times better than the previous Wireless N adapters.
  3. When you use Wireless AC routers and Wireless AC adapters, more devices can connect to the wireless network, each at higher speeds than in a Wireless N network. Wireless AC network has a higher range (distance over which devices can connect with each other).
  4. Wireless AC network is better suited for bandwidth-demanding real-time applications like gaming, HD movies, HD video conferencing, IP telephony, etc. over the wireless network.
  5. It maybe better to connect the Wireless AC adapter to the latest USB 3.0 port, for best performance.
  6. Wireless AC adapters require higher power and hence may not work properly with old USB ports.
  7. Standards-based USB adapters (802.11ac) will connect with Wi-Fi routers/access-points made by any manufacturer following industry (IEEE) standards.
  8. Wireless AC adapters are generally quite large/bulky. If you plug it into a USB port and there is another USB port right next to it, the second USB port may be blocked (due to the adapter’s bulky size) and you may not be able to use it for connecting any other device. If the USB ports are some distance away from each other, then there is no problem. Usually USB adapters do not come with extension cables.
  9. You need to install/update to the latest driver for this device to work properly. Drivers are generally provided only for Windows (by manufacturers) and it may take some time before they are ported on to other operating systems like Linux.
  10. One USB port in the computer is lost for connecting this adapter. Internal Wireless AC adapters may be preferable for some, but they are not yet widely available.
  11. Please check if the Wireless AC adapter you are about to buy is a dual-band adapter. Otherwise, it may not work with older routers/access points.
  12. It is possible to manually set the frequency of operation (2.4 Ghz or 5 Ghz). Use the 5 Ghz band after enabling 20/40/80 Hz channel width, as Wireless AC works in that band and there is less interference from other 2.4 Ghz devices in the neighborhood. You can change to 2.4 Ghz operation if you are facing some issues like not being able to connect the adapter to the router from a far away location, etc.
  13. With Wireless adapters, you get the best performance only if the adapter and router/access-point are nearby (few feet) to each other, and have a clear line of sight between them. With increasing distances and increasing obstacles (walls, etc), the connection works but speeds drop noticeably. Remember this point if you want to play multi-player 3D/HD games over the Wi-Fi medium.
  14. The software drivers for Wireless AC adapters are mostly provided in the CD that accompanies the adapter. If you are using a Netbook/Ultrabook, you need to either use an external CD drive for installing the drivers or you need to transfer the drivers to an alternate storage medium (USB drive) and install it. You can also try searching for the latest drivers for your particular Wireless AC adapter on the net as manufacturers generally provide a download link for drivers, on their website.
  15. Most of the Wireless AC adapters will be able to create encrypted connections with wireless routers/access points, just like their predecessors.



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