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Wireless Reviews

Extender intro

Introduction

We recently started to test wireless adapters due to our more automated test process. So we are able to rip through a bunch of 'em pretty quickly. Since 802.11ac is all the rage and you don't really get a big performance benefit from an AC router without AC clients to go with it (see Will A New Router Really Improve Performance?), I decided to focus on testing AC1200 class adapters.

AC1200 adapters have a single 2x2 radio, which means that these little guys will provide maximum link rates of 867 Mbps in 5 GHz and 300 Mbps in 2.4 GHz when used with an AC1200 class or higher router. If you use them with N600 or higher class routers, their maximum link rates will be 300 Mbps in both bands.

Contrary to popular belief (and mine, too, before I ran the tests), USB 2.0 doesn't limit the throughput of this class of adapter. So this roundup contains adapters with both USB 2.0 and 3.0 connectors. Specifically, we tested the products shown below.

Product
[click to visit product website]
Price
[click to check current price]
Firmware Chipset FCC ID USB
ASUS USB-AC53 $50 6.30.145.30 Win 7 32 bit Broadcom BCM4352 MSQUSBAC53 2.0
ASUS USB-AC56 $70 1023.6.225.2013 Win 7 32 bit Realtek RTL8812AU MSQ-USBAC56 3.0
Edimax EW-7822UAC $38 1023.6.225.2013 Win 7 32 bit Realtek RTL8812AU NDD9578221212 3.0
Linksys WUSB6300 $62 1023.8.524.2013 Win 7 32 bit Realtek RTL8812AU Q87-WUSB6300 3.0
NETGEAR A6200 $34 1.0.0.26 Win 7 32 bit Broadcom BCM43526 PY312200200 2.0
Table 1: The Products Tested

Inside

You can see pretty quickly that there are only two transceiver device types used among the five adapters. The USB 2.0 adapters use Broadcom's BCM43526 and the adapters with USB 3.0 host interfaces use the Realtek RTL8812AU.

To save you the time of looking them up in the FCC ID database, I'm including the internal pix. The single images below don't tell the entire story that you can get from looking at the entire FCC ID internal picture file. So I'll provide a bit of commentary.

The ASUS USB-AC53 board is Broadcom based. Most components are covered by an RF shield that is removed in the photo. It's hard to see, but the two dual-band antennas at the photo right are formed-metal and stand perpendicular to the board. Additional amplification and switching is handled by two Skyworks SKY85803 Dual-Band 802.11a/b/g/n/ac WLAN Front-End Modules.

ASUS USB-AC53 board

ASUS USB-AC53 board

The ASUS USB-AC56 has the distinction of being the only adapter in this roundup with an upgradeable, movable, external dipole antenna attached via an RP-SMA connector. The design uses separate 5 and 2.4 GHz amplifiers, with a pair of Skyworks SE5003L for the former and two unidentifiable components for the latter.

ASUS USB-AC56 board

ASUS USB-AC56 board

The Edimax EW-7822UAC also has one "external" antenna. But it's not connectorized and on a hinged panel that you can only raise and lower to about a 120° angle. It also takes a unique approach with its companion components for the Realtek RTL8812AU, as shown in the component detail in the photo below. Two Skyworks SE5022T boost the 5 GHz signal, but it doesn't look there is additional 2.4 GHz amplification. Instead, there are two Skyworks SKY85601 SDPT Switch w/ LNA modules on the 2.4 GHz side.

Edimax EW-7822UAC board

Edimax EW-7822UAC board

Linksys' temporary confidentiality request for the WUSB6300's internal photos hasn't expired yet. So we have only the Wikidevi info to go on. They report that the adapter appears to be the same as the Belkin F9L1109 v1, which has a component complement that exactly matches the Edimax EW-7822UAC's, i.e. Realtek RTL8812AU, Skyworks SE5022T (x2) and Skyworks SKY85601 (x2).

This brings us to the NETGEAR A6200 whose innards are pictured below. This guy also has a movable antenna, but it swivels 90° as shown in the opening photo collage. The components used, however are the same as in the ASUS USB-AC53, i.e. the Broadcom BCM43526 transceiver and two Skyworks SKY85803.

NETGEAR A6200 board

NETGEAR A6200 board

More Wireless

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