All the adapters came with drivers on CDs. But I was able to download the latest driver for all products except the Buffalo. Perhaps somewhere on Buffalo's site is the download link for the all-in-one installer that covers all its wireless products. But the only link on the adapter's product page was for the user guide.
None of the adapters came with extra goodies like external antennas, extender cables or stands. Only four of the products have teensy WPS switches, which could come in handy if you're a fan of easy Wi-Fi setup.
At least none of the products force you to install a client utility. All but the Edimax EW-7711ULC have directly accessible driver folders once you unzip the driver downloads. But thankfully, the 7711's .exe file installs just the driver.
Performance - 2.4 GHz
As noted earlier, we used a new test process for this roundup, which produces lower 5 GHz results than the previous process. Path loss for 2.4 GHz is about the same, however. But you'll see as we run through the throughput vs. range plots that all the devices in this round-up disconnected at smaller attenuation values than we saw in the USB 1200 roundup. So you'll definitely be trading off range with these physically smaller adapters.
The throughput vs. attenuation plots will make this clear. Although we can compare up to six products, the plots get kind of busy. So I'm just going to compare the ASUS USB-AC51, Buffalo WI-U2-433DM, TRENDnet TEW-804UB, Edimax EW-7811UTC and Linksys AE6000.
The 2.4 GHz downlink plot shows TRENDnet and Edimax adapters have better range than the top-ranked ASUS, i.e. their plots hit the x axis farther out. There's not a huge difference in maximum throughput (57 - 61 Mbps).
2.4 GHz downlink - Throughput vs. Attenuation
For 2.4 GHz uplink, the Edimax and TRENDnet plots again indicate slightly superior range than the rest of the group. Maximum throughput is lower than downlink, but pretty much the same for all adapters (52 - 54 Mbps). None of the products reach the 60 dB attenuation point that we use to rank 2.4 GHz range. Keep this in mind when looking at the Ranker.