Routers get all attention when it comes to Wi-Fi networking, but picking the right adapter is just as important. Today we test four 802.11ac USB adapters.
Despite the performance advantage of wired network connections, many of us prefer the convenience of Wi-Fi. And when our computing devices don't have Wi-Fi controllers built-in, it's hard to get any more ubiquitous than a USB-based adapter. The speediest dual-band models fall into the AC1200 standard (as a reminder, AC1200 refers to the 2.4GHz band's 300 Mb/s maximum and the 5GHz band's 867 Mb/s peak).
In this piece, we take a look at a handful of modern USB-attached AC1200 adapters. After all, it is fine for manufacturers to talk about rated transfer rates and range, but we want to know which products go the distance (and for this type of device, we mean that literally in terms of throughput from range).
The AC1200 USB Wi-Fi adapters we're testing include:
- D-Link's DWA-182
- Netgear's A6210
- TP-Link's Archer T4U
- ZyXEL's AC240
Since they're compatible with the AC1200 standard, these dual-band devices can connect on the 2.4GHz and 5GHz Wi-Fi frequencies. They also work with older Wi-Fi standards, including 802.11n, 802.11g and even the original 802.11b and 802.11a.
All four products, and in fact almost every comparable USB-attached Wi-Fi adapter, support the latest security protocols, including WPA, WPA2 and WEP. In order to accommodate 802.11ac's peak performance, the quartet also features USB 3.0 connectivity capable of 5 Gb/s transfer rates, though they're backward-compatible with USB 2.0 as well.