To further expand our performance data, the devices are set up independently on a Lenovo S400 in a residential home. In this case, the router we're using is a Netis AC1200 with a broadband cable connection. Each of the USB AC1200 Wi-Fi adapters is installed and used separately in a more typical home environment with the usual challenges that home users face: placing the router downstairs and not directly under the adapter, steel ductwork reflecting the signal in the basement and the multitude of competing wireless networks creating interference.
The point was not to redo the numbers from the Tom's Hardware lab testing, but rather to confirm the numbers generated in our office, as well as see how each wireless AC USB adapter performs under typical residential use. For example, does it stream HD video smoothly or with hiccups, does the adapter stay cool or get hot, and is the connection to the Wi-Fi network maintained or dropped? In addition, the stability and usability of the software could be assessed, as well as the out-of-box experience and setup process. Don't think this all goes smoothly in our expert hands; along the way, we lost an adapter for the initial article, as neither the lab nor this writer could get it up and running. Stay tuned, as this will be featured in a subsequent article.
It is important to see what these wireless AC USB adapters are made of. While the adapters are enclosed in plastic black shells, upon opening them it becomes clear why the better-performing adapters have the higher speeds, and the answer seems dependent on the antenna solution. Getting inside of these adapters was not via some manufacturer-supplied images, but rather through old-fashioned grunt work, with an assortment of tools, including Torx screwdrivers, pliers (both lineman and needle-nose), flat-bladed screwdrivers of assorted sizes and even micro screwdrivers. Some cases came apart easier than others. The Netgear could be reconstructed, but the D-Link was essentially destroyed in the process. Be aware that this adventure can become a one-way trip to breaking the adapter!