As new wireless technologies proliferate in the market, in this case 802.11ac, we find ourselves searching out the means to utilize the new standard. Most notebooks and ultrabooks are not coming equipped with 802.11ac out of the box, leaving us researching and comparing USB wireless adapters.
ASUS has enjoyed recent success with their entire line-up of networking products, the most notable were the 802.11n routers, accompanied by their very own wireless adapters. Hoping to continue this success, ASUS has launched the next generation of wireless products with 802.11ac capabilities. In house today, we have the opportunity to take a look at the USB-AC56 wireless adapter.
Specifications of the adapter have the device featuring a USB 3.0 port for maximum throughput. Additionally, the adapter features a 2dbi internal antenna with the option of an external dipole as well. Compatibility extends from Windows XP to 8 and Mac OS X 10.5+. Warranty is listed at two years.
The packaging for the adapter denotes many of the capabilities of the device. Here we have 5GHz capabilities up to 867Mbps and 2.4GHz 300Mbps. Also featured is the AiRadar Technology, which is ASUS twist on beamforming.
Included in the scope of delivery, we have the adapter and high gain antenna, along with the utilities disk and USB 3.0 stand.
Taking a look at the included stand, we find it built quite well. In addition, the USB 3.0 extension cable is heavily shielded to eliminate any interference with the 2.4GHz wireless band.
Looking over the adapter, we find it quite similar in appearance to many of ASUS' previous wireless adapters. The top showing a diamond pattern with the ASUS logo in chrome.
On the side of the adapter, we find the WPS button for quick wireless connectivity.
Removing the end cap, we find the external connection for the dipole antenna.
The opposite end houses the USB 3.0 connection.
Here we have the unit complete and ready for testing.
Above we have the ASUS USB-AC56 connected to our 2.4GHz wireless network. As you can see, we are getting full speed at 300 Mbps.
Moving to the 5GHz network, we have the ASUS USB-AC56 connected at 867 Mbps.
Above we have the results from our testing using the 2.4GHz 40MHz band. Comparing the ASUS USB-N56 to our on-board Realtek 8188CE, we find the ASUS offering a 50% improvement in wireless throughput over the Realtek solution.
Utilizing the full potential of the USB-AC56, we found the adapter pushing 475 Mbps throughput at its peak.
The ASUS USB-AC56 carries quite a bit of off the shelf aesthetic appeal as do most ASUS networking products. Complimenting this, we have superb build quality for both the adapter and USB 3.0 extension, the heavy gauge cabling used in the extension insures no interference from the 2.4GHz band and the rugged plastic exterior of the adapter itself feels like it could withstand a few drops. In fact, I couldn't pry the adapter apart like I usually do for review such as this.
Performance of the unit was great. I was able to connect effortlessly to the 2.4GHz band and enjoy the range it offers. Throughput was exceptional even past 20 - 30 ft with walls within the line of sight. The 5GHz band allowed us a full 867 Mbps connection within the 15ft range, after which it did fall of slightly as we moved outwards.
The only downfall I encountered while testing the adapter was the included wireless utility. Here the software worked without issue, until I unplugged the adapter and tried to plug it back in. From this point on the software couldn't find the adapter and would error out, even after multiple re-installs. Though to counter this, you could use the built-in Windows utility with no issues.
Pricing at this time for the ASUS USB-AC56 is listed at $69.99.