I have been using ASUS adapters to test routers here at TweakTown since the very beginning. This started with the PCE-AC68 a few years ago and now for the last three months the PCE-AC88 we are looking at today.
The PCE-AC88 is top of the line when it comes to Wireless NICs. This solution features a dual-band 4x4 design that is capable of 1000 Mbps over the 2.4GHz band and 2100 Mbps on the 5GHz band due to technology such as NitroQAM. Also, this solution does support MU-MIMO and carries a flexible antenna design that allows for customized placement of the four Wi-Fi antennas. Compatibility sticks with Windows 7 and 10 in both 32 and 64-bit variants.
The MSRP of the ASUS PCE-AC88 comes in at $129.99 with a one-year warranty.
For the PCE-AC88, packaging shows off the antenna base. We find a bit of marketing at the bottom right along with an image of the PCIe adapter.
The scope of delivery is quite broad and includes the adapter and antenna base, four antennas, driver disk, and reading materials.
The adapter itself follows the same design as the AC68 adapter. Here we have a red PCB and custom heat sink with ASUS branding. On the left, you will find four SMA connections for the antenna base and below the PCIe connection.
Looking closer at the connections, these are RP-SMA connectors common on many wireless adapters.
The backside of the card is shielded heavily due to the nature of the installation. This should lessen the chance of crosstalk in a noisy PC environment.
Above, I have a sample of some of the routers tested with the PCE-AC88 and the throughput. As you can see, this solution excels with AC2600 solutions even more so than 802.11ad routers like the Nighthawk X10.
Looking right at the test data, I have eight pairs running to stress the NIC, and while some are faster than others, it averages out to 38 Mbps per stream giving right around 300 Mbps for this 2.4GHz test.
Doing that very same thing with the 5GHz band, you can see things are much tighter. We still have eight streams running, but they are pushing anywhere from 100 to 120 Mbps, giving us on average 90 Mbps for this 5GHz test.
Like I said, I have been using ASUS network adapters for years now, and the PCE-AC88 is a very much welcomed addition to my testing arsenal. The build quality is top notch, and I do enjoy the flexible antenna design. On the flip side, I do wish ASUS would make these with a black PCB and black heat sink as the red design makes it hard to do themed builds.
The performance of this card is outstanding, as I said I have three months of new routers that have been tested with this solution and while is certainly excels with AC2600 solutions, it's no slouch with midrange AC1900 and high-end AC5400. In today's testing, I was able to get near 300 Mbps on 2.4GHz and 900 Mbps on 5GHz using the Synology RT2600ac as my test router.
On the software side, ASUS has ditched the old GUI for Windows 10 opting for a driver only install that allows Windows to handle wireless connections. For me, this isn't much of an issue, but I did enjoy the finer amount of control offered by the application on previous models.
Tyler's Test System Specifications
- Motherboard: ASUS Maximus IX Hero (buy from Amazon)
- CPU: Intel Core i7 7700K (buy from Amazon) / (Read our Review)
- Memory: G.SKILL TridentZ DDR4 3200 (buy from Amazon)
- Video Card: EVGA GeForce GTX 1080 Hybrid (buy from Amazon)
- OS Storage: Intel 730 480GB SSD (buy from Amazon) / (Read our Review)
- Secondary Storage: MyDigitalSSD BP5 512GB SSD (buy from Amazon)
- Case: EVGA DG-86 (buy from Amazon)
- Power Supply: EVGA SuperNOVA 750 P2 (buy from Amazon)
- Networking: ASUS PCE-AC88 AC3100 (buy from Amazon)
- Networking: ASUS ROG 10G Express
- Networking: ASUS Thunderbolt EX3 (buy from Amazon)
- OS: Microsoft Windows 10 (buy from Amazon)
The Bottom Line: ASUS' PCE-AC88 is everything you have been waiting for if you want top-tier performance to match your new high performance router.
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