As the first half of 2016 is racing by, what everyone including myself, seems to be looking for is the fastest possible wireless connection in the environments they’re in most.
For a lot of us that would be home. What happens when we’re home and try to use a wireless connection that is less than nimble? We become aggravated, frustrated, irritated and annoyed all at once.
Many of us don’t have benefit of wired connections throughout our house. We depend on wireless for our mobile devices, laptops and in my case, many of our desktop computers.
How to find the fastest Wi-Fi adapter is a continuing challenge. The first thing we need is a fast Internet connection. Unless you are paying for an upper tier level of Internet speed service featuring both 802.11ac and 802.11n networking protocol capability on a dual-band capable router, you are stuck with the slower 2.4GHz bandwidth.
Back in the not so long ago past, 2.4GHz speeds were all the rage. The problem was we got used to them awfully fast (pun intended) and the service started to seem slow and unfulfilling. We craved more speed. Like muscles, luck and good looks, you can never have enough speed—especially when it comes to wireless networking.
I can attest that after experiencing 5GHz wireless connectivity speeds, it’s hard to go back to 2.4GHz.
Once you have the capability from your Internet Service Provider, it is up to you to outfit your devices with the fastest, most capable Wi-Fi adapters.
All of my desktop computer towers feature different USB wireless adapters. My Windows 10 tower sports an ASUS Dual Band Wireless-AC1200 USB Adapter, Model USB-AC53. This has proven to be the most reliable at holding the connection to the 5GHz network. The only drawback is the resource-hungry utility from ASUS that drives the adapter. I am not able to get it to work without using it.
On the Apple Power Mac G4 tower, I use a Wireless utility (appropriately named “Wireless Network Utility”) that originally was from Netgear, if I’m not mistaken, but over the years was bastardized by various manufacturers for their wireless adapters. This software controls my 2.4GHz 802.11n network connection via the Edimax EW-7811Un Wireless adapter in one of the available USB 2.0 hub ports connected to one of the USB 2.0 ports on the back of the Mac. This has proven to be the most reliable, quick and stable Wi-Fi adapter available for this particular PowerMac and configuration. I’ve tried others, but there is nothing like the performance of the Edimax on this beast.
The last Wi-Fi adapter connected to a tower is the Linksys RangePlus WUSB100 wireless USB 802.11n adapter. This adapter was plugged straight in to a free port on a 4-port USB 2.0 Hub attached to one of the available USB ports at the back of this Linux tower. The adapter worked with zero configuration or drivers needing to be added. I’ve tried other adapters with this tower running Ubuntu Mate 16.04, but none of the others had near the performance of this baby. Deficiencies varied from slow speeds to no speed at all in all of the 802.11n Airlink, Netgear and ASUS USB Wi-Fi adapters I tried.
English: NETGEAR WG111v3 is a wireless USB adapter. It lets connect a computer to wireless networks. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
The one adapter I was hopeful of faster connectivity for the Linux tower, was the Linksys AE6000 dual band. This adapter held promise as one where the 802.11ac networking protocol might be achieved. Alas, there was no joy as all it did when I plugged it in was freeze the tower so badly the only way I could restore functionality was to completely power it down by pressing and holding the button on the front face of the tower.
I briefly messed with installing drivers that worked with Ubuntu Mate 15.10, but although they were successfully deployed, the results when I plugged in the adapter were the same as previously–it froze the machine.
All was not lost with this adapter, however. The laptop I’m finishing this piece up on is connecting at 5GHz speeds using it as you read this. The built-in wireless network adapter on this ASUS laptop still works, it just only has 802.11b networking protocol capabilities. It wasn’t as simple as plugging in the AE6000 to a USB port on the laptop and having it find the 5GHz network, however; it only had 2.4GHz wireless band connectivity at first. But after downloading and installing drivers for Windows 8.1 (the latest available for this adapter on Linksys’ website), all was well.
The laptop connected wirelessly for the first time at 5GHz speeds. And it was amazing–like getting a new laptop, when in reality it’s 5 years old, originally came with Windows 7 Home and is now running Windows 10–at very satisfying 5GHz connectivity speeds I might add.
So, you’ve read about a laptop and three towers with various wireless capabilities all operating at the fastest speeds possible for their individual hardware makeup. The icing on the cake, however, was discovering that the refurbished original Microsoft Surface with Windows RT 8.1 in my possession, actually has an internal wireless adapter with 5GHz capability. Yes, I upgraded the router for my internet to a dual band one with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz band capability, but the newfound Surface’s 5GHz-capable internal wireless adapter was an unexpected and very nice surprise. The old Surface was beginning to show its age on the web, but now with stable, fast 5GHz connectivity, it’s still in the hunt as my go-to road machine.
All that remains is to find a 5GHz capable adapter for the Ubuntu Mate 16.04 tower and the PowerPC Mac running Apple OS X Leopard 10.5.8. Then the dream of vacating 2.4GHz land fully and completely could become reality. If it never happens, though, I’m still happy. That’s because while I “want” some things like 5GHz wireless connectivity for all my devices, what I “need” is simply a fast enough existence on the two aforementioned computers. And I have that.
P.S. Spellcheck suggested changing “ASUS” to “ANUS.” That’s some funny shit.