Asus’ EA-N66 Dual-band 4500 Mbps adapter looks almost identical to its USB-N66 Dual-band Wireless N900 adapter. Both adapters can be used to connect a client device such as a laptop, to an 802.11n network—useful for connecting laptops that have older built-in adapters to an 802.11n router or connecting a gadget such as a media server to a home network. The EA-N66 can also function as an access point and a repeater.
Design is where similarity ends between the two. While the USB-N66 is relatively easy to set up and manage, the EA-N66 proved to be flaky to configure, stubborn in making a WPS connection even with Asus’ own RT-AC66U router, and ships with documentation that is pitiful. The one redeeming factor of the EA-N66 is that it offers decent throughput, but even that isn’t as good as the performance of the more robust USB-N66.
The EA-N66 has the same pyramid-shaped design as the USB-N66. The device has a 3×3 antenna configuration, capable of up 450 Mbps of theoretical throughput and supports both 2.4 and 5GHz. Like the USB-N66, the EA-N66 can operate not only as an Ethernet adapter (which is essentially the device operating as a bridge) but it can also operate as an Access Point. The EA-N66 has the additional capability of operating as a repeater but configuring it in this mode was so problematic that I did not even get a chance to test it as an extender (more on that later).
I hardly know where to begin recounting this convoluted setup. The EA-N66 ships with a Quick Start Guide which you may as well not read, because instructions are so poorly documented that you are pretty much on your own with setup.
The guide states that the device can be set up in one of two ways: Via a WPS connection with a router or by connecting it to the Ethernet port of a computer. The instructions further state that once the EA-N66 is connected, opening a browser and pointing to asusrouter.com, launches the web GUI for the EA-N66.
WPS set up using Asus’ RT-AC66U router proved frustrating. After three attempts, I finally established a successful connection between the router and EA-N66 adapter. However, the adapter displayed a weak signal with the router by blinking its LEDs rather than emitting a strong, solid connection. This weak connection happened with the adapter right next to the router.
Sure enough, when I went into the router’s interface to check the status of the WPS connection, I immediately received the message, “Losing connection with parent AP.”
Finally, I reset both router and adapter back to factory settings and started over. This time, I simply connected the adapter to a standalone laptop as per the second set up suggestion in the guide. However, pointing a browser to asusrouter.com directed me to Asus’ external website, not the EA-N66′s web-based GUI.
What I did instead, was just point the browser to the IP address of the EA-N66 which is printed underside the device along with the default username and password to access the GUI. I was finally in and able to connect the adapter to the Asus router’s WLAN.
Both the documentation and the WPS setup need to be overhauled with the EA-N66. It’s inexcusable that I would encounter so many issues with Asus’s own router.
The main selling point of this device is that it is a 3 in 1 piece of hardware, able to function as an access point, adapter (which makes the device into a bridge), or as a Wi-Fi extender.
Once you get into the EA-N66′s management interface, it’s well-designed, with a similar appearance to that of the RT-ACC6U router. Upon first opening the GUI, the Quick Internet Setup (QIS) wizard kicks off. This is where you can set the device into one of its three operating modes. By default, the EA-N66 is set to work as an adapter. In adapter mode, you connect the EA-N66 to an existing wireless network. You can then connect any network device to the EA-N66 to add that device to the wireless network. This mode is very easy to work with and actually makes the EA-N66 work well as a bridge for connecting devices to a WLAN.
Through the QIS, you can also establish a new wireless network, configuring the EA-N66 is an AP. This works well also and is useful if you are traveling and only have a single Ethernet connection for Internet access. You can connect that Ethernet cable to the EA-N66 and then establish an on-the-fly hotspot.
I could not configure repeater mode using Internet Explorer 9 to access the GUI. Any time I selected repeater mode and applied changes, the progress bar interrupted and the webpage I was on would turn up as broken page with an error. This happened three times and I finally gave up.
So out of the three possible operating modes, two worked well.
For all the hassles the EA-N66 gave, as an adapter performance was not bad. It’s not on par with the USB-N66, but the performance is enough for most Internet-browsing related tasks. Here is a chart comparing the EA-N66, the USB-N66, and an on-board Intel Centrino AGN 6300 adapter’s throughput:
As the chart shows, a USB-based adapter takes a performance hit when compared to an adapter integrated on a system board. Asus’ USB-66 is also a more robust performer than the EA-N66. Still, throughput at about 40 Mbps at about 10-15 feet away from a router is average performance for connecting at the 2.4Ghz band with many routers.
Asus EA-N66 is a Half-Baked Adapter
If you’re shopping for a wireless adapter, skip the EA-N66. The USB-N66 is a better choice. Problems pairing the EA-N66 with Asus’s own router don’t bode well for getting it to work smoothly with other routers. Software problems and the lack of good documentation for setting up and configuring the EA-N66 are also likely to frustrate most users. It earns just a 2 out of 5 star rating, winning a couple of points for a well-designed GUI and okay performance.
More Wireless Networking Reviews:
|Device Type||Access Point, WiFi Extender, Bridge|
|Networking Options||802.11n (2.4+5 GHz Dualband)|
|Access Control Lists Based on MAC Addresses||Yes|
|Security||WEP, WPA, WPA2, WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup)|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc