Before I tell you what I thought of the Asus USB-N66 Dual-Band Adapter Wireless-N900, I should tell you that I’m generally not a big fan of USB wireless adapters. The USB connection too often in my experiences and testing, slows the performance of the wireless connection.
Now, of course, if you have an older laptop that, for instance, only supports 802.11b or g and you connect an 802.11n USB wireless adapter to access an 11N WLAN, then, yes, you are going to see throughput improvements. However, when it comes to adapters, an on-board, 3×3, 802.11n adapter beats 802.11n adapters as far as performance and signal reliability. Asus’ USB-N66 ($70 street) is a dual-band 3×3 wireless adapter and while it does not eke out the same performance as my laptop’s on-board 3×3 Intel Centrino adapters, for those with older laptops that don’t have on-board 11N adapters, it’s a decent adapter. There’s another benefit to the USB-N66—it can also function as an access point.
The USB-N66 is a dual-band wireless adapter that supports theoretical speeds of up to 450 Mbps. It’s got a unique pyramid design, so it’s not a USB stick like many USB wireless adapters on the market. This design according to Asus, is a patented orthogonal antenna design to boost wi-fi coverage.
It’s an intriguing-looking device, a real geek conversation starter. When powered, this silver and black futuristic-looking pyramid that attaches to a USB 2.0 port is lit up with blue LEDs.
The back panel has a micro USB port and a toggle switch to operate the device in either standard (STD) or high power (HI) mode. Using a Y cable (sold separately) is recommended when operating in HI mode.
The USB-N66 can be used with Windows, Mac, or Linux. The adapter ships with a CD which has a setup program. Running setup opens a menu with the following options: Install Asus WLAN card utilities/driver, uninstall, read/install user documentation, explore the CD, or browse the Asus web site.
Selecting the install utilities/driver option on my Windows 7 laptop, gives the choice of only using Windows’ wireless function or to use Asus’ WLAN utilities. I opted to use the Asus utility.
After install, I had a new shortcut on my desktop to the Asus USB-N66 WLAN Control Center. When I first double-clicked the shortcut to open, I got a cryptic error message, “Asus Wireless LAN cards is taken apart from your desktop.” Yes, I have no idea what that means, either.
I did have the adapter connected before installing, so I removed it and re-connected. I was then able to get into the Asus Control Center.
Asus Control Center Utility
The utility performs a wireless survey of all access points in proximity. All nearby WLANs were displayed including details such as channel, security type, encryption level, MAC address, and signal strength represented by bars.
You can quickly connect to a WLAN via the utility. Once connected, the interface provides a status of the connection: the signal strength (measured in dBm), frames sent and received, and a line graph showing connection quality.
Also given is IP information. From the Control Center, users can check the IP address assigned to the adapter as well as subnet mask, gateway IP, and DHCP server address. The utility allows performing tasks such as releasing or renewing an IP address or doing a PING.
There are some advanced network management capabilities as well. Once connected to a WLAN, you can adjust very specific settings including RTS threshold, preamble mode, change the channel, or adjust the data rate. You can specify whether to use WPS or PIN numbers by default when connecting to access points, or can turn the wireless adapter radio on and off.
Using the USB-N66 as an AP
Imagine you are in a hotel room with access to one wired Ethernet cable for Internet. You can connect that cable to a laptop and connect the USB-N66 to that laptop’s USB port. Set the adapter in AP mode by clicking a button in the Control Center utility and you can setup a wireless LAN. The USB-N66 turns into a portable router with the soft AP feature.
I expected a bit slower performance using the USB-N66 to connect to a wireless router than with my laptop’s on-board 3×3 adapter, and I did get slower throughput. Here is a chart comparing throughput connecting at 5GHz to Asus’ RT-AC66U router with the USB-N66 and with the an integrated Intel Centrino adapter in my laptop:
Also, generally browsing web pages was a bit slower using the USB-N66 than with the laptop’s integrated adapter.
I noticed a few issues with this adapter’ software. When connected to the 5GHz band of the Asus RT-AC66U router, the Control Center utility insisted on reporting my connection at the 2.4 GHz band. The problem cleared up if I turned the adapter’s radio on and off again, but would re-appear whenever I reconnected to the 5GHz SSID.
I also did not find any way to disconnect from an access point through the utility. You will also want to disable any other wireless utilities you may have installed. I found the Asus utility conflicted with the Intel wireless manger that is installed on my laptop by default.
Slow Performance but Nice Bonus Feature
The USB-N66 did not further endear me to USB wireless adapters. As is my usual experience, it’s just not as robust a performer as using a 3×3 on-board adapter. However, if you don’t have a laptop with an 802.11n adapter, it’s not a bad choice. The bonus feature is the ability to use it as an AP. The USB-N66 gets 3 stars for wireless adapters.
More Networking Reviews:
|Device Type||Wireless USB Adapter|
|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), WPA2-Enterprise|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc