Linksys recently released the Wireless Mini USB Adapter AC 580 Dual Band (AE6000) for use with its new crop of pre-draft 802.11ac routers, including the Cisco Linksys Smart Wi-Fi AC 1750HD Video Pro EA6500 and the Linksys Smart Wi-Fi Router AC1600 EA6400. I tested this tiny adapter with the EA6400. The adapter offered little wireless performance benefit over using my laptop’s native Intel Centrino 3×3 wireless on-board adapter, except, of course, in 802.11ac mode, since my adapter supports up to 802.11n.
When I say this adapter is tiny, I mean it is tiny. It’s just a little over an inch and a half long and a smidgen over half an inch wide. In fact, I misplaced it several times during my review. While the small size makes it super portable, the miniscule form factor means it’s easy to lose. I don’t count that against it in the score, but it’s something to be aware of if you’re the type whose stuff tends to go missing.
The adapter connects to a USB 2.0 port. Inside it, is one internal antenna. The AE6000 supports WEP 64/128-bit, WPA-TKIP and WPA2-Personal & Enterprise (AES/TKIP), as well as WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup)
Since Linksys was recently acquired by Belkin, I was curious as to why the Cisco (Linksys’ former owner) logo was on the adapter. A Linksys rep said this was because the product was already in production when the Linksys-Belkin deal went down.
There’s not much to install with the AE6000. It ships with a setup disc. The disc launches a setup wizard. You accept the license agreement and then instructed to connect the adapter to a USB port.
The software installs the drivers for the adapter. A list of wireless networks in range appears and you can connect on-the-spot. A clickable link within the interface allows you to “use Wi-Fi protected setup to connect.”
The adapter has a tiny, blue LED which indicates it’s active.
I really didn’t find the adapter’s performance all that impressive in 802.11b mode. In fact, I received worse performance using it to connect to the Linksys EA6400 router than when I had the router configured to use 802.11n, than from my laptop’s on-board Intel Centrino 3×3 wireless adapter. This inferior performance was consistent whether I connected at 2.4 or the 5 GHz band in “Mixed” legacy or 802.11n-only mode.
For example, from a distance of 15 feet from the router, my laptop averaged throughput of 78 Mbps in 2.4 GHz 802.11n mode. The Linksys adapter only managed 66 Mbps.
The Linksys adapter didn’t fair as well in 5 GHz 802.11n-only mode, either. My laptop’s throughput against the tiny USB adapter’s: 109 Mbps from 15 feet versus Linksys’s 83 Mbps.
Now, the slower performance from the Linksys adapter isn’t particularly surprising, as I am comparing a 3×3 powerful, business-class wireless adapter to a USB adapter that doesn’t even connect to USB 3.0 (which would boost speed) and only has one internal adapter. So this definitely isn’t an apples-to-apples comparison, as far as specs go. Still, I was surprised by how different throughput is between the two in testing.
Where the little adapter proved itself was in 802.11ac performance. It achieved triple-digit numbers when tested with the EA6400 router. Of course, my laptop’s adapter only supports 802.11n so I don’t have a comparable test using the laptop’s built-in adapter. Click the below image for performance results.
Of course, I’ve tested plenty of other adapters that give more apples-to-apples data. This is the fifth USB 802.11ac adapter I’ve tested. It gave the second highest-performance in 11ac mode over any other adapter except for the stellar Edimax AC1200 Wireless Dual Band USB Adapter. At 15 feet away, Linksys’s little USB adapter cranked out a very good 129 Mbps in 11ac mode. However, Edimax’s adapter managed 186 Mbps at the same distance in 11ac mode, and was superior in other modes too.
Unfortunately, the Linksys adapter impedes performance in other modes—not the case with the Edimax adapter. For instance, the Linksys adapter in 5 GHz, 802.11n mode as mentioned, clocked 71 Mbps, while the Edimax blazed at 126 Mbps.
The best usage case for Linksys’ adapter is if you already have a good on-board 802.11n adapter and you have an 802.11ac router you want to connect to. You can flip back and forth between the two depending at what standard you want to use to connect. For example, if connecting to 802.11n you use the built-in adapter, and, if trying to connect at 802.11ac, you connect the Linksys adapter to the USB port and disable the built-in adapter.
Or, you could just get our Editors’ Choice 802.11ac adapter, the Edimax AC1200, and receive great performance in either 802.11n or 802.11ac modes. Still, the Linksys adapter had good enough performance in 802.11n for all best the most demanding throughput tasks and very good performance connected to an 11ac router. For that, the Wireless Mini USB Adapter AC 580 Dual Band (AE6000) earns three out of five stars.
|Device Type||Wireless USB Adapter|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc