Linksys’ WUSB6300 ($69.99, MSRP) is the company’s newest dual-band 802.11ac adapter. This nondescript-looking USB stick provided us with the highest throughput tested among wireless networking devices. That high speed was achieved testing with Linksys’ excellent Smart Wi-Fi Router AC1900 (EA6900). An easy installation is also a highlight of the WUSB6300. However, its latest firmware proved unstable in testing, putting a blemish on this otherwise noteworthy piece of hardware.
The WUSB6300 is a selectable dual-band adapter with a 2×2 MIMO antenna configuration. The two antennas internal, in keeping with its compact nature. The device connects to a USB 3.0 port. The WUSB6300 also supports WPS (Wi-Fi Protected Setup).
On the top of the USB adapter are two LEDs, one shows when the adapter is connected to a wireless network and the other shows WPS activity.
As with its line of Smart Wi-Fi routers, Linksys makes the install of the WUSB6300 quite easy. The device ships with a setup CD. You install the drivers first through a series of clicks presented by a setup wizard. You then connect the adapter to a USB ports and setup is complete.
I tried at first connecting the adapter to my Windows 7 laptop without installing the accompanying drivers. Windows was not able to install the appropriate drivers (probably because the adapter is fairly new to market) so you must install the drivers from the CD.
Typically, 2×2 adapters tested with 3×3 routers produce far slower speeds in test results than testing a 3×3 router with a 3×3 wireless adapter. The WUSB6300 is the only adapter I’ve tested to date that breaks that rule of thumb. It provided superior performance even over my very speedy and reliable on-board Intel Centrino Ultimate-N 6300 AGN wireless adapter.
At one point during throughput testing, the speed between my WUSB6300 connected to my Windows 7 and another laptop wired to one of the LAN ports on the EA6900 router reached just shy of 400Mbps. I have never seen this level of performance in my testing environment which is awash in wireless signal interference. You can see the chart of throughput testing results by clicking the icon.
A Troubling Find
The WUSB6300 produced some of the best speed and range we’ve seen at either 5GHz in N mode or 11ac mode and at the 2.4GHz band. That’s why the problem I encountered during testing with the WUSB6300 left me puzzled.
As I tested at a distance of 30 feet away from the router at the 2.4GHz band, the connection dropped. I also saw the strangest error message in my System Tray, “Now we are doing check or switch USB mode, Better performance.”
OK, I thought to myself, “Just who is ‘we’?” In any case, disconnects periodically happen during testing. I reconnected the adapter to the EA6900′s wireless network. It immediately dropped again.
I then went into the router’s interface and tried switching between 2.4GHz 802.11n only mode and Mixed mode (which supports legacy 802.11 b and g adapters). This made no difference as soon as I was about 30 feet from the router, the WUSB6300 dropped the connection.
It’s important for me to note that I tested the WUSB6300 not with the firmware that ships with the adapter, but a firmware that Linksys is set to release in January.
Also, this connection drop problem did not occur on the 5GHz band, only at 2.4GHz.
Linksys representatives also explained to me the cryptic error message I received and why may have been the cause for the drops. The WUSB6300 is designed to switch operating mode from USB 3.0 to USB 2.0 in the presence of environmental interference.
This feature is supposed to help prevent connection drops, but I found during my testing that once you are a certain distance away from the router, the connection dropped anyway.
The curious error message is the software indicating that the adapter’s mode was switching from TUSB 3.0 to 2.0. I was told by Linksys that they are working on revising the message so that customers have a clearer idea what’s going on when they see the message pop-up.
Apparently, the slated firmware needs tweaking before its January release. I am confident that the appropriate updates and fixes will be made. In the meantime, I recommend this adapter, with a little bit of hesitation, if you have a reliable alternative option for connecting your wireless client at the 2.4GHz band. For connecting at 5GHz, the WUSB6300 is an absolute champ. Because of the issues I encountered, the WUSB6300 gets 3.5 stars. We will revisit the review when the newer firmware is released.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc