802.11ac is a new wireless standard worth getting excited about, even though it has yet to be ratified. Netgear has a solid 11ac router on the market, the R6300 WiFi Router 802.11ac Dual Band Gigabit, and an 802.11ac wireless adapter to go with it: the 802.11ac A6200 WiFi Adapter. Unfortunately, the A6200 is less impressive than the router and that’s testing it with the R6300—which should turn in its best test results. In fact, in 11ac mode the A6200 is among the slower-performing 11ac wireless adapters we’ve tested, and its performance in other modes is underwhelming, too. Add in some quirky software and this is an adapter that needed more time in the oven.
Specs and Design
The A6200 supports up to 300 Mbps at 2.4 GHz and 867 Mbps at 5 GHz. It can work on USB 1.1 or 2.0 ports, and it only works with Windows 8, 7, XP, and Vista—either 32 or 64 bit.
The adapter measures 3.75 by 1.23 by 0.56 inches (HWD). It can plug right into a computer’s USB port or you can connect its accompanying USB base (which the adapter then connects to) into a USB port. The adapter also has an antenna that you can push up or to the side, kind of like a stiff little arm that sticks out from the antenna—the antenna and the base are to give users adapter placement flexibility.
I have to state outright that I don’t like the design. First of all, no matter which way I had the antenna arm oriented, or whether I had the adapter plugged in directly to the USB port or the base, made no difference in performance in my testing. Also the adapter and the way you move the antenna reminds me of those snake toys back in the 80′s, remember? You could twist and bend the puzzle into shapes like a dog or diamond. I think the design is too overcomplicated and the antenna arm seems like you could easily break it if you accidentally twisted it the wrong way.
The adapter is dual-band but, honestly, the performance at either band and in any wireless mode is a big yawn.
The A6200 ships with a resource CD. Pop in the CD and it auto-runs, opening up a menu of options. These include: Setup, Install Windows Standalone Driver, Documentation, Customer Support, and Online Registration.
I opted for Setup. I have to say, the Genie software that installed with the adapter’s Windows drivers is a poorly designed eyesore and, worse, it’s buggy. The interface froze on me once, and every time I opened it and clicked to scan for all wireless networks in range, the networks would show up and then a few seconds later, they would all disappear. This happened to me several times.
I don’t even care for the way the installed software opens. After it installs, a Network Genie shortcut is placed on the desktop. I double-click it open and all I see is the icon appear minimized in the Windows System Tray at the bottom-right of my laptop’s screen. So then I have to click on the icon minimized to open the program. Opening the software takes two steps therefore, instead of one.
If you do decide to go with the A6200, therefore, I recommend not using the CD’s Setup option. Just install the Windows standalone drivers.
Yes, you will be able to surf the Web fine with the A6200. Yet, for any internal network multimedia streaming or large file handling, there may be some latency. The adapter produced unimpressive performance even with Netgeat’s R6300 router. At 15 feet from the R6300 in 802.11ac mode, throughput reached 74 Mbps. I’ve seen triple digit throughput in that mode from other pre-draft 802.11ac routers such as the Linksys Wireless Mini USB Adapter AC 580 Dual Band (AE6000) and the Asus USB-AC53 Dual-band Wireless-AC1200 Adapter.
The A6200′s performance is more on par with another 802.11ac adapter that I found less-than-impressive, the Trendnet AC1200 Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter . The A6200 had a slighter edge at the 2.4GHz mode over the Trendnet: At 15 feet the A6200 clocked 64 Mbps versus 33 for the Trendnet. We rated the Trendnet adapter two out of five stars. Click on the image for the full comparison chart.
Because of a performance edge over the Trendnet in the 2.4 GHz band, the A6200 earns 2.5 stars. I expect Netgear will offer another 802.11ac adapter that’s quite a bit more robust when the 802.11ac standard is ratified. For now, it’s just an adapter that I can’t quite recommend, not only for performance but bcause of the buggy software and clunky design. The Editors’ choice for 802.11ac wireless adapters remains Edimax’s AC1200 Wireless Dual-Band USB Adapter.
|Device Type||Wireless USB Adapter|
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc