Trendnet AC1200 Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter review

Trendnet's AC1200 Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter is the companion pre-draft 11ac adapter to Trendnet's excellent AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router. However, in testing we saw better throughput with another vendor's adapter.

Trendnet’s AC1200 Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter is the companion pre-draft 11ac adapter to Trendnet’s excellent AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router (TEW-812DRU). Unfortunately, the dual-band adapter provided the worst throughput from an 11ac adapter I’ve tested to date. When I tested the TrendNet’s TEW-812DRU router I received amazing performance (actually, among the best I’ve seen from a router) using a competing 11ac adapter, Edimax’s AC1200 Wireless Dual-Band USB Adapter. So I was disappointed at the results from the companion adapter. I also have issues with the software that’s installed with the adapter’s drivers—more on that later.

Specs
The AC1200 adapter supports a theoretical 867 Mbps at 11ac and 300 Mbps in 802.11n mode and has two internal antennas. The adapter is designed for USB 3.0 but can connect to a USB 2.0 port. It’s a USB stick with a removable cap. The device has a WPS button and single LED to indicate a successful connection.

Setup
In the packaging are a setup disc and quick install guide. The adapter only supports Windows 7 and 8  Vista and XP; all 32- and 64-bit versions. As with most USB wireless adapters, you install the drivers first. I also like to disable the on-board wireless adapter on the laptop I use to test before installation, since that make conflicts less likely. The software installation requires a reboot.

Coming back from reboot, I connected the adapter to a USB 3.0 port. A Wireless Configuration Utility is installed by default. I did not see a way during install to only install the drivers and not the utility. This is an issue for me, because sometimes 3rd party utilities can cause conflicts with the native Windows wireless management.

Once connected to a network, the utility provides information such as transmit/receive speeds and all available networks in range. You can do some management stuff such as adding network profiles to connect to different networks, shutting the wireless radio off from the utility interface, and initiating WPS.

I don’t like the workflow of the software: First, to connect to an available network, you have to create a profile which requires entering in and saving that network’s passphrase. With Windows’ built-in Wi-Fi, you can store passwords to selected wireless networks, or right-click on the wireless icon in the System Tray and connect to a network on-the-fly.

In the Trendnet utility, the passphrase isn’t even masked as you enter it. Besides, saving the passphrase should be an option, not a requirement to create a profile.

Once the profile is created, you click on it and are connected to the wireless network in the profile. I find the required profile setup an unnecessary, time-consuming, and potentially insecure step. I would prefer just a listing of networks in range and then just a double-click to connect and enter the password on-the-fly. Some home users may prefer not having to enter the password every time they connect, but the utility should allow a user to do either. The Trendnet software also seems to take over the Windows system tray, making it difficult to find the Windows native wireless manager to bypass the Trendnet icon. Overall, I find the Trendnet wireless utility unimpressive.

Performance
The only aspect of this adapter that I was even less impressed with than the software was its performance. It’s the only 11ac adapter that could not even manage throughput in triple digits.

At 15 feet, in 5 GHz mode with an 80 MHz channel width (the 11ac mode), the adapter only managed 76 Mbps—not much different than testing in 5 GHz 802.11n mode. Compare that with the Edimax adapter: testing with the same Trendnet router, I received an amazing (for our testing environment) 186 Mbps.

2.4 GHz N mode was also underwhelming. At 15 feet, Trendnet’s adapter chugged out 33 Mbps. That’s nowhere near the 76 Mbps of the Edimax adapter.

I can only determine that the external antenna of the Edimax adapter, which flips up to optimize performance, makes a real difference over the Trendnet’s internal antennas.

Click on the image to review performance comparisons of the Trendnet adapter to other wireless USB adapters.

Not Ideal for Trendnet’s Speedy Router
I was completely impressed with Trendnet’s AC1750 router. That’s not the case with the excellent AC1200 adapter. With pokey performance and annoying software that you can’t even bypass in favor of just installing the drivers, this adapter is not a suitable companion to Trendnet’s powerful router. It gets 2 out of 5 stars. Edimax’s AC1200 Wireless Dual-Band USB Adapter remains our Editors’ Choice for USB wireless adapters.

Specifications
Device Type Wireless USB Adapter
Networking Options 802.11ac

Verdict
Trendnet's AC1200 Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter is the companion pre-draft 11ac adapter to Trendnet's excellent AC1750 Dual Band Wireless Router. However, in testing we saw better throughput with another vendor's adapter.
Published under license from Ziff Davis, Inc., New York, All rights reserved.
Copyright © 2012 Ziff Davis, Inc