Introduction

External design and hardware

Testing

Summary

Introduction

For a very long time ASUS Company has sent wireless routers and access points for testing to our network laboratory, absolutely ignoring wireless network adapters with PCIE and USB interfaces. Finally, it's time to fix this gap and to provide our readers with the review of ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter with the USB 3.0 interface. This model allows connecting to the existing wireless networks at speeds up to 600 Mbps in the range of 2.4 GHz and to 1300 Mbps in the range of 5 GHz, so ASUS USB-AC68 card possesses AC1900 wireless formula. Let's consider model in more detail!

External design and hardware

ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter comes in black plastic case with red insertions and two external antennae. External antennae can rotate and be fixed in one out of three positions.

On the front side (if such a device could in principle have the front side) a blue LED is placed, which can be used to visually determine whether the wireless network connection exists. The appearance of the test model for some reason caused resistant association with a little black birdie with red wings who is sitting down on some dark object.

Overall dimensions of the device are 115х30х18 mm with weight of only 44 grams. Leaping ahead, it is worth noting that there are four antennae in USB-AC68 model: two external and two internal, allowing the device to operate in 3x4 MIMO (3T4R) mode, ie three antennae on transmission and four on data receipt can dynamically be involved.

A significant part of the model case is a ventilation grate for improved cooling of chips as fast wireless adapters typically consume a lot of energy and can heat up considerably.

Together with the Wi-Fi adapter comes a CD with drivers, a warranty book and a brief instruction for connection of the device. It should also be noted that in a set there is an USB-extender with a cradle, allowing more convenient placing of the adapter on the desktop or other horizontal surface. The cradle is not magnetic, but with a weighting compound, its bottom side is rubber and allows sticking to smooth objects. Cable length of about one meter what, in our opinion, will be enough for most users.

Now let's have a look at the insides of ASUS USB-AC68 case. The electronic stuffing of the device is single textolite card which has all essential elements located on both of its sides. Unfortunately, all chips are hidden under protective screens and aren't accessible for review. On a card there are two slots for connection of external antennae, and also two internal nondetachable antennae are located. ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter is based on Realtek RTL8814AU chip.

That is where we bring the review of the hardware platform of the device to a conclusion and pass directly on to testing.

Testing

Before getting down to performance tests we would like to get our reader familiar with the key specifications of the test stand we used. As the load generator we used JPerf utility version 2.0.2. The tests were carried out with one, five and fifteen simultaneous TCP connections in case of placing the wireless router and tested equipment in close proximity to each other (from one to three meters).

Component PC Notebook
Motherboard ASUS Maximus VIII Extreme ASUS M60J
CPU Intel Core i7 6700K 4 GHz Intel Core i7 720QM 1.6 GHz
RAM DDR4-2133 Samsung 64 Gbytes DDR3 PC3-10700 SEC 16 Gbytes
NIC ASUS RT-AC88U Atheros AR8131
OS Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus Windows 7 x64 SP1 Rus 

ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter has USB 3.0 interface therefore we made its connection to the appropriate interface of our test computer. Functioning of a wireless network was provided by ASUS RT-AC88U wireless router, which we already have described earlier. Performance measurement was made for both wireless ranges: 2.4 and 5 GHz. Results of measurements are given on the diagram below.

Unfortunately, not all notebooks and desktop computers have USB 3.0 port therefore we decided to find out what speeds will be available to users who will connect ASUS USB-AC68 model to USB 2.0 port.

As seen from the diagram above, the interface of Wi-Fi adapter connection  has practically no impact on speed of data transmission in the range of 2.4 GHz. For connections in the range of 5 GHz the version of the USB interface begins to play the significant role, however this influence will be noticeable only in a situation when wireless devices in principle are able to reach such speeds (fast wireless router or access point, good signal, absence of noises and so on).

We didn't keep away from operation of ASUS USB-AC68 in AD HOC mode for the range of 2.4 GHz. The received speeds turned out to be noticeably below what was shown by the Wi-Fi adapter in Wi-Fi client mode, however generally it is caused by restrictions of an operating system. ASUS PCE-AC88 model was used as a wireless client. The diagrams below contain comparison of speed of data transmission in the direction of USB->Wi-Fi while operation of the adapter in ad hoc and wireless client modes. As always, measurement of speeds was performed for one, five and fifteen simultaneous TCP connections. It is also worth noting that maximum speed of connection of the wireless client to ad hoc network didn't exceed 300 Mbps.

Naturally, we couldn't help but clarify how ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter heats up in the course of operation. For temperature measurement we used our lab's ADA TempPro-2200 pyrometer. The highest temperature of heat-sinking screen inside the case that we managed to measure has been 47 °C while temperature in the room was equal to 27 °C.

Summary

In principle, we were satisfied with new ASUS USB-AC68 wireless adapter with the USB 3.0 interface allowing the user to increase significantly performance of PCs and notebooks by operation in a wireless network. USB-AC68 model supports all modern wireless protocols IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac and is perfect even for those users who have high requirements for devices design. The used wireless formula allows making the best use of majority of the modern routers (up to 600 Mbps in the range of 2.4 GHz and up to 1300 Mbps for connections at frequencies of 5 GHz). External rotatable antennae together with AiRadar technology will allow not only to increase data-transfer speed, but also to expand coverage.

The strength areas of ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi Adapter are presented below:

  • high traffic transmission speeds in both wireless frequency ranges;
  • support of USB 3.0;
  • existence of a USB-extender and a cradle;
  • design;
  • a possibility of operation in the ad hoc mode;
  • existence of external rotatable antennae;
  • simple installation.

Unfortunately, we cannot help but mention its drawback:

  • lack of original utility for device control.

As of when this article was being written, the average price for ASUS USB-AC68 Wi-Fi adapter  in Moscow online shops was 4800 roubles. We hope for the considerable reduction of price in the nearest future after the device is available for sale in more shops.

As of this writing, the best price for ASUS USB-AC68 in German-speaking Europe countries, according to website Geizhals Preisvergleich, was about 70 euro.

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