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Questions about 802.11ac, Wireless Adapter speeds and USB port?

Posted on 2013-11-29
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Last Modified: 2013-12-04
I recently upgraded my internet service and I have had some issues with my 6 year old modem and router so I upgraded to a Motorola SB6141 and a Linsys AC900 EA6200.

The router says it can get up to ~840 mbps speeds. On one of my PC's it has USB 2.0, I have seen USB 2.0 wireless adapters that say they can get up to ~840 mbps speeds but what I am wondering is if the adapter is USB 2.0 can that type of port even go that fast or do I need to look for a USB 3.0 adapter and install a 3.0 USB card in my PC?
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Question by:REIUSA
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Expert Comment

by:Darr247
ID: 39686435
Usually, with wireless the actual maximum throughput is about half of the reported speed...  that was true with 802.11b, 802.11a, 802.11g, 802.11g and it's still true with 802.11ac.

USB 2.0 can handle bursts up to 480 Mb/s, which would equate to reported wireless speeds over 900Mbps.

Did you look at the Linksys AE6000 adapter?
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by:Craig Beck
ID: 39691169
Around 10-15% of USB2 throughput is taken by overhead, so if we take 480-15% we're left with 408.  That's a limit of 816Mbps over-the-air which is just short of the 840Mbps the router advertises.  That implies that USB2 would cause a slight bottleneck.

I would go with a USB2 device if you can afford to suffer a bit, or go with USB3 to allow you to take advantage of the extra available bandwidth and future-proof for the future.
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Author Comment

by:REIUSA
ID: 39691551
Another thought after a recent post here is I can install a PCIe wireless AC card, that would give better performance than a USB port right?
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by:Darr247
ID: 39691587
I suspect that - much like 802.11n's maximum speeds - you'll need to be within 2m of the AP to get the fastest connections possible... and if you're within 5 or 6 feet of the AP/Router, just plug into it with a 3m patch cord and get wired gigabit speeds.

If you're not within 5 or 6 feet, and thus not getting maximum connection speeds, you're not likely to saturate the USB 2.0 port, which should be good for sustained speeds of 320Mb/s, or a reported connection speed over 600Mbps.
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by:Craig Beck
ID: 39692352
^^^ what Darr said +1
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Author Comment

by:REIUSA
ID: 39693451
What I was thinking though is if I used a PCIe (250 MB/s) card vs a USB 2.0 adapter (~480 mbps) the PCIe card at least has a faster bus speed, or are you saying that even with a super duper AC card rated for top speed of ~860 mbps it most likely still won't go faster than if I used a USB adapter.

Something else that worries me is I was looking at a page for USB and is said 2.0 standard was like 12 mbps max speed. In device manager it says USB Standard Enhanced, any idea if that would be the faster or slower USB 2.0? I ran HWINFO and it listed the USB devices I had plugged in as 2.0.

What makes me wonder is I ran a test with the current hardware which includes a G router and  a N USB adapter and the speeds are between 8-14 mbps when testing.

http://lyberty.com/tech/terms/usb.html
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by:Craig Beck
Craig Beck earned 1000 total points
ID: 39693932
You'll only ever achieve the rate of the slowest device in the chain.  If your USB port is only 1.1 you'd only ever see around 10Mbps ever and that's on paper.  If you use a USB3 802.11ac NIC and your router can do 1.3Gbps you'd not have a problem with the hardware providing your NIC was 1.3Gbps-capable.

USB1.1 is 12Mbps
USB2.0 is 480Mbps

Any USB device which bears the "High-Speed" logo is a USB2 device.

An 'n' adapter on a G-only router won't give any advantage.  You need an 'n' router to see a difference.

The 'g' throughput is a theoretical maximum of around 22Mbps - that's in a lab environment.  Add the 10-15% USB overhead and you're actually not getting a bad service, all things considered.
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Accepted Solution

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Darr247 earned 1000 total points
ID: 39694041
An 802.11ac PCIe x1 card could potentially give faster throughput than an 802.11ac USB 2.0 adapter, yes.

You should probably resign yourself to experience the same type of congestion eventually with 802.11ac as occurs now with 802.11g, since 11ac uses from 4 to 8 channels (out of 8 to 16 available in most regulatory zones) in the 5GHz band instead of the 1 channel (or 2 channels, with some vendors' 802.11n implementation) out of 3 available in the 2.4GHz band.
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Author Closing Comment

by:REIUSA
ID: 39696551
Thanks for the info.
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