The first part of any fast wireless network is of course the router. Without that foundation, every endpoint device is inherently kneecapped. That said, if you’ve already got a solid foundation by way of an 802.11ac router, your focus should then turn to maximizing your investment by making sure you can actually utilize all of that ac speed. Most modern mid-range and flagship mobile devices support 802.11ac now, so that’s not so much an issue. There are even a small but growing number of mobile devices that support multi-band ac (such as the latest iPhones and Galaxy S/Note phones) which allow for a max throughput of 866 Mbps vs. the standard 433 Mbps of single band devices.
Because of the sheer number of options in the computer/laptop world, finding ac support can be a bit trickier. Similarly, while many mid range and higher end computers/laptops will have ac support, many people will need to purchase some sort of card (whether PCI or USB based) to tap into ac.
And today, that’s exactly what we’re looking at by way of D-link’s UFO/spherical DWA-192 AC1900 USB adapter.
The vast majority of USB WiFi adapters look like a traditional flash drive. Some go a bit further and include an antenna on the end for added range/performance. D-link on the other than took their design to the nth degree with a spherical design. It’s not inherently better per say though, the added 3′ cord means you have the ability to get potentially better range and performance vs. a built-in card (such as in a laptop) or a traditional USB model.
Standout design aside, there’s not much else to talk about. You’ll find a USB 3 port on the back and a blue LED around the middle of the sphere’s body for connection status purposes. A solid blue ring means you’re connected while flashing means keep trying.
Software & Performance
For testing purposes I’m using a mid-2012 rMBP. It’s important to note that this model does not have USB 3 and as such, speeds won’t be quite as fast as they could.
The software is pretty straight forward and generally better than some other WiFi adapter software I’ve used in terms of clarity and layout. That said, for those of you who have never used a 3rd party accessory such as this before, it might take a slight learning curve to learn how to juggle/disable the built in WiFi connection in favor of the D-link adapter’s connection. Once you get past that though, you’re rewarded with full-speed 802.11ac on whatever you can plug in and install the drivers on.
In general use around the house, I found speeds to be definitely noticeable vs. the built-in 802.11n card built into the rMBP. Sitting about 12 feet away in the same room I was able to copy a 1.76 GB movie file in 1 minute and 28 seconds and a larger 4.55 GB video file in 3 minutes and 49 seconds. Moving a room away with the “help” of a few walls in between saw transfer times increase ~20% on average.
In terms of raw speed, I averaged in the mid 300’s (Mb/s) when I was within 15′ and in the same room, and around 100 Mb/s when in another room on the same level of the house.
This adapter is a fantastic adapter for those of you wanting the absolute fastest wireless networking at this current moment. It might not be quite as convenient as a nice, small USB model that doesn’t have a lengthy USB cable on it. But chances are if bleeding edge performance and speed are your primary concerns, the cable length isn’t so much an issue.
Overall, there are some cheaper options available than this $129 offering from D-link. (It can be found as low as ~$80 online though.) But as touched on above, if you value speed and performance above all else, then this is one of the top choices you should currently have on your list.