21 May 2012, Comments: 3

 May 2012         Ian Chiu

As with most things computer related wireless networking is becoming faster and faster with every new generation. The latest 802.11ac may still not be ratified but just as when 802.11n first arrived, there are devices becoming available which take advantage of this much more advanced wireless standard.

One such device is the NETGEAR A6200 which is a dual-band 802.11ac USB network adapter with swivel antennas capable of speed of upwards of 900Mbit/s – or twice as fast as that of 802.11n three-stream (3×3) MIMO connections.

More important than the speed boost is the fact that the A6200 is the first of its kind so until 802.11ac integrated laptops ship, you have this to tap into the potential of 5G WiFi technology. While the adapter is backwards compatible with everything from 2.4Ghz 802.11n to aging 802.11b, there is one issue worth mentioning, the NETGEAR supports only up to two streams so the theoretical limit of this 802.11ac USB adapter is 900Mbps. That’s almost double the bandwidth of what USB 2.0 can provide. One has to wonder why NETGEAR didn’t make this a SuperSpeed USB device to begin with since most early adopters have USB 3.0 at their disposal.

And of course, you will need to get at least a NETGEAR R6200 router to pair with the A6200 NIC. There’s no word on pricing or availability is known at this time, but it should be a fairly reasonable way of future proofing your PCs.

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3 responses on “NETGEAR A6200 – First 802.11ac 5G WiFi USB Adapter

  1. Kyle says:

    Its actually very simple why USB 3.0 was not included in this wireless adapter, as well as why it is not included with the majority of wireless routers. For the case of the adapter, think about it this way: USB 2.0 is capped at 480 Mbps, with real-world speeds reaching ~170-200 Mbps. Most people have multiple users on the network, and allowing max speeds for multiple users is what the new 802.11ac protocol is designed to address. Since the bandwidth coming from the router needs to be divided amongst the various users, it is VERY unlikely that any one individual will require more than 200 Mbps to perform most normal tasks, like streaming HD video signals, etc. So for an adapter that plugs into one device.. USB 2.0 is the way to go, and will NEVER be the bottleneck for the vast majority of users. Furthermore, protocol for USB 3.0 raise the amperage from 0.5 Amps to 0.9 Amps, so if you have a USB adapter operating within a multi-user wireless network, not only will you gain no additional performance benefits, you will also drain the battery more quickly on your laptop/tablet, etc.

    Back to USB 3.0 in wireless routers: The USB interface on a wireless router does NOT affect connection speeds between your device (laptop/tablet) and the INTERNET, regardless of what anyone may tell you. When you think about it, this is actually quite intuitive. For instance, consider the types of devices you may plug directly into your wireless router. For most people, this will include (1) printers and (2) external storage devices (hard drives). Therefore, if you are using a router such as a NetGear R6300 (which lacks USB 3.0 ports), you will be able to surf, connect to, and download/upload to the internet JUST AS FAST as you would if the router had USB 3.0 ports.

    On the other hand, if you run a business that prints high-definition poster photos, or if you plan on connecting an external hard drive and using it REGULARLY, these are the cases where you may gain an bandwidth advantage with USB 3.0 on the router. However, if you are considering either of these 2 scenarios, keep in mind that a dedicated NAS server ($$$) is going to be your best option.

    In short, don’t be fooled by the hype. Early adopters often complain when seemingly inexpensive ‘upgrades’ (like USB 2.0 to USB 3.0) are not included on their new devices. Believe me, if this 2.0/3.0 debate has factored at all into your decision-making process, you can bet that the manufacturers have also considered the upgrade. Sometimes, manufacturers will prey on the early adopters to justify selling unnecessary upgrades to the more moderate consumer. Other manufacturers recognize the fact that USB 2.0 is equally effective for the aforementioned reasons (see above), and by choosing USB 2.0, they actually are doing a service to the consumer by cutting through some of the nonsense. Be an informed consumer. Recognize what your uses for the device will be, and don’t criticize companies for saving you money. Look for VALUE, don’t let somebody sell to you on the basis of a version number.

  2. Vincent Veldman says:

    First of all the question is how wireless networking works.

    The 1300Mbit/s is theoretical. You have channel efficiency, utilization, noise, physical medium, protocol overheat, signal interference, etc.

    This leads to a laboratory vs. real throughput factor of
    3 for 802.11b (Theo 11Mbit -> Real 4Mbit)
    2 for 802.11g (Theo 54Mbit -> Real 20Mbit)
    4 for 802.11n (Theo 300Mbit -> Real 75Mbit)
    4 for 802.11n (Theo 450Mbit -> Real 120Mbit)

    So effectively on a 450Mbit 802.11n network you’ll get something around 15Mbyte/s
    I know on my configuration I’ll get anything between 10Mbyte and 20Mbyte/s depending on lots of factors. Neighbors switching on the Microwave drops my performance already by 15-20%. My own not, I suppose neighbors Faraday cage isn’t working very well for their microwave. Or it’s a coincidence, nevertheless, every single network, in your area will drop your performance, even my Sennheiser wireless headphones!

    I’m not sure what will be the factor for 802.11ac are going to be, but from what I’ve read noise, interference etc should be less and thus even create a higher performance especially over distance and enlarging distance because of the lower noise distortion.

    So let’s assume it’s a factor 3. At 5Ghz we won’t hit a factor 2.

    That means 1300Mbit would effectively become 433Mbit.
    Now USB 2 supports up to 480Mbit (Theoretically)
    It does not have so many interferences, noise, etc as a wireless connection, since it’s wired, and USB real speeds are closer to USB theoretical speeds. For USB the main factor is your CPU. Unlike Firewire for example which uses it’s own cpu, USB is relying heavily on your CPU. Something most people don’t know, but if you’re loading your CPU with a lot of background processes (does windows standard) your performance is going down not because of USB itself but because your system is simply not fast enough to handle everything.

    So on a fast system with less background crap running, you will not get that 480Mbit probably, but you will achieve something close to 50Mbyte/sec (at least I do on my system) which is 400Mbit (and thus very close to the 433Mbit real speed on 802.11ac we can expect as real speed)

    Of course, USB 3 has the benefit of using less CPU power and less electricity, but counting it all together, on a properly installed system with a properly installed windows OS (=removing all the background malware which 99% of the users don’t even use) and a CPU that can handle USB properly, you will find yourself a decent increase over 802.11ac even over USB 2.

  3. tmc8080 says:

    Thought usb 2.0 maxes out @ 60MB/sec. what good is 112MB/s with 60 max throughput?
    Either you need usb 3.0 or gigabit ethernet as the interface of choice! This is severely lacking.. and there aren’t enough companies that make the AC adapters to compete on price, yet.

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