ASUS PCE-AC66 Wi-Fi AC1750 PCIe Wireless Adapter Review
By Bruce Normann
Full Disclosure: The product sample used in this article has been provided by ASUSTeK.
The ASUS PCE-AC66 802.11ac wireless PCIe adapter is currently the only wireless adapter I know of, that allows you to experience the wonders of 3-Stream IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi. It won’t be the last, for sure, because the gains in wireless throughput are too good to pass up. There are several significant changes in the new 802.11ac standard, and upping the maximum allowable number of spatial streams is one of them. Theoretically, eight individual streams are supported by 802.11ac, but the new chips from Broadcom top out at three streams on a single IC. That’s enough to push 1.3Gbps across the airwaves on the 5GHz Wi-Fi band, which is probably where the consumer devices will stay. There are several wireless adapters on the market that are capable of handling two streams, but right now the PCE-AC66 is alone at the top of the 802.11ac heap, with three streams and the data rates to match.
The new IEEE 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard is not officially approved, but it does appear to be stable, and there are products on the market already from all the serious players in wireless networking. While 802.11n was a step forward, and many of us have been appreciative of the additional legroom that the 5GHz band allows, there was still plenty of room left for improvement in Wi-Fi performance. It didn’t take long for wireless communication vendors like Broadcom to release new silicon that exploits the many enhancements available in the new standard. The ASUS PCE-AC66 wireless adapter is designed to take full advantage of the higher throughput and expanded signal coverage that’s available with the latest 802.11ac chips that are now available.
The PCE-AC66 wireless PCIe Adapter has three high gain external antennas, and the adapter is designed so that each of them can transmit and receive simultaneous 2.4GHz and 5GHz signals. With three data streams running concurrently on each band, you have concurrent access to throughputs of 450Mb/s on the 2.4GHz 802.11n channel and 1300Mb/s on the 5GHz 802.11ac channel. A word of caution; those throughput numbers represent the raw data rate that the wireless signal can support. They do not take into account the communications overhead associated with typical data streams such as TCP/IP or UDP. So don’t be disappointed with the test results you see in this article or elsewhere; real world throughput is much lower, even for loosely structured protocols like UDP.
Before we get to the testing stage, let’s have a thorough look at the PCE-AC66 hardware and its features.