ASUS PCE-AC66 802.11ac PCIe Adapter Conclusion
Important: This section is a brief five point summary on the following categories; Performance, Appearance, Construction, Functionality and Value. Although the ratings and final score in this conclusion are as objective as possible, please be aware that every author perceives these factors differently, at various points in time. As Albert Einstein said, “Not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.” While we each do our best to ensure that all aspects of the product are considered, there are often times unforeseen market conditions and manufacturer changes which occur after publication that could render our rating obsolete. A high or low score does not necessarily mean that it is better or worse than a similar product that has been reviewed by another writer here at Benchmark Reviews. These are subjective ratings, and they’re unique to the individual who creates them. Please do not base any purchase solely on our conclusions, as they represent our product rating for the sample received, which may differ from the retail versions available when you are ready to purchase.
It’s appropriate to talk about performance first, as that is where the ASUS PCE-AC66 really shines. The performance of the PCE-AC66 is truly excellent, especially since it’s the only adapter that can utilize all three data streams from the new batch of high-end 802.11ac routers, like the ASUS RT-AC66U that Benchmark Reviews recently tested. The performance of this ideally matched team barely tapered off with either distance or obstructions, in contrast to the 802.11n routers I paired it with. Part of the credit has to go to the new 802.11ac standard, but the teardown revealed a solid, clean design and construction that undoubtedly contributed to the high benchmark performance I observed. There is no doubt that this is the Wi-Fi adapter to get for throughput and reliable signal coverage, especially if you’ve got one of the new 802.11ac routers that supports three separate data streams. At this point, every one of them out on the market is using the same Broadcom BCM4360 chip, so compatibility issues should be minimized.
The ASUS PCE-AC66 is in another league as far as appearance, among PCIe Adapter products. This is the kind of gear that windowed cases were made for! The antenna base is also smartly finished, and the fact that it’s a bit out of the ordinary in appearance works in its favor. There’s no reason to hide those antennas on the rear panel of you PC case, and some strong performance reasons why you shouldn’t. Go ahead; flaunt your inner My Favorite Martian.
The construction of the ASUS PCE-AC66 is first rate. The card itself is well designed, with a clean layout. With RF signals, it’s critical to get that aspect of the design right. You would be amazed at all the seemingly ordinary, mundane things that work like an antenna at radio frequencies. 90 degree corner on the PCB trace – check; 3 inch piece of straight conductor, with a large-value resistor at the end – check; that little coil in the power supply circuit – check. If you are a hammer, everything looks like a nail; same concept for RF, everything looks like an antenna. Fortunately, there are people who spend their days worrying about these things, and the PCE-AC66 never gave me any trouble with RFI. After looking at the lab tests the FCC did on it, it’s doubly clear that there was nothing out of whack. If there was, they would have found it, and that little FCC sticker wouldn’t be attached to the back of the PCB.
Functionality of the PCE-AC66 PCIe Wi-Fi adapter gets top marks. ASUS takes full advantage of all three external antennas to maximize signal transfer. The combination of adjustable transmitting power and bandwidth, beam-forming technology, and three streams of 802.11ac work together to provide a greatly expanded useful range. The magnetic external antenna base is also useful for getting the best possible signal strength and the highest data rate. My only complaint is that the attached cable set was shorter than I thought it should be. I could have easily used an additional meter of cable length in all three of the locations I placed the PC. The cable routing was awkward in almost every instance, because of the short cable length.
The ASUS PCE-AC66 802.11ac wireless PCIe Adapter is available online for $99.99 (NewEgg | Amazon). This product is definitely at the high end for wireless PCIe Adapters, but there just isn’t any other Wi-Fi adapter on the market that can do what this one does. In terms of value, the extra speed that you paid for when you upgraded your router to a high-end 802.11ac model won’t be there, unless you pair that expensive new router with the PCE-AC66 Wi-Fi adapter. Also the increased coverage and the stability of the Wi-Fi connection in difficult locations make the PCE-AC66 worth the price of admission, for me. For the first time, I’m considering putting the downstairs office PC on a wireless connection, and getting rid of that 50′ length of CAT6 cable that snakes its way around every corner and crevice of this old house. If this product had been available five years ago, there wouldn’t be nearly as many holes in my walls and floors!
Summing up, the ASUS PCE-AC66 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter is currently the fastest 802.11ac Wi-Fi adapter on the market today. Its range, sensitivity, and signal stability are all top notch, allowing PCs that used to be tied to a wired connection to be freely moved about. Its construction quality is excellent, it has a well-designed external antenna solution, and it looks good to boot. It costs a little more than the average Wi-Fi adapter, but its enhanced performance and features make up for it. Definitely recommended.
+ Very high throughput
+ 3 data streams = 1,300 Mbps max data rate
+ Expanded Wi-Fi range with 802.11ac
+ Beam forming technology that really works
+ Easy to adjust transmitter power for each band
+ Excellent construction quality
+ Unique stylish looks
+ Flexibility of external antennas w/SMA connectors
+ Monitoring app included with signal strength display
+ Magnetic base for external antenna stand
- PCIe form factor only, USB 3.0 version has more universal applications
– Cable set on external antenna base is a bit short
Final Score: 9.25 out of 10.
Excellence Achievement: Benchmark Reviews Golden Tachometer Award.
COMMENT QUESTION: Which “Desktop” PCs are on Wi-Fi in your house?