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Customer Review

2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not sure if this is any better than a smaller model, 25 April 2013
This review is from: Asus USB-N66 450MBps USB 2.0 Wireless Dual-Band USB Ethernet Adapter (Accessory)
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Although it may look like a model of the Great Pyramid of Giza, the USB-N66 is actually a (comparatively large) USB wireless adaptor, for PCs that don't come with Wireless 'N' networking built-in. Measuring 122mm wide by 111mm deep and 62mm high, it definitely isn't designed for those on-the-go, not least of all because it needs somewhere to sit rather than just sticking out of your PC like a Wi-Fi dongle. It's squarely aimed at home-based PCs but I will admit that it looks quite nice when turned on, with a startling internal blue LED lighting effect showing up its lines quite nicely. This extra size is to house dual-band, orthogonal antennas, which supposedly means wider coverage and a faster connection rate - a whopping 450Mbps according to Asus.

You don't get a hard copy manual with the Asus but you do get one on the included CD. It's quite helpful in a lot of areas, explaining to non-techies (like me) what the various terms mean and how to go about getting the most out of the N66. But if you don't like reading, don't worry, because the Asus was - almost - plug-and-play straight out of the box.

I say `almost', because if the Asus Wireless 'N' dongle I bought not that long ago was anything to go by, getting the N66 up and running seemed like a fairly simple proposition. I sited it on the desk next to my PC and plugged it into one of my PCs available USB ports using the included cable. It draws its power from USB so it doesn't need a separate mains adaptor to work, meaning less trailing wires, if not necessarily more portability. I already had some Asus wireless control software installed on my PC from my old dongle, but it wasn't able to control the N66 so I had to install the N66's utility software from the CD. This was a little perplexing, as this software looked almost identical to that already installed and appeared to work the same way, but I had no choice but to put it on my PC in order to get things up and running.

And getting the N66 up and running was the first hurdle I had to overcome, and this took me a good hour of effort. I installed the utility software and drivers from the CD but I couldn't get my PC to connect to my router, either using the Asus software or the Windows Zero Configuration utility. I re-started my PC, with no effect, and then decided to re-install everything and to go through the connection process again. After stopping and starting the N66 utility, and switching between it and the Windows Zero Configuration several times, I finally managed to connect to my router, although for the first 10 minutes or so the connection was intermittent and the connection speed variable. My previous dongle gave me an almost unflinchingly solid connection and a pretty much constant 300Mbps connection rate from the off, and although the N66 eventually did the same, it never reached the claimed 450Mbps transfer speed. Then again, that might have been a limitation of my router. There's a high/standard power switch located at the back of the adaptor but the manual doesn't say what this is for, nor did alternating between the two modes have any appreciable effect on the signal or speed.

The Asus N66 utility software was, at least, easy to install and to get to grips with, once the adaptor itself was working properly. Nicely, pretty much all of the settings are pre-fixed at their optimum levels so there's very little tinkering to do, unless you really want to start mucking about with things. In addition to adjusting the network settings, the N66 utility also allows you to scan for wireless networks, monitor your network's status and to use the adaptor in what's known as 'Software Access Point' mode. This turns the N66 into a wireless access point for devices to connect to, similar I would imagine to a portable wireless router, although the size of the N66 does limit its appeal here a little. Although you don't need to use this software if you don't want to - the Windows Zero Configuration utility does the job as well - you are advised to do so even if it's just to make sure that the settings are correct.

Given its size and purported benefits over a smaller, less featured, dongle, I was expecting wondrous things from the N66. Granted, I may have been expecting a little too much, especially given how few problems (none, in fact) my older Asus dongle has given me and how well it works. It may be of benefit in some situations where the signal from the router is patchy or blocked by several walls, but in my tests it didn't pick up any additional routers (although I know they're out there), the connection strength was no better, and the transfer speeds were the same. It may well be better for someone living in an old house with thick walls, or in instances where the router is well away from the connecting PC, but neither unfortunately applies to me.
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