Today, it will be difficult for many people to imagine a time when a wire went to each phone, to access the network it was necessary to patiently call the provider’s server, and downloading one track in mp3 format could easily take an hour. Now the question is different – can I get my “gigabit” via Wi-Fi or not? Network equipment manufacturers claim speeds of two to three thousand megabits per second, although on closer examination these figures turn out to be the sum of the speeds available through all ranges for several connected devices together. It turns out the train Kyiv-Dnepr, going at the speed of sound, because it has 17 cars, and each travels at 70 km / h.
But jokes are jokes, and we have long wanted to figure out what speed a top-end router can provide when the channel is not limited by the performance of the client’s drive, the power of its hardware, etc. For this, two network adapters with a PCI-Express interface were taken – ASUS PCE-AC68 and PCE-AC88.
|Model||ASUS PCE-AC68||ASUS PCE-AC88|
|Standard||IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac||IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac|
|Interface||PCI Express x1||PCI Express x1|
|Transfer rate||802.11b/g/n/ac (total across bands): download up to 1300 Mbps, upload up to 1300 Mbps (20/40/80MHz)||802.11b/g/n/ac (total across bands): download up to 1000 Mbps, upload up to 1000 Mbps (20/40MHz)
802.11a/n/ac (total across bands): download up to 2167 Mbps, upload up to 2167 Mbps (20/40/80MHz)
|Antenna||3 x R SMA||4 x R SMA|
|Safety||64-bit WEP, 128-bit WEP, WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK||64-bit WEP, 128-bit WEP, WPA2-PSK, WPA-PSK|
|Signal strength||ac mode: 18 ~22 dBm
mode b: 22 dBm
mode g: 19 ~22 dBm
mode n: 18 ~22 dBm
|ac mode: 18 ~21.5 dBm
mode b: 22 dBm
mode g: 19 ~22 dBm
mode n: 18 ~22 dBm
|Dimensions||103.3 x 68.9 x 21 mm (WxDxH)||103.3 x 68.9 x 21 mm (WxDxH)|
Let’s start, perhaps, with the previous model, although it has not lost its relevance. It comes in a box designed in the same style as all ASUS network products. On the front part there is a window through which the platform for antennas is visible, next to which both internal and external modules are shown.
The reverse side can not be called too informative. Here we have a description of proprietary technologies and very general comparisons.
The scope of delivery is quite simple, although it is difficult to imagine what could be put here additionally. In addition to the driver disk, documentation, and the wireless module itself, the package includes an extension unit, three dual-band antennas, and a replaceable frame for mounting in low-profile cases.
The front part of the network module is completely covered with an aluminum radiator with red anodizing. The shape of the heatsink is, of course, primarily focused on appearance, but the fins are sufficient to effectively dissipate the generated heat. Connection interface – PCI Express x1 2.0.
The reverse side of the board is not protected. This fact should be taken into account when installing in a PCI-Express x1 slot, which is often located above the first full-sized x16 – elements can be accidentally shorted out by a large processor heatsink.
At the end of the card there are standard RP-SMA connectors. Also between the connectors is a blue activity diode, which shines too brightly.
By the way, both an extension block and antennas can be connected to RP-SMA connectors. This will come in handy when building mini-builds or HTPCs.
The heart of the PCE-AC68 is the Broadcom BCM4360 SoC, which supports 80MHz per channel and 256-QAM when connected to 5GHz IEEE 802.11ac networks. As expected, this solution warms up a rather large radiator well. When installing in poorly ventilated cases, it is worth monitoring the temperature of the network module.
The external antenna module has a simple triangular shape. Thanks to the manufacturer for the lack of gloss – the entire surface is made of plastic that is sufficiently resistant to damage and does not collect fingerprints.
The issue with the installation of an external module has been perfectly resolved. Here you have both a magnet and a soft coating – you can safely hang it on a PC case without fear of hurting and scratching its surface.
The packaging of the newer model does not differ much from its predecessor, except that it is no longer a triangular, but a square rack of the external module that looks out through the window.
On the reverse side are the same descriptions of technologies and conditional comparisons of performance in various use cases.
The kit includes the network module itself, a removable bracket for installation in low-profile cases, four dual-band antennas, a remote external module for antennas, a CD with drivers and documentation.
The PCE-AC88 features the same red anodized aluminum heatsink as its predecessor. Again, the ASUS branded center piece could have been made more efficient. But, in fairness, it should be noted that in intensive work, the radiator warms up well, which means that it effectively removes heat.
The reverse side of the module is almost completely covered by a casing soldered to the board. This means that during installation you can not be afraid to damage or short-circuit the elements. In addition, such a solution should protect the network module from interference from other hardware.
There are four RP-SMA connectors at the end of the module, between which there is also a bright blue LED. Still, the feasibility of its installation, as for me, is in question. It is unlikely that the user will climb to the back of the system unit to check if there is Wi-Fi.
The distance between the RP-SMA connectors allows you to install all four antennas directly into the module without an extension. If you do not need extra wires – a viable option.
But unfortunately, it will not be possible to find out which SoC is in the PCE-AC88. Similar to the screen on the reverse side, all circuitry under the heatsink is also closed. And, apparently, the screens are soldered through to each other, which means we can already talk about real protection against electromagnetic interference. If you look at the declared characteristics, namely support for MU-MIMO 4×4 and 1024-QAM, this solution is clearly newer than the BCM4360 used in its predecessor.
The extension module for antennas received one more connector, logically changing its shape to a square. The surface is still matte.
The stand is very firmly attached to metal surfaces, and its bottom is covered with a soft material so that these surfaces are not damaged.