Wireless Adapter Choice

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Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Sat Sep 08, 2012 6:22 pm

I just moved into a new apartment complex that has free wireless internet, but I'm getting very poor signal strength with the Netgear WN111v2 USB adapter that I currently have. I tend to play a lot of latency-sensitive games, so I really need a better solution. Therefore, I'm going to buy a new adapter, but there are so many options out there (PCI vs USB connection, directional vs omnidirectional antenna, single vs dual band, etc) that I'm feeling a little overwhelmed. I also have no idea where the wireless access points in my complex are physically located, so that's another problem :cry: . I'd like to get the best quality adapter I can for less than $50. Any suggestions?
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Sat Sep 08, 2012 6:55 pm

Check out http://www.smallnetbuilder.com/ for all the down and dirty on wifi.
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Sat Sep 08, 2012 7:00 pm

the simplest and cheapest thing to try first (if you haven't done already) is to put your USB adaptor on the end of a usb extension cable and try it in various positions.

If you end up needing a better antenna then you'll probably need a PCI or PCIe card as I don't remember ever having seen a USB one that connects to an external antenna.

I doubt dual band will help you much. The second band is 5GHz which doesn't go through walls as well as the standard 2.4GHz. It's mainly useful when you're getting lots of interference from neighbouring networks as it's usually less crowded. The access points have to support it too.

You really need to work out where the best signal is to be had... if you've got an android phone I can recommend wifi analyser to sniff out the best signal, just wander around watching the graphs.

If there's somewhere that does get a good signal you could put your own access point there and either run a cable to your PC or use the AP as a repeater/booster. I'd use a cable if at all possible as the repeater will probably add a lot more latency and will halve your bandwidth.

Of course there is always the possibility that shared wifi like you've got just wont be up to the job of gaming, it really depends how well it was set up and how busy it gets.
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Sat Sep 08, 2012 9:26 pm

In my experience you can't go wrong with Intel wireless.
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Sat Sep 08, 2012 9:37 pm

bthylafh wrote:In my experience you can't go wrong with Intel wireless.


This, though not so easy with a desktop. I picked up a TP-Link PCIe card and hooked up a triple antenna thing from D-Link to it, which did the job for me.
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Sat Sep 08, 2012 11:33 pm

this ASUS card has worked well for me. It gets better signal strength than my old Netgear adapter. You could also try this Rosewill unit which has biiig antennas. Maybe they would help.
Last edited by DPete27 on Sat Sep 08, 2012 11:46 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Sat Sep 08, 2012 11:45 pm

If you have a free PCIe slot - I suggest trying this one:
http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6833166073
I have one, it's very good for its price - good 5 dBi antennas, perfectly stable connection even with dozen of other access points around me, works good even with whatever drivers Windows 7 automatically installs, no useless features (like a 5GHz band).
If that won't help (even with improved signal strength you might have latency/speed issues due to router's settings or due to the bandwidth consumption by other users in your apartment complex) - then you should probably consider paying for your own dedicated internet connection, not shared with other users.
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Sun Sep 09, 2012 2:05 am

If you are looking for pure signal strength, try either Hawking or EnGenius stuff.

I bought this one...

http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6833164030

For getting a strong signal in a bad spot, this thing is amazing.
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Sun Sep 09, 2012 4:36 am

Depending on how long you plan to be there, I would investigate the cost of getting your own broadband; Even if the network has been set up well, you'll never get great gaming out of a heavily shared connection because of all the contention from other people.

If WiFi is your only option I have always found the best option is to find out exactly where your signal is strongest and pop in a proper external antenna that runs off a PCI card, preferably Intel but the card is not as important as the external antenna. USB adapters are too small to have decent antennas in them, they should be avoided if you aren't getting a strong signal.

If you can talk to the building manager to find out where the nearest access point is, then a directional antenna will make a big difference once aligned. I have onl ever used the flat plate-style antennas which are a PITA to align for the best signal but that hawking dish thing that Ryu linked looks like a more tolerant and user-friendly piece of kit.
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Tue Sep 11, 2012 4:35 pm

Thanks for the responses everyone.

I ended up going with this guy: http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.aspx?Item=N82E16833281002 and I went from poor to excellent signal strength. I even get good signal strength from the apartment complex across the street. Haven't tried gaming yet, but I'm hoping for the best :D

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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Tue Sep 11, 2012 5:23 pm

Not familiar with that model, or even that brand. The dual-USB-cable idea is clever, though probably not necessary for most situations, and will be rendered moot by USB3.0 implementations very soon. Are you using both cables? Did you experiment with just one?
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:11 pm

From what I understand, the second USB connection is only there to supply the last 100 mW of power to the amplifier, not to increase data throughput. I didn't experiment with only one, but one review on Newegg said it didn't make any difference only using one cable.

I tried out my first game of DotA 2 since the switch, and the results were disappointing at first. The game started off very laggy, but it was definitely a different type of lag than before. Where with my old adapter it was just a general sort of unresponsiveness, with unit commands taking about a second and a half to go through on average, with the new adapter unit commands were mostly lag-free, but the game would freeze up for a split second every couple of seconds. About midway through the match I tried fiddling with the orientation of the antenna, and that did seem to help significantly. I'm about to give it another go with the antenna in its current orientation and then I'll report back.
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Tue Sep 11, 2012 6:57 pm

Like I said, it might not be related to signal strength... The periods of "lag" might simply be caused by increased load on the router (and the internet connection attached to it) from other users around you, in which case nothing will help, except getting your own broadband connection.
B.t.w, I don't know what you're using to gauge the WiFi signal strength, but I personally prefer to use something like http://www.metageek.net/products/inssider/
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Tue Sep 11, 2012 7:31 pm

AustinW wrote:From what I understand, the second USB connection is only there to supply the last 100 mW of power to the amplifier, not to increase data throughput.
Yes; they could have used an external power wart also. Even 802.11n with multiple streams is not going to exceed USB 2.0 bandwidth; I mentioned USB 3.0 because (in addition to increased bandwidth, irrelevant here) it raises the maximun device power to 900 mA from 500 mA.
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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:05 pm

I see you have a solution already, so here is a less expensive alternative for future readers that has worked well for me. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6833166056 You can see it has a separate antenna and a USB extension that can be used to realign the unit. Not bad at $19. The reviews are not perfect, but pretty high.


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Re: Wireless Adapter Choice

Postposted on Tue Sep 11, 2012 10:35 pm

xgsound wrote:I see you have a solution already, so here is a less expensive alternative for future readers that has worked well for me. http://www.newegg.com/Product/Product.a ... 6833166056 You can see it has a separate antenna and a USB extension that can be used to realign the unit. Not bad at $19. The reviews are not perfect, but pretty high.

That's a pretty neat little device. Even claims to have out-of-box Linux support, which matters to a few of us. :wink:
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