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Oct 9, 2003
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WiFi usb antenna?

My daughter's computer has pretty crappy wifi reception and I thought I would try a usb wifi antenna to see if I can get better performance.

Any suggestions?
19 replies
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Mar 23, 2009
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Super strokey wrote: My daughter's computer has pretty crappy wifi reception and I thought I would try a usb wifi antenna to see if I can get better performance.

Any suggestions?
If you get one, get one with a real antenna. The ones that are just tiny dongles generally have terrible reception too.

However, what computer is it? If it is a slim PC or a full desktop, you can also get a PCIe one with dual external antennae.
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Jun 27, 2004
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Super strokey wrote: My daughter's computer has pretty crappy wifi reception and I thought I would try a usb wifi antenna to see if I can get better performance.
Assuming that it's a notebook, pop it open and make sure the antennas haven't become disconnected.
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rabbit wrote: Assuming that it's a notebook, pop it open and make sure the antennas haven't become disconnected.
It is actually. It is one of those $189 Lenovo jobs from a year and a half ago.

I'm actually not sure how to check this or how to fix it, are there guides anywhere?
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Generally, you open up the bottom of the computer, look for the WiFi card, and look to make sure the two (or three) antennas are still connected.

The card is pretty small, and the connector is even tinier. Here's an example of what they look like:
Image

You can see the connectors @
Image

The wires just fits in, over the round posts. Once they're on properly, they usually stay on, but it's not like they're screwed in or snapped in, so you never know. I would just press down on the wires slightly, to make sure they're on.
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Super strokey wrote: It is actually. It is one of those $189 Lenovo jobs from a year and a half ago.

I'm actually not sure how to check this or how to fix it, are there guides anywhere?
$189? Is it Windows or is it a Chromebook? Cuz driver support may be harder for the latter.

board123 wrote: I have this one. It's cheap and works great.

https://www.amazon.ca/gp/product/B07T84 ... C3TR&psc=1
I was looking at that one, but ended up getting the TP-Link one instead for $6 more at $20.99 ($24.99 - $4.00) because it has more Mac driver support (even though I'll be using it on Windows 10 for now).

Can you tell us which chipset yours uses? The TP-Link one uses a Realtek chipset apparently.

EDIT:

Hmm... I don't see the $4 Amazon coupon anymore. I guess that promotion may be over now.
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EugW wrote: I was looking at that one, but ended up getting the TP-Link one instead for $6 more at $20.99 ($24.99 - $4.00) because it has more Mac driver support (even though I'll be using it on Windows 10 for now).

Can you tell us which chipset yours uses? The TP-Link one uses a Realtek chipset apparently.
It's also Realtek.
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board123 wrote: It's also Realtek.
Thanks. It seems a lot of the inexpensive ones are Realtek. There are third party drivers available for various Realtek models on various OSes and OS versions, presumably partially because these cheap Realtek USB WiFi dongles are so common.
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EugW wrote: Thanks. It seems a lot of the inexpensive ones are Realtek. There are third party drivers available for various Realtek models on various OSes and OS versions, presumably partially because these cheap Realtek USB WiFi dongles are so common.
Are there expensive ones? I think they are all cheap.
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alpovs wrote: Are there expensive ones? I think they are all cheap.
Some of them go for like $100, but come with an external stand and/or multiple antennae, etc. Also, while they also might be Realtek, they may use a somewhat higher end chipset.

EDIT:

Here's one:

Asus USB-AC68

Has external USB 3.0 stand and dual antennae. Uses Realtek 8814 chipset.

Image

The popular inexpensive TP-Link T2U Plus is USB 2.0 has no stand, a single antenna, and the Realtek 8811 chipset.
The single antenna TP-Link T3U Plus I ordered is only a little more expensive but is USB 3.0 and has the Realtek 8812 chipset.
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Here are the specifications of the various Realtek chipsets.
Images
  • 8D4890F0-543F-406E-9B88-8F33C897B539.png
  • 5F48033D-ABF7-4495-8D00-86F59B61A965.png
  • 2BC80BF1-A83C-4724-B4D4-5B7A92E0450F.png
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EugW wrote: Some of them go for like $100, but come with an external stand and/or multiple antennae, etc. Also, while they also might be Realtek, they may use a somewhat higher end chipset.

EDIT:

Here's one:

Asus USB-AC68

Has external USB 3.0 stand and dual antennae. Uses Realtek 8814 chipset.

Image

The popular inexpensive TP-Link T2U Plus is USB 2.0 has no stand, a single antenna, and the Realtek 8811 chipset.
The single antenna TP-Link T3U Plus I ordered is only a little more expensive but is USB 3.0 and has the Realtek 8812 chipset.
8811/8812 au/bu et etc can be bought for around 20 bucks with external antenna. They are so cheap because the relteak are horrid for support for linux drivers.

here is a popular one often posted around these parts
https://www.amazon.ca/Adapter-1300Mbps- ... 91&sr=8-10
its an 8812bu adapter as well pretty common. and most usb ac wifi are gonna need the xtra power of usb 3.0/ .9 amp to work better at its rated spec which is above 450mbps .5 amp of usb 2 port.

if your gonna go spend alot on an ac usb wifi you should try to buy mu-mimo supported. So that mu-mimo base routers can juggle the ac clients at their best.
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lead wrote: 8811/8812 au/bu et etc can be bought for around 20 bucks with external antenna. They are so cheap because the relteak are horrid for support for linux drivers.
What about Chrome OS?

lead wrote: here is a popular one often posted around these parts
https://www.amazon.ca/Adapter-1300Mbps- ... 91&sr=8-10
its an 8812bu adapter as well pretty common. and most usb ac wifi are gonna need the xtra power of usb 3.0/ .9 amp to work better at its rated spec which is above 450mbps .5 amp of usb 2 port.

if your gonna go spend alot on an ac usb wifi you should try to buy mu-mimo supported. So that mu-mimo base routers can juggle the ac clients at their best.
Thanks for that info.

Actually, I made a mistake by posting the au details. It turns out the TP-Link T3U Plus I ordered (for 6¢ less than the one you linked :D) is RTL8812bu as well, according to this page. Not RTL8812au. Both the au and bu chipsets are 2x2 but as you indicated the 8812bu is MU-MIMO. I guess that makes sense since TP-Link actually advertises MU-MIMO support for this model.

Mind you, it's moot in my case, since my router/access points don't support MU-MIMO anyway. They're 3x3 MIMO but not MU-MIMO. It fortunately hasn't been an issue though since I have a whole bunch of them in the house, and most of the stationary clients are wired. So, congestion hasn't reared its ugly head... yet...

Anyhow, it seems the RTL8812bu based ones are probably the best overall bang for the buck for most people.
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EugW wrote: What about Chrome OS?



Thanks for that info.

Actually, I made a mistake by posting the au details. It turns out the TP-Link T3U Plus I ordered (for 6¢ less than the one you linked :D) is RTL8812bu as well, according to this page. Not RTL8812au. Both the au and bu chipsets are 2x2 but as you indicated the 8812bu is MU-MIMO. I guess that makes sense since TP-Link actually advertises MU-MIMO support for this model.

Mind you, it's moot in my case, since my router/access points don't support MU-MIMO anyway. They're 3x3 MIMO but not MU-MIMO. It fortunately hasn't been an issue though since I have a whole bunch of them in the house, and most of the stationary clients are wired. So, congestion hasn't reared its ugly head... yet...

Anyhow, it seems the RTL8812bu based ones are probably the best overall bang for the buck for most people.
no I am pretty sure its not mu-mimo most of the cheap aren't. I would have to double check whether the 8812 was truly mu-mimo

Not really sure what true difference at all the bu or au or cu actually means? Maybe revision? or maybe a region specific. As I have read of people porting linux driver support for their needs across available 8812 and just change headers to use them for their distros.

I think the 8814?? would be mu-mimo? that's a newer more expensive chip than the cheapo 8811/8812 variety. I think the 8811 vs 8812 is exra spatial stream and higher mhz or 600 vs 1200.

#if tplink says it is... guess it is?
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EugW wrote: What about Chrome OS?



Thanks for that info.

Actually, I made a mistake by posting the au details. It turns out the TP-Link T3U Plus I ordered (for 6¢ less than the one you linked :D) is RTL8812bu as well, according to this page. Not RTL8812au. Both the au and bu chipsets are 2x2 but as you indicated the 8812bu is MU-MIMO. I guess that makes sense since TP-Link actually advertises MU-MIMO support for this model.

Mind you, it's moot in my case, since my router/access points don't support MU-MIMO anyway. They're 3x3 MIMO but not MU-MIMO. It fortunately hasn't been an issue though since I have a whole bunch of them in the house, and most of the stationary clients are wired. So, congestion hasn't reared its ugly head... yet...

Anyhow, it seems the RTL8812bu based ones are probably the best overall bang for the buck for most people.
https://deviwiki.com/wiki/Realtek#tab=Wireless_chipsets
The au to bu to cu are revisions and adds mu-mimo support same for 8811 au vs 8811cu has mu-mimo too

So your right the bu supports mu-mimo and the au would be the cheaper.
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lead wrote: https://deviwiki.com/wiki/Realtek#tab=Wireless_chipsets
The au to bu to cu are revisions and adds mu-mimo support same for 8811 au vs 8811cu has mu-mimo too

So your right the bu supports mu-mimo and the au would be the cheaper.
Yup, and it’s listed in the Realtek website description too.

2BDD77AC-A024-477B-8570-85C03F55A389.jpeg

Not too bad for $21. However, the proof is in the pudding. I will let you guys and gals know how it works once I get it. (But like I said, I don’t have MU-MIMO access points so I can’t test that part.)
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EugW wrote: Yup, and it’s listed in the Realtek website description too.


2BDD77AC-A024-477B-8570-85C03F55A389.jpeg


Not too bad for $21. However, the proof is in the pudding. I will let you guys and gals know how it works once I get it. (But like I said, I don’t have MU-MIMO access points so I can’t test that part.)
it basically matters most when you have alot of ac clients.
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Got the TP-Link Archer T3U Plus USB WiFi adapter.

Plugged it into my Windows 10 machine and it was instantly recognized and installed. However the speed never went past 90 Mbps, despite the fact that the 802.11ac access point is right above it. It turns out it was only connecting at 2.4 GHz 144 Mbps, with a real world speed usually between 50 and 80 Mbps. Also, the installed driver was Microsoft's. I then tried installing TP-Link's driver and no improvement and sometimes even slower. I immediately rolled back to Microsoft's driver and same result. Then I re-installed the TP-Link driver using its installer again, which this time deleted the previous drivers before re-installing the TP-Link driver.

Success! At first it connected again at 2.4 GHz with the same slower 2.4 GHz 144 Mbps speed, but after I waited a few minutes, it finally switched (on its own) to 5 GHz 866 Mbps, with a real world speed of over 250 Mbps.

TP-Link.png

I've been using it for a while now and no disconnects. After a sleep, it reconnected at 866 MHz immediately. However, after a reboot, it was 144 Mbps again and didn't switch back after a few minutes. So finally I went into the advanced device settings and forced it to use 802.11ac only. After rebooting it would connect again with 802.11ac, but I think it was sometimes connecting with a different access point (as I have multiple), because the signal would often be weak with reduced connection speed. So then I set the driver to auto-roam aggressively. With this setting turned on, it will sometimes switch from a slower 802.11ac connection to its fastest 866 MHz 802.11ac connection. It doesn't work every reboot though, and sometimes connects with a slower access point and just stays there. If this happens, I have to manually turn WiFi off and on again, and then it will switch to the 866 MHz access point. Fortunately, once it connects at 866 MHz, it will stay on it until I shut off the machine.

So, does this adapter work at decent speeds? Yes, but it does have its idiosyncrasies. Note though I kind of expected this, since I don't have a proper mesh system. It's a multiple AirPort Extreme system. Auto-handoff works well with this setup for Apple clients, but not for Android and Windows clients. I suspect with a proper mesh system or a system with just one WiFi access point, you wouldn't run into this issue with this TP-Link WiFi adapter. I haven't tried this with a Mac yet, but all of my Macs have WiFi anyway.

The other thing is that this adapter gets quite warm. While it was perfectly stable for me with no random disconnects, I wonder if someone using this every day for months on end at fast speeds might one day find a dead device. This has been a common complaint of those using the no-name brand USB WiFi adapters. However I did see one review where the reviewer disassembled the TP-Link and found some sort of compound on the chip which he postulated was for heat dissipation.

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^^^ I tried the TP-Link with a Mac running Catalina 10.15. It was an old 2008 MacBook with a hacked install of Catalina. It has built-in 802.11n, but out of curiosity I was wondering if this adapter would be any faster.

The WiFi adapter is not automatically recognized when first plugged in. You must install the Mac driver to get it to work, and it did work stably but it was always well under 100 Mbps, and no faster than than the built-in 802.11n (with the access point one floor down). I think it was again just connecting on 2.4 GHz. However, the Mac driver is very rudimentary and I could not adjust any settings. It was basically either just on or off (and password security settings). So, there was no point in running this over the built-in 802.11n adapter. Also, the driver was last to load at bootup/login, so the network connection didn't happen until late in the login process. Note that this MacBook only has USB 2.0, but I don't think that's the problem since USB 2.0 should be able to handle speeds well over 100 Mbps.

The only reason to buy this for a Mac is for an old Mac Pro with no built-in WiFi, a Mac with a defective WiFi adapter, or else a hackintosh or something. But for my Mac Pros, I just bought the internal WiFi Broadcom cards for cheap and plugged in the existing antennae for native 802.11n (and Bluetooth) support with no extra drivers needed. BTW, the TP-Link gets seen as an Ethernet adapter in the network settings. It's not listed under the WiFi adapter section, and the WiFi top menu icon doesn't show it. Instead, there is a new TP-Link top menu icon shown that is separate from the usual WiFi icon.

Screen Shot 2021-05-17 at 10.21.23 AM.png
Screen Shot 2021-05-17 at 10.26.12 AM.png

The Mac driver is only supported up to 10.15 Catalina, with no listed support for 11 Big Sur. However, AFAIK all machines that officially run 11 Big Sur already have built-in 802.11ac anyway.

---

In summary, for a Mac, I wouldn't usually recommend this TP-Link. It works and the connection is stable once established, but it's not fast on a Mac, and the implementation is kinda clunky as the experience is not as a native WiFi adapter. It feels like a half-assed add-on on macOS.

It works much better on Windows 10, and feels native on Windows. (Well, it works better on Windows 10 if your setup is Windows friendly. Mine, being an Apple AirPort Extreme system, has only basic support for Windows clients, as indicated in the previous post.)

EDIT:

I have not tried these yet, but...

There is this Big Sur driver for this TP-Link adapter though:

https://github.com/chris1111/Wireless-U ... ur-Adapter

There is also this driver for older versions of macOS too:

https://github.com/chris1111/Wireless-USB-Adapter

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