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First Look: D-Link WiFi adapter

A WiFi network is like a chain — it’s only as good as its weakest link. With high-definition video streaming now the order of the day for home WiFi networks, you need more than a fast router to make the most of it — you also need fast wireless on your PC or laptop to match.

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The latest wireless routers support the 802.11ac WiFi standard to achieve the fastest data transfer speeds. But to take full advantage you also need any connecting devices to also be capable of high speeds. The good news is that you don’t have to upgrade your older computer. Simply plug a fast WiFi adapter such as D-Link’s sphere-shaped DWA-192 into your computer.

This cricket ball-sized sphere is an unusual-looking device for a dual-band (2.4 and 5GHz) WiFi adapter. It has a distinctive electric-blue waistband that flashes when it’s not connected to a router, but stays solidly lit otherwise. Of course, you can turn it off and on via a button next to the USB port, but it is functional as well as pretty. Like the lit waistband, there’s also a practical purpose behind the shape and size of the DWA-192 adapter.

Getting the most out of the latest dual-band 802.11ac technology requires multiple antennas. Most USB WiFi adapters come in the shape of a thumb drive. That’s good for convenience, but the small size limits performance as there’s little room for antennas.

The DWA-192 is still small enough to be mobile, but its greater volume gives plenty of space for multiple internal antennae that allow the use of beam-forming technology. Beamforming technology allows the router to focus in on an adapter and increase the strength of the signal in that particular direction.

D-Link says the DWA-192 adapter will work with all brands of WiFi routers and range extenders. Though they naturally recommend pairing it with a D-Link ULTRA Series router for best performance, which we did in testing.

Installation

The DWA-192 connects via USB 3.0 and is compatible with Windows and Mac computers. We used Windows 10 in our performance testing. Installation was straightforward but we found downloading the driver from the D-Link website was easier than using the supplied CD, which is prompted in the quick-start instructions. We think this is a good idea as the driver on the CD is not necessarily the most up-to-date version.

The DWA-192 supports WPA/WPA2 encryption for security, which can be set up by pressing its WPS button (WiFi Protected Setup) or via an installation wizard.

Performance

This speedy AC1900 WiFi adapter is designed to bring faster local network speeds and extended range to laptops and desktop PCs. With its 3x3 internal antennae and dual-band WiFi, streaming HD movies, transferring large files and playing online games should be fast and free from the dreaded network lag.

We were impressed by the DWA-192’s performance. Using a D-Link 890L router with the DWA-192 plugged into a Lenovo ThinkPad Yoga 300 laptop we achieved more than 400Mbps throughput in our tests. This was 40Mbps faster than using the internal 802.11ac adapter of the laptop.

Verdict

The DWA-192 is an awesome device, a real eye-catcher reminiscent of the Star Wars Death Star — though it does need a catchier name.

Pair this WiFi adapter with a fast 802.11ac router and you’ll likely enjoy a decent speed boost, especially if your laptop only supports the older 802.11n standard on its built-in WiFi adapter.

Our advice: display it proudly while you enjoy your faster WiFi.

Essential specs

  • Price: $120
  • USB 3.0
  • Dual band

Our writer received this adapter on loan for this First Look. First Looks are trials of new or interesting products from the perspective of our product experts. Our lab-based tests offer truly objective product comparisons.

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