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Lifewire / Rebecca Isaacs
Non-compatible with older PC models
The Asus USB-AC68 is pricey enough to make anyone think twice about this fast adapter. The lack of reliability and its non-compatibility with older PC models makes it mediocre at best.
When I’m slashing at hordes of the undead on Day 7 in 7 Days to Die, or when I’m in the middle of a quest in Lord of the Rings Online, the last thing I need is to have my internet cut out on me. Gaming Wi-Fi adapters, such as the Asus USB-AC68, aim to increase the Wi-Fi speeds to ensure fast, reliable gameplay.
With incredible speeds of up to 1300 Mbps on a 5GHz network, a plethora of both internal and external antennae, and Ai Radar for wireless amplification, it should be able to handle anything. However, after four days of use, I tossed the Asus aside, disappointed, and unimpressed by reliability, speed, and design—and the sheer number of times I died in my games. Read on to see what happened.
The Asus USB-AC68 is a beast of a Wi-Fi adapter, looking like something you’d see out Star Trek with an alien-like red and black design. This adapter is massive, at 1.2 x 0.7 x 4.5 inches (LWH). It’s so big, in fact, that the adapter itself comes with a separate docking port for laptop users. Otherwise, the laptop would be lopsided thanks to its gargantuan size.
While this may not seem like a big deal for desktop users, keep in mind that the size means that it blocks other USB ports that might be necessary for say, a wireless mouse or an external hard drive. With the use of the docking port, both desktop and laptop users can easily shift that clunky adapter off to the side, resting it comfortably atop a tower or on a desk while allowing breathing room for other, possibly necessary, USB ports.
Keep in mind that the size means that it blocks other USB ports that might be necessary for say, a wireless mouse or an external hard drive.
Another nice feature of the Asus adapter: two adjustable antennae unfold to create a more reliable experience with any Wi-Fi network. However, users beware—extending these antennae only increase the size of this adapter, so if you’re short on desk space, this is important to consider. You can even shift these into different positions to enhance your connection, which is another nice feature.
Another nice feature of the Asus adapter: two adjustable antennae unfold to create a more reliable experience with any Wi-Fi network.
Accompanying the adapter is a CD, which makes installation a breeze. A menu pops up with various, basic options: install; uninstall; explore CD and contact Asus. Click on the install button, and CD takes it from there, completing the brunt of the work. A bar pops up and once it reached 100 percent, the last to-do item was to type in the password. Within five minutes, I was connected.
I began the first of my unpleasant saga with the Asus on the third floor of my three-story home, the furthest distance possible from my basement-based router. The Asus connected to a custom PC with ease. The speed—7.92Mbps—was glacial compared to the 600Mbps it promised on its 2.4GHz dual-band network. It can somewhat handle the long-range, but piteously so, making it more likely to be used for casual surfing rather than for demanding games like Apex Legends. The software also proved to be the most problematic of the adapters I’ve ever tested. I regularly experienced dropoffs and “connecting….” blurbs from the signal button on my computer’s home screen.
The speed—7.92 Mbps—was glacial compared to the 600 Mbps it promised on its 2.4 GHz dual-band network.
Closer to the router, I tried the Asus on an all-in-one 2014 model HP PC. Now, you would think that an Asus Wi-Fi adapter released in 2016 would still be compatible with a 2014 PC using Windows 7. I really want to say that I got this adapter successfully connected to the 2014 HP PC, but the truth of it is that every time I attempted to connect, I received a frozen screen followed by blue and black screens of PC death. It froze so badly that I ended up unplugging it every time and wondering if I’d just inadvertently destroyed this poor machine.
Thankfully, after about twenty seconds, the PC recovered and revived itself, but it was extremely stressful in the meantime. For anyone who still operates on a 2016 or older PC, use this adapter at your own risk. I cannot guarantee that you will have a similar experience, despite using software Asus claims is compatible with it.
For anyone who still operates on a 2016 or older PC, use this adapter at your own risk.
Finally, I changed scenery—and PCs—for the speedy Chicago suburbs’ Wi-Fi on the 5GHz band and for a newer gaming laptop. Setting up the adapter with the router one room away, I was fully prepared to cry tears of joy over an amazing connection and those beautiful speeds Asus promised for optimal gaming.
Imagine my despair, then, when the Asus only crawled up to 111.2Mbps on the 5GHz band despite a 250Mbps Wi-Fi connection. I ran the test a few times, and each time it hovered around 111Mbps. For a Wi-Fi adapter that was supposed to provide optimal speeds for gaming, it was disappointing to see that even on a newer router and a newer system the Asus couldn’t perform. That said, the connection was better than with older devices, and I experienced no drop-offs. Nor did I have any issues streaming Spotify or YouTube, as both of these platforms loaded and performed with ease.
At $90 MSRP, this is definitely considered a top-tier adapter. If you think that spending these amounts seems exorbitant, there are cheaper models out there on the market, and given the lackluster performance, it’s not worth paying such a high price.
As they’re fairly close in terms of cost, I tested the Asus against the Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 (view on Amazon) to see how they held up to each other. Both are large and come with docking ports, which makes them adaptable to desktops and laptops. I was leery of the Nighthawk’s blatant warning about a magnet in its docking port, though, as magnets and computers don’t mix very well, but it’s great if you have a wall magnet to mount behind your PC or laptop.
Since both seem to be geared more toward heavy gameplay, I wanted to see their reliability, speed, and range. In almost every test, the Nighthawk came out on top. Its speed was smooth at nearly 90Mbps compared to the Asus’ 7Mbps.
Unlike the Asus, the Nighthawk reminded us what smooth, quick gameplay was, remaining connected without any dropoffs or “connecting” notifications. Coupled with the Asus’ refusal to work on older machines—a feature the Nighthawk handles like a charm—the Nighthawk was the clear frontrunner. If you like catchy, flashy designs, the Asus is for you; however, if you prefer a solid gameplay experience, then the Nighthawk is your Wi-Fi superhero.
Too unreliable to be worth the high price tag.
There are other, less expensive models on the market that don’t come with the headache of the Asus USB-AC68. We were disappointed by the dropoffs, small speeds, and the weak signal over a distance, despite its dual-band network capabilities. Look elsewhere for an adapter if you don’t want to set yourself up for disappointment.