Sometimes, you will end up with a computer that is not connected to the internet. Maybe it’s a computer that you have set up for your child to use (but it would be nice to have periodic internet connectivity to update drivers and such). Or perhaps your house is not wired with Ethernet cable. Perhaps you do have wireless capability – but with a device that was “current” years ago. There is always the option to buy an internal Wi-Fi network card to give you some extra wireless “oomph”; but if you’re not confident working with the innards of a PC, or if you have a small desktop that doesn’t have room, you may not like that option. However, if you have a spare USB port, the D-Link DWA-182 Wireless AC1200 Dual Band USB Adapter might be just the thing you need to bridge that wireless gap.
The DWA-182 is a handy dandy wireless network adapter that allows you to access your local wireless router via one of your computer’s USB ports. Thanks to the wireless AC standard (still draft at the time of this review), the adapter promises wireless speeds pushing 867 Mbps. Of course, this device is also backwards compatible with older wireless standards, so it is definitely a safe buy if you are planning to upgrade an old router (but are unwilling to pull the trigger just yet). A few years ago, I inherited a D-Link DWA-160A2, so I was already aware of how convenient these units were. That particular adapter also gave me a convenient test subject for comparison.
Cracking open the DWA-182’s box, I found the adapter, a cradle, an installation CD, and a USB extension cord, in case you didn’t have room to plug the DWA-182 (it is on the large side for a USB device), or if you wanted to jockey for a better position for the adapter. Remember, for every wall or floor that you have to go through, that’s one more source of signal degradation that you have to deal with. Amplify this issue by geometric disadvantage, and you might have problems1.
Installation is quick and easy, and takes mere minutes. D-Link allows you to manage this device with their own Wireless Connection Manager (which is actually not too shabby for a non-windows application to manage a Windows function). The D-Link application shows the relative strength of wireless networks in the area- which is a handy bit of info to know. That being said, if you don’t want to use D-Link’s app, you don’t have to; you can simply change your settings using Windows’ own routines. The adapter connected easily with my router, manually or by using the adapter’s WPS connection button2. The DWA-182 also supports 128-Bit WEP, WPA and WPA2.
The USB cradle and extension cord are handy!
Performance wise, the adapter performed much better than the previous router. At 2.4 GHz, the DWA-182 was hitting speeds of around 110 Mbps (beating out my old DWA-160A2 by about 20%). However, in the 5 GHz band, the DWA-182 was definitely kicking butt and taking names, hitting a maximum of 220 Mbps (which is impressive, given the level of wireless interference in my location). While I expected the numbers to be good, I wasn’t expecting them to be that good. In terms of generating heat, the DWA-182 didn’t become ridiculously hot – but I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it does get fairly warm.
With solid performance and a decent advantage over even wireless N adapters (10-20%), the DWA-182 is a great way to give some of the computers in your house a bit of a boost in the wireless department. For $50, this unit is transportable and transferable, allowing you to use it on any of the desktops or laptops in your house. If you have a decent Wireless N adapter, you might want to weigh the benefits of your performance increase over the cost before you pull the trigger. 10-20% performance gain, while nice, might not be worth your 50 bucks. On the other hand, if you’re on the higher end of that delta, or if you still have computers using Wireless G or lower, it’s time to look into this.