If it would be up to me, I would install wired networks whenever possible, but many times it is just not practical. Most of the notebooks people own today have wireless-N adapters already embedded but if you have an older laptop or you want to bring wireless network connection to a desktop you’ll have to go shopping.
That’s what I did and after carefully reading / testing many USB wireless adapters, the product I decided to keep and install is the object of the current review – Cisco AE1000 High Performance Wireless-N Adapter, or Linksys AE1000 High Performance Wireless-N Adapter, whichever you prefer since Linksys was bought by Cisco quite a while ago and it is now Cisco’s home products division. Also, AE1000 is a re-branded WUSB600N v2 adapter so this review will apply to the WUSB600N v2 as well (they share the chip-set)
2. Cisco AE1000 Unpacking
The adapter was packed in a box quite large considering the content. In the box, you’ll find the adapter itself that resembles a USB memory stick (and that being said, Cisco could have actually designed the adapter so you can attach it to a key ring but unfortunately they did not thin of that), a stand, an extension USB cord and the software CD. No other manual is included but the CD should contain everything that is needed to install the adapter.
3. Tech Specs
Cisco AE1000 is a dual band wireless adapter capable of functioning in both 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz bands and beside -N compatibility it can also work in Wireless-G, Wireless-B and Wireless-A networks. For everybody that wants to get more detailed info about the chipset, AE1000 (FCC id Q87-AE1000) is a re-branded package of the Linksys Ultra RangePlus Dual-Band WUSB600N v2 (FCC id Q87-WUSB600NV2), both based on Ralink RT3572 USB chipset.
The adapter is officially supported only in Windows, however, you can find the Linux compatible drivers in here.
The AE1000 is very easy to setup, literally taking minutes. However, the drivers for adapter won’t be found by default by Windows 7 so you’ll have to install them from the CD before plug-ing it to the USB port. During the installation process, you’ll be prompted for an Easy Setup Key. This is a shorter way to configure the adapter but it requires you to have a Cisco Valet wireless hotspot. When prompted, just click No and proceed with the installation. At the very next step, you’ll already see the detected wireless network list and you can connect to either of them. The whole process literally takes one minute. I installed and tested the adapter on a Intel Quad Core Windows 7 64-bit machine with 8GB RAM.
To succesfully install the adapter, you need one of the following OS installed: Windows 7, Windows Vista with Service Pack 1 installed, and Windows XP Service Pack 3. While not advertised, there are Linux drivers available as well.
If you have the proper infrastructure, Cisco AE1000 easily connects to very high speeds (see picture) in my case, 300Mbs at about 60 ft from the access point. At 125 ft distance, the signal level drops to about 50% but the connection speed still remains above 250Mbs.
My router is a dual band D-Link DIR 655 model.
5.2 Real word performance at video streaming
The fastest and highest quality streaming service I have available is VUDU that streams 1080p and 5.1 surround sound. I was able to stream at the highest HDX quality with absolutely no issues. (My internet connection is about 20Mbs well). I also tested Netflix / Hulu Plus streaming, again with no issues.
Beside speed, the other important quality of a wireless communication is security. There are various security standards that apply to wireless networks and wireless data transfer, from WEP to the newer WPA / WPA2. As a quick reminder, WEP stands for Wired Equivalent Privacy and it is a method of data encryption supporting 128-bit encryption. WEP is now obsolete and considered not very secure anymore. The new methods are WPA / WPA2 (from Wi-Fi Protected Access) and part of WPA 2 you’ll see AES encryption on your router. AES stands for Advanced Encryption Standard and is currently the de-facto standard in networking security.
Cisco AE1000 supports all the current encryption standards including the latest WPA/WPA2 with both Personal and Enterprise variants.
5.3 Easy of use
As I already specified, installing this adapter was very easy and I was connected in less than two minutes. Be sure that you are using the latest drivers as some older version had issues when coming out of sleep.
AE1000 / WUSB600N v2 wireless adapters are fast and easy to use. While a bit on the expensive side, they perform well while streaming 1080p content, are stable and actually look neat. Recommended!
- Easy to configure
- Stable if you use the latest drivers.
- a bit expensive