I almost said that the ASUS PCE-AC66 networking adapter gives your desktop wings, but I thought that would be too much. The effect is pretty much the same though as this wonderful little device adds wireless connectivity to your good old desktop. As we all know, DIY PCs in most cases do not integrate Wi-Fi by default. You need to get a wireless adapter for them, and only then can they become part of your greater network.
So I was sitting in front of my PC one night, contemplating Steam’s new Big Picture mode, which basically projects your gaming PC to your TV via HDMI. Were my desktop Wi-Fi-enabled, getting a remote display setup going would become infinitely easier. Naturally, this would also necessitate a smart TV with Wi-Fi built-in, but that’s a different story. With all of these components in place, having your beefy power gaming PC behemoth on your desk while gaming on your comfy living room TV with wireless keyboard and mouse (or controller) sure does look like it’s about to become a reality.
Let’s take a look at the name: PCE-AC66.
PCE refers to the component’s use of PCI Express 1.0, it inserts directly into an available expansion slot for lower latency with your CPU, memory, et al. No PCI Express slot? Then any PCI Express 2.0/3.0 will do as the PCE-AC66 will easily fit into those,as well.
AC? Yes, you guessed right. That’s 802.11ac wireless, which is the successor protocol to 802.11n. The PCE-AC66 makes use of the higher spec to pump out dual-band 2.4GHz/5GHz wireless with a combined bandwidth of up to a theoretical 1750Mbps, though the channels are not concurrent. There’s 450Mbps on the 2.4GHz ban, and 1300Mbps on the 5GHz channel. I’ll take that 1300Mbps any day of the week until 2Gbps connections become a reality!
Remember, the PCE-AC66 is an adapter, so it does need to interface remotely with your wireless router, which ideally will also be of the 802.11ac variety.
The PCE-AC66 uses three high-gain detachable antennas, which can be connected directly to its three I/O shield plugs so they stick out the back of your desktop. ASUS also bundles a nifty antenna base. Antennas go into connectors on the base, the base connects to the PCE-AC66 in your desktop via cables and, voila, you have more flexible placement options. Move the base around, run speed test, and see which location is best for your signal. At any rate, having an external antenna stand certainly helps improve reception, if you’re willing to experiment a little.
Inside the PCE-AC66 is a 5th generation Wi-Fi chipset from Broadcom, plus 128MB Flash/256MB DDR2 RAM. These are kept extra-cool by a custom red heatsink that looks great inside the case. This not a cheap networking adapter, we’re talking high-end here. The heatsink is an obvious boon: wireless networking hardware heats up quick, just ask your smartphone – or touch it for that matter. Every little bit of dissipation helps with stability and reliability.
ASUS testing shows that the PCE-AC66′s antennas, two-way transmission design, and signal-boosting hardware are capable of up to 150% the wireless coverage of generic 802.11n adapters and clients. It’s perfect if you have a bigger space to cover or need wireless on different floors.
The Wi-Fi upgrade to your desktop is almost instant. The PCE-AC66 does require installing a setup utility, but that takes a few minutes. Otherwise it’s plug and play since it talks with your motherboard directly.
I will be getting the PCE-AC66 once it’s widely available. It gives you the latest Wi-Fi generation right on your desktop, which is wonderful. It looks great, runs well, and is super-easy to install.
ASUS have just released the PCE-AC66 , so international availability may take some time, but folks like Newegg already have it for order. Check your local/favourite retailer, they should be getting the PCE-AC66 in soon. And if you haven’t already, upgrade your router!