Should I replace N wireless card with AC dual band card?

Discussion in 'Desktop Computers' started by deanbrew, Jun 8, 2015.

  1. deanbrew

    deanbrew New Member

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    I am buying a Dell XPS 8700 desktop that comes with the N-1704 N, single-band (2.4 Ghz) wireless card. I am thinking about replacing the stock card with an 802.11 AC dual band card, preferably with an external antenna(s) that I can move around to get the best signal. I don't want a USB adapter, but rather a built-in one.

    Has anyone done this? What are my options? I am confused by the sizes and formats for wireless cards as they would pertain to a Dell XPS desktop.

    My current router is a dual-band (2.4/5.0Ghz) Asus RTN-66U router that seems to work well. Would going to a dual-band AC wireless card help me now, or only if I get an AC router?
     
  2. Geoff

    Geoff VIP Member

    Messages:
    37,673
    What do you normally do on your network, just use it for internet or do you stream media/files between devices like a home server/NAS? What is your internet connection speed?

    If you only use it for internet, and you are receiving your promised speed there is little need to upgrade. However if you live in an apartment-style building with lots of other access points nearby, getting off 2.4GHz and onto 5GHz will improve performance as there will be less interference, as well as better speeds.

    If you get an AC client card now, it would allow you to connect at 5GHz (300Mbps vs 144Mbps) assuming you are very close to your wireless router. 5GHz has less coverage than 2.4GHz.

    Just a note about the external antenna wireless cards, they do work well but the longer the cable between the antenna and card, the more line loss you will have. Most included cables are very thin for cost reasons, so you likely wouldn't see a huge difference unless there is something blocking the antennas of the fixed antennas.
     
  3. deanbrew

    deanbrew New Member

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    I just use it for internet. I have internet through my cable company, and I'm supposed to have 75/5 mbps service. I just ran their speed test and got 24.75 mbps download and 5.18 mbps upload. Speedtest.net shows similar at 23.31/5.14 mbps. It's 2PM, so I guess I would get higher at off-peak times.

    Thanks for the tip on the external antennas. I thought being able to move it around would be a huge plus, but didn't know about the line loss.
     
  4. beers

    beers Moderator Staff Member

    Messages:
    7,936
    Replacing the router sounds like a waste of money for you then. A dual band N card should be able to hit 75/5 on the 5GHz space without too much effort. If the AC NIC is only a couple bucks more than the N one you were considering then it might be a little more 'cost advantageous' to get one for the long term. It should still work with your N router.
     
  5. deanbrew

    deanbrew New Member

    Messages:
    7
    I should note that the speeds I posted above were over my current wireless connection at my desk. I think the last time I tried my laptop plugged into the router with a cable, I got much higher than 24. The number 60 seems like it might be right.

    I am not planning to replace my N Router yet. As for the wlan card, I'm trying to figure out whether to replace the single-band N card with a dual band card. I will likely wait until I get the new PC and see how it works.

    I realize the AC connection won't work without an AC router, but wondering how much the dual-band feature will help with my current dual-band N router.

    At my desk, my cell phone shows -66 to -84 dBm signal strength on the 2.4 band and -76 to -86 on the 5.0 band. Do you still think that the dual band will help with my current router?

    Thanks.
     
  6. Geoff

    Geoff VIP Member

    Messages:
    37,673
    Phones are a bit weaker when it comes to WiFi than clients such as laptops and desktops. That range is very wide, -66 is considered good/great and -84 is horrible, practically unusable.

    As beers said, I would look at getting a PCI-E 802.11n dual-band wireless card, or get an AC wireless card if the price isn't much more, as there is no benefit other than future proofing your computer.

    Also, make sure your wireless router is located as centrally as possible to all your devices, and as high as possible to avoid furniture blocking the signal, especially metal cabinets, desks, appliances, etc.
     
  7. deanbrew

    deanbrew New Member

    Messages:
    7
    I have my router located near the center of my house on the second floor. I can't do much about the location. I just installed a wifi signal monitor on my PC, and it's saying my signal strength (2.4 ghz only, as I can't currently pick up a 5.0 ghz signal) is fairly consistent between -65 and -70 dB. My PC is under my desk.

    Just to clarify, is all I need to look at, in terms of compatibility with a Dell XPS 8700 desktop, is a wireless card that is PCI-E? Does PCI-E represent the type, size, connection and everything? Sorry if that question is basic, but I'm a bit confused about the nomenclature and compatibility. I tried looking on Dell's website, as well as Intel's and Asus's (I was looking at Intel 7260 and Asus PCE-AC56), hoping to find enlightenment, but I came up short.
     
  8. C4C

    C4C Well-Known Member

    Messages:
    1,845
    Look into TrendNet USB sticks.. When I had one for my older Dell Dimension, it worked wonderfully.

    Then I knocked over the tower and the dongle broke :eek:
     
  9. Geoff

    Geoff VIP Member

    Messages:
    37,673
    If you get a USB stick, make sure it's USB 3.0.
     

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