My 5GHz Wi-Fi is broken (how to add an internal 5GHz 802.11 n/acadapter)?

Discussion in 'Wireless Internet' started by ceg, Aug 21, 2015.

  1. ceg

    ceg Guest

    I just got a new home broadband router that has both 2.4GHz & 5GHz
    and only then did I realize that both the Windows and Linux laptops
    don't have a 5GHz Wi-Fi card (both only have 3.4GHz 802.11 b/g/n).

    Neither has either 5GHz or 802.11 ac.
    What are my options?

    Note: I called Dell Hardware Sales for the "Inspiron 15 3521" at
    800-289-3355 but they don't even have a part number for an internal
    5GHz NIC, so they suggested an external USB stick, Dell part number:
    $60 + tax (free shipping) Netgear A6068352
    $50 + tax (free shipping) Linksys A8024912

    Googling, I find some of the specs here:

    "Netgear N900 Wireless Dual Band USB Adapter"

    "Linksys Mini AC Adapter AC580"

    My question is whether any of you experts has experience fitting an
    *internal* 5GHz NIC into a Dell laptop, and whether it's true what
    Dell said, which is that no internal Wi-Fi card will work?

    If I must add 5GHz Wi-Fi externally, do you have suggestions as to how
    to get a good 5GHz (ac) Wi-Fi USB stick that is both convenient and
    powerful at a good price?
    ceg, Aug 21, 2015
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  2. ceg

    SC Tom Guest

    I can't answer you from experience with Dell, but I CAN tell that finding
    the right replacement for an Acer Aspire laptop can be a venture into
    frustration and rage. The original was a Qualcomm Atheros AR5BWB222 that
    worked intermittently at best. Tried a couple of different cards, but they
    weren't recognized by the laptop at all. Finally settled on a Broadcom that
    works just fine (got it last August):

    Whether or not it will work with a Dell is anybody's guess, but if Dell is
    like Acer (and a number of other manufacturers), certain cards seem to be
    "white-listed" by them, and it will be real fun finding one that will work
    as it should, if it's even recognized by the laptop.
    SC Tom, Aug 21, 2015
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  3. Yep. I do it all the time. Oddly, most of the requirements are to
    replace crappy internal cards with something better. I don't really
    have a favorite replacement except that I now try to avoid Intel.

    There are two problems you are going to have unless you buy an
    approved Dell wireless card.
    1. The FCC demands that the manufacturers only allow card and laptop
    combinations that have been FCC certified. Plug in a non-approved
    card and you are likely to get a BIOS boot message that proclaims that
    you have installed an incompatible card. There are ways around this,
    but I prefer to avoid the problem. If you do get the approved card,
    it is likely that you'll also find drivers on the Dell web pile that
    will work.
    2. Many of the RF cables and connectors are cut for the exact length
    needed to connect to the original card. I've had to wiggle them
    around in order to accomodate cards with slightly different layout.
    3. Non-MIMO cards have two RF connectors for diversity reception. 2x2
    and up MIMO cards have at least 1 antenna per radio. The higher end
    cards may have 3 antenna connectors. If you're going to use one of
    these 3x3 cards, you'll need to add a 3rd antenna internally,
    somewhere. I've had fairly good luck with just a connector and
    stripping back a few cm of coax shield to form a crude antenna.
    "Good USB" is an oxymoron. Unless you need an external (directional)
    antenna, I would avoid this option.

    Hmmm... no wi-fi card listed in the specs. Yet, you seem to have one.

    How to replace the wi-fi card:

    Video of how to replace the wi-fi card:

    Typical card vendor:

    OK, I'm out of time... send me the Dell service tag number on the
    bottom of the laptop so I determine exactly what you have. More
    Jeff Liebermann, Aug 21, 2015
  4. ceg

    ceg Guest

    The only thing needed is the 5GHz, since the router will be in the
    same apartment away at school.

    The review of the Netgear 802.11ac A6200 WiFi Adapter concluded
    what you said, which is that speeds are terrible.,2817,2422108,00.asp
    ceg, Aug 21, 2015
  5. ceg

    ceg Guest

    The problem is that it has to work in the first shot, since
    it's a laptop for my kid away at school. She is a government
    major, so, she knows absolutely nothing about technical stuff
    (they don't even need math, which is why she picked that major).

    ceg, Aug 21, 2015
  6. ceg

    Jerry Peters Guest

    As a datapoint, my Latitude D630 came with an a/b/g card,

    Also you might try they specialize in
    dell laptop parts.
    Jerry Peters, Aug 21, 2015
  7. ceg

    ceg Guest

    Thanks for all the advice.

    In the short term, I decided to buy a WiFi USB card, since
    it has to work this weekend, and I don't have time to get
    the Dell WiFi card until the next visit after school starts.

    I opted for the same brand as the router, assuming they'd
    work better together that way, a TP-Link 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
    1200 device (if it works).

    Here's a picture of the Archer T4U for about $25 at Frys.
    ceg, Aug 22, 2015
  8. Curt,

    Please post back with comments on how the USB WiFi worked out.
    Charlie Hoffpauir, Aug 22, 2015
  9. ceg

    ceg Guest

    I hooked up that Archer T4u today, and I'm not too happy with
    it (as Jeff Liebermann had correctly predicted).

    The thing worked, even though the bands were crowded:

    But, the bad is that it's HUGE (way larger than a USB stick)
    and as a result, it's a pain to plug in the USB adapter, and,
    if *directly* plugged in, it kept getting bumped, causing the
    operating system to beep and to lose connectivity momentarily.

    Luckily, the manufacturer saw fit to include a usb-extension
    cable, which is really the *only* way you'd want the TP-Link
    Archer T4U (as you can see in the photo).

    However, the good is that while Comcast nominal 45Mbps speeds
    were about 30 to 38Mbps down on 2.4GHz (whether I used the
    internal 2.4GHz NIC or the external Archer T4U 2.4GHz NIC), the
    5GHz speeds were *phenomenally* better at 90Mbps down, which
    you can see in the picture below:

    Notice that the *wired* speed coming out the modem was about
    90Mbps; and that the wired speed coming out of the back of
    the router was similar; so the 5GHz speeds from the external
    USB NIC were as good as wired.

    The funny thing was that, at this college-friendly atmosphere,
    the 5Ghz band was pretty crowded, as compared to the 2.4GHz
    band; but I'm not exactly sure how to read this side-by-side
    output from my Android WiFi-Analyzer app in the 5GHz bands.
    ceg, Aug 23, 2015
  10. ceg

    SC Tom Guest

    We had a few of those at my job a number of years back. When using the
    extension cord, we'd use Velcro to stick the receiver to a top corner of the
    laptop lid. Worked OK like that, and it was out of the way. (Plus my
    engineers were less likely to lose it if it was attached to something LOL!)
    SC Tom, Aug 23, 2015
  11. I knew it was big, but not that big. If you want speed, you'll need
    MIMO (802.11n) spatial diversity support, which means more than one
    antenna. 2x2 requires 2 antennas, 3x3 requires 3 antennas. If it
    only has one antenna, you don't get spatial diversity, but still get
    beam forming, assuming it's supported by your access point, and that
    one of the two conflicting standards actually work. In order to get
    decent separation of multiple streams, the antennas need to be some
    distance apart. I don't know the magic minimum, but my guess(tm) is
    about 2cm or so. That means a 3 antenna affair is going to be mostly
    antennas, with maybe some electronics stuck into a corner.

    Might as well look it up. The Archer T4u is rated at AC1200:
    n600 = Simultaneous dual band, both 300Mbps
    n900 = Simultaneous dual band, both 450Mbps
    ac1750 = Simultaneous dual band, 2.4GHz n450 and 5GHz ac1300
    ac1900 = Simultaneous dual band, 2.4GHz n450 +QAM and 5GHz ac1300
    I'm having problems remembering and finding the others. Duz anyone
    have a good chart?

    We're not done yet... With 802.11ac, which can use both the 2.4 and
    5GHz bands simultaneously, using one antenna for both bands
    simultaneous antenna is problematic because it might transmit one
    band, while trying to receive on the other. Some claim that it works,
    but I'm not a believer. So, you might get separate antennas for 2.4
    and 5GHz, times the number of streams, which could easily mean 6
    antennas. Dig out the FCCID number and see if there are any photos.

    Incidentally, with antennas, bigger usually is better. The rule of
    thumb is: Small size, gain, bandwidth... pick any two.
    Atmosphere? In the local colleges, that's the smell of beer accented
    with marijuana. During finals week, add the smell of sweat.
    Jeff Liebermann, Aug 23, 2015
  12. ceg

    dold Guest

    That is probably due to a whole pile of Apple devices. Don't they like 5G
    by default?

    To quote Yogi Berra, "No one goes there anymore, it's too crowded."
    dold, Sep 1, 2015
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