D-Link DIR-868L & DWA-182 Wireless AC Review
A Closer Look at the DWA-182 Network Adapter
The DWA-182’s accessory list is straightforward with the usual installation pamphlet and driver CD D-Link alongside a base station.
One important thing to note is that D-Link sent us the A1 version of this adaptor, which uses a USB 2.0 interface. The C1 version on the other hand makes use of a USB 3.0 interface, thus speeding up its bandwidth potential.
As with any USB-based base station, this one plugs into a PC or Apple computer via the attached USB 2.0 cable, after which the DWA-182 itself can be plugged into the top port. In other words, this is a very useful low profile port replicator which allows for off-computer use that could potentially help network performance by boosting signal reception.
Even though this is a smaller than usual network adapter, off-computer usage will be preferred since it effectively removes most of the EM interference emanating from today’s PCs. However, the DWA-182’s signal strength may be lower than the USB 3.0-totting competition since it only uses a 2×2 antenna array and a USB 2.0 interface. This results in transmission strength of 500mvA versus the 900mvA from other adaptors.
While on-paper signal strength may be lower than the competition, the internal antenna array, USB 2.0 requirement, and overall small footprint make DWA-182 infinitely more adaptable. Unfortunately, D-Link has not included a small onboard ROM IC to store the drivers. Instead the drivers are on the included CD, meaning this is not a simple plug and play device.
Taking a close look at the glossy black plastic chassis reveals a small WPS button for quick and easy connectivity to encrypted networks. Once again D-Link obviously made ease of use a high priority with this model. Interestingly enough both sides have numerous cooling vents to allow for passive cooling and reducing weight. Considering this device weighs in at a mere 20.5 grams it is hard to argue with the results – even if these numerous cooling slits will give dust and debris direct access to the internals.
While we are unable to show you the internals, according to documentation D-Link is using a Broadcom BCM43526. This is a dual 802.11N and 802.11AC controller which relies upon two sending and two receiving spatial streams. What all this means is the DWA-182 is rated for a decent 866Mbits/sec on 802.11AC but only 300Mbits/sec on 802.11N networks.
Considering D-Link has opted for a USB 2.0 and not USB 3.0 interface, and USB 2.0 is only rated for a maximum theoretical transmission speed of 480Mbits/sec, 866MBits throughput on Wireless AC will be impossible. This is unfortunate as the BCM43526 is a proven controller that has powered many good adapters like the Asus USB-AC53, Belkin F9L1106 and Netgear A6200, but in this instance it will never be fully utilized. The C1 version eliminates this by adding USB 3.0 (with backwards USB 2.0 compatibility) for significantly broader capabilities.