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Yes, it’s time for more speed, fifth generation speed as a matter of fact. We’ve discussed 802.11ac Wi-Fi before and the PCE-AC66 PCI Express adapter. This one is for your desktops – place it in a vacant PCI Express expansion slot and you have dual-band Wi-Fi for your machine at up to 1.3Gbps on the 5GHz band. There’s also a 2.4GHz band capable of up to 450Mbps, for a theoretical max of 1.75Gbps in bandwidth.

The PCE-AC66 of course needs to work with an 802.11ac router to make the most of the new generation’s speeds. If you pair it with an 802.11n router it’ll still give you speedy service, but not as fast as the latest wireless revision. Remember, this is an adapter, it’s not a modem or a router.

There are three detachable antennas, which are quite massive and capable of up to 5dBi gain. That’s fitting, since the PCE-AC66 uses signal boosting to expand coverage by up to 150% when put next to 802.11n desktop Wi-Fi adapters. ASUS further includes a cool magnetised antenna base that lets you place the antennas away from your desktop, preferably at a higher elevation. With the flexibility this grants you can more readily pinpoint a good location for the antennas based on your environment. A simple speed test will suffice, and the PCE-AC66 comes with its own connection profile and transmission power adjustment utilities to help the process along.

For adding the fastest wireless currently available to your desktop and skipping the ritualistic Ethernet cables snaking all over the place, the PCE-AC66 is a great fix. When one landed in my lap, I had to take some pictures!

Front of the box showing the product with a nifty window for the external antenna base.

Couple more box shots, highlighting features and mentioning the benefits of 802.11ac – most importantly the speed advantage over previous Wi-Fi generations.

Upon first opening the box the external antenna base is the first prominent feature you notice.

And then the PCE-AC66 itself, underneath which lie the three antennas.

Love the flame red heatsink which of course serves as more than an aesthetic touch. It helps with heat dispersal, leading to extra-stable operation even inside a case packed with high performance components.

A look at the rear of the PCE-AC66 with the three antenna connectors.

With the antennas plugged in. Naturally you need to make sure the back of your desktop has clearance for these three behemoths which are high-powered to give you the range you need.

Sharp red PCB! This is a performance component and it has the looks to match.

That’s not an optical illusion, that’s the magnetised antenna base sitting on my wall. Climb tall buildings? Yes, it can! The base instantly adds placement flexibility, extending the range of locating antennas away from your desktop and any potential obstructions.

Antennas attached to base. As with any multi-antenna networking device you should ideally angle them away from each other slightly, as shown.

Cables lead from the antenna base to the connectors on the PCE-AC66.

And there’s even a bundled low profile bracket in case you want to swap it for the default one for an easier fit in smaller cases.

There’s no doubt 802.11ac will become the standard Wi-Fi iteration in the next year or so, which means more and more routers will support it. However, if you have a current desktop PC your motherboard most likely does not have 802.11ac support, and the PCE-AC66 is a much more accessible option than getting a new motherboard (unless you’re planning a new build/upgrade anyway). If you have the expansion slot to spare, I highly recommend this connection enabler. It’s currently available in North America, with wider distribution commencing within the month.

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