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Need wireless USB dongle recommendation (with good range)



Thanks: 5
Messages: 44

I know this question has probably been asked a thousand times here (sorry) but I'm in need of a quality wireless USB dongle with very good range (i.e. antenna).

Currently I'm using an Edimax nano dongle that I bought off Amazon which connects fine, but the signal is very weak. I'm sure with a better device I wouldn't have this problem.

What I'm not asking for: a list of supported chipsets.

What I am asking for: actual, brand name recommendations (e.g. links to Amazon or NewEgg to a device that's proven to work extremely well).

Reason why I say this is that I've already bought another device that has a supposedly supported chipset yet does not work.

The other thing I'm considering is a wireless -> ethernet device but I'm unsure of whether or not they work well with FreeBSD. If anyone can advise, that would be highly appreciated.

Thanks a lot.


Aspiring Daemon

Thanks: 325
Messages: 794

The placement of the antenna is critical if you want range.
Thus make sure you have a plan of the area to be lighted and determine where the antenna must be placed.

Then connect the antenna to the wifi device using a quality cable and quality connectors with little loss.
Prefer those with SMA connectors over those with SMB or even SMC.


Aspiring Daemon

Thanks: 325
Messages: 794

Then you can try to increase its range by attaching it at a 1.5m cable and hanging that from the ceiling.
P.S. But it is better to get a good dongle with connector.


Aspiring Daemon

Thanks: 260
Messages: 663

Yeah - I have the Edimax, and I use it on one of my NetBSD access points. It's OK, I guess. I think those adapters use the Realtek chipset hardware. Realtek devices tend to be really inexpensive, but I think sometimes you may get what you pay for. I really do think there is substantial difference in performance between certain adapters, even when comparing two devices that have similar antennas. The bigger antenna is the better antenna, given apples-vs-apples, and keeping it legal (of course). Your dongle has an antenna (it's just built into the dongle, and isn't obvious). The longer the dongle, the longer the antenna.

I found some older Belkin adapters with the Zydas chipset (zd1211). Zydas was purchased by Atheros, and the latter now sells rebranded versions of those devices. The Zydas adapters seem to work great on my Gentoo/XU4 boards, and there is a driver for FreeBSD (zyd) - but I haven't used it. The Zydas are a little old, so I purchased two other newer adapters that are based on Atheros (non-Zydas descended) chipsets and they work like a champ on FreeBSD. Probably newer is better, security-wise.

My feeling is that I get better reliability, signal, and speed with the Atheros and RALink chipset based adapters than I do with the Realtek ones. The RALink 5370 seems to be pretty good on FreeBSD. Performance is not just a matter of the chipset, of course, but I think the adapter economics likely often follow along with the chipset economics. These are just personal opinions. Maybe there are some Realtek based devices that would change my mind, but that I haven't found or used.

I think some of the cheaper hardware does poorly with signal conditions that don't trouble better adapters. Between the hardware and/or the firmware and/or the driver, some devices handle edge/fringe conditions better than others, and this may be just as important as (for instance) transmit power. In other words, you can't ignore the chipset.

The older chipsets may have "issues" related to security, so I'm not sure if it's a good idea to use older stuff. The old Netgear MA101 uses an Amtel chipset but is from early 2000s (probably would force an out-of-date protocol). Zydas dates from 2006 (kinda old), Atheros has been manufactured up to the present, and also RALink up to the present. I'm certainly no WiFi device security expert. All my FreeBSD access points have RALink 5370 based dongles which I'm very happy with - but I'll need to open one of the ap enclosures to find the brand/model (or ssh into one of them).
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Aspiring Daemon

Thanks: 230
Messages: 686

Although the OP wanted Vendor ID, you can still have a problem because Vendors have been known to change chipsets. Realtek chipsets suffer the additional challenge by having subtle variations: rtl8188us vs rtl8188cus.

Ralink, prior to being bought out by MediaTek, provided chipset specs to FreeBSD/Damien Bergamini. Ralink chipsets have reliable, native drivers in FreeBSD.

I recently purchased a usb nano adapter off Ebay by using using the search terms "rt5370 + usb". The EDUP EP-N8531 runs as advertised on OpenBSD (Driver imported from FreeBSD). I paid more to avoid shipping from the Far East - only about 50% of my China purchases arrive in the States.


Active Member

Thanks: 54
Messages: 245

Unless you're dead set on using a USB solution, I would highly recommend you to get a wireless bridge instead. They're much more reliable and will save you quite a bit of time in general.
TP-Link TL-WA850/860 (v2 or older) are decent ones, the newest V4 uses Mediatek chipset that may/may not perform as good, keep in mind that all are 2.4GHz only. Doesn't specifically need to be the models I've mentioned but it'll give you an idea. You can also pretty much turn any networking device that OpenWrt supports into a wireless bridge but it can be a bit of work if you're not used to Linux.