Back in May of last year, I wrote about upgrading my wireless router to a dual-band Netgear WNDR3700, and the problem posed by the lack of a dual-band wireless adapter in the Project e netbook.
Since then, I’ve been looking for a dual-band 2.4GHz – 5GHz 802.11N USB adapter that was fully supported by Ubuntu out of the box; no NDIS wrapper, just straight plug it in and have it work. I actually bought and returned one adapter that ended up not meeting those requirements. I kept looking, and kept beating my head against a wall.
The last time the issue came up, I noticed a mention of ThinkPenguin on the Ubuntu “WifiDocs/WirelessCardsSupported” page. “Okay,” I said to myself. “Why not check to see what they have?”
Sure enough, ThinkPenguin offered a dual-band USB wireless 802.11N adapter that they claimed would work right out of the box with all current versions of Ubuntu. It was a little more expensive than the 802.11N adapters that you find on sale at Fry’s, but by this point I was willing to pay a few extra dollars for something that would Just. Freaking. Work. So I placed an order.
I picked up the adapter last night, booted up the netbook, plugged it in, and…
…It. Just. Works. Right out of the box. Ubuntu had no problems recognizing the device, I had no problems connecting to my 5 GHz network (even without external antennas; more on this in a moment), and I’m getting the expected substantial speed improvement. If I get a chance, I’ll see if I can post some direct speed comparisons between ThinkPenguin’s adapter and the Asus built-in one.
I’ve also had occasion to communicate with ThinkPenguin support, and I was extremely impressed with the speed of their response; using their online support form, I got a response back to my questions in less than one hour. I consider that outstanding.
I will concede, as I said above, that ThinkPenguin’s offerings are a little more expensive than the stuff you find at Fry’s. I paid $64 for the adapter I ordered (plus about $6 for priority mail shipping); dual-band adapters at Fry’s typically seem to run about $40 (plus local tax of 8.25%) for name brands. The thing is, my time is worth more than $20/hour to me; I’m willing to pay for stuff that works right away, and does what I want it to do without limits.
If that’s the way you feel, I recommend you check out ThinkPenguin.
(One other point: you’ll note that I didn’t offer a specific link to the adapter I bought. That’s because, according to ThinkPenguin support, they’ve dropped that adapter from their catalog. TP states they plan to introduce a new adapter in the next month or two, as soon as they can raise funds to get the adapter produced. In the meantime, while the adapter I ordered is not listed on their site, TP still has a small stock available, and you can purchase it by contacting them through their website or calling 1-888-39-THINK (84465). Please note that I haven’t received any freebies from TP; I’m just a very satisfied customer.)
(Edited to add: Also, if you’re going to order an adapter that supports external antennas, just a note: it is easier to order both the adapter and the antennas at the same time. TP will still sell you the antennas as a separate item; they just don’t have them cataloged, and it will require an email/phone call.)