Asus wireless AC68 card (1 of 4)

I’ve been very happy with my Freenas build. Theres plenty of storage in a small form factor and it’s very reasonably priced. The only problem is that since i’ve moved I haven’t had access to a hardwired connection. I’ve upgraded my wireless router to something that supports 802.11ac, however the first PCI-e card I picked up from ASUS (ASUS AC66) didn’t actually work with my upgraded Haswell Z87 motherboard. Apparently there were some design issues with the ASUS 802.11ac AC66 cards that allowed them to work with older Z77 boards with Ivy Bridge processors, but caused them to fail when installed on a Z87 board.

Asus has finally fixed this problem with the PCE-AC68 release. It appears to be the same basic design, with the same basic specs, however now it doesn’t cause BSOD’s every 30 min on a Haswell Z87 board. Strangely, you can find the new AC68 model for around $15 to $20’s less than the older AC66 version at most stores. Maybe Asus is trying to discourage people from buying a somewhat defective product.

Asus wireless AC68 card (2 of 4)

Fitting that much transmitting power into a PCI-e slot does tend to generate more heat than a standard wireless card. With the giant heatsink I was actually expecting this card to really warm up my case, but it seems ASUS was simply being extra cautious with the design. With large file transfers going via wifi the heatsink is only warm to the touch and the passive cooling seems to be more then enough.

Asus wireless AC68 card (4 of 4)

With the antennas placed straight up, the included base unit is the size of my forearm. Not exactly something I want taking up space on my already crowded desk. Thankfully the triangular base is magnetic and I was able to attach it to one of the legs under the desk which ends up being a nice way to keep the antennas out of the way.

actual speed 2

Speeds are very impressive. The wireless router is on the first floor in the front of the studio attached to the Freenas box. My desktop is in my office on the second floor somewhere near the middle of the building and I’m getting a solid 1.3Gbps connection. The speeds are fast enough that I can access lightroom archives and editing video from the server at the same speed as files stored locally. There doesn’t seem to be anything bottlenecking performance.

I paid $130 used for the ASUS RT-AC66U router and another $95 for the ASUS AC68 PCI-e card which puts the total project cost at $225. If you have the option to hardwire things together with ethernet cable, the price probably would have been closer to $30 or $40. A wireless 802.11ac solution isn’t exactly the cheapest way to go, but if you are in a location where hardwiring ethernet cable isn’t practical, it still seems to be a viable alternative to achieve the same speeds. 

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