Performance Summary: Going into this, we knew full well that under the right circumstances, the Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 wireless adapter would be faster than any previous generation Wi-Fi 5 adapter. And that is exactly how it played out—when testing for maximum throughput, the AX1650 wiped the floor with one of the fastest Wi-Fi 5 USB adapters available. We saw speeds just shy of 1.5Gbps (1,500Mbps). That is faster than what a typical wired LAN connection is capable of, assuming a standard gigabit LAN port.
What we were not expecting, however, was for the AX1650 to trounce our USB wireless adapter when the playing field was even. That's to say, a single connection that is bound by the max throughput of a wired port. Even then, the AX1650 consistently and handily beat the USB adapter, and we saw the same thing on the much slower 2.4GHz band as well. In theory, the USB adapter should have an advantage over an internal wireless module, due to the potential signal strength benefits of unencumbered, external antennas. But it didn't matter. The AX1650 flexed its muscles and, simply put, is one hell of a fast wireless adapter.
Rivet Networks Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 - $35 at Amazon
(802.11ax) is really just now getting off the ground, and it will take some time before the full benefits are recognized in a typical home. It requires having a Wi-Fi 6 router, like the ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000
that we used for the bulk of this review, and devices equipped with Wi-Fi 6 adapters to take full advantage of what the specification has to offer. That latter part is what makes the Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 an important product. Many of the benefits of a Wi-Fi 6 router (and network) are wasted without client devices that support the standard.
The AX1650 means you can tap into those features and added throughput right away, and without a hefty investment on the adapter side. Yes, Wi-Fi 6 routers are expensive at the moment. However, on the adapter side, the AX1650 is not only affordable, it's rather inexpensive at just $35
. It represents quite the turnaround for the Killer brand, which first entered the scene in 2006 in the form of a $279 NIC. If you have been dismissing Killer products based on a preconceived notion that they are too expensive, the AX1650 is the counterargument you have been waiting for. Things have changed (for the better).
Should you upgrade, though? This one is a little bit trickier to answer. In terms of raw bandwidth, a wireless adapter with a maximum throughput of 2.4Gbps (2,400Mbps) is certainly enticing. The caveat is actually tapping into that speed. Sure, we can configure benchmarks to demonstrate the full speed capabilities, but real world usage is a bit different. For one, you are still bound by your ISP. If going by Ookla's most recent Speedtest report, the average download speed over fixed broadband in the US is 96.25Mbps. And on the wired side of things, 1-gigabit LAN ports are pretty much everywhere.
To fully benefit from the AX1650, you would need a Wi-Fi 6 router and other Wi-Fi 6 client devices in your home network. This is where the adapter can shine—you could have multiple clients in your home hitting ultra-high speeds at the same time. The good news is, hardware makers are starting to adopt Wi-Fi 6 in consumer gadgets, most notably smartphones (like the Galaxy S10
and Note 10
Even without the full benefits of Wi-Fi 6 at play, the AX1650 is blazing fast. Forget that external USB adapter you might have been eyeballing—we compared the AX1650's performance to one of the fastest USB adapters available, and the AX1650 proved faster in every single scenario, even on the 2.4GHz band.
In gaming, we saw a small improvement in ping on the AX1650 versus a high-end USB adapter, though not enough to really excite us. This was also true when loading up the client laptop with a game, 1080p streaming video, and a large file download. While we did not see a mind blowing improvement in ping, however, it's fair to say that professional/competitive gamers will take every advantage they can get. Then again, competitive gamers are not likely to compete using Wi-Fi.
On the software side, the retooled Killer Command Center utility is tuned from the get-go for gaming, and all the user is really advised to do is hop in and set the download and upload speed limits to whatever their subscribing to from their ISP (and there is built-in access to Speedtest, in case that information is not known). There's a lot of other functionality in the Killer Command Center too, for those who want to poke around and sort of micromanage their network, or monitor which applications are eating up the most bandwidth.
The Command Center also home to some unique features, such as turning a PC into essentially an access point via xTend, or utilizing DoubleShot Pro to jettison lower priority traffic to the wireless adapter while beaming the important stuff (like gaming) through a wired Killer Ethernet port, if one is available (as is the case with Dell's latest Alienware Area 51m laptops). So there is some additional value there, particularly over Intel's stock adapter (same piece of hardware, but without the software features).
All of these additional doodads are not essential to gaming, which is where the challenge comes in for Rivet Networks in promoting its Killer products. However, unlike the early days of Killer, the AX1650 is attainable on virtually any budget. A Wi-Fi 6 adapter like this one is also essential to take full advantage of a Wi-Fi 6 router. If you've purchased (or plan to buy) a Wi-F 6 router, the Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 is an obvious choice. Even if you don't have other Wi-Fi 6 devices on your network yet, the AX1650 is still the fastest option available, as we saw when pitting it against a high-end Wi-Fi 5 USB adapter.
- Not a tremendous reduction in ping compared to a high-end USB adapter
- Limited benefit if not paired with a Wi-Fi 6 router