When we’re connecting devices together, we usually recommend a wired ethernet connection. An ethernet connection offers faster, more consistent speeds, together with lower latency which is important for gamers. This is mainly because the signal is sent directly rather than broadcasted. This direct approach has fewer variables that can impact signal strength, like interference from other electronics such as neighbouring routers.
However, Wi-Fi excels in areas ethernet falls short. There’s no wire clutter, and you can connect anywhere in your home. Almost all modern devices can connect to Wi-Fi from desktops to smartphones. And you can have many devices connected and streaming simultaneously.
A popular solution is a USB Wi-Fi adapter, eliminating the need to hardwire the computer to a router or other network device.
Many modern Wi-Fi devices are branded Windows only. While there are enterprising Linux developers that code drivers for some of these devices, they can’t offer official support, and there’s the risk the device may not work flawlessly.
This review looks at the BrosTrend Linux USB WiFi Adapter AC1200 (AC3L). Unlike most Wi-Fi sellers, BrosTrend provide Linux support for Ubuntu and Ubuntu-based distros. Their Wi-Fi adapter chipsets and drivers are developed by Realtek.
The AC3L retails for around £36 ($41). You get the Wi-Fi adapter, 2 omni-directional Wi-Fi antenna with a gain of 5dBi, a USB 3.0 cradle with 5 foot USB extension cable. There’s a CD with driver and manual (not for Linux systems), and a quick installation guide (paper).
With 5dBi antenna, theoretically a distance of about 500 metres can be covered.
The long cable allows for flexible placement on the desktop away from potential interferences. As a result, the theory is that the reception level of the wireless signal should improve significantly.
A small installation guide is provided with the device. Alternatively, hop over to BrosTrend’s Download Center https://www.brostrend.com/pages/ac3l-download where you can read the installation procedure. You need a working network connection to download the driver and its dependencies (dkms, linux-headers…).
On our Ubuntu systems, it’s first worth refreshing the system with the commands:
$ sudo apt-get update
$ sudo apt-get upgrade
Next plug the USB cable into a USB 3 slot.
BrosTrend provide a script which makes installation really easy. It detects the package manager your system uses, checks that you’ve got the kernel headers installed, and if not, installs them for you. It then proceeds to download the driver for the device, installs any other missing packages, and compiles the driver. For the AC3L, that’s the rtl88x2bu driver.
Download this installation script and run it with this command.
$ sh -c 'wget linux.brostrend.com/install -O /tmp/install && sh /tmp/install'
You’ll be promoted to enter your root password. The driver is then compiled and installed. On our Ubuntu 22.10 systems, we see output including:
Downloading the driver ... Setting up rtl88x2bu-dkms (5.13.1-20b4) ... Loading new rtl88x2bu-5.13.1 DKMS files... Deprecated feature: REMAKE_INITRD (/usr/src/rtl88x2bu-5.13.1/dkms.conf) Building for 5.19.0-26-generic Building initial module for 5.19.0-26-generic ... The driver was successfully installed!
The script worked flawlessly with our Ubuntu desktop machines. But we also tested the installation script on both a desktop PC and a laptop running Manjaro, an Arch-based distro.
Here’s output from inxi showing the USB device is present as the second network device.