Market overview of USB Wifi adapters based on Atheros chipsets

When looking for Wifi adapters, there are reasons why you would not just go ahead and buy whatever your favorite $DEALER has in stock. If you have some experience with Wifi adapters and drivers, especially under Linux, you’ll know that in general Atheros chips are what you want. They have a long tradition of both feature set and decent drivers: the old MadWifi drivers were the first Wifi drivers to actually support virtual interfaces on Linux (yes, MadWifi ha issues of its own with its binary HAL explaining why it never got merged into the kernel).

Now say we’re looking for a small USB Wifi adapter, IEEE 802.11n, because there are no IEEE 802.11ac USB drivers in the mainline kernel yet. And small meaning it should have an internal antenna. If we look at Wikidevi’s Atheros chipset table, we’ll see that what we’re ideally looking for (IEEE 802.11n, USB) is an adapter based on either the AR7010 or the AR9271 chip.

Which brings us to the next problem: where do we get one? Many of the devices listed at Wikidevi are not available in Germany and some manufacturers change their chipsets between hardware revisions more often than some people their underwear:

Product 2,4 GHz / 5 GHz Antenna Chipset USB ID Driver
AVM
FRITZ!WLAN USB Stick N + / + Internal AR9001U-2NX (AR9170 (Otus) + AR9104) 1 057c:8401 carl9170 2
FRITZ!WLAN USB Stick N 2.4 + / – Internal AR9001U-2NG (AR9170 (Otus) + AR9102) 1 057c:8402 carl9170 2
FRITZ!WLAN USB Stick N v2 + / – Internal AR9271 057c:8403 ath9k_htc
FRITZ!WLAN USB Stick N v2 + / + Internal Ralink RT5572 057c:8501 rt2800usb
D-Link
DWA-126 + / – External AR9271 07d1:3a10 ath9k_htc
DWA-130 rev A1 + / – Internal Marvell 88W8362 + 88W8060 1 07d1:3b11 None
DWA-130 rev B1 + / – Internal Ralink RT2870 07d1:3c13 rt2800usb
DWA-130 rev C1 + / – Internal RealTek RTL8192U 2001:3301 None in mainline kernel
DWA-130 rev C2 + / – Internal RealTek RTL8191SU 07d1:3302 None in mainline kernel
DWA-130 rev D + / – Internal AR9001U-2NG (AR9170 (Otus) + AR9102) 1 07d1:3a0f carl9170 2
DWA-130 rev E1 + / – Internal RealTek RTL8191SU 07d1:3300 None in mainline kernel
DWA-160 rev A1 + / + Internal AR9001U-2NX (AR9170 (Otus) + AR9104) 1 07d1:3c10 carl9170 2
DWA-160 rev A2 + / + Internal AR9001U-2NX (AR9170 (Otus) + AR9104) 1 07d1:3a09 carl9170 2
DWA-160 rev B1 + / – Internal Ralink RT2870 07d1:3c11 rt2800usb
DWA-160 rev B2 + / + Internal Ralink RT5572 2001:3c1a rt2800usb
DWA-160 rev C1 + / + Internal Ralink RT5572 2001:3c21 rt2800usb
Netgear
WN111 v1 + / – Internal Marvell 88W8362 + 88W8060 1 0846:9000 None
WN111 v2 + / – Internal AR9001U-NG (AR9170 (Otus) + AR9101) 1 0846:9001 carl9170 2
WNA1100 3 + / – Internal AR9271 0846:9030 ath9k_htc
WNDA3100 v1 + / + Internal AR9001U-2NX (AR9170 (Otus) + AR9104) 1 0846:9010 carl9170 2
WNDA3100 v2 + / + Internal Broadcom BCM4323 0846:9011 None
WNDA3100 v3 + / + Internal MediaTek MT7632U 0846:9014 None
WNDA3200 + / + Internal AR9002U-2NX (AR7010 + AR9280) 0846:9018 ath9k_htc
TP-Link
TL-WN322G v3 + / – Internal AR9271 0fc3:1006 ath9k_htc
TL-WN422G v2 + / – External AR9271 0fc3:1006 ath9k_htc
TL-WN721N(C) + / – Internal AR9271 0fc3:9271 ath9k_htc
TL-WN722N + / – External AR9271 0fc3:9271 ath9k_htc
TL-WN821N v1 + / – Internal AR9001U-2NG (AR9170 (Otus) + AR9102) 1 0fc3:9170 carl9170 2
TL-WN821N v2 + / – Internal AR9001U-2NG (AR9170 (Otus) + AR9102) 1 0fc3:1002 carl9170 2
TL-WN821N v3 + / – Internal AR9002U-2NG (AR7010 + AR9287) 0fc3:7015 ath9k_htc
TL-WN821N v4 + / – Internal RealTek RTL8192CU 0bda:8178 rtl8192cu
TL-WN822N v1 + / – External AR9001U-2NG (AR9170 (Otus) + AR9102) 1 0fc3:1002 carl9170 2
TL-WN822N v2 + / – External AR9002U-2NG (AR7010 + AR9287) 0fc3:7015 ath9k_htc
TL-WN822N v3 + / – External Realtek RTL8192CU 0bda:8178 rtl8192cu

1: Draft N chip
2: Said to be unstable
3: Some dealers advertise a Netgear WNA1100M which is actually a RealTek-based WNA1000M!

Thus it appears that the only safe bet remaining is to get a TP-Link TL-WN722N, which, however, has an external antenna connected to it, which makes it rather unhandy if eg. you want to connect it to a Raspberry Pi Zero. You could of course also gamble and try to get the right hardware version of eg. the TL-WN721N. Or try to get A WNDA3200 on eBay.

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