D-Link DWA-X1850 Wi-Fi 6 USB Adapter Review

D-Link DWA-X1850 WiFi 6 USB Dongle Review – Ground Breaking or Wallet Shaking?

Why would you be interested in the D-Link DWA-X1850 USB Wifi adapter? It’s a fair question. Now that we live in an almost entirely internet-connected age, it is fair to say that most users take for granted that the devices they buy for work or please are going to feature some level of network/internet connectivity. With internet service providers providing coverage for as low as £5 a month and public wifi hot spots being ubiquitous, it makes sense that your hardware will have an available wireless connection. However, wireless connectivity has not been sleeping on the job and in the last 18-24 months, most modern router hardware (as low as £45) have arrived on the scene with the support of a new kind of wireless protocol – 802.11ax, otherwise known as WiFi 6. This newer, faster and safer connection was a huge jump over its predecessors (with wireless performance that can exceed a wired 1GbE ethernet connection) and although there were several WiFi protocols fighting for market dominance, the bulk of manufacturers have all settled on WiFi 6. However, although most 2020, 2021 and 2022 routers arrive with WiFi 6 onboard, the adoption of 802.11ax on most client day to day hardware (PCs, laptops, tablets and phones) has not been anywhere near as strong. With just a handful of phones/tablets that support WiFi 6, only the high-end laptops supporting WiFi 6 and it being almost entirely absent natively on desktop PCs, there is a glaring gap in the network hardware in most homes and offices. Now, till recently, the way around this was by the installation of someway novice-unfriendly PCIe cards in your devices. This is either tricky to do, fraught with compatibility checks, a space issue or simply not supported on your device. The obvious answer is to use a USB to WiFi 6 adapter, which does not exist – TILL NOW! Yes, that is why the D-Link DWA-X1850 network adapter is such a big deal, as it has the potential of allowing hundreds of thousands of devices that could not access WiFi 6 to benefit from the performance and security benefits it provides. Arriving as genuinely the first USB-to-WiFi6 adapter in the world, the D-Link DWA-X1850 has ALOT of expectations to live up to. So, is this new network adapter worthy of your hardware and does it deserve your money and your data? Let’s find out in the DWA-X1850 Review.

If you are looking for the D-Link DWR-X1850 Adapter, Availability is a little thin. Below are links to where to find it on Amazon and NASCompares gets an associates fee for every purchase:

Amazon U.Shttps://amzn.to/3Emw7l2/

Amazon UKhttps://amzn.to/2ZxOCnD/

Amazon Germanyhttps://amzn.to/3pJYOEm/

Amazon Canadahttps://amzn.to/2ZAo4Cg/

D-Link DWA-X1850 WiFi 6 USB Adapter Review – Quick Conclusion

Whatever way you look at it, the D-Link DWA-X1850 is a genuinely groundbreaking piece of kit. Arriving in a fantastically petite (though perhaps still a little big for some) truly plug and play form, as soon as you appreciate what it can do, you can understand the arguably higher price point it features compared with 802.11a/n/ac adapters on the market. First announced way back at the start of the year by D-Link at CES 2021, the DWA-X1850 has been in final development for quite a while and despite this, in that time no other brands have brought out a similar product. So, D-Link has genuinely cracked a very unique place in the market with the DWA-X1850 WiFi 6 USB Dongle and may well have demolished one of the last barriers between users making the switch to 802.11ax. There is further testing afoot here on NASCompares (ranging from Mac support, NAS support and can the device be converted in a USB-C port for more portable use. But until these usage scenarios have been ironed out and conformed/denied, the DWA-X1850 stands as an unbeatable device right now and an enormously more convenient alternative to messing with PCIe cards. HIGH marks from me!

QUALITY - 9/10
DESIGN - 9/10
PERFORMANCE - 9/10
PRICE - 8/10
VALUE - 9/10


8.8
PROS
👍🏻By FAR the easiest way to upgrade your system to WiFi 6
👍🏻Inclusive Drivers on the USB pretty much guarantee plug n play use on PC
👍🏻Inclusive WPA 3 Encryption on board
👍🏻Small, very portable and USB powered
👍🏻Dual-Band Support
👍🏻No external Antennae to Lose/Break
👍🏻Fully Backward Compatible
👍🏻Supported by Windows 10 Tablet/Surface too
CONS
👎🏻No word yet on Mac Support
👎🏻Only Available as USB-A not USB-C (currently)
👎🏻Noticeably more expensive than a WiFi 5 (a/n/ac) USB Alternative

D-Link DWA-X1850 WiFi 6 USB Adapter Review – Retail Packaging

Unsurprisingly, the retail box for the DWA-X1850 is quite small. It does however make up for that a little in being rather loud. Arriving as part of their EXO AX series (we featured a review on their recent DLink EXPO AX5400 affordable Pro Gamer Router here) it makes a lot of loud specification and performance claims. Some more specific to WiFi 6 than the product itself, but all seem perfectly valid.

As this system is a dual-band (2.4Ghz for older and simpler devices, as well as the bigger 5Ghz band where WiFi 6 will reside) there is a potential 180MB/s (1800mbps) of potential performance available. However, this needs to be taken in context, as shared-frequency band usage from a single device is pretty rare and in a single point-to-point connection you will more likely max out at 120MB/s (1200mb/s) depending on your proximity from a WiFi 6 router. Still a big jump on the typical maximum 80-90MB/s of typical older-gen WiFi and even that would need to be in very close proximity.

The content of the box is unsurprisingly thin, with the kit including the D-Link DWA-X1850 unit itself, first-time setup manual, troubleshooting details, warranty information (2 years included) and an optional extension cable.

Now, one thing worth noting is that some versions of the DWA-X1850 arrive with a USB extension cable. The baseline model does not include this but there is another version available that includes it at a small additional cost. Although by no means a high price extra, it is still nonetheless a high-quality extension cable that allows users to move the WiFi antenna module closer to the router in an upright position. It is also hand for PC Desktop users who want to use a WiFi 6 wireless connection but their desktop case is under their desk or poorly in range of their router.

Aside from the DWA-X1850 and optional USB 3.2 Gen 1 extension cable, there is some paperwork that consists of setup instructions and information on your warranty. All fairly standard stuff.

So, fairly standard packaging and contents that would not be out of place in your local I.T hardware store. So. let’s take a look at the device.

D-Link DWA-X1850 WiFi 6 USB Adapter Review – Design

The DWA-X1850 device in person is quite a modern-looking design, with a nice glossy look and embossed wave design. It is an almost entirely plastic external casing that features a lot of passive cooling vents (likely to assist airflow on the fanless heatsink internal framework). The casing doesn’t feel too cheap and nothing about the construction feels flimsy or fragile.

The angled vent design is quite subtle and nicely built into the shape. The whole device itself measures 95.5 x 30 x 12.7mm in size which although bigger than most current/older-gen WiFi 5 USB adapters, is not a huge degree bigger. Below is how the D-Link DWA-X1850 USB adapter scales:

So yes, bigger, but not ‘end of the world’ bigger. I expect this is largely down to the additional need for heat dissipation internally (common on most WiFi 6 network management devices) as well as spacing the internal antennae.

There is a single LED light on the top that denotes system activity and connectivity. As the device is USB powered, this will take care of itself, though it is worth remembering that the D-Link DWA-X1850 USB dongle will be of limited/no use in a USB 2.0 port for reasons of performance and power requirements.

At the top end of the device, there is a metallic clip that is embossed with the D-Link logo. Perhaps there is a future gen of this device that will feature external antennae that would protrude from this spot. Who knows.

Looking at the base of the device, we see a whole lot more passive ventilation to assist those internal heatsinks.

Removing the cap from the bottom of the D-Link DWA-X1850 WiFi 6 adapter reveals the USB A Port. In a later test (alongside NAS use and Mac use) we will be looking at using a USB adapter to connect this to a USB-C device to see if it can be utilized. This is a USB 3.2 Gen 1 connection (5Gb/s) which is already tonnes more bandwidth than this adapter will ever be able to saturate. Though I am surprised that a USB-C version does not exist at launch, despite the advances of USB-A on older-gen hardware.

As mentioned, there is a retail version of the D-Link DWA-X1850 802.11ax adapter that arrives with a USB extension and this allows the device to be better positioned for your network environment.

Overall, despite being a plastic casing, the design is understated and sleek and I quite like its subtle little shape choices at the manufacturer level. Let’s take a look at how the D-Link DWA-X1850 WiFi USB dongle performs.

D-Link DWA-X1850 WiFi 6 USB Adapter Review – Hardware Testing

One early positive of the DWA-X1850 is that the drivers for installing and running the device on your Windows PC are included on the USB itself.

This is particularly useful, given the HUGE range of supported drivers and updates that need to be trawled through for a PCIe WiFi 6 upgrade by comparison. I think we ALL know the pain of installing a WiFi adapter on our new/old machine and needing a driver… which requires the internet… the very thing we do not have… BECAUSE WE NEED AN ADAPTER! So yeah, it’s a small thing that they include the driver on the small USB storage internally, but it’s a win for me! Before we go any further with any performance testing, it is worth going over the hardware highlights of the D-Link DWA-X1850:

Hardware Highlights

  • Supports 802.11ax/a/n/ac Wireless Connections
  • No Additional Drives needed (Onboard the USB)
  • 574 Mbps (2.4 GHz @ 57MB/s) / 1200 Mbps (5 GHz @ 120MB/s)
  • Plug & Play USB 3.2 Gen 1 & Gen 2 Design
  • Dual-band 2.4/5Ghz Support, upto 1.8Gbps (180MB/s)
  • High-bandwidth MU-MIMO
  • Internal WPA3 128-bit encryption
  • USB Powered with Integrated antenna
  • 95.5 x 30 x 12.7mm

The inclusion of both WPA 2 and WPA 3 is to be expected at WiFi 6, but still nice to see featured on this USB adapter (often much lower on current-gen USB network adapters and heavily reliant on the host system network software). The two bands, 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz can be used at the same time (as well as combined with the right software over the network) but most users will not see any performance through the D-Link DWA-X1850 adapter that is higher than their existing internet speed maximum. The D-Link DWA-X1850 allows fast/larger communication between your Windows PC and Router, but if your internet speed is (for example) 50Mb/s download from your ISP, then you will not be able to exceed this. However, internal network traffic and the typical internet connectivity you will have in up to 8-10 metres will be better on the D-Link DWA-X1850 WiFi 6 connection than WiFi 5. Likewise, the benefits on streaming files from a local network server/NAS (such as backups, 4K multimedia or larger databases) will be much better/faster on the WiFi 6 enabled D-Link DWA-X1850 USB adapter.

Here is a breakdown of how the tests of the D-Link DWA-X1850 WiFi 6 dongle were conducted for the review.

Test Setup

  • The D-Link EXO AX5400 WiFi6 Router was used for wireless testing
  • The PC was a Windows 10 Pro Laptop
  • USB 3.2 Gen 1 Port was used
  • 4 Metres Between Laptop+DWA-X1850 and the WiFi 6 Router
  • Performance Benchmarks were made with a NAS System and Mapped Target Drive
  • WiFi 6 and WiFi 5 Testing was made using the same laptop and Router, but amended WiFi Adapter Setup on the client device

Testing the performance of the DWA-X1850 was always going to be tough in my home/office environment. Despite having multiple WiFi 6 routers available, my internet connection on-site is 50Mb download, so that would not be anywhere near enough to fully saturate either WiFi 6 or even WiFi 5 (as well as make any ping test worthy of note). So, I decided to concentrate on a straight transfer test to a NAS server connected to the Asus WiFi 6 Router, sent from my Windows PC via the DWA-X1850 802.11ax connection. Then repeat the steps with a 802.11 a/c/n level connection. Before doing so though, I wanted to verify that the DWA-X1850 USB adapter was indeed providing access to the 1200mb/s (bits!) bandwidth. So I verified it first in Powershell:

Then checked in the standard network connection panel of Windows 10 Pro (also making sure to disable/disconnect any ethernet or existing wifi adapters on the system):

In the DWA-X1850 Video Review over on NASCompares YouTube, I conducted a few extra tests with the NAS, but below is a GIF that shows that the 1.1GB file transfer over 802.11ax/5Ghz took 20.64 Seconds:

I then headed over to the Network connections panel and into the configuration, forcing it to switch to 802.11a/c/n. This then reduced the available bandwidth support to 886mps over 5Ghz, as seen below;

Then I repeated the exact same test (1.1GB over the DWA-X1850 network adapter) but using a WiFi 5 connection. This took almost twice as long as below, at a fraction over 35 seconds.

I am in the process of gaining access to a greater than gigabit internet connection (as well as crossed 5G testing) in order to do further testing for YouTube, but everything I have seen here indicates that the D-Link DWA-X1850 USB WiFi 6 Dongle/Adapter certainly allowed my system to utilize greater broadband than WiFi 5 (a/c/n). Subscribe to the YouTube Channel in order to be notified about when further internet testing will be published, along with further OS tests soon.

D-Link DWA-X1850 WiFi 6 USB Adapter Review – Conclusion

Whatever way you look at it, the D-Link DWA-X1850 is a genuinely groundbreaking piece of kit. Arriving in a fantastically petite (though perhaps still a little big for some) truly plug and play form, as soon as you appreciate what it can do, you can understand the arguably higher price point it features compared with 802.11a/n/ac adapters on the market. First announced way back at the start of the year by D-Link at CES 2021, the DWA-X1850 has been in final development for quite a while and despite this, in that time no other brands have brought out a similar product. So, D-Link has genuinely cracked a very unique place in the market with the DWA-X1850 WiFi 6 USB Dongle and may well have demolished one of the last barriers between users making the switch to 802.11ax. There is further testing afoot here on NASCompares (ranging from Mac support, NAS support and can the device be converted in a USB-C port for more portable use. But until these usage scenarios have been ironed out and conformed/denied, the DWA-X1850 stands as an unbeatable device right now and an enormously more convenient alternative to messing with PCIe cards. HIGH marks from me!

PROS CONS
  • By FAR the easiest way to upgrade your system to WiFi 6
  • Inclusive Drivers on the USB pretty much guarantee plug n play use on PC
  • Inclusive WPA 3 Encryption on board
  • Small, very portable and USB powered
  • Dual-Band Support
  • No external Antennae to Lose/Break
  • Fully Backward Compatible
  • Supported by Windows 10 Tablet/Surface too
  • No word yet on Mac Support
  • Only Available as USB-A not USB-C (currently)
  • Noticeably more expensive than a WiFi 5 (a/n/ac) USB Alternative

 

If you are looking for the D-Link DWR-X1850 Adapter, Availability is a little thin. Below are links to where to find it on Amazon and NASCompares gets an associates fee for every purchase:

Amazon U.Shttps://amzn.to/3Emw7l2/

Amazon UKhttps://amzn.to/2ZxOCnD/

Amazon Germanyhttps://amzn.to/3pJYOEm/

Amazon Canadahttps://amzn.to/2ZAo4Cg/

 

 


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    Summary
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    D-Link DWA-X1850 Wi-Fi 6 USB Dongle Review
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    One thought on “D-Link DWA-X1850 Wi-Fi 6 USB Adapter Review

    1. I actually found a driver on GitHub to make this work on Linux,
      all that was needed is adding the USB device VID and PID for the DWA-X1850 to the driver source code and compile it,
      should probably work for ASUS USB-AX56 as well, which is based on the same Realtek chip (RTL8832AU).

      http://sebastianschaper.net/index.php/archives/185

      I couldn’t yet figure out how to make the blue LED work in Linux though…

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