Amped UA2000 Directional Wireless Adapter

The router and repeater are products I’m familiar with, and I’ve used quite a few wireless routers over the years. I’ve also used plenty of wireless adapters (mostly on a variety of laptops), but this is the first time I’ve had a chance to use a directional wireless adapter. Obviously, a directional adapter needs to be oriented such that the antenna points towards the target router (or repeater or access point). As such, it’s not likely to be a good fit for a mobile device—unless you enjoy turning to face your router when using your laptop? But what about for a desktop setup that doesn’t get moved around much if at all, particularly if the desktop in question is located in a place where you can’t (or don’t want to) run an Ethernet cable? Can using a directional wireless adapter help out? That’s what I wanted to find out!

Amped Wireless UA2000 Directional Wireless Adapter Specifications
Wireless Standard 802.11a/b/g/n
Frequency Band 2.4GHz, 5.0GHz
Wireless Speed 2.4GHz: 300Mbps (Rx), 300Mbps (Tx)
5.0GHz: 300Mbps (Rx), 300Mbps (Tx)
Amplifier Dual Low Noise Amplifier
Dual 2.4GHz Power Amplifiers
Dual 5.0GHz Power Amplifiers
Wireless Sensitivity -95 dBm
Wireless Output Power 26 dBm (max)
Wireless Security WEP, WPA, WPA2, WPA Mixed, WPS
Antenna High Gain Dual Band, Dual Polarity Directional Antenna
Interface USB 2.0
Warranty 1 Year
Setup Requirements Wireless 802.11a/b/g/n, 2.4/5.0GHz Network
PC with Windows 2000, XP (32/64 bit), Vista (32/64 bit) or 7 (32/64 bit)
Mac OSX 10.4, 10.5, 10.6, or 10.7
CD/DVD drive
100 MB of free disk space
One available USB 2.0 port
(Two USB 2.0 ports for maximum performance)
Package Contents 1 x High Power Wireless-N Directional Dual Band USB Adapter
1 x Dual USB 2.0 Cable
1 x Setup Guide
1 x CD: User's Guide and Software
1 x Laptop Monitor Mounting Clip
Price Online starting at $76

 This is Amped’s second directional wireless adapter; the first was the UA1000, which only supported 2x2:2 2.4GHz connections. Like the R/SR20000G router/repeater, the UA2000 is a dual-band product, again capable of up to 300Mbps connection speeds (2x2:2 MIMO). Amped uses a Ralink chipset this time, but again the amplifiers, antennas, firmware, and drivers are customized to offer improved performance. (The UA1000, incidentally, uses a Realtek chipset like the R/SR20000G.)

The front of the UA2000 has a glossy black curved surface; I don’t know if the curvature helps to focus the signal or if it’s purely for looks, but I’d assume it serves some purpose other than aesthetics. Anyway, that’s the side you “point” towards the router for best performance; the adapter will still pick up a signal even if it’s not aimed at your router, but throughput and signal strength definitely suffers. Other than the name and USB connector, the only other features on the UA2000 are a WPS button and a clip on the back.

Note that the USB cable that comes with the UA2000 has two connectors for the host PC/laptop; the primary connector is for regular functionality while the secondary connector allows the adapter to draw more power and operate in a high performance mode. I tested with and without the second plug connected but didn't experience any difference in performance. I asked Amped why this might be, and they suggested that perhaps the use of a higher performance USB 3.0 port allowed the UA2000 to run at maximum speed. My impression is that the second port is only necessary if your PC/laptop doesn't deliver sufficient power on the primary port.

Looking at the back, the clip is there so you can clip it to a laptop display, but you can also use it try to orient the adapter properly. For the latter, I’d find some other sort of mounting mechanism much more useful. Right now, the UA2000 is very light and has a tendency to move around if you bump the cable at all, which can create problems. Amped informed me that they’re looking into a better stand that will make the adapter less likely to accidentally shift positioning, but if you’re really considering buying the UA2000 I would recommend creating/buying some sort of mount where you can clip the adapter into place.

You can choose to use either Windows’ wireless networking control panel or go with the Amped interface. Even when using the Windows control panel to manage connections, you can still see signal strength and some other information in the Amped drivers. There’s really not much to say that isn’t apparent from the above gallery; the UA2000 works like any other wireless adapter. Ah, but you’re here to find out how good it is, right?

Full results are on the next page, but the UA2000 definitely delivers on higher throughput when you’re not located right next to your wireless router—at least, it does when compared to a USB thumbstick adapter and built-in Intel Advanced-N 6235 wireless in a laptop. RSSI (Received Signal Strength Indication) is also generally better—sometimes very much so, depending on the router/adapter combination. At our moderate distance test location, performance was generally better than with a thumbstick adapter, with anywhere from ~10% to upwards of 50% better throughput and 5-10 dB better RSSI. At our stressful location (outdoors and around 60 feet from the router), the UA2000 really excels, delivering a more stable connection and at times more than doubling transfer rates.

Obviously, measuring wireless networking performance can be a bit tricky as there are numerous factors in play, but if you’re trying to connect to a router that’s farther away (e.g. sharing a wireless network with a neighbor), I could see the UA2000 being extremely useful. If you have multiple PCs that you need to connect, though, the cost of the UA2000 is quite high and it might be more economical to simply buy the SR20000G instead.

The big sticking point here is going to be the price; the UA2000 currently sells for $80 online at Amazon or $90 at Newegg. Compare that with other dual-band 2x2:2 wireless adapters and the UA2000 costs twice as much as the Belkin E9L6000 and three times as much as the Rosewill RNX-N600UBE; if you drop 5GHz support, you can get 300Mb USB adapters for as little as $15. But of course, those adapters are all omnidirectional, and reliability and driver support is questionable at best on some of the least expensive products. Given the performance and general stability of the connection you get with the UA2000, personally I think it’s the most interesting of the three Amped Wireless products I’m looking at today. Let’s hit the benchmarks next before wrapping things up with some recommendations.

Amped Wireless SR20000G Repeater Testing Wireless Networking Performance
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  • tonyt87 - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    Cisco/Linksys switched to Marvell chipsets with the 4200v2 and 4500, the original 4200 uses Broadcom.
  • arthur449 - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    I used the SR10000 repeater recently to provide a solution for weak / non-existent signal anywhere beyond the far end of their apartment where they kept all of their computer equipment. I positioned the repeater in a higher/more centralized location and they get great reception to it.

    This is after I made absolutely sure they could not stand to run an ethernet cable/use powerline networking or reposition their overpriced fruit-branded wireless router to a new (higher) location rather than keeping it beneath a desk. Apparently, they have a fear of wires, yet hate unreliable connections. *shrug*

    Anyhow, the repeater gives them reception in the places where it was simply impossible and didn't create any additional unsightly cords.

    I've only run into one problem: When the fruit-branded wireless router loses power, the SR10000 repeater freaks the *$(@ out and does not automatically reconnect to the fruit-branded network when it comes back online. While I'm certain a static IP for the wireless repeater would fix this, the client can't remember the fruit-branded router's admin password and a full reset is strictly forbidden.
  • ShinyLeaf - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    I have this same repeater (SR10000) and a non-fruit branded router with the same problem. I tried to switching to static IP and it doesn't fix the problem.

    Anytime the router / access point loses power, or the repeater loses the wireless connection for a sec (microwave interference, etc), the repeater just craps out and I need to unplug/plug-in to get it to reconnect.

    Probably a firmware issue, but there hasn't been any update in 6 months.
  • irev210 - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    There is a bigger comparison over at smallnetbuilder - not really that impressive:

    Pretty sad, really.
  • mevans336 - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    I read the Smallnetbuilder review and came away with the same opinion.

    Their "coverage" claims reek of sleazy marketing hype to confuse the average consumer. "Oh look, we cover 10,000 bajillion feet!" when in actuality, their coverage is no better than any other wireless router on the market.
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    Note that the smallnetbuilder review is for the R10000G, so there's no 5GHz support. Looks like 2.4GHz support is roughly the same, given our different test locations, though I was able to connect at the worst-case location without trouble. Also note that smallnetbuilder only tests with one wireless adapter on the newer routers, the Intel Ultimate-N 6300. If you couldn't tell, in my experience the choice of wireless adapter can make a very large difference in some tests.

    That's the hard thing with wireless testing: change any variable (router, adapter, time of day, weather, drivers, test laptop, positioning, etc.) and you can't guarantee the results are directly comparable. Ideally, I'd want to do a large roundup of at least ten different wireless adapters and test those with a couple different routers -- and if you really want to be apples-to-apples, you'd need to test them all in the same laptop or use a PCI card. From that, you can determine which adapters work best in general. Then take the top three adapters and test every router with those adapters, and you should be able to determine which routers work the best.

    That, incidentally, is a TON of work, assuming you can even get all the hardware to test with. Given the amount of testing, you'd be looking at different adapters/routers on different days with different weather, so you'd probably need to test each adapter/router combination at least twice (e.g. several days apart) to verify there's no massive change in performance, and if there is then test a third time. I'm not sure if there's enough value in doing that much testing, so the result is more "rough estimate" type reviews, like what I've done.
  • Olaf van der Spek - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    Isn't DD-WRT (development) dead anyway?
  • JarredWalton - Saturday, June 23, 2012 - link

    I don't believe so; you can get a build dated March 15, 2012 for the ASUS RT-N66U for example. There are also similar tools out there (OpenWRT, MyOpenRouter--Netgear only on that one). I think it would be best to state that the set of new hardware being supported is very limited, so if you want DD-WRT support you need to shop with that intention.
  • Olaf van der Spek - Sunday, June 24, 2012 - link

    Latest stable release has been v24 SP1 (Build10020) and Latest development release has been v24 preSP2 (Build13064) for years.
    A build dated March 15, 2012 doesn't mean that much.

    Is there a comparison between DD-WRT and OpenWRT available somewhere?
  • blindbox - Monday, June 25, 2012 - link

    You should take a look at their source revisions. For example, OpenWrt just hit their 32000th revision about a month ago.

    Anyway, here's where you can see progress.


    Last commit for OpenWRT was 20 hours ago. For DD-Wrt, it was 50 minutes ago.

    DD-WRT does provide snapshot builds but I don't know why they've stopped releasing stable builds altogether. OpenWrt at least has their somewhat yearly stable releases.

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