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Killer Wireless-AC 1535 Review: The MU-MIMO Era Begins

Subject: Networking
Manufacturer: Killer Networking

Killer Software and Conclusion

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This might have seemed like a review more of MU-MIMO thus far – and to an extent that’s true. But one of the biggest advantages of the Wireless-AC 1535 has to be the Killer software. MU-MIMO for its part promises to make things better for multiple devices in simultaneous use on a network, but the Killer software allows for complete control over network traffic on the client. 

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The bandwidth control can be set to favor throughput or latency

While MU-MIMO might allow for a much more even distribution of available wireless bandwidth, there’s a lot of bandwidth being demanded by the various applications on just one system. The Killer software will automatically shape traffic depending on the profile (max throughput or low latency) that you select. But there's much more control available if you want it. With individual application priority a user can manually adjust the balance of bandwidth if desired.

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In the above screenshot I had changed the priority of my torrent application to "low", and the priority of my browser to "high". (Applications can be completely blocked from using your connection with the software as well.) With the Killer software making things more balanced on the system I was able to play HD YouTube videos during my torrent downloads without any buffering. While torrent client bandwidth can be controlled manually within the app, there are many cases where manual control from this software would be invaluable.

Gaming: The latency test

So what kind of impact does multi-tasking involving your internet connection have on something as vital as latency for an online game? To check out how this works in real-time I made use of Team Fortress 2’s optional console functionality to display ping.

Connected to a server that offered a 35 ms ping I started up a few torrent downloads, and with the Killer bandwidth control disabled I watched as this absolute worst-case scenario completely killed my ability to play this online shooter.

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700+ ms ping is amazingly bad! How on earth can software do anything about this?

QoS (quality of service) has been an option on home routers for years, and enabled power users to allocate priority to a certain computer on the network. I like to think of the Killer suite as a software version of this. There is proprietary traffic-shaping that happens behind the scenes, and can be tailored to prioritize either throughput or low latency. For gaming online with something like TF2 I of course wanted low latency. Here's a look at that same session before I switched off the bandwidth control:

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A rise of a less than 10 ms compared to the unplayable nightmare I saw before enabling the Killer software is downright shocking.

So what other kind of magic can this software work? Well, that really depends on how far you want to go with it. Without any customization you can see the real benefits with situations like large downloads; a torrent (or Steam game) that would normally devour all available bandwidth from your ISP is reduced automatically as other apps need to use internet bandwidth.

Conclusion

Overall my experience with the Killer Wireless-AC 1535 adapter was extremely positive. The power of the client-side software bandwidth management is tremendous, making it a shame that this technology is limited to so few devices - since you can't just go out and buy a Wireless-AC 1535 card for your existing system. The inclusion of this adapter in a laptop like the MSI G72 Dominator Pro G helps sweeten the deal for that machine, but the gaming market isn't the only one that could benefit from the Killer hardware/software combo I experienced during this review.

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As impressive as the hardware was, and MU-MIMO as a new technology, in my opinion the best part of the experience is the control offered by the Killer Networking software. It's something that has to be experienced to really appreciate, and once you do it would very hard to go back. But would I trade my existing motherboard or laptop to get it? Probably not, but I would buy an add-on card (such as PCIe or USB 3.0) if it was offered at a competitive price. There's certainly room for improvement with my own wireless setup at home, and what I was able to do with the Killer Wireless-AC 1535 and the Linksys EA8500 router made me want an overhaul.

Bottom line, the Killer Wireless-AC 1535 is a really impressive product that has the distinction of being the first 2x2 MU-MIMO adapter on the market, and it boasts powerful network management software to boot. However, though I recommend the 1535 based on my experience, the lack of widespread availability (as a standalone product) unfortunately makes this more of a footnote than a headliner - something I don't think it deserves. (As important as networking is, how many people buy a laptop for the included adapter?). Still, if you're shopping for a laptop seeing the Killer name should definitely be considered a positive, and after you've tried it yourself just might be the deciding factor.


September 15, 2015 | 08:28 PM - Posted by razor512

That is very good performance for a WiFi adapter (if it can sustain 700mbit/s then that is almost the performance level of some of the 3 stream WiFi adapters such as the asus PCE-AC68 (730mbit/s)), though the software is not very useful unless you are the only person in the home using the internet.

Far better results are achieved using router level QOS which allows it to handle both single user congestion, and multi-user congestion.

September 16, 2015 | 01:06 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Wakes up to find that M$ has been using all his new wifi device's available bandwidth to push windows 10 onto all his neighbor’s machines. Can't wait to see the internet service bill for that amount over the monthly data-cap limit. But I turned wifi sharing Off right before the last big win 10 update, why is it back on again! That's a whole lot of available bandwidth to be sharing with the the neighbors, and some of them still Running 7/8.1 and do not want 10 have just erased that 3GB+ download again!

December 4, 2015 | 11:32 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

not practical unless you live alone and far away from others... very good WiFi Adapter ill admit!

December 4, 2015 | 11:39 PM - Posted by Jagged Innuendo (not verified)

I hope its as good as you state because i have the
Alienware 15 R2
on the way.

and it comes with:
Specs:

15.6 inch FHD (1920 x 1080) IPS Anti-Glare 220-nits Display

Intel Core i5-6300HQ (Quad-Core, 6MB Cache, up to 3.2GHz w/ Turbo Boost)

Windows 10 Home (64bit) English

8GB Dual Channel DDR4 2133MHz (4GBx2)

NVIDIA GeForce GTX 965M with 2GB GDDR5

Killer Wireless 1535 Driver

Killer 1535 802.11ac 2x2 WiFi and Bluetooth 4.1

1TB 7200RPM SATA 6Gb/s
....................................................

i really hope it boosts my connection speeds on League of Legends, and some other games, as well as regular Downloads Via Internet! :)

December 24, 2015 | 05:56 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I just got that laptop actually a few days ago. The wireless speeds are amazing, 150Mb/s.

However, be aware that they have a history of failing. Mine had to be replaced because what happens is when downloading large amounts of data, like a game on Steam, you will loose internet, and then the card becomes disabled, and you can't re-enable it. Rebooting resolves the issue until you have to download something big again.

I"m thinking about just getting a different card all together

December 28, 2015 | 04:45 AM - Posted by CJ (not verified)

The card gets disabled because of Windows. You have to disable power management in the properties of the wireless adapter or Windows will cut the juice. I was having the same issue on my Alienware 17 R3 and discovered that the power to the card was being cut. I had previously had an Asus G751 that was having the same issue with non Killer hardware.

http://www.stenograph.com/HelpDeskDocs/CaseViewNet/How_to_disable_Power_...

January 24, 2016 | 12:23 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Garbage wifi drops and my 600mb ISP is only pushinf 30 MB with both wireless and lan

my iphones pads and macbook all see 400+ on wireless and 600 on lan

bullshit

February 5, 2016 | 10:00 PM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

Is this thing only intended for OEM sale? It looks like the only place to buy the 1535 is Ebay, and even there, pickings are slim. I'm guessing the whole "external power amplifiers" thing is complicating replacing my 3160NGW.

March 1, 2016 | 09:42 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

This card crashes my cable modem every time I browse with it on my Alienware 15. I am 100% sure of this. The only workaround is to use a wired connection instead.

October 18, 2017 | 04:49 PM - Posted by Jo282 (not verified)

This card also crashes my Netgear N900 Wirless Dualband Gigabit modem. I have it installed on an Alienware 17 R4 laptop. The only workaround was to connect to my Netgear Extender.

April 12, 2016 | 06:13 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

I want to know if there are some laptops use Killer Wireless-AC 1535 wireless adapter?

April 12, 2016 | 10:36 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

The new Razer Blade 2016 will have this.

October 2, 2016 | 12:45 AM - Posted by Anonymous (not verified)

MU-MIMO is only supported downstream from the AP. The clients cannot and will not transmit at the same time as the access point is the only device that is able to use spatial diversity to split spatial streams to multiple clients. The Drawing of all 3 clients transmitting is misleading.

January 3, 2017 | 08:31 AM - Posted by Mr Bailey (not verified)

I have the 4k version of the MSI GS63VR with this wireless card in. Having just bought a Asus 88u router to get wireless speeds up so I don't have to connect to my NAS via a cable I thought I'd get good speeds. Having played around with all the settings and channels etc in the Asus router, I can't get above 30MB/s max. I'm suspecting it's the Killer wireless card or a driver issue. I'm not sure what to do now as I don't want to waste any more time on trying to get speeds up to near what some reviews are showing.

March 19, 2017 | 07:13 PM - Posted by NIcolas (not verified)

Killer 1535 is an absolute trash. I have an MSI GS73VR 4K with this wifi adapter and not only it's slow but it crashes on medium-sized file transfers (>1GB). I have 2 WiFI APs, Netgear Nighthawk R7000 (a/c) and TPLink 3600 (N), both do 2.4 and 5GHz, the WAN is 1Gbps, I get 100MBps over wire and, with my old laptop (that has an Intel N, I get 35MBps max over WiFi.
I tried connecting this stupid Killer 1535 to both routers, in both bands, on each and every channel, it's still the slowest and most problematic WiFi in my house. So:
- this trash of Killer 1535 says it connects at 800Mbps (to Nighthawk R7000 a/c, with MIMO and stuff) but, in reality, it transfers at no more than 22MBps (~100Mbps), and I'm 2m away from the AP. And I have 1Gbps WAN. Plus that it only does 9MBps on WiFI N (on both my WiFi APs);
- on any file bigger than 100-200MB (that I transfer off the net or to any of the HDDs I have plugged into these 2 WiFi APs), the Killer may simply die, it stops and I have to reconnect it to the same network (or any other one, even a guest network on the same AP);
- my old 6yo Vaio with an Intel N adapter manages 30MBps (>300Mbps) on both APs;
- my wife's Asus, with an Intel AC, manages 55MBps (~600Mbps) to the A/C AP through 3 walls;
- my daughter's laptop with some N adapter gets 20MBps (~100Mbps) through 2 walls;
- all other laptops in the house have no problem transferring a file no matter how big;
- only my new laptop, with Killer 1535, fails transferring any medium file off the net or from/onto the HDDs I have plugged into these APs' USB ports.

When this Killer adapter fails, it stays connected to the AP but there's no PING (to the router itself), and it doesn't see any other network. After 4-5 seconds, it suddenly sees other networks but still, no ping to the connected router. You have to disconnect/reconnect or change the network in order the PING to start going again.

So do yourself a favour and buy any cheap Intel wifi off Ebay and replace this trash in your laptop. But look at that Intel to have only 2 antennas, as this one has 2 and there are Intels with 3.

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