AIC8800-based WiFi 6 AX300 USB adapter sells for less than $3

Adding networking capabilities to a computer or SBC has never been cheaper, as we’ve just written about a $12 M.2 RTL8126 5GbE module, and now I’ve come across a WiFi 6 USB adapter based on AIC8800 chipset that sells for under $3 on Aliexpress.

I found out about it after we published an article about the Luckfox Pico Ultra W SBC that comes with a 2.4 GHz WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.2 module that happens to be based on an AIC8800DC module. Upon further investigation, I discovered some ultra-cheap WiFi 6 USB dongles were available, but with some caveats such as the lack of 5 GHz support and a speed limited to 300 Mbps. But it can still be interesting, so let’s find out.

Cheap WiFi 6 USB dongle

Specifications:

  • Chipset – AICSemi AIC8800
  • WiFi – 2.4 GHz 802.11ax WiFi 6 up to 286.8 Mbps
  • Tx power – 20dBm
  • Features – MU-MIMO, OFDMA
  • Operating modes – Station, Access point, WiFi Direct
  • Security – WEP, WPA/WPA2
  • Host interface – USB 2.0 port
  • Length – 196 mm (with antenna)
  • Humidity
    • Operating – 5% to 95% (noncondensing)
    • Storage – Up to 90% (noncondensing)

Drivers are said to be available for Windows 7/10/11. That’s about all we got from the Aliexpress page. The AIC8800 is also used in Tenda W311MI v6.0 and Tenda U2 v5.0 for which a Linux driver is available and should work with other AI8800 USB adapters although you might need to add USB Vendor and Product IDs in aicwf_usb.h. I could not find the W311MI v6.0 for sale but the BrosTrend AX5 on Amazon looks almost identical.

Tenda W311MI V6 vs BrosTrend AX5
Tenda W311MI V6 vs BrosTrend AX5

Make sure to check the version of the Tenda dongle since older W311MI models are only 802.11n WiFi 4 up to 150 Mbps. It’s actually not the first time I’ve come across AIC8800 modules, as those are also found in the Lichee Console 4A RISC-V development terminal and Avaota A1 SBC as soldered-on modules. Where it gets confusing is that there are variants of the AIC8800, and for instance, the AIC8800D used in Avaota A1 is a dual-band (2.4 GHz and 5 GHz) WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.4 module, instead of being 2.4 GHz WiFi 6 only.

AICSemi WiFi 6 Bluetooth 5.2 solutions
Screenshot from AICSemi website

If we go to AICSemi website, we can see the company provides dual-band WiFi 6 + Bluetooth 5.2, single-band WiFi 6 + Bluetooth 5.2, and WiFi 6-only chipsets, as well as some microcontrollers with integrated WiFi 6, Bluetooth 5.2, and audio codec. But sadly, that’s all the information there is on the website. So I could not find out whether WiFi 6-specific features such as TWT (Target Wait Time) used for low-power IoT applications are supported by AIC8800 chipsets. What’s missing is WPA3 security, and none of the models mention this. [Update June 26, 2024: Pine64 has released a datasheet for the AIC8800DC and both “WPA3SAE Personal” and TWT are listed there]

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10 Comments
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ValdikSS
ValdikSS
24 days ago

There’s driver with patches for newest kernels available from Radxa: https://github.com/radxa-pkg/aic8800

If you want 2.4 GHz Wi-Fi dongle for cheap with maximum Linux compatibility, nothing is better than old good Atheros AR9271. It costs about the same $3 on aliexpress, but is fully open source (both the on-chip firmware and the kernel module), and is supported since 2.6.35.

ValdikSS
ValdikSS
24 days ago

Debian directory contain .deb building rules, as well as source code patches. The patches update the driver.

If you need 5 GHz support, Realtek 8811cu based dongle is also about $3 on aliexpress. Supported natively since kernel 6.2 (backports available), but may be a bit buggy.

taknil
taknil
24 days ago

The linked offer in the first paragraph on aliexpress appears to be too good to be true for most of us. Maybe already sold out, this blog has quite the reach.
It’s always either can’t ship to my country or not found. I tried France, UK, Germany, Vietnam, Taiwan and Ukraine, it wont show the offer to either of those shipping destinations.

ValdikSS
ValdikSS
24 days ago

It’s more like $4.7/piece for 10 pieces order with shipping to Russia.
1 piece with shipping is $8.6

itchy n scratchy
itchy n scratchy
23 days ago

Both offers are available here in non EU Europe for less than 3 bucks, but… shipping adds another 5.-

hrr
hrr
23 days ago

Isn’t WPA3 just a driver thing? (Or for Linux part of the distributuon)?

Icenowy Zheng
Icenowy Zheng
23 days ago

This seems to be related to whether the card is SoftMAC or FullMAC.

Hans Ulli Kroll
Hans Ulli Kroll
20 days ago

WPA3 is not a driver thing
The device is FullMAC, maybe SoftMAC, only in STA mode, but this is not easy to read in driver.
Original IP is from RivieraWaves now CEVA
In src they are driver for PCIE, USB and SDIO, mostly copy and paste

Khadas VIM4 SBC