The name Bluetooth comes from the epithet of the 10th-century king Harald Bluetooth who united the Danish tribes into a kingdom. As a technology, we use Bluetooth to connected devices to each other. It is preferred over the much faster Wi-Fi for connections that do not require transfer of large amounts of data and that benefit from low power usage over longer distances.
This is why you can usually find Bluetooth on small devices like mobile phones, headphones, game controllers and mice and keyboards – basically any wireless device that is small and uses batteries.
The problem with Bluetooth is that most desktop PCs, unlike laptops, do not posses Bluetooth hardware. So, in order to use your new Bluetooth controller/headphone you’ll need to buy a Bluetooth adapter/dongle.
We’ve had the Asus USB-BT500 Bluetooth 5.0 adapter for some 6 months in our Europe office and this review has since been in the works.
Specs and Data Rates
The Asus USB-BT500 Bluetooth 5.0 is a tiny adapter you attach to any USB port on your PC to get Bluetooth functionality. Here are the most important specs:
- Bluetooth 5.0 technology – transfers data up to twice as fast as previous Bluetooth iterations, and with 4X the range in BLE mode. Moreover, Bluetooth 5.0 comes with better noise immunity than the previous versions;
- Date rates: Up to 3Mbps in classic BT-BR/EDR or up to 2Mbps in BLE mode. Our tests confirmed the adapter comes close to these speeds in ideal conditions and doesn’t steer far off when increasing the distance between the adapter and the device;
- Windows 10 support – the adapter is plug-and-play in Windows 10. As soon as you plug it in a USB port on your Win 10 PC it installs itself;
- Compatibility – it’s backward compatible with older Bluetooth technologies, including 2.1/3.x/4.x. This means that you can connect it with older Bluetooth devices (like controllers and headphones) without issues;
- Power saving – Bluetooth Low Energy technology for energy-saving wireless connectivity.
Living with the Asus USB-BT500
We’ve had the adapter installed on three Windows 10 PCs (two desktops and one laptop) and every time it proved to be a simple plug-and-play experience. You do not need any advanced PC knowledge to install the dongle, just follow the simple instructions.
If you are using older Windows PCs, please note that you can find drivers for the USB-BT500 on Asus’s support page for Windows 8.1, Windows 10 and Linux (both 32-bit and 64-bit versions included). No Windows 7, though, so keep that in mind if you are on Win 7.
In our 6-months with the adapter, we mostly used it to plug Bluetooth wireless controllers and wireless headphones. 8bitDo’s SN30 pro+ and SN30 pro both worked flawlessly on Steam, GoG and all Win 10 apps we tried, as did all of the half-dozen wireless headphones we used up to now.
If you are coming from Bluetooth 4 (as we are), the first thing you’ll notice is the improved range. Going from Asus’s USB-BT400 to the new USB-BT500, you’ll have the freedom to go further away from the adapter and still enjoy your music or control your games. In fact, going to the furthest corner of our office, some 50 feet from the PC with the adapter and over two concrete walls, the music was still going strong. This is in contrast to using the older generation USB-BT400, with which we would experience audio drop outs long before we reach the corner.
The range was so good that we decided to test it further. I left music playing on my Bluetooth headset and went out to buy a drink at the local supermarket, some two blocks away. As I was walking down the stairs of the building the music was still playing. I reached the park behind the building with music still in my ears. Only after turning a corner, about 200 yards away from our office, and loosing the view to the building did the music drop out. Now that is impressive!
While the range is significantly improved over Bluetooth 4, if you are streaming standard quality music or MP3s, the quality of the music will mostly stay the same and depend on your headphones and DAC/amp. However, if you are playing high resolution music with high bitrate you can still get better results with USB-BT500 over the USB-BT400 because of its inherent higher data rate.
We’ve been using the Asus USB-BT500 everyday for the last six-months and it has us impressed. It’s stable, plug-and-play on Windows 10, compatible with all the Bluetooth devices we tried and provides ranges that were unimaginable with Bluetooth 4. The range with wireless headphones is so good that I have been using it to listen to music while enjoying my lunch breaks in the park outside our office, some 150-200 yards away from the PC with the adapter.
What you get with the Asus USB-BT500 over other no-name cheap Bluetooth 5 alternatives is stability, range, good drivers, plug-and-play on Windows 10 and a very high probability it won’t be DOA (like some alternatives we tried). If you are coming from the USB-BT400, you can expect a significantly improved range and data rates and more freedom because of that range.
- good and stable data rates
- amazing range (up to 200 yards of flawless wireless functionality)
- Bluetooth 5.0 technology
- Slightly higher price over similar no-name alternatives