I normally do not write in English unless I discover critical information which is relevant worlwide. This is one of those rare cases and I would like to describe the solution to the wireless problems of the Asus Zenbook, known also as UX31E (or falsely known as UX31). I would keep the reasoning behind the solution short and go straight to giving the solution but you can read my full rant in Turkish (thru Google Translate if you wish) by clicking here. Here is the low down:
Asus UX31E wireless card is a half mini PCI Express card in a form factor that is (apparently) invented by Apple, produced by AzureWave using an Atheros bluetooth/wifi combo chipset. The model number of the card is AW-NB086 and AzureWave has no information on this card on its web site. The chipset model number is Atheros AR9485WB-EG. There are two types of problems related to this wireless card in Asus Zenbook (aside from the lack of 5ghz frequency).
The first type of wireless problem stems from a hardware design error you can do nothing about. Zenbook chassis is made entirely of aluminium and this causes many wireless (and bluetooth) interference problems. If you use your computer connected to a screen and keyboard when you are at home, you’ll want to use the laptop with its lid closed. However, when you do that, both wireless and bluetooth signals will get erratic. In my case, my bluetooth mouse pointer starts jumping all over the screen and I would get (very) frequent drops of wireless connection. The cause of this behavior was hardest to discover. I could only discover the cause was related to the aluminium chassis when I suddenly realized that although there are tens of wireless access points in my building, I could see only three or four of them in Windows’ wireless network manager. (i.e. The problem was not only affecting the connection with my access point but with others too)
One other manifestation of the all-aluminium chassis problem is that you cannot wirelessly tether your phone to the computer if you put your phone behind the screen. The phone should reside at either the left or the right side of the laptop.
So solution to the first type of wireless problem is (idiotic but) simple:
Do not close the lid of your laptop while it’s connected to a wireless access point, and position your laptop such that the display looks in the direction of your wireless access point.
The cause for the second type of problem was, believe or not, easier to discover (since there are many pointers on the web for this cause). Windows and Asus power management utilities work hand-in-hand to drop your wireless connection (seemingly) randomly, especially while you are using your laptop unplugged. This is because your device wants to save power and tries to lower the current of your wireless card “thinking” that you don’t need that much power anyways. Well, it is wrong, you need more juice not less. The solution to this problem is a series of driver/software/bios updates and configuration of Windows power management utility so that the wireless card never sleeps and it is never power-deprived. But first, a warning:
Read the following steps till the end and download all the programs before executing them. Also, print this page if you like. Your connection will certainly get lost during these updates. Also make sure that the battery is charged enough and the laptop is plugged. Last but not least, make sure that you can understand what the risks of performing the following steps are. If you can’t know the risks, do not perform these steps on your own. Please go to your local customer support center and make them perform these steps for you. One thing goes wrong and your thousand dollar laptop becomes a paper weight. You have been warned. (I take no responsibility whatsoever for any problems that may arise from your application of these steps.) Well, enough with the warnings. Here you go:
- You will find that Asus’ automatic update utility does not update the BIOS (and some other stuff as well). Why, you ask? Ask that to Asus and if you get an answer, please come back and tell me. In short, you should manually update your BIOS to the latest version available. At the time of writing, the latest version was 212. You can download it from Asus support site.
- Uninstall Wireless Console 3 completely and do not use it unless necessary. If you like to use it, download and install its latest version. You can download the latest version from Asus support site. At the time of writing, the latest version was 3.0.27.
- Uninstall Asus Power4Gear Hybrid, reboot, and install the latest version. You can install the 1.2.1 or a newer version if available. The 1.2.1 version can be downloaded from the UX21E support site, and not from the UX31E support site. (You can click this direct link to download)
- Update your wireless drivers to the latest available version. The card is recognized by Windows as Atheros AR9485WB-EG. Asus does not publish newer drivers on the UX31E support site. You can however download the latest drivers from third party sites like Station Drivers or http://atheros.cz. At the time of writing the latest version was 10.0.0.45 (dated 09 March 2012). If you wish, you can also update your bluetooth drivers using drivers from these sites. The bluetooth radio is dubbed Atheros AR3012 Bluetooth 4.0 + HS and the latest driver as of this writing is 18.104.22.168 (dated 06 March 2012).
Now comes the hard part, the power configurations. I use the Turkish version of the Windows 7 and I will try to translate the menu names and options as good as I can but they may be off. Sorry for the inconvenience. So here are the steps:
- Right click the power icon on your tray and click Power Options from the menu. (You can open also go to the Power Options menu from the Control Panel)
- Click “Show additional plans” to see all available plans. Perform the following steps for each of the plans (both for the “Plans shown on the battery meter” and for the “Additional Plans”)
- Click “Change Plan Settings”.
- Click “Change advanced power settings”.
- Expand “PCI Express” and under “Link State Power Management”, choose “Off” for both “On Battery” and “Plugged In”.
- Expand “Wireless Adapter Settings” and under “Power Save Mode”, choose “Maximum Performance” for both “On Battery” and “Plugged In”.
- After you finish setting these options for every single plan (yes for all of them), close the Power Options screen.
- Open the “Device Manager” by opening the Control Panel and then searching for it. Then perform the following:
- Expand “Network Adapters”.
- Find the adapter whose name contains “Atheros AR9485WB”. Right click on the adapter name and select Properties.
- A window will pop. Go to the “Power Management” tab.
- Uncheck (untick) the option that says “Allow the computer to turn off this device to save power”.
- Click OK. And close the window.
Voila! Your problems should be solved. You could also update all your Intel drivers to their latest versions using the Intel Driver Update Utility, just to make sure everything works fine. Click here to go there.
I paid over 1000USD to buy this computer, which is a very high price for a laptop in Turkey (let alone a ULV). This puts the Zenbook on the high-end class and these many steps should not be necessary for the end-user to have a decent user experience, on a high-end device like this. However, here we are..
Please share your results after you apply these steps and if you have any more steps to add, I would love to add them to this (pseudo)guide.. Also if you find a decent 2.4 & 5Ghz MIMO/Bluetooth 4.0 combo adapter suitable to replace the one in the UX31E, I’d love to hear ’bout that too..