Monthly Archives: April 2010

Is Intel the answer to Broadcom wireless problems?

While I love my Dell XPS 1330 as an Ubuntu laptop, I’ve been growing quite tired of my Broadcom wireless card that came in it (I swore it had Intel wifi when I bought it). It requires downloading drivers to work (this can lead to a bit of a bootstrapping problem), and seems to frequently drop connections or have issues connecting.

I’m assuming this is due to Broadcom’s poor drivers, particularly 64-bit (I remember kernel panics and lack of WPA2 in the not-too-distant past), and was assuming an Intel card would clear my problems right up.

Has anyone had problems with Broadcom and fixed them by switching to Intel? If so, could you offer any suggestions as to if I might want the Intel 4965, 5100, or 5300 card?

Thanks, dear Ubuntu Planet and other readers!


Thanks for all the feedback! The consensus definitely seems to be that Intel provides a better experience, so I think I'll grab a 5300.
Tom Cameron
Adding another success story with an Intel A/G/N card. Unfortunately, the Intel drivers do not yet use 802.11n mode.
4965 is nice as long as you're not on Intrepid (though that may have been fixed since then too).
I have a Intel 5300 and it works absolutely superb. Only tested it with 10.04, but everything works out-of-the-box and reception seems very good. AP mode also worked with no extra setup. Packet injection to "test" WEP encryption will work as well with some patches applied.
Alex Wauck
Buying a laptop from a Windows-oriented vendor like Dell is always a crapshoot. The presence of Broadcom wifi is the reason I will not purchase Dell's otherwise fine Ubuntu machines. I made sure that my current HP notebook had all Intel hardware when I bought it, but I think I will go with System76 or Zareason next time, if only for personal peace of mind. Also, it's nice to get a computer without funding Microsoft.
I can only confirm your suspicion. My last laptop had broadcom 43something. One year a go I suffered lockups and dropped connections.

My current laptop has intel 5100 which is pretty much rocksolid. a plus is that 5100 is capable of wirless-N.
The Live CD quite happily loads bcmwl-kernel-source off the CD and installs a functional wireless driver.

Yet even now, in Ubuntu 10.04, an installed Ubuntu is unable to find and install the same package. Getting a working Broadcom driver seems to require a wired connection, even though a complete package is present on the CD.
Intel wireless generally works well, but unfortunately it always requires a non-free firmware blob that prevents adding features like AP mode. Fortunately they do have Monitor mode.
ot my m1330 with intel wireless, no problem.
Yes, Broadcom was kind of tricky but it worked fine at the end.

However, when purchasing a laptop myself I made sure that the video and the wifi were Intel. Great choice, as they work out of the box.
I have one of these with a 4965 and it's rock solid.
I have had nothing but trouble with Broadcom cards - even when they work it seems to me they have poorer reception than Intel equivalents.

I yanked the Broadcom that came with my M1330 out quickly and replaced it with an Intel 3945 ABG card and it's been flawless.

I recently got a Studio 14Z which came with a Broadcom G-only card (which was the only option, is this 2006?) and it would work for a bit and then totally crash the closed-source driver. The STA driver worked a bit better, but replacing it with a 5100 AGN card was what really did the trick. Worked great.

Sadly I had to return the 14Z because Dell's stupid site doesn't tell you that you don't get WWAN antennas unless you pop the extra $50 for custom case color, but I'll likely get another one soon.