Ubuntu WiFi slowness with the rtl8192cu chipset

In the process of setting up a HTPC with XBMC to serve as a media center for my living room, I encountered a crippling buffering issue. I couldn't even play 720p content without buffering for many seconds every 10 seconds.

This was very unexpected, because prior to this I was using a slightly overclocked RasberryPi with the same USB Wifi dongle (Edimax 150 Mbps EW-7811Un) and was able to play 1080p content (shared through samba) without any issue. This new HTPC, being much faster, should handle this without breaking a sweat right?

Well after doing some tests, it turns out that the driver XBMCUbuntu (which is basically a stripped down version of Ubuntu 14.04) uses natively for this particular WiFi USB dongle, which has the widely popular RTL8192cu chip, is very bad. Indeed, it averaged 1.9 MB/s while transferring a big file over samba.

After some research, I came by this opensource project which ports the Realtek 8192 driver to later versions of Ubuntu (the original Realtek driver only supports Ubuntu 12.x). 

And voila! Five minutes later, after following the easy instructions given in the project's homepage, I was doing 9.5 MB/s, which is more than enough for the highest definition videos I can throw at it.

Hopefully this post can help others having problems with the rtl8192 WiFi chip on Linux.

Published by Daniel Laberge on 2010/10/26