Plugable’s New Bluetooth 4.0 (Low Energy) Adapter

Bluetooth is booming. It’s the method of choice for connecting wireless devices — it has become nearly ubiquitous across the full range of today’s PCs, phones, tablets, etc.

So we’re excited to offering our new Plugable adapter to add the latest Bluetooth 4.0 wireless capabilities to your Windows or Linux PC. Our main focus for this product is on compatibility.

The same adapter supports both the new generation of Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy devices and your existing Bluetooth 1.x, 2.x, and 3.x devices. For maximum compatibility on Windows, it supports both the built-in Windows Bluetooth stack (in Windows 7 and Windows 8 with the Broadcom low-level HCI driver automatically provided by Windows Update), but also includes a license to the best 3rd party Bluetooth stack on the market from Broadcom for even wider Bluetooth profile support, and operating system support back to Windows XP. The adapter uses Broadcom’s market-leading low-power, high-capability BCM20702 chipset.

You can connect wireless keyboards, mice, phone headsets, stereo headsets and speakers. Or connect any of the coming generation of Bluetooth Low Energy sensors and devices. With Bluetooth, its all standards based so the devices can outlive any particular device and be shared between your PC and post-PC era tablets and phones. This adapter provides the best hardware and software options so your PC can connect with the widest range of devices possible. And it enables a lot of other cool features of Bluetooth that are often overlooked.

Look for coming posts in our Bluetooth category for more info and new ideas on making the most of Bluetooth.

The adapter itself is tiny. So you can safely leave it connected and not worry about it getting bent or broke when you throw your laptop in a bag.

So why this adapter over others?

  • The Broadcom BCM20702 chipset and associated software stack are the best on the market today. Other adapters may come with one of the lesser Bluetooth stacks that have poor profile support or driver quality issues.
  • That said, I like that this hardware is compatible with the built-in Microsoft stacks in Windows 7 and Windows 8. I’m partial to the Microsoft stack, since working on it (at least, the RFCOMM component of it) a decade ago. If you plug it in to a Windows Update enabled system, the correct low-level driver for the Broadcom chip will be automatically downloaded, but the rest of the Bluetooth stack will be purely what’s built into Windows. This has pros and cons. The Microsoft built-in Bluetooth stack is high quality but supports fewer profiles. But now with the addition of stereo audio (A2DP) and Low Energy support in Windows 8, the built-in stack is great for most needs.
  • We offer this advantage of using either the Broadcom or the Microsoft stacks with this adapter. Our recommendation is to use what you automatically get from Windows 8 by plugging the adapter in. But for Windows 7 through XP, we recommend installing the Broadcom (WIDCOMM) stack from our driver download area or the CD.
  • In particular, Bluetooth Stereo Headsets and speakers are a common problem with other adapters. With ours, they’re supported on all versions of Windows with the Broadcom stack, and Windows 8 with the Microsoft stack. If you’ve had other Bluetooth adapters over the years, you know how frustrating it can be when trying to get headsets working. We’ve aimed to make it easier.
  • Support for Linux kernels 3.0.34 and later (basically, kernels after June 2012 or so) have support for this adapter built in. The adapter’s USB VID is 0x0a5c (Broadcom) and VID 0x21e8. See the checkins for adding support for this adapter to Linux here for leading kernels (in March 2012), here for kernel 3.2.20 (June 2012), and here for kernel 3.0.34 (June 2012)

Let us know if you have any questions at all. Bluetooth enables a lot of exciting uses – but there’s also a lot to think about in terms of compatibility. Our mission is to get best possible information out to everyone. Thanks for your support!

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