What Wifi Adapter Should I Get

How To Choose A Usb Wi

how to install wifi adapter on pc

Chris Stobing is a writer and blogger from the heart of Silicon Valley. His work has appeared in PCMag and Digital Trends, and he’s served as Managing Editor of Gadget Review. Read more…

If youve bought a laptop within the past five years, it probably has a decent Wi-Fi card installed already. But if youve been experiencing a shoddy connection, spent too long waiting for Netflix to buffer, or missed that last fireball because of lag, then it might be time to consider adding on an external USB Wi-Fi adapter instead.

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Even at their best, very few internal wireless cards without an antenna can get the same kind of reception as an external adapter that has one. Large, high gain antennas make it easier for USB adapters to get a signal even when there are multiple walls or floors between you and the router, which means less packet loss and a more reliable connection overall.

Next, if youre looking to upgrade your router anytime soon , many laptops built before 2015 dont come with the ability to decipher the newest, fastest wireless standard: 802.11ac.

The results: a Dell XPS 13 with an internal 802.11ac Wi-Fi card, and the same laptop with a high gain 802.11ac USB Wi-Fi adapter plugged in

And as always: things break. Sometimes, your laptops internal card up and dies on you. Instead of paying repair fees or sending the laptop back for a full RMA, you can just get a USB Wi-Fi adapter instead that will do the job just as well .

How Do You Test Wi

Throughput testing was done using NetPerf software. A desktop with a Gigabit Ethernet port is used to send the data via a wired connection to the router. Three test runs were done on each wireless adapter at each of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, at three distances: close, far, and fringe, with the highest throughput of each parameter reported.

The router used is the ASUS RT-AX88U, our top gaming router. The throughput is tested at a “close” 8ft distance with a direct line of sight, and also at a “far” 30ft distance with an obstructing floor and wall in the way, as well as some metal ductwork intervening.

For this revision, we added tests in a Wi-Fi “fringe” location that we started using for our best wireless extender, guide except we did not plug in an extender to make the wireless connection more challenging for the wireless adapter and to test their antennas.

Other Considerations And Features

One notable feature that makes some wireless adapters stand out from others is Bluetooth support. This would allow you to wirelessly connect to Bluetooth devices like smartphones, speakers, printers, and home security devices without needing to buy a Bluetooth adapter, which can run you about $7-12 USD. Bluetooth support will only be a feature of internal wireless adapters, and it uses up a USB header on your motherboard.

Similarly as described in our article on routers, wireless adapters can also support beamforming. If both your router and your wireless adapter support it, then that improves your range and thus performance at an increasing distance compared to no beamforming. Your wireless adapter and router can work together just fine if only one of them supports beamformingthem both supporting it is just a necessity for the beamforming feature to be used.

Just like routers, wireless adapters can also support MU-MIMO for the sake of performance. If your router, say, can support 4 streams with MU-MIMO, and your wireless adapter is 2×2 MU-MIMO, your wireless adapter will use 2 of the routers streams at once. Note that MU-MIMO is only good for download speeds, not upload.

Photo by yoppy

Phew. Quite a bit to go over, isnt it? Now that weve got all the background information out-of-the-way, lets get into our top picks for wireless adapters:

Also Check: Connecting Roku To Wifi Without Remote

Choosing Usb Over Pci

When you’re searching for a wi-fi adapter, you’ll be faced with choosing either USB or PCI. The big difference between the two of them is in how they connect to the computer that they serve.

A PCI adapter is a fast solution for getting connected to the internet and having a steady and wide bandwidth. However, for the bit of performance you get, there’s a lot of hassle involved. You get lots of wireless throughput’s but you can’t just plug and play this solution.

They require an intense installation that should be done by either an engineer or a technical professional.

That’s one of the reasons a USB adapter is a great option. A USB wi-fi solution is a plug and play solution that allows you to get connected to the internet immediately. You don’t need a clunky antenna and it’s more convenient than using PCI

When you need to send massive files over a broad network and connect to a bunch of other machines at the same time, perhaps PCI is the solution for you. For most users, however, USB’s speed, efficiency, and convenience are more than enough to get the job done.

If you’re looking for a practical choice to deliver the service you need on a regular basis, USB is the wi-fi solution for you.

Upgrade Pick: Netgear Nighthawk A7000

300M2 USB Wifi Adapter

*At the time of publishing, the price was $66.

If your daily routine includes multiple large file transfers, or if youre paying for a broadband data plan with a 100 Mbps or higher limit, the Netgear Nighthawk A7000 is worth the upgrade. It has an AC1900 rating , a bump up from the Archer T4Us AC1300 rating. It costs roughly double the price of the Archer T4U, but it was the throughput winner across the board, beating all USB Wi-Fi adapters as well as the internal wireless adapter in the Dell XPS 15.

At close distance, the A7000 took less than 15 minutes to transfer the music folder and just under three minutes for the large files folder . Transfer rates slowed a bit in our long-range test location, but the Nighthawk adapter beat the rest of the field handily . Overall, its more than twice as fast as the Archer T4U. If you need to move a lot of files locally to a NAS or between computers, or if youre downloading movies from the Internet, the A7000 more than justifies its higher price tag.

Also Check: How To Connect Roku 3 To Wifi Without Remote

Choosing Usb Port Types

If you’re looking for a USB dongle, you need to decide the kind of port that you want. USB 2.0 ports aren’t up to date with the latest needs for data transfer. If that’s the most you can get, you’ll be stuck at around 60MB/s speeds of data.

However, as most new machines accommodate USB 3.0, you’re going to see speeds that are more than three times that amount. You could see speeds hit 640MB/s if you get a USB wifi dongle that fits the bill for USB 3.0.

However, this all depends on how much broadband you pay for. If you’re only paying for speeds around 60MB/s from your service provider, you should take your choices into consideration. If you have a USB 2.0 machine on top of that, there’s no need to worry about paying for a USB 3.0 adapter.

What Is A Usb Wifi Adapter

This is a USB device that provides connectivity with your WiFi router. Not all USB adapters come with an external antenna, but a lot do these days. Also, most desktop computers have a number of USB slots available and as long as you have one free, you can use a USB wireless adapter.

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One of the best things about a USB wireless adapter is that anyone can use one to quickly and easily establish a connection to the Internet. You do not have to install anything and never need to take the cover off of your computer.

It is just simply a matter of plugging the USB WiFi adapter into a spare USB slot in your computer. After that, you are good to go. I tried a few different USB wireless adapters and they were all very easy to plug in and get going.

So at this point, you may be thinking why should I bother even considering a PCI-E WiFi adapter if the USB solution is so much easier to install and setup? I had the same thoughts but there are advantages and disadvantages to both of these types of WiFi adapters.

Also Check: How To Connect Roku Tv To Wifi Without Remote Iphone

Whats Your Favorite Band

Lets talk bands. Not musicians, but radio frequencies. WiFi is a type of electromagnetic radiation, which might sound scary, but, well, you know what else is electromagnetic radiation? Light. Just regular sunlight. Not scary! Well, unless you dont have sunscreen on. Anyway, this radiation is measured in frequency, which is the pattern that the light waves move up and down. WiFi, like other kinds of waves uses a particular frequency, which enables your device to snag onto it and not get confused by any other invisible frequencies.

WiFi, these days, comes in two frequencies: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. The higher the number, the shorter the waves are, which means you can cram more waves into the same space. That also means higher speeds for WiFi. Its likely that your home router can transmit both 2.4GHz and 5GHz. But it isnt all about speed: 2.4GHz is also capable of covering a larger area, which makes it nice for big backyards and offices. Ideally, you want a USB WiFi adapter that has both, so youre covered no matter what.

Best budget dual-band WiFi adapter: TP-Link AC600

Find Your Wireless Lan Card

Should You Get A WiFi Card For Your Gaming PC?

Wi-Fi networking has become so ubiquitous that virtually any laptop computer you buy will have a wireless network card built in. This is a device including an antenna and some processing chips that let your computer connect to wireless networks in offices, homes, airports and coffee shops. Many desktop computers also some with a wireless network adapter built in, and they’re also in essentially all modern smart phones.

If you’re not sure whether you computer came with one, try taking a look to see if there’s any mention of that fact on the computer itself. If not, look at the box the computer came in or the documentation that came with it. You can also call the computer manufacturer for assistance or visit its website to look up your model number.

If your computer was custom-built or potentially modified since it was built, or you can’t find the documentation or get a clear answer from its manufacturer, you can see if your operating system detects a wireless network card. If it can’t find one, it’s possible there is one in your computer that doesn’t work, but either way, you’ll need to install one or get an external unit if you want to wirelessly get online.

Read Also: How To Connect Roku Tv To Wifi Without Remote Iphone

The Best Compact Usb Wi

Wi-Fi Technology: Dual-band 802.11ac Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz Signal rate: 300Mbps , 867Mbps

You don’t have to rely on a chunky USB dongle to add Wi-Fi to your PC. Netgear’s A6150 AC1200 Wi-Fi USB adapter is about as small as they come. This adapter weighs just five grams and will barely stick out from your USB port, so you don’t have to worry too much about accidentally hitting it and damaging it or your USB port.

Despite its small size, the Netgear AC6150 adapter is ready for high speeds. It supports dual-band connectivity, letting you hop onto either 2.4GHz or 5GHz networks, and it can achieve up to 867Mbps speeds on the faster band. This adapter even supports beamforming and MU-MIMO connections. The size of the adapter may not give it the best reception if you’re trying to use this far away from a router in a different room, but for shorter-distance connections where you want to avoid a mess of cables, this will get the job done.

Single Vs Dual Band Wireless Adapters For Gaming

When choosing the best wireless adapter for your desktop, you’ll see both single band and dual band models. No surprises that dual band is better, and allows for a stronger, more reliable signal with less interference. With a dual band adapter, you can receive data from your router across two wireless channels – both on a 2.4GHz frequency and a 5GHz frequency. The 2.4GHz frequency is the longer range yet slower band, whilst 5GHz is the fastest but with less range. However, this assumes that your router is also dual band, otherwise one of the bands will just go unused.

But even if your router is a single band model, you can still get a dual band adapter as it’ll still work . Same goes if you get a single band adapter and use that with a dual band router – it’ll still work, but doing that would be a waste and so always try and get a dual band adapter if your router is dual band. But what’s the benefit of dual band wireless? Faster speeds, as you won’t be limited by the speed that you get from a single band.

Summary: Get a dual band wireless adapter if your router is dual band to reap the full benefits and fastest speeds. Otherwise it doesn’t matter, as any combination is compatible, as a decent single band WiFi setup can still be fine for gaming.

What Are Beamforming Wireless Adapters?

Does the Brand of a Wireless Adapter Matter?

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Understanding Wireless Adapter Speeds

When you look at a particular wireless adapter, the speed will be listed using the AC or N naming convention, such as AC600 or N300. However, this isn’t the actual maximum speed you can get. Let’s discuss.

This naming convention starts with either AC or N depending on the WiFi standard and then lists the combined total speed will be listed , such as 600 Mbps for an “AC600” adapter.

The keyword here is combined speed: AC adapters have 2 wireless bands , and the 600 Mbps that the AC600 refers to is a combination of the maximum speeds that both the 2.4 Ghz and 5 Ghz bands can get individually. The 2.4 Ghz band has better range, but slower speeds, whilst the 5 Ghz bands has the faster speeds but shorter range.

So, let’s look at the real-world maximum speeds for each type of “AC” or “N” adapter:

N150: 150 Mbps

N300: 300 Mbps

N600: 300 Mbps + 300 Mbps

N900: 450 Mbps + 450 Mbps

AC600: 150 Mbps + 433 Mbps

AC1000: 300 Mbps + 650 Mbps

AC1200: 300 Mbps + 867 Mbps

AC1900: 600 Mbps + 1300 Mbps

AC3100: 1000 Mbps + 2100 Mbps

What Type Of Network Adapters Do I Need

AC600b USB Wi

Knowing the range of different network adapters makes it easier to understand which type of adapter best suits your personal or business needs. From Ethernet adapters to network interface card options and more, network adapters allow devices to connect to a local computer network through either WiFi or Ethernet formats.

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