Are you trying to maintain wireless service on the go or living in a zone that makes our connection unreliable? Maybe the adapter that came with your PC or laptop is obsolete. Every once in a while, WiFi service needs a little boost to keep connections fast, stable, and powerful. That’s where having a wireless USB adapter can come in handy. Like most electronics accessories, not all WiFi adapters are the same. They range from high performance to highly portable and nearly everything in between.
Whenever you need wireless connectivity. They allow you to access a wireless signal on any device that has a USB port. With one of these accessories, you’re untethered from an Ethernet or other hardwired connection, which permits freedom of movement without inhibiting connectivity. You can tune into any wireless signal within range of your adapter, including hotspots. This is a great solution for people who telecommute or travel, those who have older desktop computers without built-in network adapters, and as an emergency connectivity option.
Of course, you do need to have an ISP or access to an open, transmitting wireless signal in order for them to work.
Electronics purchases sometimes require a considerable investment in time and/or money. Fortunately, most of these are priced to move. Our goal is to provide you with the information necessary to make an educated decision and find the best WiFi adapter for your requirements. Of all the adapters on the market, we feel this is a representative selection of the best adapters for general requirements and subsets like gaming. You’ll find familiar names like TP-Link, Asus, and D-Link Systems, as well as a few manufacturers who might be new to you.
EHU Rated: 4.7 stars
The only Linux-supported accessory on our list, the Panda Wireless PAU06 offers secure connections and support for a long list of other operating systems, including all Windows versions, Mint, Ubuntu, and Fedora. It also comes at a bargain price. The two 5dBi external antenna means fewer worries about weak or dropped connections, but it does make the device less portable.
EHU Rated: 4.5 stars
The best bargain on the list, this TP-Link nano offers a lot more performance than you’d expect in a small package, In fact, this USB chip is no bigger than one you would use to power your wireless mouse. It supports all current wireless security standards, including 64/128-bit WEP, WPA, and PA2/WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK(TKIP/AES). With the Nano, you’ll enjoy data transmission rates of up to 250 Mbps. That’s enough speed for streaming, but it does lack the oomph that gamers need.
All in all, it is an affordable way to add reliable, portable connectivity to your devices without going out of pocket for more than $10. Buy one for each of your devices that need wireless access, and leave them in place for when you need them.
EHU Rated: 4.6 stars
Welcome to a new generation of wireless adapters with the OURLINK wireless adapter. This pocket-size chip supports the latest 802.11 ac standard, and you can use it for backward compatibility with 802.11 a/b/g/n devices. It features dual frequency transmission at 2.4, and 5 GHz, which allows you to enjoy speeds up to 433 Mbps. That’s pretty fast for a single dongle that fits any standard USB 2.0 port. It even features a SoftAP mode to create a hotspot almost anywhere a wired connection is unavailable.
EHU Rated: 4.7 stars
If you’re looking for a strong mid-priced adapter with a lot of power that’s still highly portable, consider this mini. It’s a more affordable alternative when you have an older system that needs an upgrade or you can connect via Ethernet. The N300 supports all Windows operating systems up to Windows 7.
EHU Rated: 4.5 stars
The first of two appearances on our list from Netgear, this device is a little more high-end and feature rich. It features a sleek, futuristic design that lends portability and explicit beamforming to boost range, speed, and signal strength. You can even pair it with any WiFi router to supercharge network speed. This makes the Nighthawk great for gaming and streaming, even on the go, and the price is right in the middle of our range. You’ll also enjoy simple push-button connectivity from a device that folds flat to fit in your pocket or bag.
EHU Rated: 4.4 stars
This D-Link Systems wireless adapter is much smaller than the image implies, but it’s still a little awkward for use on the go. The futuristic orb offers expanded coverage and fast data transfer rates, but you’re stuck dragging around something about the size of a baseball that’s tethered to a three-foot cord. Still, if you’re looking for something that offers performance and support for both new and older PCs or wireless technology, you’ll find backwards compatibility with legacy 802.11n/g/a networks.
With the D-Link Ultura, you’ll enjoy SmartBeam (beamforming) technology that improves your network coverage by directing your signal on a straight path from the source to your DWA-192 adapter. Other technological advances include 1300 Mbps performance on a 5 GHz network and higher data transfer rates via the USB 3.0 cable. The data transfer rate on a 2.4 GHz network is 600 Mbps.
EHU Rated: 4.3 stars
Linksys is a known name in wireless technology, so you can feel confident that this product will work as promised. Widely considered one of the best adapters for gaming and video streaming, you’ll enjoy up to 867 Mbps with a 5 GHz network, with a max speed of 1200 Mbps. It’s highly portable because all this power is packed into a slim USB thumb drive. You’ll also enjoy enhanced security through support for 128-bit encryption with WEP, WPA, and WPA2 standards.
Although this model has been on the market since 2013, it still supports newer technology and Windows home and business operating systems through Windows 10. It’s built with the most current 802.11ac technology to stand the test of time, and you can opt for 2.4 or 5 GHz to avoid problems with signal interference.
EHU Rated: 4.1 stars
The Asus USB-AC68 may look like a small desk fan, but it’s actually a very powerful wireless adapter. This model is a little awkward for use on the road, but it offers a great way to provide alternative wireless connectivity or as an upgrade for an older device at home or in the office.
The dual antennas allow you the flexibility to find the strangest WiFi signal, and you don’t have to stay tethered to the adapter due to the included cradle. This device supports AC1900 IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac. It can also be switched between 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies for additional flexibility in signal strength and speed.
EHU Rated: 4.8 stars
Our first mid-range model, the Net-Dyn AC1200 wireless adapter is a dual-band USB model that packs a lot of power in a palm-sized package. You can switch from 2.4 Ghz to 5 GHz frequencies according to need and signal availability, and you’ll enjoy data transfer rates of up to 867 Mbps in return. With a 100-yard signal range, you can say goodbye to being chained to your desk and unstable signals.
This product offers a nice middle ground between bulkier devices that use external antennas to boost their signal and smaller, less powerful devices that are more portable. With the AC1200, you’ll get the latter without a need for the former and lose nothing in terms of range and performance. You’ll love this little device if you live near a dead zone, if you have an older device, and when you want to boost connection speed and power for streaming content or gaming.
You’ll never realize what a benefit having a wireless adapter can be until you find yourself in a situation where you need one. Even if your have a wireless router in your home, purchasing a WiFi adapter will extend your options and ensure connectivity on the go. The models available on the market today enjoy wider device and OS support, and most are affordable enough that you can purchase a few and keep them on hand for an emergency.
Some readers are more bottom-line oriented. If our head-to-head reviews were TL;DR, here are a few quick answers to some frequently asked questions about wireless adapters.
A: WiFi speed is often only as good as your network. Slow internet is usually due to plans that throttle your connections, resource hogging apps or devices, and using outdated or obsolete software and peripherals. You can increase your speed by:
A: Signal strength can be affected by anything from the location of your router to the number of devices connected to your network. The best ways to improve signal strength by:
A: It provides portable wireless connectivity on devices that are unable to get an internet connection because they lack access to a physical router or their network card is old or out of service.
A: Unless your adapter doesn’t support this frequency, the problem usually happens during setup and installation. This means that you will have to go into your device manager settings and enable if manually.