Best WiFi Adapter

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 Maybe the adapter that came with your PC or laptop is obsolete.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. 

When Do You Need a WiFi Adapter?

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. 

Top 9 WiFi Adapters


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. 

Panda Wireless PAU06


EHU Rated: 4.7 stars
Price: $$$
Panda Wireless PAU06

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.

Features

  • Dual-antennas
  • Uses 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies
  • Supports Linux systems, Windows to versions 10, Ubuntu, Fedora, Mint, and CentOS
  • Data transfer speeds up to 300 Mbps
  • Cisco CCS V1.0, 2.0, and 3.0 compliant
  • Supports WEP 64/128bit, WPA, and WPA2 standards 
  • Supports 802.1x, 802.11i, 802.11 ac/b/g/n networks
  • Support for infrastructure and ad-hoc modes

Pros

  • Linux support
  • Compatible with a range of security and encryption standards
  • Great price

Cons

  • Max data transfer speed is only 300 Mbps
  • Too big for portability
  • No mac support

TP-Link N150 Nano


EHU Rated: 4.5 stars
Price: $$$
TP-Link N150 Nano

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.

Features

  • Supports Windows, mac, and Linux systems
  • 150 Mbps data transfer at 2.4 GHz
  • Setup support in 14 languages 
  • Plug-n-play installation
  • Support for 64/128-bit WEP, WPA, PA2/WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK(TKIP/AES) security standards
  • Supports soft AP for wireless sharing

Pros

  • Plug-n-Play simplicity
  • Under $10
  • Lots of security and compatibility

Cons

  • Data transfer rates top out at 150 Mbps
  • Not a lot of range
  • Only works with 2.4 GHz frequency

OURLINK AC600 Dual Band WiFi Dongle


EHU Rated: 4.6 stars
Price: $$$

OURLINK AC600 Dual Band WiFi Dongle

OURLINK AC600 Dual Band WiFi Dongle

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.

Features

  • Dual bands supports 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies
  • Data transfer speeds up to 433 Mbps
  • Easy installation; just plug-in and go 
  • Supports EEE 802.11 a/n/ac standards
  • Supports Windows version to 10 and mac devices to High Sierra 10.13 
  • SoftAP mode to create WiFi hotspot

Pros

  • SoftAP mode
  • Up to 3X the speed of a Wireless N adapter
  • Supports mac devices

Cons

  • No Linux support
  • Max data transfer speeds less than 500 Mbps
  • Short range

Netgear N300 Wireless Mini USB Adapter


EHU Rated: 4.7 stars
Price: $$$
Netgear N300 Wireless Mini USB Adapter

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.

Features

  • Supports 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n standards
  • Uses 2.4 GHz frequency
  • USB 2.0
  • Push ‘N’ Connect button
  • 300 Mbps data transfer rate
  • Protected setup (WPS)

Pros

  • Easy setup via Push ‘N’ Connect button
  • Portable
  • Trusted, established brand

Cons

  • No support for Mac or Linux operating systems
  • Only works on 2.4 GHz frequencies
  • Only compatible with Windows OS up to version 7
  • Limited to 300 Mbps data transfer rates

Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Wi-Fi USB Adapter


EHU Rated: 4.5 stars
Price: $$$
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Wi-Fi USB Adapter

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. 

Features

  • Magnetic cradle
  • Supports USB 2.0 and 3.0
  • Dual bands supports 2.4 and 5 GHz
  • Explicit Beamforming technology
  • WPS push button connectivity
  • Data transfer speeds up to 1300 Mbps
  • Supports all WiFi protocols and security standards

Pros

  • Sleek, compact design
  • Power-boosting features
  • Easy operation
  • Super fast at 1300 Mbps 

Cons

  • Nearly $60
  • No Linux support

D-Link Systems AC1900 Network Adapter


EHU Rated: 4.4 stars
Price: $$$
D-Link Systems AC1900 Ultra Wi-Fi USB 3.0

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.

Features

  • Speeds up to 1900 Mbps
  • Backward compatibility with 802.11n/g/a networks
  • Limited Lifetime warranty with registration
  • USB 3.0 connection
  • Proprietary SmartBeam technology

Pros

  • High degree of backward compatibility
  • Up to 10X the data transfer rate of other adapters
  • Better coverage than some brands

Cons

  • Too bulky for portability
  • High price
  • Needs a three-foot USB cable to connect

Linksys Dual-Band AC1200 WUSB6300


EHU Rated: 4.3 stars
Price: $$$
Linksys Dual-Band AC1200 WUSB6300

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.

Features

  • Connects via USB 2.0 and 3.0
  • Portable pocket size 
  • Supports 128-bit encryption standards
  • Speeds up to 1200 Mbps
  • Compatible with legacy systems and newer laptops or PCs
  • Supports IEEE 802.11 draft-ac standard
  • Operates on 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies

Pros

  • Supports 28-bit encryption standards
  • Reliable performance
  • Lightning fast speeds for gaming

Cons

  • No support for Mac or Linux systems
  • Older than other models on the market
  • Not exactly budget-priced

Asus AC1900 WiFi Adapter


EHU Rated: 4.1 stars
Price: $$$
Asus AC1900 WiFi Adapter

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.

Features

  • Dual-band AC1900 WiFi offers instant upgrades for older devices
  • Supports IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac standards
  • Two adjustable antennas
  • USB 3.0 cable and desk-top cradle
  • AiRadar Beamforming technology
  • MU-MIMO support
  • Utilizes 2.4 or 5 GHz frequencies 

Pros

  • Flexible connectivity via USB or cradle
  • Two adjustable antennas 
  • Good for gaming at 5 GHZ

Cons

  • Lags at 2.4 GHz
  • High price
  • Lack of portability

Net-Dyn AC1200 USB Wireless Wi-Fi Adapter


EHU Rated: 4.8 stars
Price: $$$
Net-Dyn AC1200 USB Wireless Wi-Fi Adapter

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.

Features

  • Dual-band frequencies at 2.4 or 5 GHz
  • Portable USB 3.0 connectivity
  • Supports 802.11n standard 
  • 100-yard range
  • Supports Windows versions XP – 10 and mac OS 10.7 and 10.8
  • 64/128-bit WEP wireless security

Pros

  • Picks up signals from up to 100 yards away
  • Dual-bands for flexible connectivity
  • Supports both Mac and Windows OS
  • Won’t interfere with Bluetooth or cordless phone signals

Cons

  • Costs more than $40
  • Not plug-n-play
  • Signal degrades the further you get from the source

Final Thoughts


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. 

Frequently Asked Questions About Wireless Adapters


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. 

Q: How can I increase my WiFi speed?

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:

  • Switching plans or providers
  • Changing your router position or location
  • Removing or disabling unnecessary plugins and apps
  • Switching to a different DNS server
  • Updating your adapters and drivers
Q: How can I increase my WiFi signal strength?

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:

  • Placing your router in a better spot
  • Getting rid of any WiFi leeches using your signal
  • Keeping your firmware up-to-date
  • Switching to a different WiFi frequency
  • Installing a Wifi extender or signal booster
Q: What does a WiFi adapter do?

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. 

Q: Why is 5GHz WiFi not showing?

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.