Nowadays, every computer needs to be connected to an online network to be useful. A wired internet cable is preferable for many operations. But the reality for most is that Wi-Fi is more convenient. In fact, they have become essential to home and work life. Unfortunately, not all devices are able to connect to a wireless network. Most older devices are not equipped with an internal adapter to access wireless internet. The best USB Wi-Fi can help bridge the gap by allowing you to connect to the internet and stay connected even while you move around.
Almost all wireless networks rely on a router and modem. These devices are able to communicate with an internet service provider (ISP). The ISP facilitates access to the internet. Most modems are attached to a wireless router through an Ethernet cable. There are also some with wireless functionality built-in. The Wi-Fi router is responsible for broadcasting your wireless signals. And most Wi-Fi routers also give you a handful of Ethernet ports for wired devices close by.
In turn, the client devices need to have internal adapters integrated and enabled. These internal adapters pick up the signals for your computer. They’re also embedded into the system board of your computer. This allows the device to transmit and receive data over the network. If your PC is rather old and doesn’t have an internal adapter, you have several options for adding one.
How to Improve Your Internet Connection
The first option is to install an internal PCI card. This requires some digging into the motherboard. The options can also be quite complicated. If you’re not an IT expert, it can be a complicated task. With these considerations, most people don’t go for this option.
The alternative option is to use external USB adapters. Given the ready availability of USB, most people find this to be the easiest. The best USB Wi-Fi adapters are usually very small, which enables you to move your computer around. They’re also detachable, unlike built-in adapters found on tablets and phones. They’re portable enough to pull out when not in use, and can be transferred onto different devices. They’re also much easier to upgrade compared to internal drives. and also easy enough to upgrade. And did we mention, they’re easy to configure and are much cheaper than having to dive into the motherboard.
The best USB Wi-Fi adapter allows the computer to communicate wirelessly. Essentially, it acts as a go-between of the two devices. In turn, you’ll be able to access the internet at any location. It’s also particularly helpful for when you’re traveling or working in a public place. Most of public Wi-Fi hotspots tend to be overcrowded, and not to mention, unsafe. It’s also useful within the comforts of your home or workplace. Wi-Fi signal strength fluctuates sometimes, so you never know. And even if your device already includes built-in Wi-Fi, a USB Wi-Fi adapter can give you a nice performance upgrade.
Best USB Wi-Fi Adapters for Seamless Connection
Here are some of the best USB Wi-Fi adapters for efficient internet connection:
Wise Tiger WT-AC9006
The Wise Tiger WT-AC9006 USB Wi-Fi Adapter is an excellent choice. The device can handle pretty much anything you throw at it. While its range might not be adequate for some, its overall speed and performance more than make up for it. The device has one external antenna sticking out at the side. Some people might find this off-putting. Nonetheless, it’s still a simpler design than what other adapters offer.
The Wise Tiger performed well in terms of speed. This conclusion is based on a series of speed tests conducted by an independent reviewer. On the 5-GHz frequency, the device generated an average download speed of 195 Mbps. The upload speed, on the other hand, rated up to 15 Mbps. As for the 2.4-GHz frequency, the download speed was at 49 Mbps, and upload speed at 8 Mpbs.
Device set-up is also incredibly simple. All you need to do is plug the device into a USB port with an active router and it will get connected within seconds. Overall, the device promises stellar speeds and unbeatable value for money. The Wise Tiger WT-AC9006 is compatible with Windows and Mac OS.
The Belkin F72102 is a very tiny yet reliable USB adapter. But unlike the Wise Tiger, this one requires some bit of configuration to get started. The device comes with a CD installer for set-up. Your computer needs to recognize the device as an adapter instead of as a USB storage. The device is compatible with USB 2.0 ports. Once you’ve done that, you can easily connect to the internet.
The device is really small, so you can leave it plugged into your computer on the go. Another great feature is the push-button security. This allows you to activate a Wi-Fi protected set-up, which only requires the push of a button. The device is also backward-compatible with older routers and networks. If you want a reliable and compact adapter, Belkin is the way to go. The Belkin F7D2102 is compatible with Windows and Mac OS.
NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900
You might be familiar with the original NETGEAR Nighthawk. It is one of the best Netgear routers around. The original product was a router device that looks like an alien spacecraft. Well, the company expanded into making a bunch of Wi-Fi accessories, and this is the best one. In terms of physical design, it’s a sleek black USB device with an adjustable black panel on the side. The black panel is the antenna, by the way. This is the part that intercepts bandwidth from your router.
As an AC1900 device, this sleek black router will get you speeds of up to 1.9 Gbps. On average, though, its speeds are normally at 600 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and 1,300 Mbps on 5 GHz. We know its design looks a little awkward, but the adjustable antenna has a purpose. It can be adjusted into different angles for optimum internet coverage. The panels also help the device handle huge data loads with ease. As such, the device is best used for intense gaming or HD viewing.
The device is compatible with a USB 3.0 port. NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 is compatible with Windows and Mac OS.
Linksys Dual-Band AC1200
The Linksys Dual-Band is a simple yet effective go-between for weak internet connection. The device comes with a CD for installation. Once installed, the device can deliver lightning-fast video and game streaming. The device is dual-band, which means it supports both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz internet frequencies. For the Wireless AC 5-GHz band, the device can deliver up to delivers 867 Mbps of speed.
As for the 2.4 GHz band, it can deliver 300 Mbps of speed. In addition, the device also has a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button. This allows for easy connection with wireless routers and access points. The device is compatible with all Wireless AC routers, access points and extenders. The Linksys Dual-Band AC1200 is compatible with Windows 10, 7,8 XP, and Vista and works with a USB 3.0 port.
The Edimax EW-7833UAC is an upgrade to the EW-7822UAC, a budget adapter. While most adapters are sufficient with AC1200 internet speeds, this one takes it up a notch. It’s also noticeably similar in size to other mainstream adapters. However, this one features a small deployable piece that contains three antennas. These antennas serve the purpose of increasing range and throughput. They also provide support for the multiple input and output (MU-MIMO) and beamforming. Beamforming is the ability to locate any device within an enclosed area.
MU-MIMO is a new technology that makes networks much more efficient. Beamforming, on the other hand, focuses wireless signals towards a specific device. That’s your laptop or computer in this case. Normally, beamforming devices are bulky and expensive. Think of the NETGEAR Nighthawk with six antennas, but this is a smaller and much cheaper version. What these antennas boil down to is top speeds for both the 2.4-GHz and 5.0-GHz frequencies. On average, it can go for a speed of 300 Mbps, but this can be exceeded.
The Edimax EW-7833UAC is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, and Linux computers. It can be plugged into a USB 3.0 port.
The Trendnet AC1200 is a highly effective dual-band wireless adapter. The USB device can handle multiple HD streams across multiple devices. It creates two concurrent wireless networks. This includes a high-speed 867-Mbps Wireless AC network and a 300-Mbps Wireless N network. These connections are the mechanism by which it connects to common wireless devices. In addition, the device also has a Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS) button. This allows for easy connection with wireless routers and access points. The device also possesses high-powered amplifiers and beamforming. This extends range to up to 100 meters indoors and 300 meters outdoors. Afterward, the device filters wireless signals straight to your location.
The device comes with an installation CD, which only takes a few minutes to set up. It also comes with a pre-set password and encryption service. You can reuse the password or create your own. The device also gives you access to parental controls. This allows you to control the type of websites or content that other members of the family can view. Lastly, the device also doubles as a USB share port. Trendnet AC1200 is compatible with Windows 10, 7,8 XP, and Vista.
NET-DYN USB AC1200 Dual Band
The NET-DYN USB AC1200 Dual Band combines quality and affordability in one package. This wireless adapter has a dual band, which connects through both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz bands. NET-DYN promises excellent performance in terms of signal strength, receipt rate, and range. Its indoor coverage is more than 90 meters, which is impressive. Such great distance means that you can move around the house. You can also enjoy net surfing far from your own study or bedroom. You also don’t have to stick with your Wi-Fi router while gaming. Just make sure to keep it plug and feel free to roam.
Apart from this, NET-DYN AC1200 is also highly compatible with most routers. It pairs easily with all WLAN routers. This includes WPA, WPA2 and WEP. It’s also usually undisturbed by other normally interfering devices. Setting up the device is also simple and straightforward. You just need to install the driver for a few minutes. Afterward, you can freely enjoy your internet connection.
The NET-DYN USB AC1200 Dual Band is compatible with Windows, Vista, and Mac OS computers.
EDUP USB Wi-Fi Adapter
The EDUP USB Wi-Fi Adapter is a reliable and very affordable option. The device uses the latest technology adhering to the latest Wi-Fi standards. It also supports dual-band connection with both 2.4-GHz and 5-GHz bands. While it may not support USB 3.0, it’s about as cheap as Wi-Fi adapters can get. It also has a discrete antenna, which is responsible for producing strong signal quality. Just make sure that the antenna is pointed in the right direction to get the proper signals. This does make the unit a bit larger and more convenient than a mini USB Wi-Fi adapter though.
The device comes with an easy-install driver. All you need to do is to plug the device in and the driver will install within a minute. It also has a special feature that establishes a Wi-Fi hotspot. This is to accommodate more devices that need an internet connection.
Overall, the device offers high speeds and quality for a very affordable price. The EDUP USB Wi-Fi Adapter is compatible with Windows, Mac OS, and Vista computers.
D-Link Wireless N-300 Wi-Fi Adapter
The D-Link Wireless N-300 Wi-Fi Adapter is a highly effective Wi-Fi adapter. The device makes use of the latest technology to provide you fast internet for your desktop PCs. The device has its own antenna that enables a strong wireless range and allows users to access internet connection from any spot. The signals also extend to the outdoor portions of your home. Moreover, the device has a WPS button. This allows for easy connection with wireless routers and access points.
Plus, the device pairs easily with most WLAN set-ups. This includes WEP/WPA/WPA2 wireless encryption. This enables you to connect to wireless networks securely and very easily. You can even track your most regularly accessed networks. There’s also a Quick Setup Wizard to assist you with the installation process. It’s also highly compact and easy to store. You can fit it in any pocket or keep it plugged to your computer as you move around.
The D-Link Wireless N-300 Wi-Fi Adapter works with Windows, Mac OS, and Vista computers and is compatible with a USB 2.0 port.
TP-Link Archer T4U V3
TP-Link’s Archer adapter looks a little like the Nighthawk. It comes with a high-beam antenna that you can redirect for better coverage. With an AC1200 rating, it will hit wireless speeds of 400 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and 867 Mbps on 5 GHz. It also supports Wi-Fi 5 configuration. The typical range connection for indoor use is 100 feet. Meanwhile, the outdoor range can reach up to 400 ft. The device also supports beamforming. This gives it the ability to track the exact location of a device within an area. Afterward, it can direct Wi-Fi signals in that direction.
General performance is great and reliable. And like the Nighthawk the antenna can be adjusted to improve the signal. It is, however, still a little bulky, but that can be compensated by its reasonable price.
The TP-Link Archer T4U V3 is compatible with Mac, Windows, and Linux with USB 3.0 ports.
Why Use Wi-Fi Adapters?
What’s life without a strong internet connection? Horrid, we imagine. The best USB Wi-Fi adapters can remedy that. The most common use case for Wi-Fi adapters is for old laptops. Older computers usually do not have the infrastructure to support Wi-Fi connectivity. Or sometimes, your laptop’s internal card just die ahead of time for unexplained reasons. The best USB Wi-Fi adapters act as an external support infrastructure to remedy the situation when it happens.
Sometimes your internet signals go haywire for no reason. You could have an excellent internet plan or perfectly built routers. Even then, there could be issues with your network or ISP. There are also times when you need to move your computer around. But weak signals prevent you from doing so. The best USB Wi-Fi adapter can fix these issues and have you moving around freely.
Internet connectivity is also a problem for public Wi-Fi. Most of these so-called Wi-Fi hotspots offer free service but aren’t secure. To keep yourself safe, set up a VPN. Having many devices on the same network can cause interference. Interference, as you know, slows down your connection and makes it unstable. Some Wi-Fi routers are also not configured to prioritize bandwidth. When the Wi-Fi is not configured, other devices hog Wi-Fi signals. This will most assuredly leave you with a weak internet connection. Or it could be someone else deliberately haggling your Wi-Fi. If you’re getting progressively slower Wi-Fi, you might want to check for unwanted guests. Read Who Is on My Wi-Fi? to check it out.
Internet connectivity is equally hard to come by when you’re traveling. You can’t expect to have excellent Wi-Fi reception up in a cabin in the Alaskan wilderness. And for remote areas that do have Wi-Fi, it will tend to be unstable. Regardless of your situation, the best USB Wi-Fi adapter will definitely help. It will ramp up your weak internet connection.
What Should You Look for in Wi-Fi Adapters?
You can’t judge a wireless adapter by its appearance. Just because two adapters look alike doesn’t make them the same. And just because another adapter has an extra antenna doesn’t make it better. You would want to check the specs on the box first. Check for internet connectivity range, security protocols, and special abilities like beamforming.
Check what kind of USB ports your laptop has. The options are usually limited to two ports. One is USB 2.0 and the other is USB 3.0. Unfortunately, older laptops are often limited to USB 2.0 ports. This affects the overall internet speed that your computer can intercept. In such cases, the maximum theoretical speed would be at 60 Mbps. Meanwhile, USB 3.0 laptops have a maximum speed of up to 640 Mbps. This will matter less if your broadband subscription is below 60 Mbps. It’s still an important factor nonetheless.
Next, you’ll want to make sure that your router and adapter use the same Wi-Fi communication channels. The most recent standard are 802.11ac (Wi-Fi 5) and 802.11ax (Wi-Fi 6). Router specs are the subject of another article, but you need to check them. If you have an 802.11ac router, you’ll probably want an 802.11ac wireless adapter. The specs of your router should match that of your adapter. This is very important. But if your router or your USB ports aren’t up to par, then you can stick with a wireless N adapter.
You should also consider the wireless frequency that you want to use. Older routers tend to support only the 2.4-GHz band. However, most Wi-Fi routers nowadays support dual-band. This includes both the 2.4-GHz and 5.0-GHz bands. The 2.4-GHz band provides coverage at a longer range but transmits data at slower speeds. The 5.0-GHz, on the other hand, provides less coverage but transmits data at faster speeds. In addition, 5.0-GHz bands are less susceptible to radio interference. Weighing these benefits, it’s better to have a router and adapter that can support both. The theoretical top speed for 2.4 GHz is at 150 Mbps while the top speed for 5 GHz is at 1 Gbps. If we’re being realistic though, actual speeds are much less.
Lastly, check internet speeds before and after you use an adapter. Use this ultimate guide on how to check internet speed as a reference. If you can try out the actual adapter before buying it, that’s even better. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) recommends internet speeds of 12 to 25 Mbps. 25 Mbps is quite a comfortable speed for watching extra high-definition videos. Most games require less to run. Check out this guide on what internet speed you need for smooth online gaming. Nonetheless, it still depends on the activity and how much bandwidth is required. You can read more about this through this how-to guide on good internet upload and download speeds.
Final Thoughts on the Best USB Wi-Fi Adapters
Wireless USB Wi-Fi adapters are a handy solution to your connection problems. It is now possible to get just about any brand and add them on to your computer. They allow greater mobility, consistency, and range to your Wi-Fi. Of course, their external nature means that USB adapters consume at least one port; some are also so large that they block other ports. Some people also dislike having antennas sticking out of the devices. Nonetheless, these antennas have a purpose and they help to amplify internet signals accessed by your device. And as you’ve seen from the options we’ve provided, there are less intrusive designs for you to choose from.
As far as Wi-Fi support goes, USB adapters offer a unique advantage. You should have a number of USB Wi-Fi adapters for your computers at home or at work. Regardless of whether you are using a desktop or a laptop, USB Wi-Fi adapters can be useful. It’s also advisable to bring one when you travel. Internet signal can sometimes become scarce, and a backup is always useful. Simply plug in the device and let the best USB Wi-Fi adapter do its work.