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Top 5 Wireless Adapters For Gaming

Inamax USB WiFi Adapter
Best Choice

Inamax USB WiFi Adapter

4.9

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NET-DYN USB Wireless WiFi Adapter
Premium Pick

NET-DYN USB Wireless WiFi Adapter

4.7

View At Amazon
EDUP Wifi Adapter ac600Mbps
Best Value

EDUP Wifi Adapter ac600Mbps

4.5

View At Amazon

While Wifi has become a pretty big part of our lives not all of our devices are Wifi capable. Even if you own the best router for gaming, sometimes it won’t cover you. That’s where Wifi adapters come in; they let you add Wifi functionality to your laptop or desktop devices.

While they might not seem like the best solution, especially considering that wireless connections are not quite perfect, it’s better than stretching a big, long cable across your room or even worse, the house.

So, what are the best Wifi adapters? 🤔 📡

 

Best Choice: Inamax USB WiFi Adapter

Pros & Cons

  • Easy Setup
  • Cheap
  • Need a CD/DVD drive or an internet connection to get drivers

Specifications:

  • Frequency Band: 2.4 GHz/5.0 GHz
  • Wireless Data Rates:
  • 5 GHz: Up to 867 Mbps
  • 2.4 GHz: Up to 300 Mbps

Inamax USB WiFi Adapter Review

The Inamax Wifi Adapter offers a nice little middle ground between high speeds and good price.

One of the things that are most impressive about this dongle, is the high speed it can theoretically reach, which is 1200Mbps. Of course, like many wifi adapters and even routers of this sort, it doesn’t actually reach that speed. More realistically you’re looking at 110Mbps DL on the 2.4GHz band and 200-300Mbps DL for the 5 GHz band.

It might not seem like much, but at a combined average of around 300Mbps DL, you’re still getting reasonable fast speeds for such a small and cheap device. Not only that, but unless you have lightning-fast speeds, the lower practical number shouldn’t be an issue, and you certainly won’t feel it.

Otherwise, the Inamax is pretty easy and simple to set up, with the only real issue is getting the drivers. That being said, if you have another onboard internet connection you can use to get the drivers it shouldn’t be too much of a hassle. Otherwise, you can use the provided disk, although I’m not sure why they didn’t just include the install drivers in the dongle itself.

So, all in all, while it doesn’t provide the maximum theoretical speeds, it will get you to the point where you won’t really notice the difference, especially if you're using a huge amount of data for online gaming. It is a little finicky to set up, but once you have it going it will work like a dream.

Premium Pick: NET-DYN USB Wireless WiFi Adapter

Pros & Cons

  • Router compatibility
  • Relatively cheap price
  • Bulky

Specifications:

  • Frequency Band: 2.4 GHz/5.0 GHz
  • Wireless Data Rates:
  • 5 GHz: Up to 867 Mbps
  • 2.4 GHz: Up to 300 Mbps

NET-DYN USB Wireless WiFi Adapter Review

When it comes to wifi adapters in the more budget range, you tend to either get better speeds or better distance. This tends to be a byproduct of using a dongle, and this entry acts as a sort an alternative to the TP-Link Ac1300 PCIe option.

While the NET-DYN has similar theoretical maximum speeds as the Inamax, it’s actual speeds are much slower. Averaging at around 100Mbps DL for each of the two bands, it does, unfortunately, tend to function closer to 200Mbps DL. In place of that faster speed, you are getting a large range extension boost, up to a reasonably impressive 90feet or so.

Installation is easy, although not very user-friendly as you’re required to go to the manufacturer website and download drivers for better functionality.  Otherwise, it’s pretty much 'plug and play', and with the new drivers, you should notice a reasonable amount of stability.

One thing I will mention is that the unit is a bit bulky, so don’t expect to plug in anything next to it. Honestly, this is the one most irritating thing that a product manufacturer can do when it comes to designing their peripherals. That being said, it does have a reasonably good range, so I’m willing to let it slide.

In conclusion, the NET-DYN isn’t perfect, but if you’re looking for range over performance, this is a pretty good option to go with.

Best Value: EDUP Wifi Adapter ac600Mbps

Pros & Cons

  • Very cheap
  • Connection speeds pretty slow

Specifications:

  • Frequency Band: 2.4 GHz/5.8 GHz
  • Wireless Data Rates:
  • 5 GHz: Up to 433 Mbps
  • 2.4 GHz: Up to 150 Mbps

EDUP Wifi Adapter ac600Mbps Review

While most of the Wifi adapters on this list are reasonably cheap, if you’re looking for the cheapest you can find, the EDUP is not a bad option.

The first thing you’ll likely notice is that the total maximum speed is about half of the previous Wifi Adapters. That shouldn’t be too surprising considering that is meant to be a cheap product and you tend to lose in the process. In terms of real-life performance, you’re realistically looking at 100Mbps DL and 10Mbps UL in the best-case scenario, so it’s not going to be lightning-fast.

In terms of range, you won’t find the same as you would with the NET-DYN at 90ft. You’re most likely looking at around 20ft to 30ft of distance from the closest router. It’s not phenomenal, but for just under $15 it isn’t bad at all.

As for the installation, it’s relatively easy and pretty similar to other adapters on this list. The only issue is having a CD/DVD ROM drive to read the included disc, although you can certainly get the drivers from their website. It’s not an ideal solution, especially if you’re already having issues getting internet on your device, but it’s not a deal-breaker.

So, while the EDUP AC600 isn’t the best out there, it’s good enough if you’re looking for 100Mbps and don’t want to be spending a few extra bucks on the higher capacity adapters.

Best PCIe: TP-Link AC1300

Pros & Cons

  • Stable connection
  • Doesn’t take up a USB slot
  • Takes up a PCIe slot

Specifications:

  • Frequency Band: 2.4 GHz/5.0 GHz
  • Wireless Data Rates:
  • 5 GHz: Up to 867 Mbps
  • 2.4 GHz: Up to 400 Mbps

TP-Link AC1300 Review

While dongles are great for laptops, if you don’t have a ton of extra USB ports on your desktop that you aren’t using, an internal Wifi Adapter card is a good option.

As you can see, the theoretical max speed sits at around 1300 Mbps, although as you should know by now, that’s never really the case. The real-life performance will probably bring you closer to 100Mbps, which still isn’t too bad for a card this cheap. You also get the reasonably ok range at around 30ft from the closest source, which isn’t much, but it’s better than running a 30ft ethernet cable.

If the signal range is important, you should take a look at the best long-range routers on the market.

One thing which can be a little bit finicky is getting the drivers to work. I’m not really sure why Wifi adapters have so many issues with drivers, but I guess that’s just an issue with these kinds of devices. Nonetheless, you can get the drivers online and they’re pretty easy to find. I wouldn’t suggest working without the latest ones though, or else you might see slower speeds.

One other interesting thing is that this Wifi adapter has a heat sink on it. This means you’ll tend to have fewer issues with overheating and should hopefully lead to a much more stable connection, although that will depend a lot on your desktop’s internal cooling.

Granted, the AC1300 does have its issues with range and speed, but for somebody who is looking for a relatively cheap Wifi PCIe card, this isn’t a bad option by any means.

Best Speeds: NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 WiFi USB Adapter (A7000)

Pros & Cons

  • 4 antennas
  • MIMO technology
  • Quite big

Specifications:

  • Frequency Band: 2.4 GHz/5.0 GHz
  • Wireless Data Rates:
  • 5 GHz: Up to 1300 Mbps
  • 2.4 GHz: Up to 600 Mbps

NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 WiFi USB Adapter (A7000) Review

If you’re ok with paying a pretty penny and have some extra room to spare, you might consider the Netgear AC1900 WiFi USB Adapter. If you’ve read the specs, or are familiar with the naming terminology, you’ll see that this Wifi adapter has a theoretical maximum of 1.9Gbps.

Of course, real-life performance will bring you closer to 350Mbps DL, which is still blazing fast and faster than the other products on this list. A lot of that is achieved with the whopping 4 internal antennae, and their beamforming technology, so you can get quite a lot of it.

The range is also pretty impressive, giving you around 175ft of distance and 3 bars of signal, which is really good. Of course, those numbers are mostly if you’re on the same floor as your router, and if it’s on a different floor, you’ll find the range decreases slightly.

You could actually increase it (or at least, make the connection more stable) by using the included dock, which allows you to rotate the USB and its attached antenna quite a lot to get the best beamforming you can.

It isn’t perfect of course, and while the hardware is great the software is not. Why? Well, the Netgear Genie utility app that comes with the adapter isn’t great and you can have issues getting it to run on USB 3.0 unless you do stuff manually.

Also, there seems to be an issue with the internal software switching between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 to avoid heating issues in the adapter. You can do a manual hack to switch it off, but you’ll certainly notice the higher heat output and the only real solution is to take it apart and put a better heat sink on it, which is a lot of work if you don’t have the experience.

Either way though, the Netgear AC1900 WiFi USB Adapter is an excellent adapter if you need to add wifi functionality to a laptop or desktop. It’s expensive and does have some issues, but for the speed and range provided by the tech, I can’t complain too much.


Wifi Adapters For Gaming: Buying Guide

Choosing a Wifi adapter isn’t too tricky, especially since most of them tend to be of roughly the same quality, with the only real difference being in the theoretical cap for data rates. So, in that vein, let me cover a couple of things you should be paying attention to when you decide to purchase a wifi adapter

Frequency Band

Frequency bands are mostly radio frequencies. As you can imagine, there are hundreds of frequencies and all are used for different things, from 5G internet, Emergency Channels, and even military specific bands. For Wifi, there are two bands set aside: 2.4Ghz and 5.0Ghz

U-Link and USB Wifi adapter

Initially, there was only the 2.4Ghz frequency band, but as data rates started becoming faster and the radio waves became more saturated with 2.4Ghz devices, it was decided that 5Ghz would be set aside for Wifi as well. With 5 GHz you generally get faster maximum speeds and more stable connections because there aren’t as many 5Ghz devices out there (although that’s undoubtedly going to change in the next few years).

As for what this all means to you, well ideally you want to look for a 5Ghz device or a device that is dual-band with 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz. If you get a good dual-band router, the adapter will usually combine both speeds into one, so you can get a higher theoretical rate than if you used each one individually.

Data Rates

Data Rates are basically just the speeds you can potentially get with a wifi adapter (or any similar device). The thing to keep in mind is that you won’t necessarily get the number that’s written on the box, and frequently the reality is probably closer to 30%-50%, depending on the adapter. This might seem like a cheap trick to sell a product and well . . . it both is and isn’t, it’s just a marketing gimmick like anything else.

Dongle Wireless Adapter

All that being said, don’t let it bother you too much. Most people don’t get internet speeds that high in the first place, so even though it’s only a percentage of the theoretical cap, it’s still probably going to be more than most people will use. Either way, just make sure the real-life speeds are close to what you need.


Frequently Asked Questions

What does the WiFi adapter do?

A Wifi adapter ‘adapts’ a computer to Wifi if it doesn’t have any. Basically, it allows you to add Wifi to your device if the device itself doesn’t have any internal Wifi capabilities, which is the case with a lot of older and cheap laptops, as well as mid to low-end desktops (or the motherboards that come inside them anyway).

It can also replace Wifi that exists on a computer. That might not sound smart, but it makes sense of the onboard Wifi is terrible and you want something better.

Ralink Rt3572 Dual-Band 600Mbps Wireless Usb Wifi Adapter

Do I need a WiFi adapter?

If your laptop doesn’t have Wifi and you don’t want to stretch a long cable to it, then yes. Similarly, just as I mentioned above, a lot of desktops don’t come with Wifi capability, so you’re likely going to have to get some form of Wifi Adapter if you want to use it remotely or without an ethernet cable.

Are WiFi cards better than USB?

To an extent yes, although it depends a lot on the specific products. More specifically, a PCIe card will be able to offer better and more stable maximum speeds than a USB device will, but that doesn’t mean that all PCIe cards are better than USBs. If you want to get the highest speeds, ranges, and connections, a PCIe Wifi adapter is the way you’ll want to go.

In case you have no idea what you need, you should first learn what is a good internet speed for gaming. Then, if you aren't satisfied, look for a solution.


Conclusion

As you can see, while Wifi adapters do have their issues, from the misleading numbers to the large sizes, they can add a lot of value to your setup. You might also be interested in checking out our guide on the best wireless routers for gaming. Hopefully, I’ve given you the tools and suggestions to pick the right product for you. Either way, good luck!


Sources:

  1. How to Improve the Wi-Fi Performance of Your Windows Laptop with a USB Adapter, Linksys
  2. Dominic Acito, Benefits of Using a USB WiFi Adapter, IT Toolbox

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Matthew Lyons
Written by Matthew Lyons

Matthew comes from Texas and if you asked anyone who knows Matthew to describe him using one single word – they would all say the same thing: passionate What is Matthew most passionate about? Shooting.🎯 In the digital world, of course, not in the real one. Matthew played all sorts of different video games throughout the last 30 years, which is how long he has been gaming. All your questions regarding FPS titles will be answered by Matthew and you can rest assured that the answers have years of experience and research behind them.

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