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Best USB Wi-Fi Adapter 2024

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The best USB Wi-Fi adapters can fill the gap when you need to connect your laptop or desktop PC to a wireless router. Despite most laptops and PCs being equipped with built-in Wi-Fi or network cards, these aren’t always reliable, so a USB Wi-Fi adapter can be an affordable alternative to ensure you stay connected.

TL;DR – These are the Best USB Wi-Fi Adapters:

Whether you’re looking for a budget-friendly Wi-Fi adapter that can serve your needs, or a premium option with the latest tech, there are plenty of options to choose from when you need to get online quickly.

Best USB Wi-Fi Adapters

1. Netgear Nighthawk A8000

Best USB Wi-Fi Adapter

Netgear Nighthawk A8000

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Tri-band USB Wi-Fi adapter with excellent performance

Wi-Fi Technology: Tri-band 802.11ax | Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz | Signal rate: 600Mbps (2.4GHz), 1,200Mbps (5GHz), 1,200Mbps (6GHz)

Pros:

Excellent performanceVersatile design

Cons:

If you want to connect your PC or laptop to the latest Wi-Fi standard, the Netgear Nighthawk A8000 supports Wi-Fi 6E straight out of the box. With additional support for USB 3.0, this Wi-Fi adapter ensures the fastest connection to your computer, and can achieve speeds of up to 1,200Mbps on the 5GHz and 6GHz bands.

The extendable antenna and USB dock offer plenty of versatility, allowing you to position the antenna correctly to achieve the best signal. If you need something accessible that’s easy to use and doesn’t require you to install a Wi-Fi card, then this is one of the best options on the market today.

2. TP-Link Archer T3U Plus

Best Budget USB Wi-Fi Adapter

TP-Link Archer T3U Plus

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Get affordable dual-band WiFi functionality in an ultra-portable device.

Wi-Fi Technology: Dual-band 802.11ac | Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz | Signal rate: 400Mbps (2.4GHz), 867Mbps (5GHz)

Pros:

Very affordableEasy to position

Cons:

If base Wi-Fi functionality is all you need, and you want to save cash, this TP-Link Archer T3U Plus adapter is for you. As small as a thumb drive (with an adjustable antenna), this is an extremely portable, inexpensive option.

As far as reception and speed go, it supports dual-band AC wireless, and you’ll have up to 400Mbps with 2.4GHz connections, and up to 867Mbps with 5GHz connections.

3. TP-Link N150 USB WiFi Adapter (TL-WN725N)

Best Ultra Cheap USB Wi-Fi Adapter

TP-Link N150 TL-WN725N

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An ultra-cheap, super compact WiFi adapter that only supports 2.4GHz 802.11n connections up to 150Mbps.

Wi-Fi Technology: 802.11n | Frequency: 2.4GHz | Signal rate: 150Mbps

Pros:

One of the cheapest optionsPocket-sized

Cons:

If you must get the absolute cheapest, tiniest option, this one is for you. While it only supports 2.4GHz 802.11n connections up to 150Mbps, this tiny USB nub will get you going, and since it doesn’t protrude far, you can leave it in your USB port all the time.

While this speed might seem slight, compared to some of the other adapters on this list, it is still plenty for general use. Whether streaming HD or 4K HDR video (or Netflix’s small 25Mbps requirement), this one will get you where you need to go.

4. Asus USB-AX56

Best USB Wi-Fi Adapter For Gaming

Asus USB-AX56

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Beamforming, MU-MIMO technology, and a built-in antenna come with this dual band option that offers 1201 Mbps on the 5GHz band.

Wi-Fi Technology: Dual-band 802.11ax | Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz | Signal rate: 574Mbps (2.4GHz), 1,201Mbps (5GHz)

Pros:

Cons:

Antennas are a little intrusive

When gaming using Wi-Fi, whether you’re actually playing online or just downloading games, it’s essential to have a solid, speedy connection. The Asus USB-AX56 ​​is a simple plug-and-play solution ready to deliver WiFi 6 support if your device is lacking in that area. The adapter uses a USB 3.2 Gen1 interface and two stylish built-in antennae for a better connection, or use the extension cable and cradle to place the adapter in an ideal position for the strongest signal.

Once you’ve got the Asus USB-AX56 setup, you’ll enjoy dual-band Wi-Fi with a 2.4GHz band offering 574 Mbps, while you hit the fastest speeds of 1201 Mbps on the reliable, ideal-for-gaming 5GHz band. Beamforming and MU-MIMO technology are also included for a more efficient connection. And all of this is packed into a compact, easy-to-use device.

5. Netgear Nighthawk AXE3000

Fastest USB Wi-Fi adapter

Netgear Nighthawk AXE3000

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Go for speed on this triband WiFI 6E adapter with MU-MIMO, OFDMA, beamforming, and WPA3 security.

Wi-Fi Technology: Tri-band 802.11ax | Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz | Signal rate: 600Mbps (2.4GHz), 1,200Mbps (5GHz), 1,200Mbps (6GHz)

Pros:

Cons:

Just because your PC lacks a built-in Wi-Fi card doesn’t mean you need to lose access to high-bandwidth networking. The Netgear Nighthawk AXE3000 provides stunning speeds whether you opt to connect over its 2.4GHz band or jump to the 5GHz or 6GHz band. That’s right: this is a tri-band Wi-Fi adapter. However, you’ll only be able to make use of that 6GHz band if you’ve got a Wi-Fi 6E router. It doesn’t stop there, as this adapter also uses MU-MIMO, OFDMA, beamforming, and WPA3 security for a great online experience.

The Netgear Nighthawk AXE3000 is a compact little number that slots directly into your computer’s USB port and has a flip-up antenna for a better signal. If you want to position the adapter to receive the best signal reception, it also comes with a small cradle and a longer USB cable. Once connected, the 2.4GHz network can reach a speed of 600Mbps, which is plenty for what most of us do on our computers. The 5GHz and 6GHz networks go even faster at up to 1,200Mbps, and that’s great for gaming and 4K or even 8K streaming, should your ISP and router be able to hit those speeds.

6. TP-Link Archer T4U Plus

Good Balance of Power to Price

Archer T4U Plus

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Combining affordability and functionality, you’ll get a 400Mbps 2.4GHz and 867Mbps 5GHz connection and a three-foot-long cable to find the best reception.

Wi-Fi Technology: Dual-band 802.11ac | Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz | Signal rate: 400Mbps (2.4GHz), 867Mbps (5GHz)

Pros:

Cons:

While this adapter may not reach the dizzying heights of speed that some of the others on this list can, it’s a fantastic middle-ground for those who want to strike a good balance between performance and price. Plug the 3 ft. long cable from the base station into your USB 3.0 port and place it where you’ll get the best reception.

With a 400Mbps 2.4GHz connection and an 867Mbps 5GHz connection available in this dual-band adapter, you’ll have all the speed you need for most activities, whether streaming, gaming, or whatever else you like.

7. Netgear AC1200

Best Dual-Band USB Wi-Fi Adapter

Netgear AC1200 Wi-Fi Adapter

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An affordable Wi-Fi adapter with a versatile antenna

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

Pros:

Reliable brandDifferent USB options

Cons:

If you want a simple dual-band Wi-Fi adapter that’s affordable and reliable, the Netgear AC1200 is a solid choice. With speeds of up to 1,200Mbps across both bands, you can easily stream your favorite movies, or play online games without any trouble.

The versatile cradle allows for easy placement, and the flippable antenna lets you get the best signal available. Small and compact, this Wi-Fi adapter can easily be carried around in your bag or pocket, so you can access it whenever you need it. It’s an ideal travel companion.

8. Netgear A6150 AC1200 WiFi USB Adapter

Best Compact USB Wi-Fi Adapter

Netgear A6150 AC1200

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Get dual-band connectivity on a compact device that supports beamforming and MU-MIMO connections.

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

Pros:

Incredibly smallMU-MIMO and beamforming

Cons:

Not suitable for long-range use

Just because an adapter is small, doesn’t mean it’s weak. Netgear’s A6150 AC1200 Wi-Fi USB Adapter is about as small as they come, at just 5 grams. It supports dual-band connectivity, letting you hop onto either 2.4GHz (300Mbps) or 5GHz (867Mbps) Wi-Fi networks, and it even supports beamforming and MU-MIMO connections.

While the tiny size of this adapter means you can leave it in your USB port all the time, and it is incredibly portable, not having an antenna means it suffers when you are very far from your router, so keep that in mind when thinking about buying.

9. MSI AXE5400

Best Wi-Fi 6 USB Adapter

MSI AXE5400

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Powerful gaming tri-band Wi-Fi adapter

Wi-Fi Technology: Tri-band 802.11ax | Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz | Signal rate: 574Mbps (2.4GHz), 2,402Mbps (5GHz), 2,402Mbps (6GHz)

Pros:

Fast speedsCompact design

Cons:

MU-MIMO, beamforming, and high-gain tri-band antennas make the MSI AXE5400 one of the most powerful Wi-Fi 6 USB adapters on the market. With speeds of up to 2,402Mbps, this is suitable for streaming, gaming, and really anything you throw at it.

This USB Wi-Fi adapter comes with a handy cradle to set up and store the adapter in. When plugged in, it’s small, compact, and delivers exceptional speeds. And while it might be designed for Windows systems only, if you have a Windows-based laptop or PC, you won’t regret invest in the MSI AXE5400.

10. Alfa AC1900 WiFi Adapter

Best Long Range Wi-Fi USB Adapter

Alfa AC1900 WiFi Adapter

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Extend the range of your device and add WiFi connectivity with this dual band option offering combined speeds of 1,900Mbps.

Wi-Fi Technology: Dual-band 802.11ac | Frequency: 2.4GHz, 5GHz | Signal rate: 600Mbps (2.4GHz), 1,300Mbps (5GHz)

Pros:

Cons:

Maybe your device lacks Wi-Fi, or it’s just struggling to connect to your network that’s slightly out of reach. Either situation can be remedied with the Alfa AC1900 WiFi Adapter. It not only brings Wi-Fi functionality but also reaches a longer range than many Wi-Fi cards thanks to the four 5dBi external antennas. You’ll experience fewer dead zones and better speeds, acting like a reverse Wi-Fi extender.

The Alfa AC1900 WiFi Adapter offers dual bands and a USB 3.0 connection, with the 2.4GHz band hitting speeds up to 600Mbps and the 5GHz band managing up to 1,300Mbps. That means you can download, stream, and game to your heart’s desire without the worry of bad connectivity slowing you down—as long as your mesh router and ISP can keep up.

Upcoming USB Wi-Fi Adapters

With Wi-Fi 7 being the latest Wi-Fi standard, based on 802.11be technology, we can expect newer USB Wi-Fi adapters to be released in order to cater to the latest standard. Wi-Fi 7 covers the 2.4GHz, 5GHz, and 6GHz bands, designed to offer higher throughput, lower latency, and greater reliability.

How to Pick the Best USB Wi-Fi Adapter

Choosing the best USB Wi-Fi adapter can make a significant difference in your wireless internet experience. Whether you’re looking to upgrade an older computer’s connectivity or seeking better performance for gaming or streaming, a USB Wi-Fi adapter can be an affordable way to get connected.

Before you start looking at what’s available, first identify why you need a USB Wi-Fi adapter. Is it for casual browsing, online gaming, streaming, or perhaps for connecting to a long-range network? Once you’ve nailed this aspect down, you’ll need to check what Wi-Fi bands your router offers, and your ISP’s maximum speed. There’s no point in getting a USB- Wi-Fi adapter with Wi-Fi 6e support if you can’t make the most out of it. But, if there’s little difference in price, it’s worth getting something that’s future-proof.

Some USB Wi-Fi adapters come with external antennas, while others have internal ones. External antennas generally offer better range and signal strength compared to internal ones. If you need a stronger and more stable connection, consider an adapter with external antennas. On this note, however, if you’re using a laptop or frequently on the move, you might want to consider a compact and portable USB Wi-Fi adapter. However, keep in mind that smaller adapters might not have as powerful antennas as larger ones.

Some adapters come with extra features like USB extenders, beamforming technology, or MU-MIMO support. While these features can enhance performance, they might also increase the price. Decide if these additional features are essential for your usage or if you can do without them.

FAQs

What Does a USB Wi-Fi Adapter Do?

A USB Wi-Fi adapter is a wireless network card that offers more portability since it connects to your computer or laptop via a USB port. If you don’t have an internal wireless network card or want a more affordable option, a USB Wi-Fi adapter is a great alternative.

Can You Connect to Wi-Fi Without a Wi-Fi Adapter?

If you don’t have a Wi-Fi adapter, you can connect your laptop or computer to a Wi-Fi network using your smartphone’s built-in tethering feature. However, this may not be as reliable as a dedicated Wi-Fi adapter.

How Fast Are USB Wi-Fi Adapters?

Some USB Wi-Fi adapters like the MSI AXE5400 can reach speeds of up to 2,402Mbps. However, in real-world testing this is often less due to environmental factors, like how far you are from the router, device, etc.

USB WiFi Adapters vs PCIe WiFi Adapters
USB WiFi adapters and PCIe WiFi adapters are different to one another, and can serve different purposes.

A USB WiFi adapter can be plugged into your PC or laptop and contain a small Wi-Fi network chip, often with antennas. They are easy to use, don’t require any drivers, and are for the most part, portable.

PCIe WiFi adapters, on the other hand, plug into the PCIe slot on your motherboard, much like a GPU would. They are far bigger than USB WiFi adapters, however, but do tend to offer better performance. Often featuring larger antennas, PCIe WiFi adapters are more reliable, holding Wi-Fi signal and providing faster speeds. This is especially useful for PC gaming, as you don’t want your connection to dropout when you’re in an online match.

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