Whether a person is looking to add wireless Internet connectivity to a computer that doesn’t have WiFi capabilities, or upgrade a substandard laptop with a better connection, USB WiFi Adapters are a great investment. These devices can improve connection rates, increase download speeds and make the overall connection more reliable. It’s not uncommon for people who thought they needed a new router to find out that a new wireless adapter fixed their connection problems.
Deciding to buy one of these devices is only half the battle, however. Once someone has decided that they need to buy an adapter to connect an offline computer or to improve an already connected computer with a better connection, they still have to find the best model. To help out with that task, we’ve listed ten models that we feel are the best ones currently available.
Best USB WiFi Adapters – Top List
10Wideland USB WiFi AC600
This USB dongle can connect to either 5 GHz networks with a maximum speed of 433 Mbps or to a 2.4 GHz network with a maximum speed of up to 150 Mbps. Because it’s capable of connecting to dual-band networks, it’s ideal for high definition video streaming of for gaming. This device has an indoor distance of approximately 100-meters and can be used with a variety of wireless security protocols including WEP, WPA and WPA2-PSK protocols in both 64-bit and 128-bit modes. It also supports WPS and is easy to set up using the drivers on its driver CD or downloaded off the Internet.
9Seojack 600Mbps Dual-Band Adapter
Equipped with the latest RTL8812BU chipset, this wireless adapter can connect even to weaker WiFi signals. This device can connect to both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz Internet networks, and can be used for both HD video streaming or for playing online games. This product is compatible with a wide range of computers including Windows XP through Windows 10 models and MAC OSX 10.13 through 10.7x machines. This unit comes with a driver CD, which makes installation a snap, and only takes a few moments to set up. It also comes with an antenna that screws into it and can be positioned in a number of different ways for the best WiFi reception.
8Wise Tiger Wireless N Adapter
Once this adapter’s software is installed and the unit is plugged in, then set up is quick and easy with this device. Once installed, this product can support 128-bit WPA standards and supports IV expansion, IEEE 802.1X and Shared Key Authentication. It works on all Windows systems and can support data rates of up to 300 Mbps. It can be used with 2.4 GHz wireless routers using 802.11b/g/n standards. This product is also equipped with a high-quality antenna that allows the adapter to pick up indoor WiFi signals from up to 100-meters away. All of these features make this adapter good for playing games or streaming HD videos.
7Net-Dyn Dual Band USB Adapter
Designed to provide the user with the speeds they need for streaming high definition movies or online gaming, this USB wireless adapter takes advantage of the 5 GHz radio band to deliver extremely fast speed. This unit also improves WiFi coverage and can pick up signals from up to 100-meters away. This adapter can be used with most WLAN routers and can support the WPA, WEP and WPA2 protocols. It’s also compatible with almost all Windows and MAC computers. If 5 GHz speeds aren’t available, this adapter can also be used to connect on the common 2.4 GHz WiFi band.
6Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Adapter
The Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 is designed to work with any wireless router and can be used in the 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band. This product can take advantage of the faster speeds of USB 3.0 and is a device that’s compatible with both Windows and MAC computers. It uses exclusive Beamforming + technology which increases this product’s range, reliability, and speed. This product comes with an installation CD, a quick start guide and a magnetic cradle with USB 3.0 cable that allows the unit to be placed in the best position for grabbing a WiFi signal. All of which makes this adapter useful for a variety of applications.
5Ambolove AC600 WiFi Dongle
With a multi-directional antenna that’s just a little bit under 7-inches long, this wireless USB adapter is capable of picking up even weak WiFi signals. Its 5 dBi antenna also increases the distance at which signals can be found, which gives the user the freedom they need to move around their home. Using dual-band technology, this adapter can be used with just about any router and is capable of picking up both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz signals. And since this device can be used with Linux, Windows and MAC machines, just about anyone can enjoy wireless freedom thanks to this convenient device.
4Panda Wireless PAU09 N600 Dual-Band
Although this device has an unconventional look that is reminiscent of the old rabbit ear antennas of the past, it’s equipped with a number of features which make it an extremely useful and reliable USB adapter. It works with both 2.4 and 5.0 GHz networks and has a maximum connection speed of up to 300 Mbps. It can be used on a variety of operating systems including Windows OS, Ubuntu 13.10 through 16.04 and CentOS 6.5 through 7.0. It also supports a number of security protocols which include WEP 64-bit and 128-bit, WPA, and WPA2 encryption. This product also comes with a stand and an installation CD.
3EDUP AC600 Dual-Band Adapter
Able to connect to wireless 802.11ac routers, which can deliver three times the speed of 802.11n routers, this adapter can stream HD video without any lag whatsoever. It can connect at 5.8 GHz with a speed of up to 433 Mbps and 2.4 GHz with a speed of up to 150 Mbps. This product also has an external high-gain 2 dBi Omni-directional antenna that can connect to even spotty or weak signals. Another positive feature which can be found on this adapter is that it can be installed in only a few moments and is covered by a lifetime warranty through the manufacturer.
2Inamax Wireless USB 3.0 Adapter
This WiFi dongle has a number of features which allows it to connect to the user’s router and deliver lightning-fast speeds. It takes advantage of the power of USB 3.0 ports, which deliver up to 10 times the transfer rates os USB 2.0 ports, and is able to connect with modern 802.11ac 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz routers. It’s also equipped with an ultra-powerful 5 dBi antenna which can pick up even weak signals. And since this product can be used with both Windows and Mac OS systems, and is backward compatible with 802.11 a/b/g/n routers just about anyone can take advantage of the speeds offered through this adapter.
1Blueshadow USB High-Gain Adapter
This USB WiFi adapter might be small, but it still manages to deliver incredibly fast Internet speeds. It can connect with a variety of different routers, including 802.11ac routers, and is compatible with both Windows and MAC computers. It can connect to a router with a maximum download speed of 433 Mbps on 5GHz bands, and up to 150 Mbps on 2.4 GHz bands. This allows for lag-free HD streaming and gaming every single time it’s used. To setup, all a user has to do is download and install this device’s drivers and it’s done. This device is small, powerful and can be taken just about anywhere.
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The USB WiFi Adapter Guide
Before you can go out and buy a USB wireless adapter, you have to understand some of the idioms which are used to describe them. Product descriptions for these devices are often jammed full of terminology which some people may not understand. With that in mind, we’ve decided to write this ultimate USB WiFi adapter guide to help users through the process.
The first number that you’ll notice when you start looking for wireless adapters is the 802.11 standard. This standard is how modern wireless adapters communicate with routers. After the 802.11standard designation is a letter such a g or n. Therefore, some listings will list a wireless adapter as having an 802.11g or 802.11n designation.
In 2007, the 802.11n was introduced, and it replaced the 802.11g standard which was introduced in 2003. The 802.11n standard was designed to have a theoretical download speed of 300 Mbps. I say theoretical because a variety of factors can affect the speed of an adapter, so it’s really just an estimate.
To avoid going into complicated details, I’ll say just one thing about this standard. The latest standard is the 802.11ac, and it has a theoretical speed of about 720 Mbps. Once again, this is only theoretical, and a lot of things can affect download speeds including network congestion, hardware conflicts and physical obstructions such as walls or floors. That always has to be considered.
Now, that we’ve talked about the last two latest standards, it’s time to mention the fact that these protocols are backward compatible and will work with older standards. For example, if a person’s adapter is 802.11ac, and their router uses 802.11g, then the adapter will connect to it, but it will do it at the slower speed. While there are still a lot of devices that use the 802.11n standard, the 802.11ac standard is better. Not only because it generates better speed but because it has a greater distance than the 802.11n standard.
The 2.4 GHz Versus 5 GHz
Nowadays, routers and wireless accessories use radio signals based on either the 2.4 GHz or 5.0 GHz frequencies. While these two terms are often indiscriminately printed all over the packaging of all kinds of different wireless devices, people often don’t understand their meaning.
5 GHz frequencies are faster than 2.4 GHz frequencies, but not every router operates at the 5.0 GHz frequency. This frequency is also less likely to have interference on it because most consumer devices are still operating in the 2.4 GHz range. However, 2.4 GHz frequencies travel further than 5.0 GHz ones. Why? Because shorter frequencies travel farther than higher frequencies.
So, which one is better? Well, that really depends on the needs of the user. Technically, 5.0 GHz offers less interference from other devices and supports higher download speeds, so if the user isn’t too far from the router and has a router that supports the 5.0 GHz frequency, then that’s the one to get. However, if the router only supports 2.4 GHz or the user is located far away from the router than 2.4 GHz is the way to go.
When buying a USB WiFi adapter, it’s important for the user to determine if the adapter is compatible with his or her personal computer. Most of the good adapters manufactured nowadays are capable of being used on Windows and MAC machines, but it’s always a good idea to check.
While it’s beyond the scope of this guide to explain electrical engineering, it is important to consider the strength of the antenna found on a prospective wireless adapter. This is a bit simplistic, but the strength of an antenna is usually expressed by the dBi value. For most home consumers, a larger dBi value usually equates to a greater range.
While most USB wireless dongles are plug-and-play compatible, which means they will be automatically set up by the computer, that isn’t the case with all of them. Some of these devices need to have drivers installed before they can be used. There are some devices which provide these drivers on a CD but others require the user to download the drivers off the Internet.
It’s also important that some of the devices which require drivers require that these drivers are installed before the unit is plugged into the computer. If this isn’t done, then these devices may not work properly or even work at all.
Additional USB Wireless Adapter Tips
Now that we’ve covered some of the basic terminology and how it pertains to purchasing a USB wireless adapter, it’s now time to check out a few additional things a person needs to consider before purchasing one of these devices.
Check for free USB ports—It’s important for a person to consider if they have a USB port available for their adapter. While it may seem like it would be obvious that you need a free USB port to plug in one of these adapters, it’s, unfortunately, something that’s often overlooked. If a user doesn’t have a free USB port, they can always consider buying a powered USB hub and plugging the rest of their devices into it to free up a port.
Consider dongle placement—Another thing prospective buyers need to consider is the position of the USB ports on their computer. On some computers, plugging a wireless adapter will take up two slots because the USB ports are positioned so close together. Also, many laptops place their USB ports on the side, so it may make the USB wireless dongle susceptible to getting hit or broken.
Consider a removable antenna—While some people will never need to buy an adapter with a larger antenna, some people may not be able to do without it. Larger antennas are necessary for individuals who need to get a little bit of extra range out of the wireless connection or if there are a lot of obstacles between the computer and the router.
While it may seem overwhelming or difficult for a person to find the right USB WiFi adapter for their particular needs, that doesn’t have to be the case. By taking a few moments to consider speed, features, compatibility and whether there’s a free USB port available, consumers can find a device that upgrades their Internet connection in ways they never thought were possible.