Best Laptop WiFi Cards – 2021 Round-up (WiFi 6 and 6E Options)

Austin
| Last Updated: October 28, 2021

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Need help with a faulty WiFi card? Perhaps you’re dissatisfied with your laptop’s current connection and performance.

There’s a straightforward way to solve your problems.

In this guide, we look at the benefits of upgrading your laptop WiFi card, explain the different versions, and highlight the best products on the market for different needs and budgets.

Comparison of the Best Laptop WiFi Cards

IMAGEPRODUCT
  • Compatible with Windows 10 64-bit and Linux
  • Fast power transfer with Bluetooth 5.0 technology
  • Highlighted by a target wake time for increased longevity
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  • Highlighted by an Intel smart technology for better connectivity
  • Offers a data transfer rate of 867mbps
  • Improves WiFi at newer and older laptop models
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  • Best for the Money and Best 5GHz Wifi Card For Laptop
  • Highlighted by 64/128-bit WEP and AES encryption
  • Operating at both 2.4 GHz and 5.0 GHz
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  • Best 6E Laptop WiFi Card
  • Featuring a 24GHz system for spectacular connectivity
  • Offers an energy efficient low cost performance
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  • Best HP Laptop Wifi Card
  • Coming at an extremely affordable price
  • With a detailed instruction guide on easy installation
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  • Best Dual Band Wifi Card Laptop
  • Highlighted by a reliable dual band connectivity
  • Featuring a Bluetooth PCIe card for more stability
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  • Best Asus Laptop Wifi Card
  • Featuring two antennas for support efficient transmit/receive
  • Beginner friendly with a plug and play setup
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Why Did These Laptop WiFi Cards Make Our List?

Sometimes a product can be the best on paper, but that doesn’t make it right for your laptop. Throughout this review, it’s essential to consider these factors when it comes to suitability.

Bluetooth

Most WiFi cards have Bluetooth integrated. It can be useful to have this extra option for connectivity, so it’s worth checking to see if a card comes with this technology. The primary benefit of laptops is that they can be moved around, and connecting to devices wirelessly adds to that convenience.

The latest version is Bluetooth 5.2, which is what you’ll want to aim for to get the most advanced features. That includes optimized audio that requires less power and bandwidth and optimal received signal strength range. 

Installation

There are two elements to fitting your new laptop WiFi card. One is the physical installation, which will vary depending on how easy it is to get inside your laptop. However, it’s a relatively simple process that doesn’t require a significant amount of know-how. 

The second part is the driver installation. Many cards come with a handy QR code that you can scan before installation, so you know exactly which driver you need. On the other hand, if there aren’t instructions, you could lose some time making sure you have the right one.

Photo credit: ifixit.com

System Compatibility

Compatibility is the factor that could stop you from running out and buying the latest WiFi card. Whatever you buy needs to work with the other elements of your system. We’ll come to slot size in the next section, but there are other considerations.

A few crucial elements are whether the card works with Windows, Linux, or other operating systems. Plus, you want to find out if it’s compatible with 64bit. Some cards are meant for Intel CPUs, while others will work with AMD products. 

Card Size

Another critical factor is card size, which is often talked about in terms of the slot for the card.  You’ll see phrases like Key A, Key E, Key M, and Mini PCIe. You might also see the cards referred to as M.2.

Understanding the difference between these terms is useful, but most importantly, you need to know which connector you can use on your laptop. Some cards might work in more than one type of slot, which means you have some flexibility and could even transfer them to new laptops if you upgrade.

Review of the Best WiFi Cards for Laptops

Now you know the factors to keep in mind, it’s time to dig a little deeper. We find out what sets one card apart from the rest by looking at the specifications, advantages, and disadvantages of each product.

Best Overall:
OKN WiFi 6 AX200 802.11ax

PROS

  • Dual-band
  • Easy Install
  • Fast Connection
  • Works on Windows, Linux, and Chrome
  • Target Wake Time technology to reduce power consumption

CONS

  • Not compatible with mini PCIe slot

Specs 

Technology: WiFi 6

Bluetooth: 5.1

Driver: Scan QR code before replacing

Slot: NGFF M.2 Key A or E

Review

The key factor to highlight about this product is that it uses WiFi 6, a new version of the technology that is the fastest yet. However, it’s also important to note that it’s backward compatible, so you don’t necessarily need to have a WiFi 6 router to see a speed improvement.

It also has Bluetooth 5.1, which isn’t the latest but is still a faster version with a better range than 4.0. With the QR code to the driver, which you can scan before installation, it won’t take you long to get this card set up.

Bottom Line

If you want to upgrade your laptop WiFi card, this product will likely increase your speed for file transfers, gaming, and watching in 4k and 8k. There are other advantages, such as reduced power consumption. It’s not suitable for mini PCIe slots, though.

Runner-up and Fastest WiFi Card for Laptop:
Intel 7260.HMWG.R

Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 2x2 Network plus Bluetooth adapter (7260.HMWWB.R)

PROS

  • Easy to install in PCI slot on most laptops
  • Gives access to 5GHz band
  • Works on Windows, Linux, and Chrome
  • Stable connection
  • Faster option for older models

CONS

  • Automatic driver installation isn’t always the latest
  • Bluetooth 4.0 has a shorter range

Specs 

Technology: WiFi 5

Bluetooth: 4.0

Driver: Scan QR code before replacing

Slot: Mini PCI

Review

It’s an excellent option for laptops that have the PCI slot for the WiFi card. Although it doesn’t have the latest technology for Bluetooth or WiFi, you can see improvements in your speed and connectivity, especially in older or entry-level laptops.

It’s worth noting that you’ll need to install drivers for the WiFi and Bluetooth for both to function effectively. You’ll particularly benefit if your previous card only gave access to the 2.4GHz band, which is often more congested and slower. Some laptops might require you to use small tools to install this product.

Bottom Line

This product is a great option for older laptops and those with WiFi cards in the PCI slot. Since it works with three operating systems, it’s likely to be compatible with many systems. However, you won’t be benefitting from the latest technology when it comes to connectivity.

Best for the Money and Best 5GHz WiFi Card for Laptop:
NETELY’s Intel WiFi 6 AX200 NGW

PROS

  • Works on WiFi 6 and older networks
  • Excellent Blutetooth range
  • Steady WiFi connection
  • Significant increase in speed for most users
  • Compatible with Windows, Chrome, and Linux

CONS

  • Mini antenna installation is awkward
  • Some connection issues experienced by Linux users

Specs 

Technology: WiFi 6

Bluetooth: 5.1

Driver: Scan QR code before replacing

Slot: NGFF M.2 Key A or E

Review

This dual-channel WiFi card can work on 5Ghz or 2.4GHz. It’s backward compatible, which means even if you don’t have an ax or WiFi 6 router, you’ll experience improved connection speeds. Some users report a 200mbps jump when using the same ac router.

The Bluetooth version 5.1 is more advanced than much original equipment (OE) cards, which should increase your stability, speed, and range. However, installing these cards can be a little tricky, as attaching the mini antennas in a small workspace is challenging. Overall, it offers good value for money.

Bottom Line

It’s an affordable option for upgrading to WiFi 6 and Bluetooth 5.1 if you have an M.2 slot. Installation is a little awkward, but once complete, you’ll have improved speeds whether you have an ac or an ax router.

Best 6E Laptop WiFi Card:
OKN WiFi 6E AX210

WiFi 6E AX210 Expands Wi-Fi into 6GHz with BT 5.2 Tri-Band WiFi 6 Module for Laptop and Desktop Support Windows10 64bit

PROS

  • Latest WiFi technology
  • Up-to-date Bluetooth version
  • Tri-band
  • Faster speeds
  • Excellent wireless range

CONS

  • Only compatible with Windows 10 64bit
  • Several restarts needed after driver installation

Specs 

Technology: WiFi 6E

Bluetooth: 5.2

Driver: Scan QR code before replacing

Slot: NGFF M.2 Key A or E

Review

When it comes to getting the most up-to-date technology, this card would be the one you want. It has WiFi 6E, which was recently rolled out on several routers. While it’s the same version as WiFi 6, it includes the 6GHz bandwidth for even faster speeds.

The rest of your tech might not have caught up yet, but even before you upgrade your router, you’ll see connectivity and speed benefits for Bluetooth and WiFi. If you’re interested in future-proofing, it could be worth spending a bit more on this. For now, this card is only advertised as working with Windows 10.

Bottom Line

As a higher spec card, it has a bigger price tag than some of the other products in this review. However, with that comes better signal range and speeds that will significantly impact downloads, file transfers, and other activities. Since it’s new, you’ll probably need to head to the Intel website to find the specific drivers.

Best HP Laptop WiFi Card:
HP WiFi Card 640926-001

Wireless WiFi Card 640926-001 RTL8188CE 639967-001 For HP Pavilion Realtek G6

PROS

  • Compatible with certain HP models
  • Suitable for those who need a half-size card
  • Good coverage
  • Physical installation is easy
  • Stable connection

CONS

  • Driver installation not always straightforward
  • Limited compatibility

Specs

Technology: WiFi 4

Bluetooth: 4.0

Driver: Find online

Slot: Mini PCIe

Review

If you’ve got a specific HP model laptop, then you’ll need to find the right card to work around the BIOS whitelist. This Realtex product should be recognized by your device and help you improve the speeds and connectivity compared to your old card.

If you don’t need this particular card to work on your laptop, another product on the list would be better as it only has WiFi 4 and Bluetooth 4.0. There’s a small range of laptops that this card functions with, so make sure you check the model number carefully.

Bottom Line

If you’ve got a specific HP laptop where only this product will do, then it’s your best option. Be aware that you might need to look on the manufacturer’s website because there isn’t a QR code for the drivers on the card.

Best Dual Band WiFi Card Laptop:
Intel 3160 Dual Band

Intel 3160 Dual Band Wireless AC + Bluetooth Mini PCIe Card Supports 2.4 and 5.8Ghz B/G/N/AC Bands

PROS

  • Compatible with Windows 7, 8.1, and 10
  • Easy installation
  • Fits older laptop models
  • Stable connection
  • Dual-band

CONS

  • Range not as extensive

Specs

Technology: WiFi 5

Bluetooth: 4.0

Driver: Scan QR code before replacing

Slot: Mini PCIe

Review

In complete contrast to the card that has the latest of everything, this product has WiFi5 and Bluetooth 4.0. However, if you have an older laptop, or more importantly, one that runs on an older version of Windows, then you’ll be impressed. Many options aren’t compatible with those systems, but this one can still work and deliver faster speeds.

It’s also good news for those with Mini PCIe slots, which you’ll typically find on laptops that are a few years old now. The range isn’t as wide-reaching as some other cards, which is worth bearing in mind if you need to use your laptop far away from your router.

Bottom Line

It’s not the latest and the greatest, but it’ll work in older hardware with earlier versions of Windows. If you’re still using an n card, which came before ac or WiFi 5, then you’ll notice a speed change, and the Bluetooth will be a bonus.

Best ASUS Laptop WiFi Card:
AzureWave AW-CE123H

AzureWave AW-CE123H / 802.11ac/n/b/g + Bluetooth 4.0 / Half-Size PCI-Express MiniCard

PROS

  • Stable connection
  • Compatible with Windows 7, 8.1, and Mac OS X 10.6-10.14
  • Suitable for those who need a half-size card
  • Easy to install
  • Reliable range and speeds

CONS

  • Some issues with Windows 10 compatibility
  • Manually find most drivers

Specs

Technology: WiFi 5

Bluetooth: 4.0

Driver: Download from website

Slot: PCI

Review

What makes this card stand out is that there’s a version that’s compatible with Mac. It’ll work with older versions of Windows, too. In theory, it should be fine with Windows 10, but some users have experienced installation and functionality issues. The Bluetooth and WiFi aren’t the latest versions, but they can certainly give you a boost compared to the manufacturer’s original in older and entry-level laptops.

There’s no QR code on the card, so you’ll need to head to the manufacturer site if your laptop doesn’t automatically download the drivers. Although it’s called AzureWave, the company behind it is Broadcom, which makes it useful if you’re looking for an alternative to Intel.

Bottom Line

Overall, this product is a solid option for Mac and Windows users with older models and Mini PCIe slots that need a smaller card. You might need to get the driver link from the seller or Broadcom and be aware that some Windows 10 users experienced issues using the card.

Best Dell Laptop WiFi Card:
Dell 8TF1D

8TF1D - Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 WLAN WiFi 802.11 ac/a/b/g/n + Bluetooth 4.0 Half-Height Mini-PCI Express Card - 8TF1D

PROS

  • Compatible with Dell models
  • Suitable for those needing a half-size card
  • Dual-band
  • Improved signal
  • Easy to install

CONS

  • Not compatible with other models

Specs

Technology: WiFi 5

Bluetooth: 4.0

Driver: Scan QR code before replacing

Slot: Mini PCIe

Review

This card is like getting a direct replacement for an old Dell card direct from the manufacturer. What that means is you get the boosted speeds and the opportunity to use the 5GHz bandwidth, which is less congested. Plus, it has the bonus of Bluetooth.

For people with older Dell model laptops, it’s a great buy. Your Windows operating system will likely recognize the card and drivers, making the installation straightforward. It’s not a flexible product, as you need to be in the market for a half-size card for a Dell with a Mini PCIe slot.

Bottom Line

This product improves the coverage and speed of older Dell model laptops. If you have an ac router and want to make the most of the 5Ghz bandwidth, this card is a cost-effective way to upgrade. The installation requires a little time and patience before you’re ready to go

What is a Laptop WiFi Card, and How Do WiFi Cards Work? 

Laptops are convenient because you can take them with you and complete tasks from anywhere. Part of the appeal is being able to get online in different locations. To do that, you need a laptop WiFi card.

You’ll have the factory standard card on your laptop. However, if you experience problems with your connection, want to take advantage of the latest technologies, or improve your speed and Bluetooth connectivity, you can upgrade your card. It’s a common way for people who are a little tech-savvy to see an improvement in performance without spending a lot.

The card allows your laptop to send and receive a signal. Many have an antenna to connect to the WiFi and another which provides a Bluetooth connection, which allows you to pair with other devices. The card connects to a particular type of slot on your motherboard.

Photo credit: Cnet.com

Do I Need a WiFi Card?

Yes. If you want to use a wireless connection, then you’ll need a WiFi card. Most laptops produced in recent years will have one installed. However, you might need to replace a faulty one. If you’ve updated the drivers but are still experiencing slow speeds or dropped connections, it could be an issue with your card.

Another reason to buy a WiFi card is to improve your connections. Upgrading from the OE card could bring several benefits and save you money. If you buy an entry-level laptop or continue to use an older one, you can improve performance by replacing this element.

Perks of Getting a New Laptop WiFi Card

There are several reasons why you might want to upgrade your WiFi card. It will involve opening up your laptop and completing a quick but sometimes awkward installation. However, the benefits will soon have you convinced that you made the right choice.

Small Investment

Upgrading your WiFi card will cost you a fraction of what a new laptop would set you back. You can see improved performance, extend the use of your device, or make a basic model seem advanced with a simple and budget-friendly change.

WiFi and Bluetooth

If your laptop doesn’t already have Bluetooth, getting a new laptop WiFi card can bring you that perk as well as access to more advanced wireless technology. You could use it for file-sharing or to connect to a wireless keyboard, mouse, or headphones.

Photo credit: Modmy.com

Stability and Better Coverage

Newer cards usually have more advanced WiFi technology, which means your coverage should improve, as will the stability of your connection.

Improved Speeds

The most significant advantage is the improved speeds that you’ll see. Most upgrades give you access to the 5GHz and potentially the 6GHz bandwidths, which are less congested. They also used improved pathways that work with more advanced routers to make downloads faster.

Top Brands in the Laptop WiFi Card Space

If you’re buying a product, it’s worth knowing where it comes from and who makes it. In some cases, you can find a brand that you’re familiar with because they make other parts of your laptop, or it might come from the main manufacturer.

Intel

While you might see different brand names on cards, many of them will also say Intel because they are the manufacturer. It’s a well-known name in technology. In fact, when it comes to motherboards or central processing units, your primary choice is between Intel and AMD.

It’s not surprising to find that Intel does an excellent job making WiFi cards that are compatible with their other products. The company was founded in the 1960s by pioneers. It has been leading the way, using digital innovation, ever since.

Broadcom

Broadcom was also founded in the 1960s and is seen as a viable competitor for Intel. The company focuses on data communications, fiber optics, WiFi chips, and many more products.

The global infrastructure includes various other groups and companies that specialize in artificial intelligence (AI) and other areas.

Netely and Killer

Photo credit: Digitaladvisor.com

You can still find Killer brand cards, and it’s a well-known name for WiFi cards. However, Intel acquired the company, so we won’t provide a separate profile on those products. Another familiar brand that pops up is Netely, which has made it onto our list. 

It’s a smaller company that started in 2015. Their main focus is WiFi cards and adapters of various types. 

Laptop WiFi Card Types

As with many technologies, you might feel like you need to learn a new language to understand WiFi cards. Throughout this review, we’ve differentiated the Laptop WiFi cards to help you with your decision. Now it’s time to explore what those types or versions mean.

WiFi 5

You might have guessed from the sequence of numbers that these are different versions of WiFi technology. As new and improved versions of wireless technology are released, they get labeled with new numbers to help describe the products. 

WiFi 5 is an older version but is often an improvement for many laptops as it gives access to the 5GHz bandwidth, not just the 2.4GHz. You might also see it referred to as an ac connection.

OKN WiFi 6 AX200 802.11ax

WiFi 6

This version came after WiFi 5. It includes the two bandwidth options, 2.4GHz and 5GHz, and also provides improved pathways and connectivity. Typically, that means significantly faster speeds and improved coverage. It’s also known as an ax connection.

WiFi 6E

WiFi 6E isn’t a new version but is used to describe an enhancement of the existing WiFi 6. 

These cards and routers add a third bandwidth at 6GHz. Once again, that alleviates congestion and provides improved range and speeds.

Bluetooth Dongle vs Card - Which is Better?

There are two main ways a laptop can connect to a wireless connection. One is through a card, and the other is via a dongle. Here, we break down the similarities and differences.

Dongle

These devices are external parts that you can use to achieve connectivity. They usually plug in via a USB port on the outside of your laptop. Some have a small antenna to receive a WiFi signal, and others double up and provide Bluetooth connectivity. 

You might use one if you already have a WiFi laptop card and only want Bluetooth. It gives you the option to use a wireless mouse and keyboard, which can be more convenient than your trackpad and laptop keys. That could make it cheaper and easier than replacing the whole laptop card.

The downside of a dongle is that it’s external. It takes up extra space and will need to be removed when you're changing locations as it could easily snap or damage the port.

Photo credit: Technize.com

Card

A card is a more permanent solution to a WiFi and Bluetooth problem. You might consider changing your card even if you already have WiFi but want to get Bluetooth. That’s because there are advantages to upgrading for both types of connectivity.

Although they take more effort to install, once they’re in, laptop WiFi cards sit safely inside and don’t need another thought. For that reason, they’re often more durable and can deliver better speeds and ranges than dongles. The cost of the products is about the same. However, you might pay slightly more for a card.

Price Points of Laptop WiFi Cards 

We’ve talked about these products as budget-friendly options. Now it’s time to explore how much of an investment laptop WiFi cards are.

$15 - $20

There isn’t a huge variety in the cost of a laptop WiFi card. However, there are a few factors that will impact whether a product sits in the lower price bracket or a slightly higher one. You can find WiFi 5 and WiFi 6 cards in this range. They usually won’t have the latest technology for Bluetooth and won’t have WiFi 6e. However, you can get good quality products that significantly improve your speeds and are compatible with many models.

$20 - $40

There are usually two reasons for a product to fall into the higher price bracket. One is that it has the latest technology, meaning Bluetooth 5.2 and WiFi 6e, which give you the fastest speeds and better ranges. 

The other category is cards that are a bit more specialized. That usually means they’ll work with a Mac, older laptop models, or earlier versions of Windows. These cards usually use a PCIe slot instead of the M.2.

Photo credit: Techadvisor.co.uk

Who Should Not Buy a Laptop WiFi Card?

There are a few situations where a laptop WiFi card might not be the best solution for you. We set out some scenarios to help you save time and money.

Laptop Not Suitable For Upgrade

There are some makes and models that aren’t suitable for an upgraded card. That could be because it’s challenging to find a part that fits the slot, as can often be the case with Macs. On the other hand, others have been built by the manufacturers so that they’re difficult to adapt and modify.

These laptops will have a BIOS whitelist, which will restrict any replacements that take you away from the manufacturer’s brand. In this case, when you restart, you might not be able to continue until you disconnect the new card. Otherwise, you might lose the connection until you put the original back in. 

Functionality is Already at Peak

If your current card and router are working at the fastest speed that you can take advantage of, then there’s no need to replace your card. If you already have WiFi 6 and an excellent Bluetooth connection, and your router doesn’t support WiFi 6e, there’s little point in upgrading for the time being.

Photo credit: Linustechtips.com

Out of Your Comfort Zone

Changing your laptop WiFi card involves opening up your computer. Some have easy access panels. Most of the time, it’ll be a tricky task that involves a small screwdriver and little screws and wires. All of that needs to be done in a fairly confined working space. 

If you don’t feel comfortable, you can find excellent tutorials. However, if the time, effort, and the risk of doing something wrong seem significant to you, then it might not be worth it. 

Conclusion

Upgrading your laptop WiFi card can have many benefits. There are plenty of affordable products out there that’ll increase your coverage and speeds while giving you brilliant Bluetooth connectivity. With a little time and effort, you can install one yourself and see improved performance immediately.

People Also Ask

Looking to purchase, replace, or install a new card and not sure where to start? The answers to these frequently asked questions will guide you.

Does My Laptop Have a WiFi Card?

Most laptops produced in the last seven to 10 years have a card. You may have an older model without one. You can check the network adapters listed in your device manager or for an icon labeled wireless network connection.

How Can I Tell Which Laptop WiFi Card I Have?

You can look up the details of your WiFi card in the device manager in the network adapters list. Alternatively, you can check your settings to view your connections, adapter options, attributes, and descriptions. 

Can a Laptop WiFi Card Go Bad?

Yes. You might have issues with the drivers on your laptop or with the card itself. As with all hardware, time and use can cause physical connections to fail. That could stop it from communicating with your software or prevent it from connecting to your router.

How Hard Is It To Replace My Laptop WiFi Card?

Replacing a laptop WiFi card requires some time, effort, patience, and a little knowledge. With the right tools,  it won’t take more than 15 minutes if you follow clear instructions. You’ll need to open the back panel of your laptop to access the inside. 

Many cards are screwed in, and some have wires attached, so you’ll need to place the card carefully. You’ll also need some time to install the correct drivers before you remove the old card. 

Photo credit: tipsmake.com

What is WiFi 2?

WiFi 2 can show up on your laptop as a network name when there are duplications or conflicting network protocols. WiFi 2 can also refer to the earlier version of WiFi that improved on the speeds of WiFi 1.

How to Check if a WiFi Card in a Laptop is Working

There are several steps you can take to test your laptop card. First, you can see if it’s detected and listed by your device manager. You can also look for a connection through the network adapter section on the control panel menu. Finally, you can run a command prompt by writing ‘ping’ followed by a space and a website in the command prompt application to see if it sends.

Where is the WiFi Card in a Laptop?

It’ll vary by the laptop make and model and the slot that your card is in. However, most WiFi cards are on the motherboard inside your laptop, which you can access through the back panel. You might need to remove some screws to open it. It’ll usually have two wires attached to it, a black one and a white one. 

Can Any WiFi Card Work With My Laptop?

No. You’ll need a card that is the right size. There are full-size and half-size versions, so it’s best to read up on what your laptop model already has. You’ll want to match the size and the slot type to the existing one, but upgrade the WiFi technology. You might also have issues with a card from a different manufacturer if your laptop has a BIOS whitelist.

Can You Put a Laptop WiFi Card in a Desktop?

Not without an extra kit. Desktops have PCI or PCIe slots, which are a different size to the Mini PCI and PCIe that can be used for laptop WiFi cards. You would need an adapter, but buying a suitable desktop card is more cost-effective.



Austin

When the tech company I worked for restructured and I ended up jobless, I decided to put the wealth of knowledge and management skills to use somewhere new. I’d checked out a few buyer’s guides on the site in the past and reached out to the previous owner. A few months later, here we are. Now, I get to be behind the scenes, helping people find the best tech.