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There’s nothing like a great desktop setup to take your gaming experience to the next level. However, there’s one huge snag that can bring it all crashing down around you - a poor WiFi connection!
Thankfully, the answer is no! WiFi adapters for gaming do exist and can make your life significantly easier. We have gathered our top selections for the best WiFi adapters for gaming out there, so you can get the absolute most out of your desktop gaming experience.
Comparison of the Best WiFi Adapters For Gaming
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What Makes a WiFi Adapter Great for Gaming?
While there are many WiFi adapters out there on the market, what makes a WiFi adapter great for gaming specifically? All wireless adapters are not created equally, with many benefits and features available to choose from. Let’s take a look at what makes some models better for your gaming experience than others.
You’ll notice that with each WiFi adapter comes a data transfer rate or WiFi speed. When it comes to which WiFi adapter is best for gaming, investing in a dual-band product is most ideal. Dual-band WiFi adapters will operate on a frequency of 2.4 and 5 GHz, with the data transfer speed increasing on the higher frequency level. While 2.4 GHz is perfect for browsing the internet and answering emails, 5 GHz is most ideal for gaming and streaming HD media.
When using a WiFi adapter for gaming, you must purchase one that supports at least the 802.11ac WiFi standard, also known as WiFi 5. WiFi 5 has filled the majority of the gaming market, with WiFi 6 (802.11ax) beginning to take hold. For top-quality gaming connections, WiFi 6 is preferred. However, not all WiFi adapters support it, and your laptop or PC may not possess it. You can check if your PC has WiFi 5 or 6 by checking beside the WiFi icon at the top of your screen.
Multiple Form Factors
When it comes to WiFi adapters, you’ll be presented with two options: the USB adapter and the PCI-E. Luckily, both of these options have their benefits for gaming. A USB WiFi adapter gives you the convenience factor and does not need any power supply other than your computer's USB port. While a PCI-E WiFi adapter is slightly less convenient, it is, in most cases, your best option for maintaining maximum speed and connectivity, making it a perfect match for gaming.
No matter how many incredible features your adapter has, it won’t make much of a difference if it will only cast a meter or two! In all likeliness, your WiFi router isn’t directly beside your gaming computer, making coverage a major factor when it comes to your WiFi adapter. All of our adapters that we’ve featured offer coverage from at least several yards away, making them perfect for gaming no matter what your PC or laptop is in your household.
Review of the Best WiFi Adapters for Gaming
Now that we’ve established what features make a WiFi adapter fantastic for gaming, we’re going to give you our picks for the top products on the market.
NET-DYN USB AC1200
Dimension: 3.5 x 1.2 x 0.5 inches
Weight: 13.61 grams
Data Transfer Rate: Up to 867Mbps
Operating System: Windows 10/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP/2000 - Mac OS 10.9/10.10/10.11
Frequency: 2.4-5 GHz
The NET-DYN USB AC1200 takes top place for the best WiFi adapter on the market. This product offers superior speeds at a 2.4 GHz frequency for simple tasks like emailing and web surfing while offering a fast and stable connection at 5 GHz for bandwidth-intensive applications like multiplayer gaming and HD video streaming.
NET-DYN's USB adapter offers an exceptionally easy setup for Windows 10 and supports a range of additional Windows and Mac OS versions. With a lifetime warranty and unlimited support, you truly cannot go wrong with the NET-DYN USB AC1200. The only possible downside? Unfortunately, this product does not offer Linux compatibility.
At the end of the day, we would strongly recommend the NET-DYN USB AC1200 as a powerful and reliable WiFi adapter. If you are fed up with your old modem or router, this USB adapter by NET-DYN is guaranteed to bring you faster speeds of up to 867Mbps at the 5 GHz setting.
Dimension: 8.3 x 2.24 x 10.9 in
Weight: 127 gms
Data Transfer Rate: 1000Mbps-2100Mbps
Operating System: Windows 10, 7 (32, 64 bit)
Next on the list, we have the ASUS PCE-AC88, a dual-band WiFi adapter with speeds up to 2100Mbps at a 5GHz frequency. This adapter is great for busy houses that use a large number of computers and devices while sharing the same internet connection.
The ASUS PCE-AC88 has 4x4 MU-MIMO technology which uses four antennas, allowing users to enjoy up to 60% faster Wi-Fi versus 3x3 adapters. This adapter also comes with a heatsink, giving non-stop operation by dissipating heat effectively, ensuring lag-free gaming and streaming experience.
The only apparent downside to the ASUS PCE-AC88 is that this adapter is only compatible with PCs and requires some hardware prerequisites to support the NitroQAM technology.
This powerful product is an ideal solution for households with a large number of computers all sharing the same internet connection - especially for those who have multiple gamers in the house! The inclusion of 1024-QAM is a powerful feature that allows the sending of pulses back and forth quickly, allowing more data to be transmitted, resulting in superior speed. However, It's important to note that this product is only compatible with PCs, so this is not a one-size-fits-all solution.
Best for the Money:
TP-Link AC1300 Archer T6E
Dimension: 4.76 x 4.74 x 0.85 in
Weight: 272 gms
Data Transfer Rate: 400-867 Mbps
Operating System: Windows 10/8. 1/ 8/ 7/ XP (32/64 bit)
Frequency: 2.4-5 GHz
Our next pick is the TP-Link AC1300. This product is a standard two-antenna internal wireless card that provides a fast speed and top-quality experience at an affordable price. This adapter is perfect for obtaining a speed of 400 Mbps when browsing the internet and sending emails or taking advantage of the 867 Mbps over 5GHz for lag-free online gameplay and HD video streaming.
The TP-Link AC1300 also features beamforming technology, increasing your signal strength by directing the device's signals, resulting in a fast and stable connection. This product offers heat sink technology, which directs heat away from its core components to improve reliability and performance. While the antenna built into this product cannot boost the network signal, the two included external antennas can.
This affordable adapter by TP-Link is superior in terms of price, speed, and performance, allowing for lag-free online gaming, HD video streaming, and web surfing experience. This product supports the newest Wi-Fi standard - IEEE 802.11ac, offering transfer rates that are three times faster than wireless N speeds. Providing a high-speed of up to 867 Mbps over 5GHz and 400 Mbps over 2.4GHz, this product includes everything you can ask for in a WiFi adapter for your gaming experience.
Best USB WiFi Adapter for Gaming:
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 A7000-10000S
Dimension: 4.7 x 1.8 x 0.87 inches
Weight: 2.24 Ounces
Data Transfer Rate: 600-1300 Megabits Per Second
Operating System: Microsoft Windows 7, 8, 10, (32/64 bit). Mac OS X 10.8.3 or later
Frequency: 2.4-5 GHz
The Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 is at the top of our list for our favorite USB WiFi adapter. USB adapters are ideal for those who are looking for the convenience of a completely portable adapter, offering a simple plug-and-play setup. The Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 allows you to enjoy the simplicity of a USB WiFi adapter without missing out on valuable features and lightning-fast speed.
Not only does this WiFi adapter feature speeds of up to 600 Mbps on a 2.4 GHz frequency and a whopping 1,300 Mbps on a 5 GHz frequency, but this router is also compatible with just about any router and 802.11ac network out there.
The main downside of this product is that this adapter is best suited for the less common USB 3.0 due to the power it requires.
If you’re looking for a product that is not only portable and simple to use but still allows you to enjoy all of the latest tech and superior speeds, then the Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 could be for you. This product allows speeds up to 1300 on a 5 GHz frequency, ensuring smooth gaming and HD video streaming performance. While a 3.0 USB port may be preferable for this product, it can still be used with the more common 2.0 USB port and is compatible with just about any router and 802.11ac network out there.
Best WiFi Adapter for PC Gaming:
Dimension: 11.2 x 2.4 x 8.4 inches
Weight: 1.3 Pounds
Data Transfer Rate: 600Mbit/s-1.3Gbit/s
Operating System: Windows 10 32bit/64bit, Windows 8.1 32bit/64bit, Windows 8 32bit/64bit, Windows 7 32bit/64bit, Windows Vista 32bit/64bit, Windows XP 32bit/64bit
Frequency: 2.4-5 GHz
If you’re looking for super-speedy wireless speed that cannot be bettered by generic WiFi adapters, then the ASUS PCE-AC68 is for you. This high-powered adapter by ASUS upgrades your desktop gaming system to an industry-leading 802.11ac at up to 1.3Gbps at 5 GHz. The ASUS PCE-AC68’s design delivers maximum flexibility by adjusting antenna placement to get the best signal reception quality possible, clearing up dead zones with 150% greater coverage.
The ASUS PCE-AC6 features a custom heatsink that dissipates heat for a more stable and reliable operation. While customers enjoy this high-powered adapter, it should be noted that the cable is relatively short and inflexible, which could limit your antenna base placement options.
With its speed, stability, and flexible positioning, the ASUS PCE-AC68 is our choice for the best WiFi adapter for PC gaming. At speeds of 600Mbit/s and 1.3Gbit/s depending on frequency, respectively, the ASUS PCE-AC68 is a force to be reckoned with and provides speeds that cannot be bettered by generic wireless adapters.
WiFi Adapter Terminology 101
If you’re not already familiar with it, WiFi adapter terminology can get a little confusing. In this section, we’ll take you through some of the common terms and phrases that you’ll come across when researching WiFi adapters.
What is MU-MIMO?
MU-MIMO stands for multi-user, multiple inputs, multiple outputs, which is a wireless technology supported by routers and endpoint devices. This technology was created to support environments where multiple users are looking to access the same wireless network at the same time and are often referred to as the 802.11ac protocol.
You’ll often see MU-MIMO variations in the form of 2x2, 3x3, or 4x4 variations when it comes to WiFi adapters. This refers to the number of streams created by the router, breaking up the connection so you can still access maximum speed.
What is Beamforming?
Beamforming refers to the radio wave technology that is written into the WiFi 802.11ac standard. A beamformer refers to the router, which transmits a radio signal in the direction of the client. A WiFi adapter that includes beamforming can create a faster and more reliable connection by doing so.
Do WLAN and WiFi Mean the Same Thing?
When researching a WiFi adapter, you will ideally see that it is supported by all WLAN routers. The term “WiFi” (wireless fidelity) and “WLAN” (wireless local area network) do mean the same thing. Both of these terms refer to a wireless network that can transfer data at high speeds. If all WLAN routers support an adapter, then you can be confident that your current WiFi router will suit the adapter just fine.
What is WPA/WPA2/WEP?
Your WiFi router will feature either WPA (Wireless Protected Access), WPA2 (Wireless Protected Access 2), or WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) security. When researching WiFi adapters, it’s important to make sure that the adapter is compatible with your router’s security. If a WiFi adapter states that all WLAN routers support it, you can be confident that they are compatible.
Types of Gaming WiFi Adapters
When searching for a WiFi adapter, you’ll come across different kinds, some of which are much more suitable for gaming than others. Let’s take a look at the different kinds of WiFi adapters for gaming:
A PCI-E adapter is often the most ideal solution for those who participate in hardcore gaming on a PC. A PCI-E adapter with a heatsink feature can cope with the immense amount of data it takes to participate in extended gaming sessions while keeping the heat flow away from the device.
PCI-E cards almost always offer greater speed than their USB counterparts. A PCI-E card is designed to fit into PCIe-based slots in the motherboard of devices, with the most recent PC motherboards containing PCI-E slots just for these cards.
While a USB adapter may not offer as much in terms of the super-fast data transfer rate of a PCI-E adapter, the adapters offer plenty of their own impressive features.
A USB adapter is your best choice if you are looking for a “plug and play” option, allowing you to simply carry around your USB adapter to whichever PC or laptop you choose to game on.
While your USB adapter will technically be limited to the speed of your USB, you can still achieve a decently fast and efficient WiFi signal with the help of USB 3.0, multi-directional antennas, and/or beamforming.
WiFi Adapter Comparisons
Confused about the difference between the different WiFi adapters? Let’s compare and contrast them to truly understand what makes them different.
USB 2.0 vs 3.0 for Gaming
When purchasing a USB WiFi adapter, it’s important to pay attention to whether the adapter is meant for use with USB 2.0 or USB 3.0. USB 2.0 was released in the year 2000 and is also known as Hi-Speed USB. This continues to be the most common USB standard on the market, offering a maximum data transfer rate of up to 480 Mbps.
Most high-end motherboards are now being replaced with USB 3.0, the third major version of the Universal Serial Bus, offering a data transfer rate of up to 5 Gbit/s. Judging by speed alone, there is truly no comparison between which is more powerful for gaming.
Both gaming and HD video streaming require a continuous output of a high amount of data, making the 10 times faster USB 3.0 the preferred option for gaming.
Internal Wireless Card vs External Wireless Adapter for Gaming
An internal wireless card (also known as a PCI/PCI-E wireless adapter) is a wireless network card that must be plugged into your motherboard, along with the installation of the correct hardware. An external wireless adapter (also known as a USB WiFi dongle) allows for a plug-and-play approach to your WiFi adapter. This means that you can simply plug your USB device into the front or the back of your PC, and your system will then be able to pick up the wireless signal from your WiFi router.
So, which is best for gaming? The simple answer is that both have their advantages and disadvantages. While a USB adapter is more inexpensive and certainly more convenient, it will not give the same super-fast data transfer speed as the PCI-E card, which is incredibly beneficial for gaming. An internal wireless card is also less likely to overheat when used for long gaming sessions.
Of course, you must make sure that you have a spare PCI Express slot inside your rig and make sure that there's enough room in your computer case if you choose to go this route.
Powerline Adapter vs WiFi Extender for Gaming
While powerline adapters and WiFi extenders work very differently, they are both designed to provide a more reliable internet connection over a longer distance. A powerline adapter requires two outlets and is plugged into the mains of your home, quite literally sending network data through the electric wiring of your home.
A WiFi extender is often strategically placed between your router and your PC to expand your network’s signal.
When it comes to which is better for your gaming experience, the powerline adapter generally takes the cake. While a WiFi extender works to extend the WiFi signal, you will experience significant degradation to your network speed with this product, with obstacles such as walls, ceilings, and furniture getting in the way.
Powerline adapters, however, are not affected by such obstacles, as they can convert the network data from your router and carry it through your electrical wiring to your PC. The speed of your powerline adapter will depend on the quality of your home’s electric wiring, so if this factor may be an issue in your household, a powerline adapter may not be for you. However, it is almost always the best choice for gaming due to its significantly faster speeds.
Top Brands in the WiFi Adapter Space
When it comes to top brands in the WiFi adaptor space, some stand out above the rest. Let’s take a look at the top brands circulating in the WiFi adapter space when it comes to gaming:
ASUSTek Computer Inc. (stylized as ASUSTeK or ASUS) is a multinational company headquartered in Beitou District, Taipei, Taiwan. If you’ve ever so much as shopped around for a laptop, PC, or mobile phone, then odds are, you’ve heard of this award-winning brand. Established in 1989, ASUS quickly became known for the launch of the EISA 486 motherboard, which subsequently became the most popular motherboard in the world.
Today, ASUS continues to focus on building next-generation smart technologies that enhance the lives of people everywhere. While ASUS is best known for its affordable laptops that allow for the most optimized performance with the lowest computer specifications. When it comes to WiFi adapters, ASUS focuses on providing top-speeds with the latest technology, offering USB 3.0 and WiFi 6.
Netgear, Inc. is a multinational computer networking company founded by Patrick Lo in 1996. Based in San Jose, California, Netgear has established offices in 25 other countries around the world. Beginning with their SOHO product like in Japan, Netgear launched 10 products in 1996 that helped shape the home networking market.
Since then, Netgear has focused on specializing in wireless devices that create WiFi networks, extended WiFi range, and created hotspots, with WiFi adapters being no exception. Netgear is constantly reinventing their products to bring their customers the best technology on the market and strive to release 12 new products every three months.
Price Points of WiFi Adapters
When searching for a WiFi adapter for gaming, you will notice that not every WiFi adapter is created equal - at least when it comes to price. Let’s take a look at some of the most common price points of WiFi adapters on the market today.
$10 - $25
While it is certainly possible to find many budget-friendly WiFi adapters on the market today at this price point, the vast majority of these products will be USB adapters. However, if a USB WiFi adapter is what you’re looking for, you can find several dual-band options for both USB 2.0 and USB 3.0.
Many of these adapters offer highly competitive data transfer rates and are compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems.
Products at this price point may prove to overheat if used for extended gaming sessions and have trouble with maintaining a consistently strong signal.
You’ll be able to find several quality WiFi adapters in this category, in the form of both USB and PCI-E.
When it comes to PCI-E WiFi adapters in this category, some customers have reported difficulties with crashes, installing software, and finding adapters that work well with their computers in general.
However, WiFi adapters in this price range will more often than not provide all of the quality features you need, including super-fast data transfer rates and signal stability.
WiFi adapters in this range are known for being the most reliable - of course, this isn’t always the case, with some fantastic budget-friendly options available. However, WiFi adapters at this price range not only boast the fastest data transfer rates and latest technology but provide long-term stability for those intense, long-term gaming sessions.
Products in this category are available in both USB and PCI-E. These products usually offer powerful internal and external antennas that include beamforming. Plus, PCI-E WiFi adapters in this category will always contain a heatsink feature that ensures that the adapter will not overheat with extended use.
We’ve covered our top choices for the best WiFi adapters out there when it comes to providing a fast and stable internet connection for your hardcore gaming sessions. In this article, we’ve discussed which features make a high-quality WiFi adapter for gaming, as well as covering the differences between the different types of WiFi adapters on the market.
At the end of the day, which WiFi adapter for you will heavily depend on your gaming setup and needs. We hope that this guide has helped narrow down those choices for you and provided you with the valuable information you need to make your decision!
People Also Ask
Are you still feeling a little lost when it comes to a WiFi adapter to fit your gaming needs, or are you just looking for more clarification if a WiFi adapter will work for you? Let’s take a look at some common questions that people also ask about WiFi adapters.
Are WiFi Adapters Good?
Yes! WiFi adapters are good for giving you a faster and more reliable connection to your available WiFi network, which is incredibly valuable during gaming sessions. Gaming sessions (especially those that run on for extended periods) use a great deal of data. WiFi adapters will help provide you with the fastest speeds possible while providing a consistently strong connection to your WiFi network.
Does a WiFi Adapter Affect Internet Speed?
A WiFi adapter may affect your internet speed, depending on the adapter you use. For example, a USB WiFi adapter overrides the computer's built-in wireless functionality, which gives you a faster and more reliable connection to your WiFi network through the USB port.
However, your internet speed will then either be limited to or enhanced to the speed of the USB port. The distance between your wireless adapter and router can negatively affect your internet speed if it’s too far away.
Will a Wireless Adapter Work With My Mac?
In most cases, a wireless adapter will work with a Mac OS. However, not all WiFi adapters are built to work with Mac, which is especially true in the case of PCI-E. It’s important to check both your Mac and your chosen WiFi adapter's specifications before using it.
Do I Need Dual-band Technology?
Dual-band technology is one of the main features that you should look for when purchasing a WiFi adapter for gaming. Single-band routers only support the 2.4GHz band, which is only ideal for answering emails, surfing the net, and downloading files. Dual-band routers contain a second 5.0GHz channel that is much more ideal for gaming and HD media streaming as it provides significantly faster wireless speeds.
What are Bottlenecks and How Do I Avoid Them?
A bottleneck occurs in a network when there are too many users attempting to access a specific resource or if a user is overloading the entire network by consuming too much bandwidth by itself. Using a WiFi adapter that is at least 5.0 GHz will help avoid bottlenecks by ensuring that your device can process data as quickly as possible without overloading your entire network.
Is 300mbps Fast Enough for Gaming?
While 300 Mbps is the minimum data transfer speed recommended for gaming, it is often not enough to deliver a super-fast, interruption-free gaming experience. Dual-band WiFi adapters exist, so you can achieve a much faster data transfer speed that will take your gaming experience to the next level.