Have you ever been so close to finally clinching your first chicken dinner only for your WiFi to let you down at the last minute? Or it suddenly stopped working in the middle of an epic and intense battle at the Gulag? Most of us can relate to the excruciating pain that comes with lags and latency during gaming sessions.
The truth is, as gaming evolves rapidly and massively, to the point of streaming gameplays in HD, most networks will strain to a degree. Therefore, if you want lag-less gaming and the least possible latency, you certainly need the best Wi-Fi adapter for a smooth experience. Wi-Fi adapters supplement the built-in internet connections in your computer to ensure that you can seamlessly go about your gaming sessions.
Gaming on WiFi
Before we delve into the best WiFi adapter for gaming, it would be remiss of us not to walk you through gaming over a wireless network. For starters, if you have an ethernet cable, it would be best if you used it. Unlike a wireless connection, ethernet is not susceptible to as much interference and connectivity problems, translating to less latency and maximum speeds.
Despite the apparent downside, Wi-Fi is still very much a viable solution, especially when you pick the right wireless adapter. There are plenty of options to choose from, and finding your ideal fit can get somewhat overwhelming. As such, we have mustered 5 of the best wireless adapters for gaming, all providing solid internet connection and wide ranges.
The Best WiFi Adapter for Gaming
1. ASUS USB AC68 – Best Value
ASUS PCE-AC68 Dual-Band 3×3 AC1900 WiFi PCIe adapter with Heat Sink and External…
For the longest time, ASUS has been immensely committed to producing high-quality products for gamers. The brand certainly lives up to its reputation with the ASUS USB AC68 wireless adapter. It has a sturdy construction, for starters, including a custom heatsink that dissipates heat quite effectively for better signal stability and reliability.
This is a flagship 802.11ac (5th generation) adapter for gaming. It combines the technology with 802.11n-router input to twin to a powerful PCI Express card, plus huge amplified flexible antennae, all coming together to deliver the fastest possible speeds. On paper, it can produce speeds of up to 13000Mbit 802.11ac and 600Mbit 802.11n, thanks to the AC1900 rating. Furthermore, this is a dual-band wireless adapter capable of up to 1.30 Gbps speeds on the 5GHz band.
It also comes with TurboQAM technology, which further boosts the speeds without straining the adapter. It supports Beamforming, WEP, WPA, and WPA 2, ensuring that the user also gets top-level security.
2. TP-Link AC1300 USB – Best Portable
TP-Link AC1300 USB WiFi Adapter(Archer T3U)- 2.4G/5G Dual Band Wireless Network…
This adapter resembles a pen drive and it can be plugged into your gaming PC with ease while also taking up very little space. This is a great choice for a gamer on a budget looking for a portable WiFi adapter.
The TP-Link AC1300 USB features a high-speed dual-band router, delivering 867Mbps on the 5GHz band and 400 MBps on the 2.4GHz band. It’s a USB 3.0 Wi-Fi adapter, which gives you improved range without compromising the speeds. It also features MU-MIMO technology, ensuring the user doesn’t have to worry about a congested network.
This wireless adapter seems to work just as well on an old desktop computer; an aspect most users will certainly appreciate. Lastly, it is also worth mentioning that it has an LED indicator to let the user know it’s operating.
3. NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 – Best High-Speed
NETGEAR AC1900 Wi-Fi USB 3.0 Adapter for Desktop PC | Dual Band Wifi Stick for…
Netgear is undoubtedly one of the top brands when it comes to routers and wireless products. The Nighthawk AC1900 embodies the kind of exceptional quality that Netgear stands for to deliver the best WiFi adapter for gaming.
This is a small USB WiFi adapter that is quite straightforward to setup. However, the portable size shouldn’t fool anyone, as this device delivers optimal performance and sharpness. It’s a dual-band USB 3.0 adapter; 1300Mbps on 5GHz and 600Mbps on 2.4GHz. This translates to tremendous speeds, as well as faster connection to multiple networks.
The 3*4 MIMO Design on this wireless network adapter allows for more bandwidth when uploading or downloading data. It is also supported on multiple operating systems and is compatible with virtually all Wi-Fi routers. This is certainly a well-designed and built USB Wi-Fi adapter that offers plenty of value for its affordable price point.
4. TRENDnet TEW-809UB – Best Mid-Range
TRENDnet AC1900 High Power Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter, Increase-Extend WiFi…
This is a wireless adapter built for hardcore hardware enthusiasts. Its design closely resembles a dedicated router, sporting four 5dBi high-gain external antennae that tremendously improve Wi-Fi coverage.
These antennae are actually detachable, and you could handle and reposition this device with just the antenna base. It’s a dual-band wireless adapter, with 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band up to 1300Mbps on the 5GHz band. This gives you terrific speeds, plus the flexibility of switching depending on your current needs.
The TEW-809UB is compatible with both Windows and Mac OS. It also features a 3-year warranty from the manufacturer. However, you might have to dig slightly deeper into your pockets to get one of such Wi-Fi adapters.
5. D-Link DWA 192 – Unique Design
D-Link USB WiFi Adapter AC1900 USB 3.0 Dual Band Long Range Wireless Network for…
D-Link continues to outdo itself when it comes to novel designs on its Wi-Fi adapters. The DWA-192 is yet another sophisticated build from the company that will definitely split opinions. But that’s not to say this adapter is a slouch when it comes to performance.
Long story short, the USB adapter is spherical; you’ll either like it or not. There’s no middle ground. However, while its form divides opinions, its functionality is deservedly undisputed. It comes with a hidden 3*3 antenna setup with implicit beamforming. This advances AC Smart Beam improves signal strength, coverage and performance drastically, leading to very little signal loss- to an extent where even concrete walls are easily penetrable. It’s also backward compatible with 802.11 N/g/a networks.
It’s a dual-band adapter that also features a USB 3.0 interface for faster connection speed. It comes with a 1-button setup, making for easy installation. For people who might be worried about its physical stability, it also features self-balancing to ensure it stays put on a surface.
What to Consider in the Best Wi-Fi Adapter for Gaming
This is certainly the most basic factor that you’re looking for the best WiFi adapter for gaming. Ideally, you want remarkable speeds that match your demands, especially if you are into HD streaming. More often than not, you’ll encounter numbers like AC1900 or AC1300 on the best adapters. These numbers indicate the device’s bandwidth, generally denoting that it operates the commonly-used 802.11ac network standard.
It is worth noting that the speeds provided by manufacturers are mainly theoretical. You might not get the exact speeds indicated on the USB Wi-Fi adapter, especially if several devices are connected to the adapter.
Range is plausibly just as important as speed, as it determines the radius within which connection remains rock-solid. Most modern routers have the capability to cover an entire house without any dips in transmission.
Furthermore, Wi-Fi routers nowadays come with MU-MIMO technology (multi-user, multiple-input, multiple-output) that vastly improve internet connectivity. Essentially, this allows the router to communicate with several devices simultaneously. This reduces the amount of time each connected device has to wait for a signal, thus speeding up the network significantly.
Antennae-coupled with MU-MIMO technology-provide more coverage, which means optimum internet connectivity and maximum speeds, even on a crowded network. Antennae become even niftier if there are obstacles between your gaming setup and the router. You can consider a small internal antenna or larger external antennae, depending on your demands.
Beamforming is one of the more recent advancements in wireless technology, primarily to increase speeds and precision; this improvement is already playing a vital role in 5G networks. Previously, wireless technology used a single stream of wireless signals, limiting how they were spread out.
Enter beamforming. This technology focuses the wireless signals from a router in a beam-shape, directing them towards a target device with significantly more amplification. An enhanced reception means there are far fewer transmission fluctuations.
Wireless adapters come in various forms. The wireless USB adapter is arguably the most common since it’s normally a plug-and-play. This convenience makes it a straightforward pick for most gamers. However, you can also consider an internal wireless card that is usually plugged into your computer’s PCIe slot.
An internal Wi-Fi card is ideal if you simply want a consistent and reasonably wide connection. On the other hand, for a gamer who wants a wider range of signals, as well as using multiple devices, an external wireless network adapter is more suited to the task.
6. USB 2.0 vs USB 3.0
These numbers basically represent data transfer speeds. If you’ve been around the block long enough, you definitely know that a USB 3.0 is what you should be going for. For context, USB 2.0 has a maximum transfer speed of up to 48 Mbps, while the 3.0 can achieve a whooping 5Gbps!
7. 2.4GHz or 5GHz
Frequency determines both the speed and range that the adapter can deliver. Both of these frequencies have their own upsides and downsides. A 2.4GHz band gives you remarkable range and multi-connectivity, but the speeds might not be impressive. A 5GHz band does the inverse, terrific speeds but a smaller range.
Therefore, the final decision lies in what you prefer over the other. Alternatively, you can opt for a dual-band wireless adapter which gives you the option to switch between both frequencies depending on your current preference.
Before you buy a gaming adapter, it is important to find out if it’s compatible with your PC or laptop. Plenty of the options we have listed are compatible with both Windows and MAC OS. However, installation with MAC OS requires particular drivers and software; ensure that your adapter of choice fits the requirements.
USB Wi-Fi Adapter: Frequently Asked Questions
1. Are USB WiFi adapters ideal for gaming?
USB adapters might probably not hold a candle to PCI-E wireless cards. Nevertheless, contemporary tech improvements, such as USB 3.0 and IEEE 802.11 wireless technology, ensure that Wi-Fi USB adapters can also deliver up-to-par gaming experiences. When you pick the right USB WiFi adapter for your specific needs and requirements, you are more than likely to be satisfied with what you’ll get.
2. Does a WiFi adapter offer WiFi?
This is a question that pops up quite frequently, and it seems to puzzle plenty of users. But no, it does not provide Wi-Fi, unlike a router. A Wi-Fi adapter simply functions as an external wireless connection, primarily overriding built-in functions, to give you a stronger, faster and more stable connection.
3. Are WiFi adapters Secure?
Your security hinges more on the network you are connected to than the Wi-Fi adapter you’re using. Furthermore, these devices hardly alter or compromise your network’s security. However, if you are suspicious or perhaps cautious of breaches, it would be best if you implemented a solid firewall on your computer.