The 9 Best Wireless Adapters

Updated December 11, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

9 Best Wireless Adapters
Best High-End
Best Mid-Range
Best Inexpensive
If you're working with an older device that doesn't have the WiFi speeds you need today, or an even older computer that came without a WiFi adapter installed, you can quickly upgrade it with one of these wireless adapters. Connecting via a USB 3.0 or 2.0 port, they promise to boost your connectivity to up to 1,200 Mbps. When users buy our independently chosen editorial picks, we may earn commissions to support our work. Skip to the best wireless adapter on Amazon.

9. BrosTrend AC2

The BrosTrend AC2 offers an exceptional value, costing less than $15 and providing 600 Mbps wireless speeds with both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz support. It can be used with either Windows or Mac operating systems but is not suitable for use with Ubuntu or Linux.
  • universal router compatibility
  • works in usb 3 and usb 2 ports
  • poor quality construction
Brand BrosTrend
Model AC2
Weight 0.6 ounces
Rating 3.7 / 5.0

7. ASUS USB-N13

The ASUS USB-N13 is a reliable plug-and-play tool that will immediately boost your computer's connectivity anywhere you find yourself going online. It features PSP Xlink Kai support and can work with Linux, Windows and Mac operating systems.
  • led connection indicator
  • compact and durable
  • periodically drops connections
Brand Asus
Model USB-N13
Weight 2.4 ounces
Rating 3.5 / 5.0

5. Alfa AWUS036AC

The Alfa AWUS036AC creates blazing fast speeds, even where signals seem remote, thanks to its pair of sensitive five dBi antennae. It allows for data speeds of up to 867 Mbps and supports multiple security protocols to keep your signal safe and secure.
  • can handle streaming large files
  • windows xp to windows 10 support
  • supports antenna upgrades
Brand Alfa
Model AWUS036AC
Weight 8 ounces
Rating 3.9 / 5.0

4. Glam Hobby

The Glam Hobby upgrades your computer's Wi-Fi connection to 802.11ac no matter how slow your current wireless adapter is, allowing you to transfer data at speeds up to 1,200 Mbps. It supports both 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz connections.
  • automatically installs drivers
  • stable wireless connection
  • conveniently compact size
Brand Glam Hobby
Model 6454712
Weight 0.3 ounces
Rating 4.0 / 5.0

3. Netgear A6210-100PAS

The Netgear A6210-100PAS is a high gain, dual band receiver/transmitter that creates a strong and stable connection anywhere it can detect even a faint wireless signal. It works with both USB 3.0 and 2.0 ports for use with old and new computers.
  • creates lag-free hd stream
  • easy to set up with netgear genie
  • perfect for online gamers
Brand NETGEAR
Model A6210-100PAS
Weight 5.6 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

2. Panda PAU05

The Panda PAU05 is small enough to fit in the change pocket of your jeans, yet strong enough to bring wireless data transfer speeds of up to 300 Mbps to your laptop, tablet, or computer. It works with any 2.4 GHz N or G router.
  • windows ubuntu and mac compatible
  • uses very little power
  • includes a detailed user's manual
Brand Panda
Model PAU05
Weight 0.3 ounces
Rating 4.7 / 5.0

1. ASUS USB-AC68

The ASUS USB-AC68 has both an internal and external antenna system to ensure a steady connection even when at the limits of your Wi-Fi signal's range. It utilizes a USB 3.0 connection for fast data transfer rates and comes with a desktop cradle.
  • boots up quickly
  • intuitive software interface
  • 5ghz band support
Brand Asus
Model USB-AC68
Weight 13.6 ounces
Rating 4.5 / 5.0

A Brief History Of Wi-Fi

Wi-Fi for home computer use wasn't released until 1997, but the technology was being used long before that. In 1971, ALOHAnet was able to connect the Hawaiian Islands through a UHF wireless packet network known as the ALOHA Protocol. Then, in the late 1980s, AT&T started integrating Wave LAN into cash register systems. Both of these technologies can be thought of as precursors to the Wi-Fi we known and love today.

As you can imagine, there were a lot of limitations and bugs in these earlier wireless systems and reception was often spotty. The signal carrying the waves of information would bounce off walls and other objects limiting its range and affecting the transfer of data.

In 1997, a committee which included engineers from Bell Labs, IEEE, and NCR agreed on an industry-wide standard for wireless communication. It included a 2 Mbps data transfer rate and the use of one of two broad-spectrum technologies: direct sequence transmission or frequency hopping. It was originally known as IEEE 802.11b Direct Sequence, and then renamed Wi-Fi in 1999 by the brand consultancy firm Interbrand Corporation.

Once a standard was in place for wireless local area networks (WLAN), engineers immediately began working on prototype equipment that complied with it. In 1999 the first routers for home use were released and sparked the Wi-Fi revolution, which quickly led to wireless internet capability in the majority of homes across America. Lucent developed the first Wi-Fi adapter for under $100 and then Apple, using the brand name AirPort, introduced integrated Wi-Fi capabilities in their iBook.

Less than 20 years from the initial release of Wi-Fi signaling, it has pervaded every day life in a way no one could have foreseen. Not only is it available in nearly every fast food restaurant, cafe, hotel, and bookstore, it is even available on many forms of transportation from trains and buses to planes and cruise ships. For many people under the age of 21, a world without Wi-Fi and instant access to information is beyond the limits of their imagination.

How Wireless Adapters Work

When many people think of wireless adapters, they often think it is synonymous with an internet connection, but this isn't the case. Wireless adapters don't provide you with internet service, rather they can be used to connect a computer system that doesn't have an integrated wireless system with a router's Wi-Fi signal. The router receives its internet connection via a modem of some kind, most often cable or DSL these days.

Wireless adapters come in two distinct types: internal models and external models. External models either plug into a USB or Ethernet port, or they can be inserted into a memory card slot. Internal models fit into a PCI slot and will require you to take apart your computer case to install one.

For the average person, choosing an external USB or memory card style wireless adapter will be the best choice. It doesn't require you to open up your computer's case and it can quickly be switched from computer to computer as needed.

No matter which type you choose to use, they all work in the same manner. They first obtain a signal from your computer, which is then changed into a radio wave and transmitted via an external or internal antenna to your router. Wi-Fi adapters are capable of two-way transmission and also receive data from routers.

Benefits Of Using A Wireless Adapter

There are many benefits to using a wireless adapter, with the main one being that you won't need to physically connect a cable to your computer to access internet services. This gives you the true mobility when using a laptop or tablet that these devices were designed for. You will be able to go to most cafes or bookstores and connect to their free Wi-Fi signal and you won't have to worry about a short Ethernet cable limiting the locations you can work in your home or office.

If you have an older desktop or laptop model, it may not have come with an integrated wireless network interface controller. Using a wireless adapter allows you to upgrade your computer to work with Wi-Fi signals for a nominal fee instead of spending a lot of money to buy a new computer. If you purchase an external adapter, you won't even need to install any hardware inside of your computer case, so there is no chance of damaging your computer.

Another great thing about external wireless adapters is that they can be used on multiple computers. Just unplug it from one device and plug it into another, and in seconds you can be using Wi-Fi on another computer. You won't need to buy an additional adapter for each computer unless you need to be using them simultaneously. Most models available today work with both Mac and Windows operating systems too.



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Last updated on December 11, 2017 by Brett Dvoretz

A wandering writer who spends as much time on the road as behind the computer screen, Brett can either be found hacking furiously away at the keyboard or perhaps enjoying a whiskey and coke on some exotic beach, sometimes both simultaneously, usually with a four-legged companion by his side. He hopes to one day become a modern day renaissance man.


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