If you are a hardcore gamer then having the best wifi adapter for gaming becomes very important because it offers lag-free online gaming and seamless video streaming.
So in this guide, we walk you through the best wireless adapters for gaming of 2020 which includes a USB dongle and internal desktop card. We also cover the best budget wifi adapters in case you are short of money.
Don’t Feel Like Reading? Our favorite all-around pick is the Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 which has beamforming technology, 3×4 MIMO and offers 1300 Mbps of connection speed. While ASUS PCE-AC88 PCIe Adapter is the best PCIe internal wifi adapter because it offers 2100 Mbps of connection speed and has 4×4 MIMO. If you are looking for best budget wifi adapter then OURLINK 600Mbps AC600 is the best option for you.
|WiFi Adapters||Form Factor||Antenna||Speed|
|Netgear Nighthawk AC1900||USB||3||1300||802.11ac/a/b/g/n||Windows, MacOS|
|ASUS PCE-AC88 PCIe Adapter||PCIe||4||2100||802.11ac/a/b/g/n||Windows|
|OURLINK 600Mbps AC600||USB||1||433||802.11ac/a/b/g/n||Windows, MacOS|
|TP-Link AC1300 WiFi Card||PCIe||2||867||802.11ac/a/b/g/n||Windows|
|D-Link AC1900 Ultra Wi-Fi Adapter||USB||3||1300||802.11 n/g/networks||Windows, MacOS|
If you are into online gaming or want to become a gamer then Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 is hands down the best gaming wifi adapter. Netgear is a very well-known brand among gamers and is known for making excellent routers and wireless products for gaming and Nighthawk AC1900 is no different.
Since it can be easily folded it prevents it from getting damaged while traveling or moving your computer around the home.
Range. The adapter has a good range and maintains a strong signal through many walls because it uses 802.11 ac wireless technology which can easily penetrate through walls and lose a very less amount of signal strength.
Ports. Netgear Nighthawk works with both USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports so you can use it with the latest and older laptops or desktops. Thus it helps you in saving extra cost on upgrading your PC.
Speed. It uses 802.11ac wireless technology with dual-band compatibility. So what it does is you can transfer data up to 1300Mbps using a 5GHz band and 600Mbps on a 2.4GHz band.
MU-MIMO. It has 3x4 MIMO antennas which are designed in such a way that the bandwidth capacity increases and this allows you to download or upload data from a wireless network very fast.
Beamforming. It has explicit beamforming (which is not compatible with older devices) that will help you to boost the speed and range of the WiFi adapter.
It also has an app called Netgear Genie app with which you can control the router with your smartphone.
Compatibility. It is compatible with all Mac and Windows along with USB 3.0 and 2.0. It supports Windows 7,8,10, (32/64 bit) and Mac OS X 10.8.3 or later.
Wireless Technology. It is compatible with the next-generation WiFi devices, 802.11 ac/n, and all legacy WiFi devices.
Dimension: 4.7 x 1.8 x 0.87 in
Compatibility: Windows 7, 8, 10, (32/64 bit), Mac OS X 10.8.3 or later
Speed: 1300-1900 Mbps
Frequency: 2.4 - 5GHz
Ports: USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Asus PCE-AC88 is the best internal WiFi adapter card that supports all the latest WiFi technologies. It is best for households that have a large number of computers all sharing the same internet connection.
It comes with a custom heatsink that will give you non-stop operation and dissipate heat effectively that allows both stability and reliability to ensure lag-free gaming and streaming.
Speed. With its high-throughput dual-band, it can reach up to 2100 Mbps at 5GHz and 1000 Mbps at 2.4 GHz. This is possible because it uses NitroQAM (1024-QAM) technology which gives high connection speeds, so you can enjoy smooth streaming and low-latency online gaming on your desktop PC.
MU-MIMO. It has 4x4 MU-MIMO technology which uses 4 antennas that can be used for both transmitting and receiving data. As ASUS recommends you can mount these antennas on the magnetic base and back of the network data.
Antenna. The external magnetic antenna base allows flexible antenna placement through which you can cover maximum coverage. You can also attach individual antennas directly to the PCIe card for compact installation.
If you want to use the WiFi for extremely long ranges then you can do it using the R-SMA antennas. They are omnidirectional antennas so you don't have to purchase any external omnidirectional antennas.
Compatibility. It is compatible with Windows 10, 7 (32, 64 bit).
Wireless Technology. It supports 802.11AC and all its previous standards, 802.11 b/g/n/ac. What makes it so powerful is the 1024-QAM feature. QAM ( Quadratic Amplitude Modulation) allows the sending of pulses back and forth quickly. These pulses send values and the more no. of values that are sent in a single pulse the more data can be transmitted.
Dimension: 8.3 x 2.24 x 10.9 in
Weight: 127 gms
Compatibility: Windows 10, 7 (32, 64 bit)
Ourlink is not only the cheapest WiFi adapter but also the smallest adapter. Though it is cheap and compact it does not compromise on performance. It offers great value for money, prevents any physical damage, and doesn't block other connection ports on your laptop.
Ports. It can connect to a USB 3.0 port so no need to worry about USB 2.0 bottlenecking.
Speed. It has a dual-band wireless network that provides 150 Mbps at 2.4 GHz and 433 Mbps at 5GHz. You can easily switch between 2.4 GHz to 5GHz like when you are doing simple internet tasks such as emailing, surfing at 2.4 GHz to heavy internet tasks such as gaming or streaming.
Wireless Technology. It supports 802.11AC standards and is backwards compatible with 802.11 a/b/g/n WiFi adapters which are cheaper than the ac type.
Antenna. It comes with an external 5dBi omnidirectional dual-band antenna which not only increases the range but also ensures the stability of your network.
Compatibility. Ourlink is compatible with Windows 7,8.1,10, macOS X 10.9-10.15.
The setup is plug and play. First, you have to install the driver from the included CD and after that, you can connect to a wireless network. If you have a wired internet connection you need to activate the SoftAP function after installing the software and create a Wi-Fi hotspot for other mobile devices.
Dimension: 5.4 x 4.4 x 0.8 in
Weight: 45 gms
Compatibility: Windows 7,8.1,10, MacOS X 10.9-10.15
Speed: 150-433 Mbps
Frequency: 2.4 - 5GHz
TP-Link AC1300 is a standard two antenna internal wireless card that defeats other adapters in terms of the quality of the components available at this price range. It doesn't require CD to install the drivers, just plug in the card and the windows will automatically install the driver.
Speed. It can obtain speeds up to 867 Mbps over 5GHz for lag-free online gameplay and HD video streaming and 400 Mbps over 2.4Ghz to surf the net or use Facebook.
Compatibility. It is compatible with Windows 10/8. 1/ 8/ 7/ XP (32/64 bit).
Wireless Technology. It offers 802.11ac dual-band which is three times faster than the 802.11n standard so you can do high internet requirement activities such as gaming. It is also backward compatible with 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.22g, and 802.11n standards.
Antenna. TP-Link offers 2x external multi-directional antennas that will not only improve the range but also increase the stability of your network. In case you want a more powerful antenna you can purchase an external antenna TP-Link TL-ANT2405C 2.4GHz 5dbi Indoor Omni-Directional Antenna which has a 2-meter cable and can boost the signal.
Beamforming. It has beamforming technology that will increase your signal strength by directing the signals towards the device which will result in a fast and stable connection.
Since it is an internal PCIe card it will suffer from overheating so to tackle this problem the TP-Link has implemented the heatsink feature. It dissipates the heat generated by the adapter which increases the performances and improves stability. With this, the lifespan of the adapter also increases.
Dimension: 4.76 x 4.74 x 0.85 in
Weight: 272 gms
Compatibility: Windows 10/8. 1/ 8/ 7/ XP (32/64 bit)
Speed: 400-867 Mbps
Frequency: 2.4-5 GHz
D-Link uses a USB 3.0 port to deliver the best range and performance so that you can operate it at full capabilities. In the AC1900 wireless USB adapter range, D-Link AC1900 is the WiFi card that is wireless.
Coming to its design most USB WiFi adapters are designed to be like a USB stick but D-Link, on the other hand, uses a USB 3.0 Micro-B plug. It is 3.15 inches in diameter (length) and weighs 167 gms which means it is not very portable.
Speed. It is capable of a maximum speed of 1300Mbps at 5GHz and 600Mbps at 2.4GHz which will allow you to surf the net, play lag-free online games, or stream HD video.
Antenna. It also performs beamforming combined with the three antennae which directs signal between the receiver and router and vice versa.
As per AC Wi-Fi specs, it’s also able to perform beamforming, which improves range by having the receiver combine its three antennae to direct its signal to the router – and vice versa. It also improves the stability of the adapter.
Wireless Technology. It is backwards compatible with the legacy 802.11 n/g/networks. It can work with any brand of routers and range extenders be it new or older ones.
Compatibility. It is compatible with Windows 7, 8, and 10 along with macOS X.
Dimension: 3.1 x 3 x 3.1 in
Weight: 167 gms
Compatibility: Windows 7, 8, 10, macOS X.
Speed: 600-1300 Mbps
Frequency: 2.4 – 5GHz
Ports: USB 3.0
If you are looking for the most compatible WiFi card then NET-DYN AC1200 is the right candidate for it. It also is the best option if you are using an old or outdated PC and don't want to spend extra money on a fancy or expensive WiFi card to get a fast connection. With its USB 3.0 connection, it provides the best connection speeds.
Speed. It can offer you a speed of 867Mbps at 5GHz and 300Mbps at 2.4 GHz because it uses AC1200 technology. With these speeds, you can surf the net, play lag-free online games, or stream HD video seamlessly.
Range. The coverage of the NET-DYN wifi adapter is more than 90 meters and with this distance, you can sit anywhere like a bedroom, basement, or backyard and not have to worry about the wifi signal not reaching your laptop.
Ports. The USB 3.0 port offers the best speeds up to 10 times more than a 2.0 USB which is best for anyone who likes streaming their games lag-free.
Antenna. It includes an internal antenna that increases the range and reliability which you can use for gaming purposes.
Wireless Technology. It supports 802.11 b/g/n/ac and is compatible with Windows 10/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP/2000, Mac OS 10.9/10.10/10.11.
Compatibility. It offers a fast and secure connection over the WPA/WPA2/WEP protocols that will encrypt your personal information. So now you have the freedom to see which connection type works the best for you.
It has a very easy installation, just plug in Net-Dyn to your device’s USB port and install the drivers and you’re ready to go. NET-DYN offers a lifetime warranty that covers manufacturing defects and dead units.
Dimension: 3.5 x 1.2 x 0.5 in
Weight: 0.48 ounces
Compatibility: Windows 10/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP/2000, Mac OS 10.9/10.10/10.11
Speed: 300-867 Mbps
Frequency: 2.4 – 5GHz
Ports: USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Panda Wireless PAU06 300Mbps is one of the best options for gamers who want a lightweight, compact, and something that provides a good gaming experience. It is best for Mint, CentOS, or Fedora operating system users as it supports a lot of old and new versions. Also, it doesn't lag much. It is the best WiFi adapter for indoor purposes.
Speed. It offers a dual-band speed of 300 Mbps on a wireless 2.4 GHz band for gaming and streaming. It is comparatively less compared to other wifi adapters but if you want to use it solely for streaming and are tight on budget then the Panda wifi adapter is the best option for you.
Antenna. Panda has an external foldable antenna which makes it portable and increases your network coverage allowing you to quickly connect to any high-performance wireless AC network easily.
Though it mentions 300 Mbps of speed it will never be reached (nor does any other Wifi adapter) so in my opinion, you should purchase any hi-gain antenna and when you couple it with a Panda adapter so that you can achieve much higher steady-state (not just peak) wireless speed and a good range.
Wireless Technology. It uses 802.11g wireless standard so high-intensity network usage is no problem at all. It is also backward compatible with other standards too.
Compatibility. It is compatible with 32-bit and 64-bit Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10, Mac OS 10.4-10.10, Mint 14/15/16/17/17.1/17.2, Ubuntu 12.10/13.04/13.10/14.04/14.10/15.04/15,10, Fedora 18/19/20/21/22, and CentOS 6.4/6.5/7.
It has a plug and play feature where after plugging in the device on your laptop?PC with the included USB cable the drivers are installed automatically. Make sure you read the instructions where it mentions for which OS you are supposed to install the CD.
It runs in the background and does not consume a lot of battery.
Dimension: 6.2 x 3.9 x 0.5 in
Weight: 10 gms
Compatibility: Windows 7, 8, 10, (32/64 bit), Mac OS X 10.4-10.10, Mint 14-17.2, Ubuntu 12.10/-15,10, Fedora 18-22, and CentOS 6.4-7.
Speed: 300 Mbps
Ports: USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Anekwodi is yet another budget wifi adapter that is built for both gaming and other basic computer tasks. It gives a maximum speed of 433 Mbps which is ideal for gaming online and HD video streaming.
Speed. It can give you up to 433 Mbps connection on 433Mbps connection at 5GHz and 150Mbps connection at 2.4GHz to get a combined rate of up to around 600 Mbps of connection speed which is enough for gaming and streaming.
Antenna. With its 2dBi external antenna, the connection speed will, of course, improve because of its high gain and long range you can connect to even a weak signal. The antenna is detachable, foldable, and can be rotated so that you can rotate it in whichever direction you want so you can set it where you need to pick up the best signal.
Compatibility. When it comes to compatibility it is compatible with all the major operating systems such as Windows 10/8.1/8/7/XP/Vista (32-bit/64-bit), Mac OS 10.4~10.12.1, and Ubuntu Linux 2.4/2.6. In Windows 10 it automatically installs the driver so that you don't have to install the drivers externally.
Wireless Technology. It offers 802.11ac which is 3x faster than 802.11n so performing high-intensity network usage will be no problem. Also, it is backward compatible with 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.22g, and 802.11n standards.
One point of concern is the build quality of the wifi adapter since it is made of plastic the adapter is not sturdy enough and might snap at the end where the USB and antenna are joined. So you need to handle it with care.
Dimension: 5.5 x 3.5 x 0.6 in
Compatibility: Windows, Mac OS 10.4-10.12.1, and Ubuntu Linux
Frequency: 2.4 – 5GHz
Ports: USB 3.0, USB 2.0
Linksys AC1200 USB 3.0 Adapter was launched in 2013 but has undergone every challenge thrown at it by other famous adapters. It is also called "micro" by the Linksys employees and is quite small. It offers AC1200 speeds, is best for gaming and streaming. Even though it has a small size, it supports all the latest technology for wireless adapters, including MU-MIMO and Beamforming.
Speed. It features dual bands speeds, 867 Mbps on 5 GHz and 300Mbps on 2.4 GHz band so in total it provides 1200 Mbps of speed. Using dual-band you can choose which newer devices (that are 802.11ac) devices to 5Ghz band and older 802.11n/g devices to 2.4 GHz band.
Wireless Technology. It is compatible with 802.11ac routers so that you can perform high-intensity internet activities and backward compatible with 802.11a, 802.11n, 802.11g, 802.11b.
Compatibility. It is an easy plug-and-play operation while being compatible with Windows 10, 7, 8, XP, and Vista. All you have to do is just plug in the adapter and the drivers will be installed automatically.
Beamforming. With beamforming technology, your laptop performance will improve because the beamforming technology improves the speed, range, stability, and have fewer signal drops off the connection so you can do gaming or streaming seamlessly.
Linksys supports up to 128-bit encryption such as WEP, WPA, and WPA2, as well as WPS (WiFi Protected Setup button) so you can connect to the router or an access point. It has a very small size so that the overall weight of your laptop is less and makes your laptop portable.
Dimension: 6.1 x 5.31 x 2.36 in
Weight: 100 gms
Compatibility: Windows 7, 8, 10, XP, Vista
Speed: 300-867 Mbps
Frequency: 2.4 – 5GHz
Ports: USB 3.0, USB 2.0
The speed is one of the most important factors to be considered when choosing a wifi adapter and is measured in Mbps (Megabits per second). There are two things you need to keep in mind before you make a purchase:
- Will the adapter handle your connection speed?
- Will the adapter support transfer speeds higher than what your connection offers?
Usually, wireless transfer speeds are much higher than what is offered by most broadband connections but in the second case, you should make sure that the high-end adapter that you are buying is compatible or not. Having a Gigabit of speed on a 50Mbit ADSL connection is of no use.
Most adapters will transmit over a frequency of 2.4 or 5-GHz and the high-end adapters will transmit signals on both frequencies. Below is the table that shows the adapter and the connection speed for the best results:
|Connection speed MB/s||Minimum required USB speed (Mbps)|
Keep in mind that the distance and any obstacles between the device and the WiFi such as the walls will slow down the WiFi signal and the theoretical speed of any wireless device can never be reached.
Another important factor to consider when buying a WiFi adapter is the range or WiFi coverage. It is very important for you to know beforehand the range that it can work within without creating any disturbances. The range depends on many factors such as WiFi band, receiver sensitivity, antenna gain, output power, type of antenna, and channel bandwidth.
Most adapters offer a decent range but the best adapters have a larger range. For example. an 802.11b mode WiFi provides better coverage compared to 802.11n, however, the speed of 802.11b is less than the 802.11n. 2.4 GHz WiFi has a better range compared to a 5 GHz WiFi network.
Just remember bigger the antenna better the range.
If you are a laptop user then you are left with the only option and that is using an external adapter. The USB ports are of two types 2.0 and 3.0. If you are looking for fast internet speeds or already have a fast internet connection then USB 3.0 is the best option for you.
USB 2.0 supports speed up to 480Mbps while 3.0 supports 5 Gigabits of speed. Fortunately, most modern USB ports already have a 3.0 port and if your laptop only registers 2.0, the 3.0 will be compatible with this as well otherwise it is better if you upgrade to a 3.0 USB port.
In the case of desktop PC users, they can also install the adapters inside the PC. You have to directly plug the adapter into the motherboard’s PCIe slots, which offers a faster and more stable connection compared to a USB port. Just make sure that you have enough motherboard space and none of the other components such as the graphics card is blocking the PCIe slot.
There are a lot of adapters available in the market of different sizes and some are heavy while others are light. The USB ports on a computer are very close to each other so if you purchase an adapter that is big, it is possible that you will block adjacent ports that will make it useless.
Having a small wifi adapter can be used for other devices such as a notebook or a smartphone and also it is less likely that it will bump into other things and break.
Having an external antenna is not something that is necessary or important but if you have extra money to spend then investment in an external antenna will make a difference. A wireless adapter already has a small (very small) antenna inside the device.
But with an external antenna, your connection speed will improve and you will be able to connect any device even with limited coverage.
Antennas are of different types some wifi adapters have internal antennas while you can purchase an external antenna which will increase your signal strength. While there is also a multi-directional antenna that transmits a signal in all directions while an omnidirectional antenna transmits a signal in one direction.
MU-MIMO also called Multi-User Multi-Input Multi-Output is a recent technology in the telecommunications field that is used to increase the quality of the wireless signal when using it with multiple devices. When 3 or 4 devices are connected to the WiFi at the same time it slows down the connection speed MU-MIMO technology can be implemented where more no. of connections are required and is used mostly in high-end adapters. Tests have shown that it can make the connection up to 130% faster than a normal USB connection.
During the transmission of the signal, it is not transmitted in a focused form but rather in an unfocused form. Because of this, you might have noticed that the device that you have connected to the WiFi gets disconnected automatically. This is where beamforming comes into the picture.
Beamforming is a radio-wave technology in which the router transmits the radio signal in the direction of the connected device that creates a stronger, faster, and more reliable wireless connection. In simple words, it is a customized transmission used between transmitter and receiver according to their relative locations.
Implicit beamforming is a type of beamforming that adapts to older devices. Companies while advertising their products reference implicit beamforming with in-house terms such as “advanced beamforming” or “beamforming+” which is one and the same thing. Beamforming devices require MIMO support.
802.11xx is a number given to WiFi protocols that also has a letter that follows which shows the protocol the adapter can use. For example, 802.11AC or Wireless-AC is the most widely used protocol nowadays.
There are various different technologies such as 802.11b, 802.11g, 802.11n, 802.11ac, 80211ax. All these technologies differ from each other based on their speeds. 802.11a being the slowest one while 802.11ax being the fastest one.
The older formats work well with the new devices whereas for the newer format you will have to upgrade your router. Below is the table of different formats, their release dates, and transfer speed.
|802.11b||1999||11 Mbit/s||2.4 GHz|
|802.11g||2003||54 Mbit/s||2.4 GHz|
|802.11n||2009||150/300 Mbit/s||2.4 GHz|
|802.11ac||2013||866.7 Mbit/s||5 GHz|
There are a lot of quality adapters available that promise great performance but can hardly last for a month. So it is important that you not only pay attention to the internal build but also to the external build of the adapter. You can read the description of the adapter and come to know of what material it is made of.
Age of the device
Old laptops have external wireless cards which are very slow and run on the old wireless technologies. So if you are having an old laptop and are going to purchase the adapter which is built for new and latest laptops then it is of no use.
Instead, you should upgrade your laptop or even better purchase the latest one and then purchase the latest WiFi adapter.
Wifi adapters are already equipped with the latest drivers (softwares that are present in the adapters which direct the hardware on how to run) which you can just plug in and start using it.
The chances of any compatibility issue arising are very less but still, check for compatibility before purchasing the adapter.
How to install a PCI card in your computer
How do I install a WiFi adapter?
The right wireless adapter can make or break your gaming experience. So when choosing the best wifi adapter for gaming we have considered quality as the most important factor. If you are buying it for the first time then we have also included the buying guide. We hope you’ve learned something new from this post.
If you have found your favorite product, or think we missed something then do comment below to let us know.
For me, if I have the necessary funds and want to do hardcore gaming then I would choose a PCI wifi card because it offers high internet speeds and great range however it also has a lot of disadvantages such as they can't be used on multiple devices.
But if you are a laptop user then a wireless adapter is the best bet for you. In the end, it will be your decision so make sure you read the reviews of users and then purchase anything.
PCIe slots are fast, functional, and offer a number of antennas compared to USB ports. An internal card will run smoothly as long as all the components are error-free.
The biggest benefit of an external wireless adapter is the plug-and-play feature. They are available in different sizes and shapes and can be moved around with your laptop. They are also cheap.
Yes, it does affect your internet speed. Suppose you have a wifi card that can handle a maximum of 400 Mbps but if your internet connection is 600 Mbps then your card won't be able to take full advantage of it however if your internet speed is less than that then it doesn't matter.
If you are on Windows 10:
Open CMD as an administrator.
Enter the command "netsh wlan show interfaces" and press enter.
You will now see the Receive rate and Transmit rate speed in Mbps for your wireless network adapters.
Some of the steps you can follow are:
Control Bandwidth-Hungry Applications and Clients
Use the Latest WiFi Technologies
Don’t Forget to Reboot
Don’t stuff your router in a cupboard
Consider a wifi mesh system
Turn an old router into an access point
Definitely, they are best for gaming but before purchasing you need to look into various different aspects of a gaming wifi adapter such as:
Beamforming - Wifi adapters that have beamforming technology will increase the signal strength and stability of the signal.
Ports - USB 3.0 transmits data 10x faster than USB 2.0 so purchasing a USB 3.0 compatible adapter will benefit you by providing fast transmission of data.
MU-MIMO - It stands for Multiple User Multiple Input Multiple Output. It will allow multiple users to connect to your wifi.
Wireless Technology - For gaming, you need 802.11ac standard wifi along with the best dual-band speeds.
Adaptor size – USB wireless adapter comes in different shapes and sizes. A small or nano wireless adapter is slower compared to other adapters but is best for travelling while larger wireless adapters can be used on a desktop because they have high gain antennas and therefore offer faster connections.
Antenna - Every adapter has an antenna. It can be an internal antenna or an external antenna that increases the signal strength. There are also multi and omnidirectional antennas that can direct signals in all directions or a particular direction.
Bottlenecks are the point where the data is held or slowed down on a computer. It is hard to find the bottlenecks unless you know working on computers. A most common bottleneck is pairing a low-quality router with a high-quality modem.
To find a bottleneck you need to start with the weakest link of the chain and that is ISP. Even though you have the most powerful gaming hardware slow ISP signals will cause bottlenecks. After that, you need to check the hardware from the modem to the adapter. USB 3.0 and PCIe are fast and hence they are not bottlenecks.