Here are the best USB wireless adapters/ dongles to enhance your wireless connectivity at home or the office.
We’ve all been there, and some of us are living through this nightmare at the moment – you have what’s supposed to be a good home WiFi system, but for some reason, the connection is spotty when you need it the most. The dongles will also come in handy when you are traveling and need stable internet access.
Well, you no longer have to struggle with your wireless network thanks to some of the best network adapters on the market. These USB adapters or dongles are designed to turn pretty much any connected device, turning it into a WiFi-enabled gadget that connects to the internet.
While most of the modern devices on the market today come with built-in WiFi support, PCs or even set-top boxes only come with built-in support that only works for wired network connections. Some of them require that you slot into the PCI slot of your PC’s motherboards. But thanks to the wireless USB adapters, you can get around these connections and have a simplified one.
Beyond PCs, the wireless adapter comes in handy in laptops too, especially if your laptop uses outdated or just older WiFi technology. For support of the latest WiFi technology, for example, WiFi 6 hence access to higher speeds and more extensive coverage from the new tech, you might want to invest in one of the best USB WiFi adapters. These adapters allow you to enjoy the benefits of the new WiFi technologies, which is why they are invaluable resources in your world today.
Below we look at some of the best USB WiFi Adapters on the market today.
Comparison Table for the Best USB WiFi Adapters
Best USB WiFi Adapters
WiFi Type and Speed
Get It Here
Best Full-Size, High-Performance USB WiFi Adapter
NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 WiFi USB Adapter
Best Gaming USB WiFi Adapter
Best Portable Wireless Adapter
Best Small, Compact-Size Adapter
Best Budget-Friendly WiFi Adapter
Reviews of the Best USB WiFi Adapters
Trendnet TEW-809UB – Best Full-Size, High-Performance USB WiFi Adapter
- UPGRADE YOUR WIFI PERFORMANCE: Upgrade your computer up to 1300 Mbps WiFi AC or 600 Mbps WiFi N to surf,...
- PRIOR TO INSTALLATION: Please ensure Windows is up to date, then follow the Quick Installation Guide to...
The spider-like design of this USB adapter might be a little off-putting for some people, but if you are looking for a high-performance, high-speed adapter that offers excellent range, you might like this adapter by Trendset. It is a dual-band adapter that runs on the 802.11ac wireless standard. The 2.4GHz band offers speeds of 600Mbps, while the 5GHz band offers speeds of up to 1300Mbps.
It’s one of the most powerful adapters around, and though it’s rather big and bulky from the four large antennas, you get to position it easily for range maximization.
And with the added Beamforming support, this adapter truly is a formidable adapter that will offer advanced wireless connectivity throughout your home, even in the hard-to-reach areas. So, if you are looking for a good wireless adapter for use in areas with weaker signals, this might be the best option for you.
- Dual-band design
- High wireless internet speeds
- High-strength antenna at 5dBi each
- AC1900/ 1900Mbps maximum speeds
- Extensive coverage
- Powerful, high-performance adapter
- Supports Beamforming
- The design doesn’t work for everyone
- No MU-MIMO support
NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 WiFi USB Adapter – Best Gaming USB WiFi Adapter
- AC1900 WIFI SPEEDS Up to 600Mbps on 2.4GHz and 1300Mbps on 5GHz
- DUAL BAND WIFI—Faster connections to more Wi Fi networks.System Requirements: Windows OS or Mac OS...
When it comes to wireless gaming systems, you always need to find the most powerful options on the market, and it isn’t always easy. But you can finally end your search for that gaming adapter with one of the best adapters on the market. NetGear is a brand behind some of the best routers and wireless technological systems, and this WiFi adapter is proof that you can trust the brand.
It offers high wireless speeds of up to 1900Mbps thanks to its dual 2.4GHz and 5GHz band designs, as well as the fact that it’s based on the 802.11ac WiFi protocol.
It’s easy to use as it plugs into your computer’s USB port with ease, and the large size means that you won’t have to worry about the dongle sticking out from your laptop or being snapped off accidentally.
- It comes with a desktop cradle
- Excellent connectivity
- High-speed performance
- Good range
- Reliable dual-band connectivity
ASUS USB-AC68 – Best Portable Wireless Adapter
- Instantly upgrades desktops/laptops to Dual-Band AC1900 Wi-Fi for extended coverage and higher throughput
- Powerful 3x4 MIMO design with Dual 3-position external antennas, Dual internal antennas and ASUS AiRadar...
If you are looking for a good option for portable wireless adapters, this ASUS USB-AC68 might be an excellent option for you. It’s based on the 802.11ac system, and it offers top performance speeds of 1900Mbps, spread into the dual-band 2.4GHz and the 5GHz bands.
It features a unique folding design, and it makes use of dual antennas that are deployable. You might also like this portable wireless adapter because it offers a USB 3.0 connectivity, as well as Beamforming support, and also MU-MIMO thanks to the antenna design (3×4).
While the low-speed 2.4GHz band lags significantly and great distances, the 5GHz is more reliable. This means that the adapter doesn’t offer the best coverage you might be looking for.
However, it wins in the portability front thanks to its compact design.
- Two deployable antennas
- Easy plug-and-play operation
- Excellent portability
- MU-MIMO support for multi-device use.
- USB 3.0 connectivity
- 3X4 antenna design for good performance
- 11ac and dual-band
- Asus AiRadar Beamforming
- Not the fastest adapter
Linksys WUSB6300 – Best Small, Compact-Size Adapter
- Supports Microsoft Windows 10, 7, 8, XP, Vista
- Lightning fast HD Video and Gaming
For a small, compact adapter with a decent number of features and a relatively high speed, you might like this Linksys WUSB6300 wireless adapter. It is a micro adapter, and easily one of the smallest adapters on the market, a feature that also makes it one of the most portable adapters on the market.
It supports speeds of up to 1200Mbps thanks to the 802.11ac protocol and the dual-band design of the adapter. It also supports Beamforming and MU-MIMO technology, and you will be happy with its price.
- Small, compact design
- Easy plug-and-play operation
- MU-MINO and Beamforming support for improved overall performance
- High speed and excellent range from the 5GHz band
- The 2.4GHz performance could be better
Trendnet TEW-805UB – Best Budget-Friendly WiFi Adapter
- Upgrade your computer to revolutionary 867 Mbps Wireless AC
- Connect to a Wireless N network at up to 300 Mbps
You don’t have to break the bank to enjoy high speeds and a good range from a wireless adapter, and this budget-friendly TEW-805UB by Trendnet is an adapter that shows you that you can enjoy good dongle performance at a budget.
In addition to the good price, this adapter based on the 802.11ac WiFi protocol promises high internet speeds of up to 1200Mbps, and the dual-band system means better overall performance.
The size of this adapter is just right, and though small, it’s not something you’ll have to worry about losing. You might also like the outer surface’s texture that prevents smudges.
The 5GHz band offers solid top speeds at all times, and though the speeds on the 2.4GHz band aren’t that high, the adapter is good enough for most people, and it will help you get rid of dead spots in your home/ office.
- Decent range coverage
- Great price
- Good speed
- The speed could be higher over larger areas
Buying Guide for the Best USB WiFi Adapters
Among other reasons, the best USB WiFi adapters allow you to access faster wireless internet access and coverage over larger areas, and they also boost device connectivity where you are using a device that requires a wired Ethernet connection.
But there’s more than you can get from the USB adapters. For example, if your laptop’s built-in WiFi system is sketchy, your device tends to lose connection to your home’s or office’s wireless network; you could use a wireless USB adapter to resolve the connection issue. All you need to do to enjoy the benefits of the wireless adapter is to plug in the wireless adapter into your laptop using the USB extension cable (this offers a higher level of flexibility when struggling with your wireless reception), and voila, reliable and fast internet connectivity.
Now that you know what you have been missing and why you might want to invest in one of the best USB WiFi adapters right about now let’s look at some of the things that you must consider in your search for the best USB WiFi adapters.
Features that make the best USB WiFi Adapters
Wireless Bands – 2.4GHz or 5GHz bands
When it comes to home WiFi, band frequency is an important consideration that you must bear in mind always. What are they? 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands are the network standards that your connected devices operate on. These numbers affect the wireless speed and the range/ area coverage of your wireless network. As you know, wireless signals only get too fast, and the signals weaken with increased distance.
Out of the two frequency bands, the 2.4GHz range is the dated one, and the speed at this frequency is lower than what you’d get for the 5GHz bands. So, if you are looking for a faster wireless connection, the 5GHz band would be a preferred option for you. Just bear in mind that the 5GHz band is fast, but it doesn’t cover a large area as the 2.4GHz band does.
If you are a gamer, the 5GHz band will be a preferable option for you because it allows you to enjoy a lower latency than 2.4GHz, which isn’t ideal for gaming at all.
For the best overall coverage, you need dual rather than a single-coverage WiFi adapter. A single-band USB WiFi adapter runs on a single frequency, often the 2.4GHz, and though it offers a more extensive coverage on just about all WiFi networks, it means that you will be stuck on the same kind of frequency that’s used by all other devices in the network. On the contrary, the dual-band WiFi adapters offer more advanced connections on the 5GHz (higher-frequency) band, and this means that the dongle gets more support from your router, hence higher connectivity speeds. Also, there are fewer devices connected to the 5GHz band, hence a good performance overall.
Note that there are no tri-band USB WiFi adapters, even though there are tri-band routers with an extra dedicated 5GHz band.
Most of the best USB WiFi adapters are designed to work very well when they are placed closer to your router. However, these routers are also designed to give you a higher level of frequency; otherwise, it wouldn’t matter, and an Ethernet cable would work just fine. With this in mind, you must make sure that the adapter you are buying offers a significant amount of freedom, allowing you to move around your home and use it comfortably in different areas. To do that, the adapter must give you a good range.
Keep in mind, however, that the USB adapter isn’t some kind of magic adapter – it relies on your router, and if there are no signals from the router, then the adapter will not work. So, if you are using the USB adapter in a large home, it would be a good idea to invest in one of the best long-range routers.
But that is not all that you have to think about. Even when you already have this router that offers solid internet coverage throughout your home, you need to be sure that the adapter is still capable of doing its part. What this means is that the adapter you choose should be able to offer good coverage regardless of where you choose to use it. Essentially, the range of the adapter should be excellent when it’s sitting at a distance farther away from your device’s USB port, either because it protrudes as it supports the external antennas or because it uses an extension cable. The reason why you need this from your dongle is that the dongles capable of offering large home coverage often come with powerful antennas that ensure reliable connectivity, and there’s also the fact that you wouldn’t have to deal with interference from your connected devices.
USB Port Type – 2.0 vs 3.0
The other important factor that you need to keep in mind in your search for a USB WiFi adapter is the type of USB. Between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0 port types, the USB 2.0 offers lower speed data transfer rates than the USB 3.0 ports, which promise a greater throughput.
To put this into perspective, the USB 2.0 port only reaches a maximum speed of 60MBps against a speed of 640MBps for USB 3.0.
But when you are buying the adapter, it’s important to look a little farther than this. You need to know that in as much as the ports promise blazing high speeds, the maximum speed that you get to enjoy will depend on the router’s current WiFi standards. For example, an 802.11g router is rather slow, and it offers speeds of 54Mbps, maximum – at this speed, it won’t matter if you have a USB 2.0 port or a USB 3.0 because the speed won’t be as high.
WiFi Protocol/ Type
To enjoy the high speeds promised by the USB types, you might want to make sure that your router runs on the latest wireless protocol. If your router is an 802.11ac or 802.11ax, you will be able to enjoy the blazing high internet speeds of USB 3.0 ports. The speed of the USB 2.0 port will be equally high.
We recommend buying an 802.11ac router rather because it’s backward-compatible with previous WiFi protocols, and its performance is reasonable. On the other hand, if you are looking for blazing high speeds, you might want to opt for an 802.11ax router, which is also backward-compatible and fast, with the only drawback being the absence of many devices using this protocol yet.
The speed of your USB WiFi adapter depends on what you will use it for. While most of the dual-band adapters are ideal for heavy internet use, including 4K streaming for Netflix, among other uses, all thanks to the high-speed 802.11ac routers and the dual-band system, the speed of the adapter will drop as you move further from the router. For high-speed performance farther from the router, consider choosing a high-speed wireless router instead.
For gaming, opt for a high-speed USB WiFi adapter with low latency and maximum lag-free performance.
Design and Size
USB WiFi adapters come in different styles, and the dongle you choose will be based on your specific needs. Look beyond the appearance of the adapter.
Regarding size, the smaller USB WiFi adapter has a smaller range, and the performance isn’t the best. The small dongles will barely protrude from the USB port, and though they work great at a close range, their performance will drop significantly with increases in distance from your router unless you are using a mesh router/ home WiFi system.
For an adapter offering better overall performance, choose the ones that extend a little further from your computer when plugged in. The adapters that can be connected to the router using the Ethernet port is also a great option. You need such adapters for better performance, especially if you don’t want your connection troubled by interference.
Larger, bulkier adapters have more room for internal antennas, and others will also have external antennas. You need such wireless adapters for the best performance and maximum coverage range.
Opt for an adapter with at least one or even separate antennas for higher speeds. You could also opt for adapters that feature the beamforming technology for better signal focusing and maximum signal strength. Just keep in mind that if you opt for a dongle with external antennas, you will have to sacrifice its portability.
For Windows users, most of the USB WiFi adapters are plug-and-play adapters, but if you use a Linux or a Mac system, you might have limited options to contend with. Before purchase, go through the dongle’s specifications for compatibility details and the versions of operating systems supported. Pay extra attention to the dongle is it’s from a lesser-known brand, and don’t be afraid to ask for reviews from other users.
That said, your options will be more limited if you are looking for an adapter to use with your gaming console.
Can you use a wireless dongle for WiFi?
A dongle refers to a small USB device that makes it easy for you to access the internet. It’s also called a WiFi dongle, an internet stick, or USB modem, or even a USB network/WiFi adapter, and you can use it for WiFi if you are looking for more flexibility from your router’s WiFi.
What is MU-MIMO?
MU-MIMO or Multiple Input Multiple Output refers to the technology used in routers and adapters among other devices to ensure fast internet speed between devices without the risk of the devices fighting over each other on which devices get to send or receive data before the others. For MU-MIMO-supported adapters, there are extra inbuilt antennas, hence a higher level of performance from these adapters.
What is 802.11ac?
A protocol common with the WiFi adapters reviewed above, 802.11ac, represents the current WiFi standard that is supported by all routers and modern wiles devices. It’s a high-speed protocol, and it ensures the high-speed performance of routers and adapters.
The USB WiFi adapters reviewed above are some of the best adapters on the market. They fall in different categories, meaning that there is a router for different uses, needs, and budgets. From our small list of adapters, you should be able to find an adapter that works perfectly for you.