Armed to the teeth, you await your nemesis. Footsteps echo in the dark alley as you tighten your grip on the blaster. You leap out of the ambush and pull the trigger – and you’re stabbed in the back by your traitorous Wi-Fi connection. Your in-game character lags and loses the fight, bringing shame to your entire team.
It’s time to find a Wi-Fi adapter for gaming so you can show the online world who you really are. For a life without lag, here is our selection of the top devices you can buy.
- Wi-Fi backward compatibility
- Advanced aluminum heatsink
- Affordable price
For the past 30 years, Asus has been one of the world’s best known manufacturers of computer components. While you can’t go wrong when choosing their products, the main concern for many users is the price. Obviously, you want to make sure you’re getting your money’s worth. Asus’s best Wi-Fi adapter for gaming, the PCE-AC88, packs quite a punch though it is a bit pricey.
The PCE-AC88 is a dual-band Wi-Fi adapter with an AC rating of 3,100. This bandwidth is distributed through two bands – 2,100 Mbps on 5 GHz and 1,000 Mbps on 2.4 GHz connections. This is probably the best setup you’ll find that can handle today’s gaming needs. Since it’s a 4×4 adapter, it reportedly works 60% faster than a regular 3×3 adapter. Naturally, this is measured in perfect conditions and the difference might not be as drastic.
The package comes with an extension cable that connects the Asus best wireless card for gaming with its four external dipole antennas. They have magnetized bases that allow you to place them wherever you want – horizontally or vertically. You can even stick them on the side of your computer case if you feel that would give you better reception. All of these antennas use an R-SMA connector, so you can easily replace them with the products of your choice. Of course, this is only for experienced users who know what they’re doing. Beginners should simply use the ones provided.
As you would expect from the best wireless network card for gaming, the PCE-AC88 also utilizes beamforming technology that improves the efficiency of the device. If you browse through the AsusTek website you might stumble upon the term AiRadar, but that’s just what Asus calls its beamforming. Thanks to this, you don’t actually need to worry about setting up your antennas at the right angle. The signal will easily find its way. The adapter also uses a specially-crafted heatsink that ensures a steady working temperature at all times.
This best wireless Wi-Fi adapter for gaming comes with four antennas, a magnetized external base, a low-profile bracket for card installation, and the Asus PCE-AC88 driver to help out with software-side installation. While the product is a bit costlier than some other options, it certainly makes up for it with great speed, high-quality materials, and the latest networking technology.
If you’re looking for high-end quality that doesn’t come at the expense of your entire budget, Rosewill’s adapter might be a great choice. It is the best PCI Wi-Fi adapter for gaming that offers decent speeds and backward compatibility with older network standards, which can be useful if you don’t plan on replacing your entire home network.
Like most other modern adapters, Rosewill AC1900 provides you with a dual-band system, jointly offering a bandwidth of 1,900 Mbps distributed like this – 1,300 Mbps on a 5 GHz connection and 600 Mbps on a 2.4 GHz connection. You won’t have any problems with online gaming or 4K Ultra HD video streaming.
The wireless card uses the fastest Wi-Fi standard right now – 802.11ac – but it’s also backward compatible. This means that it will still work well with older routers in your home, but the speeds will be significantly decreased. Even though this may be the best wireless adapter for gaming, you’ll see an immense drop in speed when it connects to equipment built to comply with earlier standards. For example, a 5 GHz connection to the 11a standard can reach only 54 Mbps.
There is almost no risk of overheating even when half a dozen users are connected because of the high-quality advanced aluminum heatsink. This is an essential component for high-speed adapters, so it’s important that it delivers as promised. The device utilizes three high-gain upgradeable antennas. Of course, the RNX also supports beamforming – as is the case with every good Wi-Fi card for gaming.
The adapter covers all the major security options, including WEP, WPA, and WPA 2. It also offers support for numerous operating systems starting with the often-neglected Windows XP, then Windows 7, 8, and 10. The package includes the usual: the adapter, antennas, and the Rosewill RNX-AC1900PCE drivers. There are no brackets or any other auxiliary installation elements.
Overall, Rosewill RNX AC1900 is a superb choice for users who need the highest quality network adapter but don’t want to pay too much for the brand. Keep in mind that even though you might be getting the best PC Wi-Fi adapter for gaming, you might not receive the software support you need in the future.
TP-Link Archer T6E AC1300
With nearly two and a half decades of experience in the field of computer networking, TP-Link has certainly made a name for itself. The company’s Archer T6E might not be an impressive adapter with enormous speeds, but it’s affordable, it’s reliable, and it offers great support. It is a reasonable choice for mid-range budget gamers who want a reputable company behind it.
The TP-Link Archer T6E is the best network card for gaming that won’t drain out all your funds. It uses a PCI Express slot and implements what is currently the highest Wi-Fi standard – 802.11ac. However, the device is also backward compatible, so you’ll have no problems connecting it to an older router (though the speed maximums will naturally suffer). Speaking of speed, the adapter has an AC rating of 1,300, which is broken down into 867 Mbps on a 5 GHz connection and 400 Mbps on a 2.4 GHz connection. This is a solid choice for online games that are not so demanding.
The aluminum-alloy heatsink disperses any temperature buildup to make sure the card works properly at all times. The two antennas on TP-Link’s gaming wireless card are flexible and detachable. If you want, you can replace them with antennas you find on the aftermarket. Thanks to the fact that the adapter supports beamforming technology, you’ll be able to enjoy stable and efficient connections throughout your gaming sessions.
The wireless card is compatible with a wide range of Windows operating systems, starting with the almost-20-year-old XP and going all the way up to Windows 10. The device allows for all types of data encryption. Although advanced WPA and WPA 2 options are available, you may also opt for the largely outdated WEP.
According to online Wi-Fi adapter reviews, one of the biggest problems with this adapter is its TP-Link Archer T6E AC1300 driver. They seem to be prone to bugs that ruin the entire networking experience. Thankfully, TP-Link has an exceptional customer support team that is available 24/7. In most cases, they’ll be able to solve software issues within minutes. If not, you can always utilize the two-year warranty provided with every device.
The Archer T6E is a decent networking option if you’re looking for a strong brand with reliable support. It might not be able to compete with the best Wi-Fi cards for gaming on the high-end but it is quite enough for an average user.
Netgear Nighthawk A7000
USB adapters are way more practical than wireless cards because all you need to do is plug them in and choose the network you want. This portability comes at the expense of some speed, but when it comes to the best USB Wi-Fi adapter for gaming, it might just be worth it. As always, Netgear offers an exceptional affordable choice in the form of the Nighthawk A7000 adapter. It looks modern and elegant, it’s easy to carry, and most importantly, it offers a lot of power. Let’s take a look.
First of all, the A7000 is a dual-band adapter with an AC rating of 1,900. Out of that number, 1,300 Mbps is allocated to a 5 GHz connection and the remaining 600 Mbps goes to the regular 2.4 GHz option. The Nighthawk supports beamforming for the maximum efficiency of the signal. You just need to make sure your router supports it as well.
One of the first things you’ll notice about Netgear’s best USB Wi-Fi adapter for PC gaming is the device’s unique design. The A7000 basically looks like a foldable phone from the ‘90s. It rests in a magnetic cradle that is connected to the computer via a USB cable. Although the device is capable of plugging into any port, you’ll get maximum speed with the latest USB 3.0. The four powerful, high-gain antennas are located inside one of the plates. This automatically eliminates any possibility of replacing antennas with your own components.
The Netgear wireless adapter works on the majority of Windows systems (7, 8, and 10), as well as on MacOS 10.8.3. As you might expect from the best wireless network adapter for PC gaming, the A7000 also utilizes backward compatibility. That way it can work with older devices without a problem.
Another important element of the Nighthawk experience is a dedicated app called Netgear genie. Among other things, this app lets you easily connect to a network, monitor your Wi-Fi remotely, stream music, and even set up parental controls. With this much functionality, it’s unfair to call this app just a mere addition to the adapter. It basically transforms it into a whole new product.
This candidate for the best PC wireless adapter for gaming crown comes with a one-year warranty. Besides that, you will also have a tech support team at your disposal 24/7 for the first 90 days after your purchase. It is a great opportunity to spot any bugs or problems and deal with them right away.
California-based TRENDnet has been supplying businesses and home users with the highest quality networking devices for more than 30 years. Its TEW-809UB is considered by many to be the best Wi-Fi USB adapter for gaming for a number of reasons. For a USB device, this adapter offers exceptional speed, a reliable connection, and vast OS compatibility.
Like many other top-end devices, TEW-809UB is also a dual-band adapter with an AC rating of 1,900. Out of that number, 1,300 Mbps go through the 5 GHz connection, while the remaining 600 Mbps go through 2.4 GHz.
Size is probably the first thing you’ll notice about this adapter. Armed with four detachable antennas, it looks like a sizable inverted spider. Thankfully, you can mount it on the wall to save some space near your computer. That being said, the antennas are fully detachable, so if you want a subtler but slightly less effective design, you can just remove them all.
TRENDnet’s best Wi-Fi adapter for PC gaming supports beamforming technology for more efficient and focused signals from the router. The device is powered with a USB cable that works best with a USB 3.0 port. The LED at the center of the device tells you if you’re connected to a network and if there is any data transmission going on. Although it’s a small detail, this LED indicator can save you a lot of time in situations when you need to figure out which device in the communication chain is preventing YouTube from streaming the video you want to see.
One important element we have to mention in our USB Wi-Fi adapter review is: compatibility. The device is compatible with almost all operating systems (Windows and Mac), including the often-forgotten Windows Vista. In case something goes wrong, you can always fall back on the three-year warranty. However, considering how quickly technology is moving forward, in three years this device might even be obsolete. A three-year warranty is more than adequate in this corner of the tech world.
You can expect to pay a little bit more for this device, but as far as USB options are concerned, this is one of the best wireless adapters for gaming.
If you’re looking for an inexpensive portable option that will provide you with decent speed, Linksys might have a solution. Its WUSB6300 is an incredibly compact, simple, yet surprisingly powerful adapter that is perfect for casual gaming.
At first glance, Linksys’s entry in the best Wi-Fi adapter for gaming derby looks just like any other USB flash drive. It is small and it doesn’t take up much space in the computer. That being said, some users have complained online about it being slightly impractical as it sticks out of the port quite obtrusively. The adapter has two LED lights on top showing you information about your connection. If you read the manual, you’ll be able to distinguish between various notifications like data transfers, power modes, security problems, and so on.
This possible best Wi-Fi dongle for gaming is a dual-band device with an accumulated AC bandwidth of 1,200. Out of that number, 867 Mbps comes through a 5 GHz connection, while 300 Mbps uses a 2.4 GHz wave. Obviously, the adapter uses USB 3.0, which is 10 times faster than the usual USB 2.0. Hidden inside the device are two powerful antennas. Because of that, it is impossible to tinker with the signal or boost it somehow through an extension cable. Basically, what you see is what you get.
When it comes to technologies, the adapter supports beamforming but doesn’t support MU-MIMO, which is somewhat disheartening. You’d expect the best desktop Wi-Fi adapter for gaming to check both of these boxes. But WUSB6300’s strengths lie elsewhere – the price. This adapter is quite affordable considering the power it provides and the quality of the design.
Linksys’s USB Wi-Fi dongle is compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, and 8. Although it’s officially compatible with Windows 10 as well, a number of users have reported problems with this version of the operating system, so if you don’t have to, don’t use that one.
Overall, the Linksys WUSB6300 doesn’t promise a lot, but it certainly delivers. If you feel that the best wireless adapter for PC gaming should come in USB form, you can’t go wrong with this one. It’s small, it’s portable, and it will give you hours of online fun.
Creating a comprehensive list of Wi-Fi adapters for gaming is no easy task. There are a lot of gamers, and all of them have different priorities. Many devices compete for the throne, but only one can earn the crown. To help us figure out which adapters deserve accolades, we’ve come up with a unique methodology. Here are the five elements we used as guides on our quest.
The first and the most important criterion on our list is speed. This is what it’s all about. Regardless of how good your streaming webcam, controller, or speakers are, they’re worthless if you’re suffering from shoddy Wi-Fi. If you want to enjoy your online adventures the right way, you need decent network speed.
Manufacturers often use marketing tricks to present their Wi-Fi adapter for gaming PC in the best light.
For example, you might think that an AC2100 adapter would have 2,100 Mbps speed – but it doesn’t. “AC” means the adapter is compatible with the 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard, Wi-Fi 5. The “2100” designation is the sum of the adapter’s top speeds at each frequency. For example, an AC2100 adapter might operate at 1,300 Mbps at 5 GHz and 800 Mbps at 2.4 GHz. The actual theoretical top speed is therefore 1,300 Mbps, not 2,100 Mbps.
Buying a Wi-Fi adapter for your PC doesn’t necessarily mean that you will spend the rest of your savings on a matching router. You can use what you have, and even the highest quality Wi-Fi receiver for gaming needs to respect that. We give extra points to adapters that implement backward compatibility or seem to be open to all kinds of cooperation. Sometimes adapters can work only with the latest operating systems, so it’s good to know when the manufacturers are on the exclusive side.
Every generation of wireless networks comes with its own groundbreaking technology, so devices that want to be in the lead need to stay on top of it all. Until we see the rise of Wi-Fi 6 and everything it has to offer, AC is the standard in the wireless industry. A good wireless network adapter for gaming should offer support for beamforming, MU-MIMO, and USB 3.0 (unless it’s a wireless network card).
Buying a network adapter is a little bit different from buying potatoes or tomatoes from the marketplace. With this piece of hardware, you get something of a guarantee that it will work and that the company will do its best to fix any issues that might come up. It becomes less of a purchase and more of a partnership. That is why you need to make sure that gaming wireless adapter manufacturers give you all the customer care you might need.
Of course, at the end of our thorough assessment, we go back to the basics with one simple question – how much does this cost? Just like with gaming chairs, microphones, and other gaming gear, some adapters are cheaper and some are more expensive but it’s more about the value of the product. Paying a little bit more for a high-quality product makes sense as much as paying slightly less for a simpler adapter. Both options are good if you know what you’re spending your money on.
Top Wi-fi Adapters for Gaming 2021
- Asus PCE-AC88
- Rosewill RNX AC1900PCE
- TP-Link Archer T6E
- Netgear Nighthawk A7000
- TRENDnet TEW-809UB
- Linksys WUSB6300
Dual-band – This means that the adapter can transmit on two frequencies – 5 GHz and 2.4 GHz. The 5 GHz connection is faster but has a shorter range. It cannot penetrate walls and it offers less coverage. With 2.4 GHz where you get lower speeds but a much wider range and better coverage.
AC – One of the most important features of a wireless adapter for PC gaming is certainly the AC rating. This is an abbreviation of the wireless standard 802.11ac, and it is often used to advertise the speed of an adapter. One thing to keep in mind is that the AC is a sum of all the band speeds even though they can’t be used at the same time. Because of that, if you want to find the actual speed, you’ll need to see how it’s distributed across the bands.
Beamforming – Ordinarily, when a router sends out a signal to a device, it sends it in all directions, wasting time and energy. Beamforming technology is used by some Wi-Fi adapters for PC gaming(usually ones that boast the highest quality) to let the router locate the receiver and send the signal directly. It is a more efficient and stable connection.
MU-MIMO – Though the abbreviation seems confusing, the full form is even more baffling – Multi-user multiple-input multiple-output. This technology allows multiple users to access a network at the same time without lags or traffic congestion. It is an important piece of technology that keeps boosting throughput more efficiently with every new wireless generation.
Are USB Wi-Fi adapters good for gaming?
USB Wi-Fi adapters are necessarily slightly slower than wireless card adapters, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to take on even some of the most demanding games. Most USB Wi-Fi adapters for gaming can easily achieve speeds of over 1,000 Mbps, which is more than enough for the majority of popular online games.
What is the fastest Wi-Fi adapter?
Based on our list, the fastest Wi-Fi adapter is the Asus PCE-AC88 with an AC rating of 3,100. This exceptional PCI card reaches up to 2,100 Mbps on 5 GHz connections and 1,000 Mbps on 2.4 GHz. Thanks to its beamforming and MU-MIMO support, the connection is steady and reliable, which is sometimes even more important than speed itself.
Is wireless internet good for gaming?
Although wireless speeds still can’t beat a wired connection, the technology is slowly moving toward it. USB Wi-Fi adapters for gaming are becoming more and more popular, so it’s only a matter of time before manufacturers start investing a lot more in wireless connectivity and its potential. Right now, top Wi-Fi connections can offer you a more-than-decent gaming experience, so make sure you try it.
Are Wi-Fi USB adapters good?
This depends largely on the type of adapter, the router, the PC, and even the distance between these elements. For some people, a decent Wi-Fi adapter for gaming can only be in the form of a card with numerous external antennas. Whether they’re right really depends on each individual case.