Best Wi-Fi Adapter for Gaming in 2023 - No More Lag
Updated: September 12,2023
With every passing year, wireless technologies eclipse wired connections more and more. For PCs, the situation is no different, as more and more gamers are choosing the convenience of wireless adapters over the clutter and hassle of Ethernet cables.
However, it’s common knowledge that wireless connections aren’t as fast as wired ones, and that they’re more susceptible to lag. This is why you need to use the very best Wi-Fi adapter for gaming if you don’t want your opponents to have the edge over you.
We’ve taken all the important factors into consideration and put together the following list of the six leading Wi-Fi adapters, so if you’re currently shopping for one, read on.
- Exceptional speed
- Magnetized base
- Four dipole antennas
- Slightly expensive
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 PC 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 PC Wi-Fi adapter with an AC rating of 3,100. The bandwidth is distributed through two bands - 2,100 Mbps on the 5 GHz and 1,000 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band, offering superb wireless connectivity. It is an internal PCIe adapter, so it can only be used in a desktop computer.
This is probably the best setup you’ll find that can handle today’s gaming needs. Since it’s a 4x4 adapter, it reportedly works 60% faster than a regular 3x3 adapter. Naturally, this is measured in perfect conditions, and the real-world 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 either 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 other products of your choice.
As you would expect from one of the best Wi-Fi adapters for a gaming PC, the PCE-AC88 also utilizes beamforming technology that improves the device’s efficiency. 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 adapter also uses a specially crafted heatsink that ensures a steady working temperature at all times.
Other reasons why many see this product as the best wireless Wi-Fi adapter for gaming include the four antennas, a magnetized external base, a low-profile bracket for card installation, and the Asus PCE-AC88 driver that helps with the setup.
While the product is a bit pricier than some other options, this wireless network adapter for PC makes up for it with great speed, high-quality materials, the latest networking technology, and overall great wireless capabilities.
- Wi-Fi backward compatibility
- Advanced aluminum heatsink
- Affordable price
- Uncertainty about future software updates
If you’re looking for a high-end PCIe adapter that doesn’t come at the expense of your entire budget, Rosewill’s adapter might be a great choice.
It is the best wireless adapter for PC that offers decent speeds and backward compatibility with older Wi-Fi network standards, which can be useful if you don’t plan on replacing your entire home network.
Like most other modern wireless adapters, Rosewill AC1900 provides you with dual-band connectivity, jointly offering a bandwidth of 1,900 Mbps (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 802.11ac protocol, 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 might be the best wireless adapter for gaming for many users, you’ll see a significant drop in speed when it connects to equipment built to comply with earlier standards.
There is almost no risk of overheating even when multiple users are connected because of the high-quality aluminum heatsink. This is an essential component for high-speed adapters, so it must deliver as promised. The device utilizes three high-gain upgradeable antennas. Of course, the RNX also supports beamforming, as is the case with all the leading wireless adapters on the market.
This wireless adapter covers all the major security protocols, including WEP, WPA, and WPA2. It also supports numerous operating systems, starting with Windows XP, Windows 7, Windows 8, and Windows 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.
Netgear Nighthawk A7000
- USB 3.0 compatible
- High-gain antennas
- Dedicated app
- Antennas not changeable
A USB adapter is a much more practical option compared to internal wireless adapters 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 Wi-Fi USB adapter with an AC rating of 1,900. 1,300 Mbps is allocated to a 5 GHz connection, and the remaining 600 Mbps goes through 2.4 GHz, making for a very fast wireless connection. The Nighthawk supports beamforming for maximum signal efficiency. 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, which makes it stand out from other USB adapters. It rests in a magnetic cradle that is connected to the computer via one of your desktop’s or laptop’s USB ports.
Although the device can plug into any USB port, you’ll get the maximum speed only through a USB 3.0 port. The four powerful, high-gain antennas are located inside one of the plates. This, unfortunately, means that they’re not replaceable.
The Netgear wireless adapter works on most Windows systems (7, 8, and 10) and on newer macOS systems, too. 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 operating systems 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 connection 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 USB dongle. 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. Moreover, since it relies on USB ports rather than PCI slots on a motherboard, it’s also a great pick for gaming laptops.
TP-Link Archer T6E AC1300
- Good reputation
- Affordable price
- Backward compatible
- Possible software problems
With nearly two and a half decades 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 wireless adapter with an unrivaled connection speed, but it’s affordable, reliable, and the company offers excellent 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 is an internal Wi-Fi card that connects via a PCI Express slot rather than a USB port, and it uses the 802.11ac protocol.
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, broken down into 867 Mbps on a 5 GHz connection and 400 Mbps on a 2.4 GHz connection. Although you can get faster speeds with other routers, this is more than fast enough for most users.
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 and can be replaced with aftermarket alternatives. Since this wireless adapter supports beamforming technology, you’ll be able to enjoy a stable connection throughout your gaming sessions.
The gaming Wi-Fi adapter is compatible with a wide range of Windows operating systems, starting with the now almost 20-year-old Windows XP and going all the way up to Windows 10. The device supports the latest WPA and WPA2 data encryption in order to keep your internet connection secure.
During our review, we found that one of the biggest problems with this model is its buggy drivers. Thankfully, TP-Link has an exceptional customer support team that’s available 24/7. In most cases, they’ll be able to help you solve software issues within minutes.
The Archer T6E is a decent networking option if you’re looking for a strong brand with reliable support. It might not be the very best Wi-Fi card adapter for gaming, but it is quite enough for an average user who’d prefer an internal wireless adapter rather than a USB one.
- Comprehensive OS support
- LED indicator
- Three-year warranty
The 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 USB Wi-Fi adapter for gaming PC for a number of reasons. This adapter offers exceptionally high speeds, a reliable wireless connection, and vast OS compatibility for a USB adapter.
Like many other top-end devices, TEW-809UB is also a dual-band adapter with an AC rating of 1,900. 1,300 Mbps go through the 5 GHz connection, while the remaining 600 Mbps go through the 2.4 GHz band.
Size is probably the first thing you’ll notice about this USB wireless adapter. It features a small main body and four detachable antennas that give it a very striking look. However, you can always detach them if you need to transport the adapter or if you prefer a subtler look.
TRENDnet’s best Wi-Fi adapter for a PC gaming desktop supports beamforming technology for more efficient and focused signals from the router. The device is powered by 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, the LED indicator can save you a lot of time in situations when you need to figure out which device in the communication chain is interrupting your internet connection.
One important element we have to mention in our USB wireless adapters reviews 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.
You can expect to pay a little bit more for this device, but as far as USB network adapter options are concerned, this is one of the best wireless adapters for gaming.
- Functional dual LED lights
- Affordable price
- No signal optimization
- No MU-MIMO support
If you’re looking for an inexpensive portable USB adapter that will provide you with decent speed, Linksys might have a solution. Its WUSB6300 is an incredibly compact, simple, yet surprisingly powerful adapter perfect for casual gaming.
At first glance, Linksys’s entry in the competition may look just like any other USB flash drive. It’s small, and it doesn’t take up much space. However, some users have complained online about it being slightly impractical as it sticks out of the USB port quite obtrusively.
The USB Wi-Fi 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 such as data transfers, power modes, security problems, and so on.
This candidate for the best Wi-Fi dongle for gaming is a dual-band device with a total AC bandwidth of 1,200. 867 Mbps goes through a 5 GHz connection, while 300 Mbps is what you’ll get on 2.4 GHz. The adapter uses USB 3.0, which is ten times faster than the older USB 2.0 connection, and it uses two internal antennas.
When it comes to technologies, this Wi-Fi dongle for PC supports beamforming but doesn’t support MU-MIMO, which is somewhat disappointing. 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, many users have reported problems with this version of the operating system, so there might be better Wi-Fi adapters out there for Windows 10 users.
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.
Top Wi-fi Adapters for Gaming in 2023
- Asus PCE-AC88
- Rosewill RNX AC1900PCE
- Netgear Nighthawk A7000
- TRENDnet TEW-809UB
- Linksys WUSB6300
How We Choose the Best WiFi Adapters for Gaming
Gamers have a wide range of varying preferences and priorities, which means that creating a comprehensive list of the best Wi-Fi adapters for gaming is no easy task. Many devices compete for the throne, but only one can earn the crown.
To help us figure out which wireless adapter deserves the title, we’ve taken a number of factors into consideration. Here are the five elements we used as guides on our quest.
The first and the most important criterion on our list is speed. You could have the best internet speed in the world, but it doesn’t mean anything if the Wi-Fi cannot support it. Just the same, Wi-Fi speed is crucial for peripherals such as streaming webcams that use a lot of bandwidth and for situations where you may have multiple devices using the network.
Manufacturers often use marketing tricks to present their best USB Wi-Fi adapter for gaming in the best light.
For example, you might think that an AC2100 adapter would have 2,100 Mbps speed - but it doesn’t. The “AC” here 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’ll spend the rest of your savings on a matching router. You can use what you have, and even the best Wi-Fi adapter for PC gaming needs to respect that. We give extra points to adapters that implement backward compatibility with older systems and protocols.
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 needs to support beamforming, MU-MIMO, and USB 3.0 (unless it’s a wireless network card).
With every piece of hardware, you should get something of guarantee that it will work and that the company will do its best to fix any issues that might come up. That is why you need to ensure that the best network adapter for gaming manufacturers give you all the customer support you might need.
Of course, at the end of our assessment, we go back to the basics with one simple question - how much does this cost? Just like with more expensive gear, such as gaming chairs, and other gaming equipment such as microphones, 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.
Frequently Asked Questions
USB Wi-Fi adapters are always slower than a wired connection, since a wireless signal simpy can’t compete with an Ethernet cable, but that doesn’t mean that they won’t be able to take on even some of the most demanding games.
The best USB Wi-Fi adapter for gaming can easily achieve speeds of over 1,000 Mbps, which is more than enough for most popular online games, even highly competitive FPS titles.
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, and having a stable connection is often more important than speed itself.
Although wireless speeds still can’t beat a wired connection, the technology has evolved greatly over the years. The best USB Wi-Fi adapters for gaming are more than good enough for even competitive online gaming these days. Things will only improve in the future, but wireless internet can already provide a great gaming experience right now.
That depends largely on the type of adapter, the router, the PC, and even the distance between these devices. For some people, the best Wi-Fi adapter for gaming can only come in the form of a card with numerous external antennas. Whether you think they are right really depends on how demanding you are as a user.
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