There are a few things that are absolutely necessary in 2016: a smartphone, a good laptop, and a fast internet connection. And in order to ensure that you always have a good internet connection at home, a solid USB wireless adapter is essential (as is a good router and modem).
The WiFi adapter market is incredibly polarizing, though. For every great product out there, there’s a dud, made by some company claiming that their USB adapter is the best (spoiler: it’s not). So, admittedly, it can be tough to decipher which products are worth your hard-earned money. What’s more, there are various types of adapters that are intended for various types of internet users. Are you simply on the internet to browse the web, or are you a hardcore gamer or Netflix streamer? The difference might seem negligible, but there’s a price difference between the types of adapters you’d need.
So, we’re here to help. Here are the best USB WiFi adapters 2017 has to offer:
1. Linksys Dual-Band AC1200 USB 3.0 Adapter
Intended For: Intermediate Users, Streamers and Web Browsers
WiFi has come a long way since its original inception, and now, the typical router puts out a higher-performance 5 GHz band that nearly triples the possible speed of your wireless internet connection. But the problem is, that many standard WiFi adapters don’t pick up the 5 GHz signal, especially in older laptops and older WiFi adapters. The good news? You can pick up a great USB WiFi adapter that picks up the speedier band, like the LInksys Dual-Band AC1200 USB 3.0 Adapter (Model WUSB6300) for under $100 (in fact, it comes in at $69.97).
With this adapter, you’re able to pick up up to 867 Mbps speed, and it has a reliable connection and range. It supports WPS, meaning connecting it to your network is as easy as pushing a button. It’s compatible with all 802.11ac routers, access points and extenders, and it supports 128-bit encryption through WEP, WPA, and WPA2. And, it works with the troublesome Windows 10 (which is known to have problems with wireless adapters) just fine. It’s the very adapter I use for my own personal use, and it pushes out the 50MBps that I’m currently paying for at home — highly recommend it.
2.4GHz (up to 300Mbps)
5.0GHz (up to 867Mbps)
- Best Speed
- Compatible with Windows 10
- Slightly pricier than competition
- Bigger than D-Link’s AC1200
2. Glam Hobby 600Mbps AC600 USB Adapter
Intended For: Laptop users who want to use 5GHz, Video streaming, Web Browsing, Conferencing
If you’re not a power-user, and you simply use the internet for web browsing and video streaming, the best cheap USB wireless adapter is the Glam Hobby 600Mbps AC600 USB Adapter, which comes in at just $15. With the much lower price tag, you’re still getting 600Mbps capabilities, and it runs 3x faster than Wireless N adapters. It’s great for HD video streaming and gaming, thanks to the fact that it picks up 5GHz bands (for a 433Mbps connection). The 2.4GHz band supports 150Mbps. Best of all, it comes in a compact design that’s the size of a typical Bluetooth adapter, measuring just 22mm in length, making it the ideal solution for getting 5GHz on a laptop. And yes, it also works with Windows 10 with a proper driver download.
So if you’re not a hardcore user, this is the best cheap wireless adapter available.
2.4GHz (up to 150Mbps)
5.0GHz (up to 433Mbps)
Price: $14.98 (57 percent off MSRP)
- Super compact, especially good for laptop use
- Easy to Install
- Slower Speeds than AC1200
3. D-Link AC1200 Mbps USB
Intended For: Those in Apartments/Smaller Homes that want to save a little money
D-Link is well-known among computer enthusiasts who know a thing or two about internet connections. Unfortunately, the D-Link AC1200 Mbps falls SLIGHTLY short of the Linksys equivalent (above), but it’s worth being mentioned on this list because it comes in at just $39.99 (for those keeping score at home, that’s $30 less than the Linksys AC1200), and the differences are basically negligible. The only major difference between the two USB WiFi adapters is their range, as in our tests, the D-Link fell just short speed wise when in the same location (we tried three different locations with both USB adapters on the same machine. Each time, the AC1200 fell short on speed by roughly 5Mbps when compared to the Linksys. Still, if it fits your purposes, the $30 savings is undeniably a plus for something that’s almost just as good. I’ll also note that I’m not a fan of the look, which, admittedly isn’t a very important factor when choosing the best USB WiFi adapters, but I’m still going to note it.
2.4GHz Speed (up to 300Mbps)
5GHz Speed (up to 867 Mbps)
Price: $39.99 (47 percent off MSRP)
- Smaller size
- Slightly less range/speed
- Cheap-looking design