Wireless networks are the norm in today’s world.
Most of our modern gadgets (Smartphones, Tablets, Laptops and smart watches etc) utilize WiFi standard.
There’s a problem in it, though.
Most of the gamers play their games on PCs, and by default, there's no WiFi compatibility in most of them (Some motherboards have built-in WiFi adapters but they don’t have good signal strength).
One solution is to directly connect your PC with your router, through a network cable, but that would kill the whole “wireless” concept.
Here come wireless adapters aka. WiFi adapters.
Best Wireless Adapters For Gaming In 2020
It is a device which adds WiFi connectivity in a computer or laptop PC. Although WiFi adapters come in many forms and standards, they are two main types of them.
USB WiFi Adapters
As its name suggests, USB WiFi adapters use the USB interface of your PC. The main advantage of USB wireless adapters is their ease of use. They’re as simple to operate as a USB flash drive.
Just plug ‘em into your PC and you’re done. Apart from this, they eliminate the need for internal software installation and can be used on more than one device. But even among USB WiFi adapters, there are a lot of things which make one USB Adapter different than another.
Here are the things you should look into a USB wireless adapter.
USB WiFi Adapter Types
Even among themselves, USB wireless adapters come in many types and size. Smallest of them can be as small as your thumb, making them perfect for portability purposes.
On the other hand, there are some large-size models too. While they might be large and bulky, they have a good amount of speed and signal strength, making them perfect to power-seekers.
In between these two extremes, there are some medium-sized models, that have the size of a typical flash drive.
USB 2.0 vs 3.0
Currently, there are two USB standards majorly used in modern PCs: USB 2.0 and USB 3.0
First of them is USB 2.0. This is a widely-used-but-now-aging standard and capable of a data delivery speed of 480 Mbps. This speed may feel plenty but not as fast as what many other USB adapters can deliver.
If you have one of those USB adapters, then USB 2.0 port of your PC can bottleneck your internet speed.
Considering all of this, you should choose an adapter with a USB 3.0 interface. It’s because not only more and more PCs are coming with USB 3.0 ports, they are also faster than 2.0 ports. They can transfer data at a rate of 5 Gbps.
In terms of software, different vendors take different approaches. Some manufacturers only make a driver-like software for an adapter. This approach may feel hollow in terms of functionality but the main thing here is the ease of use.
On the other hand, some vendors ship a full-fledged software with their WiFi adapters, but many people think of them as bloatware (pre-installed Android apps from different vendors).
Internal vs External Antenna
Antenna-wise, there are two types of USB adapters: Internal and External Antenna USB adapters. The major advantage of internal antennas is the compactness. That’s why many vendors place one or more internal antennas in those cards.
However, if you want good signal strength and long range, then you should opt for an adapter with an external antenna. These external antennas can be unidirectional as well as omnidirectional.
802.11 standard, aka WiFi, is itself further divided into many standards like 802.11a/b/g/n and ac etc. Apart from this, each WiFi device is labeled by a number too .e.g: N300 or AC1300.
Each modern WiFi device has at least two bands 2.4 GHz Band (slower speed but longer range) and 5 GHz Band (faster than 2.4 GHz but less range). In the case of N300, it means that a device is capable of providing 300 Mbps theoretical speed through its 2.4 GHz Band.
Although it’s not possible to list all them here, we have made a table of most common WiFi standards and their respective speeds.
Overall Speed (Mbps)
MU-MIMO stands for Multi-User, Multi-Input, Multi-Output. In a typical scenario, as more devices will connect to your home wireless network, more slower it will become.
It’s because a typical router can only ‘communicate’ with one device at a time and the other devices have to wait for their turn.
MU-MIMO-enabled routers can communicate from multiple devices at the same time. This means that your network won’t slow down even if you have a lot of devices.
But here’s the thing though.
In order to fully enjoy this MU-MIMO feature, your client device, as well as your router, must have MU-MIMO feature. That’s why if you have a lot of devices in your home network, you should have a USB adapter having MU-MIMO.
Like MU-MIMO, beamforming is a new feature among WiFi devices and came with the 802.11ac standard.
This technology allows a router to have its focus on a single direction - where you have a client device - rather than going omnidirectional. There are many USB adapters that have this feature too.
If you want to know more about these features, go check our WiFi router 2020 guide.
PCI WiFi Adapters
Just as their name suggests, PCI WiFi cards utilize the PCI interface on your motherboard. Usually, they have fixed antennas that are raised on the backside of your PCs.
You have to manually install these in your motherboard and as you can imagine, you can’t use them with any other PC in a plug 'n' play manner. Unlike USB adapters, which are praised of their convenience, PCI cards are praised for their performance.
How to install a PCI WiFi Card
Since it can be awkward installing a PCI adapter especially if you're a beginner, here’s a video for your help.
Alright. Now that you have learned about different types of WiFi cards and their respective ins and outs, let's start our review about best gaming WiFi adapters 2020 guide.
Best WiFi Adapters 2020 For Gaming Guide
7. TP-Link TL-WDN4800: Check Price On Amazon
Best Cheap WiFi Card 2020 For Gaming
TP-Link is a very popular company known for making affordable yet solid networking equipment. TL-WDN4800 is one of those devices.
This PCIe WiFi adapter supports dual-bands, which means you can reach 450Mbps speed over its 2.4GHz Band and 450 Mbps on 5GHz Band. This makes its total speed up to 900 Mbps.
Since this device supports 802.11 N, it’s backward compatible with 802.11a/b/g clients as well. In order to improve signal strength and range, this card has three adjustable antennas.
For improved security, it supports the new WPA-2 as well as the older WPA encryption method. Since it fits into PCI x16 slot in your PC, just make sure you have one free in your computer.
Upon unboxing it, you’ll see a mini-CD along with the card. This mini CD contains the software/drivers necessary to make it work. Next, you’ll notice 3 detached antennas, a mounting bracket, and the WiFi card itself.
As you’ll see, this WiFi card is pretty compact and this thing will come handy if you have a PC crowded from the inside.
Installing it is pretty easy, you just need to have a free PCIe slot. Simply put it in that slot, and use screws for a better fit. After this, you can attach its antennas with it from outside the PC.
Here’s an entire video tutorial for that step.
As far as performance is concerned, we were pretty much satisfied. Its throughput speed will be enough for most of the internet connections out there. Considering all of this, this is our recommendation for the best budget WiFi card for gaming.
6. Edimax AC1200: Check Price On Amazon
Although Edimax isn’t a company as popular as Cisco, Linksys and Netgear etc, they make some excellent affordable products.
The device here is an AC1200 USB adapter by Edimax. First talk about its standard.
This adapter is from the ‘wave 2’ lot of the WiFi devices. 802.11ac standard has come in waves, and it’s the wave 2 that brought many cool features like MU-MIMO and beamforming etc.
Of course, your router also has to be from 802.11ac wave 2 group.
Since it’s an AC1200 WiFi device, it can reach a top speed of 300 Mbps over its 2.4 GHz band, while on 5 GHz band, this speed can go as up as 900 Mbps. In real-world, however, this speed will much lower.
In the testing done by Tech Radar, this adapter reached file writing speed of 83.43 Mbps, which is very good for a USB WiFi dongle.
Another good thing is it has a really small and nano design, but it can be a downside as well. For security, this dongle has 64/128-bit WEP, WPA, and WPA2 encryption methods.
Last, but not the least, is its price. It's really affordable and recommended for anyone who's looking for a cheap WiFi card but doesn't want a PCI-slot based solution.
5. NETGEAR A6210-100PAS: Check Price On Amazon
Like Edimax WiFi card, A6210 is dual-band AC1200 WiFi card by Netgear. But that’s all they have in common, and here come the differences.
The first difference you’ll notice is the size. This adapter is quite large (almost 6” when fully extended) as compared to the one from Edimax. You can’t attach it directly into your PC, due to the width of its port.
Instead, it goes into its base which, in turn, goes into your PC through USB port. This attached base (for added support) further suggests that Netgear made it primarily for desktop PCs, not laptops.
Performance-wise, it’s an excellent product. In a test by Tech Buyers Guru, it was able to transfer files at a speed of 234 Mbps over the internet, which is better than most USB 2.0 storage devices can transfer.
One thing you should note is that this speed remains directly proportional to your closeness with your router. The further you go, less signal strength you will have, and it’ll lead to overall slow speed.
That being said, it comes with high gain dual-antennas that have been flipped-up for adjustability. This device also comes with a dedicated WPS button.
Overall, design aside, this is a very high-quality adapter and you should have it in your accessory drawer unless you have a laptop and want your adapter to portability purposes.
It works best with Netgear’s router but we managed to get it along with other companies’ routers as well. You can use the Netgear Genie app to manage it. It will show you different things like WiFi channel info, current network, etc.
4 . Trendnet AC1900 TEW-809UB: Check Price On Amazon
AC1900 is a very high-speed WiFi protocol even by today’s standards. That’s the reason why most AC1900 WiFi adapters were PCI -based solutions before.
But now, since the advent of USB 3.0 port, more and more USB-based solutions are coming in the market.
TEW-809UB is one of those solutions. It’s a USB adapter capable of reaching 600 Mbps over the old 2.4 GHz band and the 1300 Mbps over the 5 GHz band - 1900 Mbps in total. Being an 802.11ac device means the customary perks like beamforming, MU-MIMO, and WPA2 encryption are readily available.
Design-wise, this adapter looks pretty weird, courtesy of its 4 long antennas. For better customization, these antennas are made adjustable and removable.
Setting up this adapter is very easy. All you need to do is to install its drivers, via the CD came along with it, or from the TrendNet’s official site if your PC/laptop don’t have an optical drive.
Performance-wise, this adapter has a signal range of 30 feet which is good but maybe not enough if you have placed the router at a distant place. This adapter has good throughput on its 5 GHz band, but 2.4 GHz band performance is just average.
3. D-Link Systems DWA-192: Check Price On Amazon
Best USB WiFi Adapter 2020 For Gaming
This adapter is different than most of ‘em in this roundup, at least from the looks. Most of the USB adapters here have the shape of a typical USB stick. Not this one, this one looks more like a poké ball.
It connects to your PC/laptop through a proprietary 3-foot USB cable. It consists of two semi-circles: one is black while the other one has the silver color. These two halves are separated by an LED light which glows when this adapter is turned on.
The bottom half of this adapter (the silver one) is flattened out in the middle to prevent it from rolling out on flat surfaces. The connector which connects it to a USB port of your PC, is also in this bottom half.
As eye-catching this design may be, it’s bulkier and less portable than a traditional USB-stick like adapters.
Specs-wise, this is an AC1900 USB adapter, and supports backward compatibility for 802.11a/b/g/n devices and has D-link’s services like SmartBeam (another name for beamforming) and WPA2 encryption etc.
Like other USB adapters, setting it up is a breeze. You just need to install its drivers on your PC (make sure to disable other WiFi adapters currently installed on your PC) and then plug-in this adapter.
Unlike TEW-809UB from TrendNet (which had pretty average 2.4GHz performance), this adapter is equally good on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands.
Another good thing about it is that, even though it’s a USB 3.0 WiFi adapter, its performance doesn’t downgrade much when you plug it into a USB 2.0 port.
All in all, this is a really good adapter (in fact the best USB adapter for gaming) if you don’t care about its bulkiness.
2. ASUS PCE-AC68: Check Price On Amazon
Best AC1900 WiFi Card For Gaming
PCE-AC68 is our last AC1900 adapter in this list, and it’s different than other AC1900 in a sense that it’s a PCIe based solution, instead of a USB one.
Like all other PCI adapters, this one comes with external antennas too. Although you can attach these antennas directly to this adapter, Asus has some better plans.
Instead, you can connect a wire (that comes with it) to the card and attach a triangular-base to the other end of the wire.
Then you can connect the antennas to the triangular base, This way you can increase the signal strength of this adapter, with just a simple tweak.
This base is magnetic in nature and can be clamped on a metallic surface, and you can also mount it on a wall. One thing which may prevent you from going too far is the length of that cable, which is only 1 meter.
Apart from being an AC1900 device, this adapter comes with Broadcom’s TurboQAM technology.
After installing it in your PC, all you need to do is to install its drivers.
You can do that via the CD that came along with it, or you can download them directly from Asus’ official website. You can use its software to change settings like running diagnostics, and Turning TurboQAM and Beamforming on and off etc.
In our testing, it performed as the best among AC1900 wifi adapters.
1. ASUS PCE-AC88: Check Price On Amazon
Best WiFi Adapter 2020 For Gaming
With each adapter in this list, we have stated its top theoretical speed, which is just .. theoretical.
There are many reasons why you won’t achieve that much speed in real-world environments, but a big one among them is the difference between router and client configuration.
Most wave 2 802.11ac routers use 4×4 configuration for transmitting signals, whereas most client devices are limited to only 2×2 configuration. This mismatch results in lower than expected speed.
Here comes the PCE-AC88 Wireless Card by Asus.
It’s the first WiFi adapter ever to incorporate 4×4 signal stream. This thing upgrades its 2.4 GHz speed to 1000 Mbps and its 5 GHz Band speed to 2166 Mbps. Therefore, it’s an AC3100 WiFi device.
This card has two parts. First one is the card itself, which you have to install in the PCIe slot of your motherboard. Then the four connections will come out of the rear side of your PC.
Then you can connect the antenna base (which is the second part of this whole package) to these connections. Of course, you can fix the antennas, with the help of screws on the rear end of the card if you want to.
In our testing, this card performs heads and shoulders above any of its competitor. Its real-world speed over 2.4 GHz is nearly 300 Mbps, while on 5GHz Band, this speed crosses 900 Mbps easily.
One thing you should that in order to enjoy maximum speed you must have a 4×4 dual-band router, like Asus AC88U, or AC2600 by Synology.
The one and only one thing we didn’t like in this adapter is its software. Unlike other adapters by Asus, this one doesn’t have its own controlling software and you have to rely on Windows OS.
But this is a pretty subjective opinion and doesn’t prevent it from being recommended as the best WiFi adapter for gaming.