The best USB Wi-Fi adapters are here to give you a rock solid connection. If your motherboard didn\’t come with a Wi-Fi built-in—or even if it did but you\’re finding it\’s too slow or it keeps dropping connection—this guide will show you what to look for. So if you\’re fed up with disconnecting partway through a tournament, or not being able to connect in the first place, one of the best USB Wi-Fi adapters might be exactly what you need.

It goes without saying that a wired connection is still your best choice when it comes to stability, especially when it\’s plugged into the best gaming router, but if you\’d rather not have cables trailing through your house, or simply prefer the freedom wireless offers, one of the best USB Wi-Fi adapters makes for a solid alternative.

We\’ve listed the best USB Wi-Fi adapters below, along with a handful of bullet points to help you decide. And if you\’re looking to cut down on that cord clutter elsewhere in your set-up, the best wireless gaming keyboards or the best wireless headsets should be your next stop. 

Best USB Wi-Fi adapters

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1. Trendnet TEW-809UB

Best full size Wi-Fi adapter

Standard: AC1900 IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac | Frequencies: 2.4GHz + 5GHz | Dimensions: 3.35 x 2.95 x 0.79 in (85 x 75 x 20 mm) | Weight: 1.7oz (48g)

Prime$84.99View at Amazon$84.99View at NeweggSee all prices (3 found)980 Amazon customer reviews

Fast AC1900 speedsGreat rangeDoesn\’t support MU-MIMOToo bulky for travel 

There are nano adapters at the tiny end of the scale, and at the opposite end is the Trendnet TEW-809UB. This networking device tosses portability out the window, for faster AC1900 (N600, AC1300) speeds and serious antennas—four, to be exact, all positionable with a strength of 5 dBi each. There is only a driver provided, but no software. Rather, Windows is in control of the networking duties. The adapter does not support MU-MIMO, but does support Beamforming.

In use, the Trendnet TEW-809UB is stable and fast. It puts its antennas to good use, beating every other adapter tested on our wireless fringe location testing—on both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. For using Wi-Fi in a challenging situation with a poor signal, this is the adapter to go with.

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2. NETGEAR Nighthawk AC1900 WiFi USB Adapter

Best Wi-Fi adapter for gaming laptops

Standard: AC1900 IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac | Frequencies: 2.4GHz + 5GHz | Dimensions: 4.7 x 1.8 x 0.9 in (120 x 45 x 22 mm) | Weight: 2.3oz (66.5g)

Prime$74.99View at AmazonSee all prices (2 found)358 Walmart customer reviews

Excellent dual-band connectivityIncluded Desktop cradleBulky compared to most adaptersExpensive

When it comes to the best routers for gaming, there are few names as ubiquitous as the Netgear Nighthawk. Netgear has been producing excellent gaming routers for some time, but the AC1900 Wi-Fi brings that same performance to a portable USB adapter. While this won\’t necessarily get you a blazing fast connection in your local coffee shop, you can still use the included magnetic desktop cradle to ensure your rig is getting the best possible connection from your router a couple of rooms away.

The AC1900 is remarkably powerful and portable adapter but is somewhat bulky when compared to its peers, there were occasions where I was mildly concerned about snapping it off in one of my laptop\’s USB ports and it\’s size means that it may not always find a vacant port with the necessary clearance.     

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3. ASUS USB-AC68

Best portable USB Wi-Fi adapter

Standard: AC1900 IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac | Frequencies: 2.4GHz + 5GHz | Dimensions: 4.52 x 1.18 x 0.68 in (115 x 30 x 17 mm) | Weight: 1.6oz (44g)

Prime$89.99View at Amazon$89.99View at NeweggLow Stock$112.99View at AmazonSee all prices (4 found)300 Amazon customer reviews

Plugs directly into USB or included cradleTwo deployable antennasMediocre 2.4 GHz performance

The Asus USB-AC68 adapter features a novel folding design that incorporates dual deployable antennas. It supports USB 3.0 connectivity, as well as the AC1900 standard, Asus AiRadar Beamforming, and MU-MIMO via a 3×4 antenna design. The results are a bit of a mixed bag as this Asus adapter lags in the 2.4 GHz tests at distance. While the 5 GHz tests are much stronger, it still wasn\’t the fastest at either the close or far distance tested. 

While the Trendnet TEW-809UB is our favorite Wi-Fi adapter for its performance and range, it isn\’t exactly the most compact or portable solution. For those who are hoping to use their adapter for gaming on the road, the Asus USB-AC68 is a much better choice with its street price of $75. The adapter includes a cradle for use at home but can be plugged directly into a USB port for easy travel.

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4. Edimax EW-7833UAC

Best mid range USB Wi-Fi adapater

Standard: AC1750 IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac | Frequencies: 2.4GHz + 5GHz | Dimensions: 3.4 x 1.1 x 0.7 in (87.1 x 27 x 18 mm) | Weight: 0.8oz (23g)

$70.19View at AmazonSee all prices (2 found)

Dominated throughput testsDeployable antennaPoor performance at long distances

The Edimax EW-7833UAC is the update to our previous budget adapter pick, the EW-7822UAC. While many mainstream adapters suffice with AC1200 specs, this Edimax EW-7833UAC takes it a notch up with AC1750 speeds (N450, AC1300). Installation was simple, with Windows 10 managing the settings. While it is similar in size to other mainstream adapters, it cleverly features a small deployable piece that contains three antennas to increase range and throughput, along with support for both MU-MIMO and Beamforming technology.

The EW-7833UAC smoked the competition, with class leading throughput on four of the six tests, which included both the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies. We came away particularly impressed on the close 5 GHz test of 298.9 Mbps, much faster than some other respectable adapters could muster. The only real weakness was on the far tests where this adapter gave up a little ground to the competition. Perhaps the best part is that the street price of this adapter is $34 making these kinds of speeds affordable for all.

Best Wi-Fi range extenders | Best gaming routers | Best gaming headset | Best controller for PC gaming | Best gaming monitor | Best mechanical keyboard  

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5. Linksys WUSB6300

Best nano USB Wi-Fi adapter

Standard: AC1200 802.11ac | Frequencies: 2.4GHz + 5GHz | Dimensions: 1.6 x 0.71 x 0.47 in (41 x 18 x 12 mm) | Weight: 0.2oz (5.9g)

Prime$49.97View at Amazon$49.97View at Newegg$49.99View at DellSee all prices (6 found)

Very compactSupports MU-MIMOSlower 2.4 GHz speeds

The Linksys WUSB6300 gets termed \”micro\” by the Linksys folks, and to be fair, it is quite small. It offers AC1200 speeds, which translates to about 860Mbps via 5 GHz, and 300Mbps on 2.4 GHz. Even with the diminutive size, it supports the latest technology for wireless adapters, including MU-MIMO and Beamforming.

The WUSB6300 balances its small size against decent range and throughput. While the spec does limit the 2.4 GHz scores, the speeds on 5 GHz, even on the longer distance tests, bring home the win for throughput on three of the six tests for this increasingly competitive category of adapter. The longer distance tests for this adapter are even more impressive when you compare it against its class competition that fall short in the wireless fringe testing. The list price of $40 makes the Linksys WUSB6300 a great choice for an adapter to toss in a bag with your notebook or to carry as a backup.

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6. Trendnet TEW-805UB

Best budget USB Wi-Fi adapter

Standard: AC1200 IEEE 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac | Frequencies: 2.4GHz + 5GHz | Dimensions: 3.1 x 1 x 0.5 in (80 x 27 x 12 mm) | Weight: 0.7oz (20g)

Prime$59.06View at AmazonSee all prices (2 found)355 Amazon customer reviews

Bargain priceDecent rangeSpeed isn\’t great

While many of us want to drive a Porsche or Ferrari, more of us end up driving Honda Civics or Toyota Corollas. For those that want the bargain basement of a USB wireless adapter, we recommend the Trendnet TEW-805UB, the little brother to our best full size adapter pick, the Trendnet TEW-809UB.

This Trendnet adapter is sized just right—compact, but not so small that it\’s easy to lose. The textured outer surface also effectively keeps it from getting all smudged. While it did not win any crowns on throughput, it still had solid speeds across the board, except for the 2.4 GHz fringe test, but recall that we originally started using this location to test extenders as in a Wi-Fi deadspot, this Trendnet adapter still managed 61.5 Mbps of throughput, and all of its other scores were quite a bit higher.

How we test USB Wi-Fi adapters

Testing was done for throughput using NetPerf software. A desktop with a Gigabit Ethernet port is used to send the data via a wired connection to the router. Three test runs were done on each wireless adapter at each of the 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz frequencies, at three distances: close, far, and fringe, with the highest throughput of each parameter reported. 

The router used is the ASUS RT-AX88U, our top gaming router. The throughput is tested at a \”close\” 8ft (2.4m) distance with direct line of sight, and also at a \”far\” 30ft (9.1m) distance with an obstructing floor and wall in the way, as well as some metal ductwork intervening. 

For this revision, we added tests in a Wi-Fi \”fringe\” location, that we started using for our best wireless extender, guide except we did not plug in an extender to make the wireless connection more challenging for the wireless adapter and to test their antennas.

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