The Best USB WiFi Adapters

1. D-Link USB WiFi Adapter Dual Band AC1300D-Link AC1300 WiFi Adapter

 

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The Basics

Brand Recognition: D-Link is a well-known player in the networking field. They make very reliable WiFi adapters.

Wi-Fi Speed: Up to 867 Mbps (theoretical max) on the 5 GHz band.

Compatibility: It works with Windows (10, 8.1, 8, 7), macOS and Linux.

Security: Supports WPA/WPA2 encryption (older standards) and WPA3 encryption.

Features That Stand Out

Compact Design: Very small and unobtrusive especially good for laptops or systems where space is tight.

MU-MIMO: It boasts MU-MIMO technology. You can only benefit of this feature if you also have a compatible MU-MIMO Wi-Fi router.

Important Things

Older Wi-Fi Standard: Even though it’s AC1300, it uses an older implementation of Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac instead of 802.11ax). It won’t fully optimize the latest Wi-Fi 6 routers but I don’t think this is a big deal considering it’s such a small WiFi adapter. It will work just fine on WiFi 5.

Single, Internal Antenna: Don’t expect stellar range performance, it’s only good for shorter distances or line-of-sight situations think within a big room. If you switch rooms that separate you with a wall from the source of the WiFi signal that will be a problem.

Dated Aesthetics: The design looks a bit older (not a deal-breaker) but something to note if aesthetics matter to you.

It Kind of Heats Up: I tried doing more intensive work using this adapter and as you would expect it started heating up pretty badly because it doesn’t have any room for heat to dissipate. If your USB port that you plan on using this adapter with is next to your hand I think you’ll find it uncomfortable. I haven’t found this to be an issue with desktop computers because your hands are usually not close to the USB ports. This is more of a laptop issue.

Who Is This For?

The D-Link DWA-181 is a decent option if:

You have an older Wi-Fi router (lacking Wi-Fi 6 or advanced Wi-Fi 5 features): It’ll be a compatible and functional upgrade.

Space is a major concern: Its tiny size is great for portability or desktop setups with limited room.

You don’t need the absolute fastest speeds: It’s perfectly fine for basic browsing, email and even certain gaming that doesn’t require ultra fast latency.

When You Might Want Something More

Maximizing Your Internet Plan: Look for newer Wi-Fi 6 adapters if you have a super fast internet connection and you want to do intense streaming or gaming.

Long-Range Connectivity: Consider models with external antennas for better signal reach.

Up-to-date Security: If the latest WPA3 security on your network is a priority this is a good WiFi adapter.

2. TP-Link AC1300 USB WiFi Adapter(Archer T3U)- 2.4G/5G Dual Band Wireless Network Adapter

TP-Link Archer T3U

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Compatibility: Windows 11, 10, 8.1, 8, 7, XP and Mac OS X 10.9-10.14 (not officially compatible with Linux)

Data transfer rate: Up to 1.27 gigabytes per second

Pros

Ease of Use: Plug-and-play for supported Windows and Mac versions. This makes setup super easy for all people regardless of tech knowledge.

Decent Speeds: Provides a good upgrade over slower older Wi-Fi standards particularly on the 5 GHz band assuming you have a compatible router. Most modern routers from AT&T, Verizon, Comcast and Spectrum have 5 GHz already enabled. You just have to connect to it.

Value: It offers competitive speeds within its price bracket.

Cons

Older Standard: Doesn’t support the latest Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), so you won’t reach the highest speeds modern routers are capable of. T-P Link has another WiFi adapter called AX1800 on the same Amazon listing but the price is much higher and it’s not clear that most people even need that level of performance.

Potential Driver Issues: It’s not as cross compatible with lesser known operating systems like Linux or older versions of macOS.

Speed Dependent on Router: The adapter can’t magically make your internet connection faster. You need a router supporting 500Mbps (or higher) speeds to maximize this WiFi adapter’s potential.

Same as the previous WiFi adapter from D-Link when I tried it I found that this one also heats up pretty badly when you use it at its top speed. Don’t use it on a USB port that is right next to your hand or mouse area.

Who Is This For?

The TP-Link Archer T3U is well-suited for:

Upgrading Older Systems: Ideal for old computers with slow or no internal Wi-Fi especially those on Windows where the setup is extra easy.

Non-Critical Machines: Great for any type of web browsing, email and even gaming and streaming. Just don’t expect to be able to play the most resource intensive online games and have insane FPS.

Budget-Minded Users: Offers a good performance-to-price ratio if you don’t need the latest Wi-Fi standard.

Overall, the TP-Link AC1300 USB WiFi Adapter is a budget-friendly option that should be able to handle most home internet plans.

3. TP-Link Archer TX20U Plus Wireless Adapter

TP Link Archer TX20U Plus

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What It Is

A laptop or desktop modern Wi-Fi adapter that gives your computer a WiFi connection or improves the one you already have to WiFi 6.

The main advantage is that it supports Wi-Fi 6 (also known as 802.11ax), the best and latest standard for high speeds, greater network capacity and better handling of multiple devices.

USB interface. You’ll install it into an available USB slot on your computer. I was able to install it and get it up and running in less than 5 minutes so it is basically plug and play.

Key Specs

Speed: Up to 1.8 Gbps theoretical speeds (574 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band, 1201 Mbps on the 5 GHz band). On an AT&T connection I found this speed to be almost half of what’s advertised but I guess I didn’t have the full 1201 Mbps to test it to its fullest capacity in the first place. You might be able to get closer to the speed they’re claiming but you likely don’t even need it even if you’re gaming Fortnite, PUBG, League of Legends, Dota 2 or APEX Legends on full resolution.

Antennas: Two external high-gain antennas (5dBi) adjustable for signal reception.

Compatibility: I think it only works on Windows 11/10 (64-bit). I haven’t tested it on Mac or Linux. You might be better off with the previous 2 options if you want a Mac or Linux compatible one.

Security: Supports the latest WPA3 security encryption standard.

Extra Features:

  • Bluetooth 5.0 for connecting wireless peripherals
  • Beamforming technology to focus Wi-Fi signal towards your devices

Pros

Fast Wi-Fi 6 Speeds: Upgrade your WiFi to take full advantage of Wi-Fi 6 routers for better download speeds and smoother streaming/gaming.

Excellent for Congested Areas: Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) handles crowded networks with multiple devices more efficiently than older Wi-Fi standards.

Bluetooth Built-In: I found it good for pairing headphones, keyboards and mice without needing a separate Bluetooth dongle.

Flexible Antenna Placement: You can adjust the antennas for the best reception in your specific setup.

Cons

Windows Only: No drivers for macOS or Linux systems.

Is It Right for You?

Consider the TP-Link Archer TX20U Plus if:

You have a Wi-Fi 6 Router: This USB WiFi Adapter allows you to make the most of your router’s capabilities.

You prioritize speed and network congestion management: Wi-Fi 6 comes with big improvements in crowded environments.