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While almost any laptop you find on the market today will have a Wi-Fi card built into it, not all desktop PCs have the same luxury. If you’re building a gaming computer, you may be shocked to discover that many of the best motherboards don’t include Wi-Fi. Even those that do offer Wi-Fi often have a cheaper version available that leaves it out. Add-in cards are an option for Wi-Fi, but by far the easiest way to give computers a wireless connection is with a USB Wi-Fi adapter.
Interestingly, simple adapters are generally a plug-and-play solution. All it takes is plugging them into the USB port on your computer (and maybe installing a driver), and your computer will then gain Wi-Fi. Most USB Wi-Fi adapters even offer solid speed, with some supporting dual-band wireless for connections to both 2.4GHz and 5GHz networks.
To get the most out of a high-speed adapter, you’ll want to pair it with a USB 3.0 port or above, ensuring maximum bandwidth for a fast and stable internet connection.
We’ve picked out several options that can get your computer up to speed, letting you pick which will best fit your setup and needs. If you’re browsing in the UK, click here to find out where you can go to find the best USB wifi adapters in the UK.
Our Top 3 Picks of Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter
Netgear Nighthawk AC1900
Good Stability Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter
The Nighthawk AC1900 from Netgear is the USB Wi-Fi adapter that offers a bit of everything. In an ideal world, you could upgrade the Wi-Fi adapter inside your laptop or add a PCIe-based wireless networking card to your desktop, but that won’t always be an option. In those scenarios, the USB-based Nighthawk AC1900 can step in, and you won’t feel like you’re missing out on much.
Furthermore, the Nighthawk AC1900 supports Wi-Fi 5 with a dual-band connection, letting you connect over 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands. This means you can get some serious speeds, with the 2.4GHz connection capable of hitting up to 600Mbps and the 5GHz connection going as high as 1,300Mbps.
With an optional dock, beamforming, and an adjustable antenna array with four antennae inside, it can help ensure you get a strong signal. Just make sure you’re connecting this beast to your computers over USB 3.0, or you’ll be leaving performance on the table.
Pros and Cons
- Router Stability
- Long Range
- ReadySHARE Vault
- Ports are not all consolidated on the rear
- USB 3.0 performance not much better than USB 2.0
Compatible Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter
You should consider this if you just went to spend a little bit of cash to get a capable Wi-Fi adapter that you can slap onto the back of your PC and forget about, then you should be after the TP-Link Archer T3U Plus. Although this upgrade is just $30, it can offer you a worthy Wi-Fi connection for regular use.
The USB portion of the unit is about the size of your typical flash drive, so it won’t have to stick out too far from your computer. Moreover, the TP-Link has also attached a lengthy and adjustable antenna to the adapter to give it stronger reception.
The Archer T3U Plus supports dual-band AC wireless, giving you the option to connect to 2.4GHz networks for speeds up to 400Mbps or to 5GHz networks for speeds up to 867Mbps that can keep up with just about whatever you throw at it.
Pros and Cons
- Relatively inexpensive
- Two-year warranty
- Compatible with Linux, Windows and Macs PC
- Bad WiFi driver.
High Speed Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter
Our third choice is the ASUS USB-AC68, it is a dual-band USB Wi-Fi adapter that instantly upgrades your desktop, laptop or even your NAS with Wi-Fi speeds up to 1300 Mbps (5GHz) and 600 Mbps (2.4GHz) for a total bandwidth capability up to 1900 Mbps. It features a 3×4 MIMO antenna design with ASUS AiRadar Beamforming which optimizes the Wi-Fi reception. Those functions and features in combination should provide you with a great result and worry-free wireless signals.
Thanks to USB 3.0 and its 5 Gbps capabilities, the USB-AC68 shouldn’t run into any bottlenecks connection-wise and easily be able to deliver its full bandwidth of up to 1900 Mbps through the combined 2.4 GHz and 5 Ghz bands.
This is particularly useful for mobile users with older generation Wi-Fi built-in. This adapter can easily reach 300% faster Wi-Fi compared to an 802.11n 3T3R setup that is built into many laptops and notebooks.
Being a USB adapter, you’d think that the antennas could be on the weak side. ASUS worked around that by adding built-in 3-position antennas that flip out from the body itself, allowing for better signal reception than internal positioned antennas. Next to those two external antennas, the USB-AC68 also features two internal antennas for a total of four.
The external three-position antennas design also give the adapter some extra design aspects and it looks pretty cool standing next to the system. Yes, you don’t even need to have this large adapter plugged directly into your system, although you can do that too. It comes with an included cradle stand with USB cable, allowing you to remotely place the adapter at an optimal position for better reception.
Pros and Cons
- AiRadar ensures a larger and more stable Wi-Fi signal.
- The Wi-Fi adapter has Wireless AC with a Wi-Fi speed of up to 1,300Mbps.
- Wi-Fi Standard AC is up to 3 times faster than Wi-Fi standard N.
- The Wi-Fi adapter isn’t small, so it sticks out of your laptop.
- The drivers for Windows 10 are not included by default.
The all-new Netgear Nighthawk AC1900 Smart Wi-Fi Router offers stellar performance on the 5GHz band, and an excellent set of features. It’s also relatively affordable for a top-notch home networking device. The Netgear is expensive, but earns its asking price with incredibly fast speeds and useful features.
The ASUS USB-AC68 certainly is one of the best-looking adapters on the market. Going off that gaming look, ASUS has styled this solution right alongside its high-end gaming routers. Build quality is quite good, but I would caution that the antennas are connected by very thin plastic, so it’s very important to be careful when manipulating them. To see similar products, visit Amazon.com