The Best USB Wi-Fi Adapters in 2021

There are a lot of reasons for getting a USB Wi-Fi adapter. Maybe the wireless card on your laptop died. Or maybe you have an old laptop that doesn’t support the latest wireless standards. Maybe you want to have wireless connectivity on your desktop PC. Whichever’s the case, finding the best USB Wi-Fi adapter doesn’t have to be a long and convoluted journey.

We’ve prepared a list featuring the best USB Wi-Fi adapters on the market right now and there’s a high chance you’ll find just what you need down below. If you don’t happen to find your next USB Wi-Fi adapter on our list, check out our buying guide at the end of this piece. Let’s begin.

tp-link mini ac600 dual band archer t2u nano
  • Wi-Fi Support: Up To Wi-Fi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
  • Dual-Band: Yes
  • Max Bandwidth: Up To 433Mbps (5Ghz); Up To 200Mbps (2.4Ghz)
  • OS Compatibility: Windows XP/7/8/10; Mac OS From 10.9 To 10.14
CHECK PRICES

This is an extremely cheap adapter that’s as small as they get and that comes with dual-band and Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) support. The maximum transfer speed is 433Mbps over the 5GHz band and 200Mbps over the 2.4GHz band. Not amazing but for this price these speeds are more than enough. There aren’t extra features here but it isn’t as if we’ve expected any at this price.

The TP-Link Mini AC600 is great for both desktop and laptop devices since it has humble dimensions so it won’t block other ports. Having no external antennas leads to a limited range but you should be fine in all cases except when your router is on the completely opposite part of your household.

Pros:
  • Extremely Affordable
  • Wi-Fi 5 Support
  • Excellent Performance For The Price
Cons:
  • Limited Range

EDUP LOVE EP-AC1675

Mid-Range Adapter With Long-Range Antenna

edup love ep-ac1675
  • Wi-Fi Support: Up To Wi-Fi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
  • Dual-Band: Yes
  • Max Bandwidth: Up To 1300Mbps (5Ghz); Up To 600Mbps (2.4Ghz)
  • OS Compatibility: Windows Xp/7/8/10; Mac OS X 10.6-10.15.4
CHECK PRICES

The EDUP LOVE EP-AC1675 doesn’t break the bank while offering an external antenna, excellent speed, lots of features, and an external cradle. First of all, the design is similar to other USB Wi-Fi adapters that come with foldable antennas. That means the adapter is chunky and it will most likely cover adjacent ports when used on a laptop.

The magnetic cradle is there in case you’re using the adapter with a desktop PC, and it can be very handy allowing for better range and simple installation. Instead of breaking your back trying to hook it up to the rear I/O of your motherboard, just use the cradle and seamlessly switch the adapter between a PC and a laptop.

When it comes to speeds, you get 600Mbps over the 2.4GHz band and up to 1300Mbps over the 5Ghz band. The router comes with Wi-Fi 5 support and it also supports features such as Beamforming and MU-MIMO. The adapter uses USB 3.0 standard and it can be used as a Wi-Fi hotspot. Overall, this is a very capable Wi-Fi adapter that offers almost all features of high-end models for a noticeably lower price.

Pros:
  • Excellent Performance For The Price
  • Magnetic Cradle Included In The Selling Package
  • Foldable External Antenna
  • Supports MU-MIMO And Beamforming
Cons:
  • Can Block Adjacent Ports On Your Computer

Cudy WU1300S

Affordable Wi-Fi 5 USB Adapter With Dual Band Support

cudy wu1300s
  • Wi-Fi Support: Up To Wi-Fi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
  • Dual-Band: Yes
  • Max Bandwidth: Up To 867Mbps (5Ghz); Up To 400Mbps (2.4Ghz)
  • OS Compatibility: Windows Vista/7/8/10; Mac OS
CHECK PRICES

The Cudy WU1300S is another very affordable USB Wi-Fi adapter that comes with dual-band support. Max speed over the 2.4Ghz band is 400Mbps and over the 5Ghz band, you can achieve speeds up to 867Mbps.

These are great numbers considering the price but while the max speed is pretty solid the adapter lacks advanced features such as MU-MIMO or Beamforming. On the flipside, the adapter is quite compact and it shouldn’t block adjacent ports on your computer like larger models tend to do.

Overall, the Cudy WU1300S is an affordable Wi-Fi adapter for users who need the basics, don’t care about extra features, and don’t need a long-range adapter.

Pros:
  • Very Affordable
  • Excellent Speed For The Price
  • Compact
  • Wi-Fi 5 Support
Cons:
  • Limited Range
  • Lacks Features Such As MU-MIMO And Beamforming

Netgear Nighthawk A7000 AC1900 Wi-Fi Adapter

The Best Wi-Fi Adapter For Laptops And Desktop PCs

netgear nighthawk a7000 ac1900 wi-fi adapter
  • Wi-Fi Support: Up To Wi-Fi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
  • Dual-Band: Yes
  • Max Bandwidth: Up To 1300Mbps (5Ghz); Up To 600Mbps (2.4Ghz)
  • OS Compatibility: Windows 7/8/10; Mac OS X 10.8.3 Or Later
CHECK PRICES

The Nighthawk A7000 is an expensive USB wireless adapter but it’s very compact and features an external antenna, Wi-Fi 5 support, and dual-band capability. The performance is excellent. You get max speed of 600Mbps on the 2.4GHz band and 1300Mbps on the 5Ghz band, which is more than most users need.

The adapter comes with extra features such as MU-MIMO enabling better transfer speeds for connected devices in case you use this adapter as a Wi-Fi hotspot. The beamforming feature improves the precision of the wireless signal resulting in a better connection.

The adapter is a bit large and can block adjacent ports on your laptop. It comes with a USB cable and magnetic cradle so it’s perfect for desktop PCs since it can be placed on your desk, thus not blocking adjacent USB ports on your motherboard.

This won’t really work with a laptop except if you plan on using the Nighthawk A7000 inside your home since the cradle is pretty large for users to carry it around with them. But if you need a relatively compact USB Wi-Fi adapter with a foldable external antenna, excellent performance, and dual-band support the Nighthawk A7000 is the one to get.

Pros:
  • Blazing Fast Performance
  • Foldable External Antenna
  • Magnetic Cradle Included In The Selling Package
  • Extra Features Such As MU-MIMO And Beamforming
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • Can Block Adjacent Ports On Your Computer

TP-Link Archer T9UH

The Best Alternative To Nighthawk A7000

tp-link archer t9uh
  • Wi-Fi Support: Up To Wi-Fi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
  • Dual-Band: Yes
  • Max Bandwidth: Up To 1300Mbps (5Ghz); Up To 600Mbps (2.4Ghz)
  • OS Compatibility: Windows XP/7/8/10; Mac OS X 10.13 Or Later
CHECK PRICES

The Archer T9UH is very similar in features and design with the Nighthawk A7000. It comes with dual-band capability; it offers up to 600Mbps on the 2.4Ghz band and up to 1300Mbps on the 5Ghz band. It also has a foldable external antenna, Wi-Fi 5 support, beamforming, and comes with a magnetic cradle.

Its only disadvantage over the Nighthawk A7000 is the lack of MU-MIMO technology. That doesn’t have to affect you in any way if you don’t plan on using this adapter as a Wi-Fi hotspot. If you do, know that when multiple devices get connected, they will have lower speed since MU-MIMO improves connection quality when multiple devices use a wireless network at the same time.

Pros:
  • Blazing Fast Performance
  • Foldable External Antenna
  • Magnetic Cradle Included In The Selling Package
  • Supports Beamforming
Cons:
  • Expensive
  • We Expect MU-MIMO In This Price Range

NET-DYN AC1200 Dual Band WiFi Adapter

Mid-Range USB Wi-Fi Adapter With Excellent Range

net-dyn ac1200 dual band wifi adapter
  • Wi-Fi Support: Up To Wi-Fi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
  • Dual-Band: Yes
  • Max Bandwidth: Up To 865Mbps (5Ghz); Up To 300Mbps (2.4Ghz)
  • OS Compatibility: Windows 2000/XP/Vista/7/8/10; Mac OS 10.9/10.10/10.11
CHECK PRICES

This one’s a pretty good choice for those who don’t want a dirt-cheap adapter with relatively slow connection speed but who also don’t want to pay a premium for AC1900 models that offer blazing fast speed, foldable antennas, and extra features.

The adapter has dual-band capability and offers up to 865Mbps on the 5Ghz band and 300Mbps on the 2.4Ghz band. The signal strength is surprisingly strong so if you need an adapter with great signal but don’t want an external antenna, get this one.

Pros:
  • Excellent Performance
  • Long Range Despite Not Having An External Antenna
  • Compact Size
Cons:
  • No Extra Features

BrosTrend 1200Mbps Long Range USB WiFi Adapter

The Best Wi-Fi Adapter For Gaming

brostrend 1200mbps long range usb wifi adapter
  • Wi-Fi Support: Up To Wi-Fi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
  • Dual-Band: Yes
  • Max Bandwidth: Up To 867Mbps (5Ghz); Up To 300Mbps (2.4Ghz)
  • OS Compatibility: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10; Mac OS from 10.9 to 10.14
CHECK PRICES

The BrosTrend 1200Mbps Long Range USB WiFi Adapter is a relatively affordable USB Wi-Fi adapter that comes with two high gain wireless antennas. These antennas should provide strong, and more importantly stable connection, even over a long range. The two antennas make this adapter an excellent choice for gamers who need reliable wireless signal when playing online multiplayer titles.

The size and design prevent this adapter to be used comfortably in combination with laptops but if you have a desktop PC, this is an excellent choice. Wi-Fi 5 support and the dual-band are here and the max speed is 867 over the 5GHz band and 300 over the 2.4GHz band. Not the best around but more than enough for most users.

Pros:
  • Two High Gain Antennas Guarantee Long Range And High Reliability Of The Wireless Connection
  • Solid Performance For The Price
Cons:
  • No extra Features
  • Large Antennas Make This Adapter Too Bulky For Laptops

Techkey USB WiFi Adapter 1200Mbps

The Best Budget USB Wi-Fi Adapter With An External Antenna

techkey usb wifi adapter 1200mbps
  • Wi-Fi Support: Up To Wi-Fi 5 (802.11a/b/g/n/ac)
  • Dual-Band: Yes
  • Max Bandwidth: Up To 867Mbps (5Ghz); Up To 300Mbps (2.4Ghz)
  • OS Compatibility: Windows XP/Vista/7/8/10; Mac OS from 10.4-10.15
CHECK PRICES

The Techkey USB WiFi Adapter is a pretty affordable USB Wi-Fi adapter that comes with an external antenna. If you need one, this is the adapter to buy. It’s pretty cheap and comes with dual-band and Wi-Fi 5 support. Speed is rated at 867Mbps on the 5GHz band and 300Mbps on the 2.4GHz band. Standard but pretty good for the price.

The antenna can be rotated and it’s slim enough for this adapter to be used with laptops. The body of the adapter is also very slender so you don’t have to worry about it blocking adjacent ports, something that cannot be said about other adapters on this list that feature external antennas.

Overall, this is a cheap adapter that doesn’t offer extra features but one that boasts a great range and more than solid performance for the price.

Pros:
  • Affordable
  • Includes External Antenna
  • Great Performance For The Price
  • Slim Design Is Great For Laptops
Cons:
  • No Extra Features

How To Choose A USB Wi-Fi Adapter

Picking the right USB Wi-Fi Adapter is much easier than, let’s say, picking the right modem router combo. Instead of dealing with two sets of features for basically two different devices packed into one casing, you need to focus on just a few important considerations.

Considerations such as support for different wireless standards, presence of external antennas, dual-band support, or the size of the adapter. Let’s cover each in detail.

Check USB Ports On Your Device

USB standardization is a complex subject but for today we only need to talk about the differences between USB 2.0 and 3.0 ports. If you have an older laptop or desktop PC there’s still a good chance you have at least one (laptop) or a couple (desktop PC) USB 3.0 ports.

This is important because the USB 2.0 standard has the maximum data transfer rate of 60MBps or 480Mbps while USB 3.0 ports have a max transfer rate of 640MBps or 5Gbps. That’s a huge difference. But it doesn’t really matter when it comes to USB wireless adapters because, chances are, your internet plan is slower than 480Mbps. As long as you have a working USB port, you’re probably fine.

You should hook up the adapter to a USB 3.0 port only if you have ultra-fast internet or use the ultra-fast connection on your work. Public access points and those on universities, shopping malls, or other venues are probably way below USB 2.0 max bandwidth.

You Want An Adapter With Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) Support

Wi-Fi specification might look as complex as the one governing the USB standard but once we switch to numbers instead of the old labels that include both digits and letters, the thing becomes much easier to decipher. These are the current wireless standards:

  • 802.11b is now called Wi-Fi 1 and it supports bandwidth up to 54Mbps
  • 802.11a is now called Wi-Fi 2 and it supports bandwidth up to 11Mbps
  • 802.11g is now called Wi-Fi 3 and it supports bandwidth up to 54Mbps
  • 802.11n is now called Wi-Fi 4 and it supports bandwidth up to 600Mbps
  • 802.11ac is now called Wi-Fi 5 and it supports bandwidth up to 1.3Gbps
  • 802.11ax is now called Wi-Fi 6 and it supports bandwidth up to 10-12Gbps

While Wi-Fi 6 is the latest standard, you don’t really need it but if you have a chance to get a relatively affordable Wi-Fi 6 adapter, get it. For all intents and purposes, Wi-Fi 5 is more than enough. Wi-Fi 5 supports the max transfer rate of 1.3Gbps. That’s faster than most internet plans offered in any country.

Even the Wi-Fi 4 standard has bandwidth wide enough for most users. But since most newer router models come with Wi-Fi 5 support you should aim for a Wi-Fi 5 adapter. They’re not only fast enough for virtually any internet plan available at the moment but will benefit from faster bandwidth in case you have multiple devices hooked to your local wireless network and want to wirelessly transfer files between them.

You Also Want A Dual Band USB Wi-Fi Adapter

Wireless networks work on two frequencies, 2.4GHz, and 5GHz. 2.4GHz band has a better range but it also has slower speeds and can its signal can be interfered by other wireless devices since many devices operate at 2.4GHz.

5GHz frequency has a much faster speed than 2.4GHz and it won’t be affected by other devices. But, the 5GHz band has a lesser range and can be massively affected by obstacles such as walls.

Today, many routers – even the affordable routers under $100 – come with dual-band capabilities. They use the best of both worlds and offer great range thanks to their 2,4Ghz band but also fast connection speed thanks to the 5Ghz band.

If your router has dual-band capability it’s best to get a USB Wireless adapter that also supports both 2.4GHz and 5Ghz frequency. Most modern USB adapters have this feature so you won’t have to pay extra for dual-band support.

External Antennas And Size Of The Adapter

There are two types of USB Wi-Fi adapters – those with internal and those with external antennas. External antennas allow for better range but they also, in most cases, add to the size of the adapter.

If you need an adapter for your desktop PC located near the router, get an adapter with an internal antenna. If you own a laptop that’s often used in places far away from the router, it’s probably better to get one with an external antenna. If you’re a gamer and need stable connection at all times, it’s better you get an adapter with one or more external antennas.

If you carry your laptop everywhere with you then we recommend getting a compact adapter without external antennas since those can be pretty bulky. The size of the adapter is also important in case your USB ports are placed one next to another. A large adapter will block access to the adjacent USB or other types of ports.

USB Wi-Fi Adapter Vs. PCIe Wi-Fi Card

Finally, if you need a wireless adapter for your desktop PC, you can get a Wi-Fi card instead of a USB Wi-Fi adapter. A wireless card is installed into a PCIe slot on your motherboard and it usually comes with more features and better range since it can be equipped with larger and more powerful antennas.

But Wi-Fi cards aren’t as simple to use as USB adapters. You have to open your case in order to install them, and after that, you probably have to go through a setup process that includes more steps than just installing drivers. USB adapters, on the other hand, are usually hook and forget about it type of devices that can be used as soon as they are connected to a USB port. Also, they are usually cheaper.

About The Author

XbitLabs Staff

We are a team of enthusiasts thriving to provide you with helpful advice on buying tech.

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