The Top-Rated USB Wi-Fi Adapters for the Year 2022

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Wi-Fi is a modern necessity, especially in homes where multiple people work, learn, or are entertained. You might end up in strange corners of kitchens, attics, or basements where your Wi-Fi doesn’t reach as you carve out odd spaces for home offices. I live in a small apartment, but my home office is separated by two thick, 1928-era walls from my Wi-Fi router. The router itself is perfectly adequate for the space; my computer’s best wifi card reddit is what falls short. The best way to improve your Wi-Fi signal is to switch from a best wifi card for pc reddit to a mesh network system, but mesh systems can be expensive.

Wi-Fi extenders are another option, though they can cause interference and add latency; when I tried one, I wasn’t impressed. A USB adapter is a much cheaper alternative if you only need to eke out a little more Wi-Fi to one laptop or desktop.

The idea behind these adapters is simple: your signal will also improve if you improve your antenna. In 2021, we purchased three TP-Link networking adapters, one Netgear adapter, and two random low-cost Amazon brands.

We tested those models in four locations: right next to my router; in my home office, only a few feet away but through two walls; by my building elevator, which is another 20 feet away and through another wall; and on the next floor up. Recently, we purchased the first available Wi-Fi 6 adapter and tested it against some of the best-performing models from the earlier bunch.

These adapters are Windows compatible, and a few also work with Linux. Unfortunately, I could not find any adapters with drivers for macOS versions later than 10.15. The adapter manufacturers’ drivers end at OS 10.15, which is disappointing. Netgear told me it wants to support newer versions of macOS, but all of the adapter makers are waiting for support from the chipset manufacturers. Adapters also likely won’t work with other home electronics—they need the correct drivers.

We found adapters perform at the AC1200, AC1300, and AC1900 levels. Here’s how all of those AC values in that range convert into possible speeds on the two primary Wi-Fi frequency bands: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. If this chart makes your head hurt, remember that higher numbers are better.

What’s the Deal With Wi-Fi 6?

Wi-Fi 6 promises faster speeds, more fantastic range, and less interference for business and home networks, but this promise has yet to be realized in the real world.

D-Link’s DWA-X1850 is the only Wi-Fi 6 USB stick on the market. It isn’t inherently faster than the best 802.11ac adapters we tested because it uses the AX1800 version of the Wi-Fi 6 spec. In our full review of the X1850,

We discovered that while it had better signal strength on a 2.4GHz network in a weak signal situation than the Wi-Fi 5 adapters, that characteristic didn’t translate into actual speed or reliability improvements in other conditions.

All the other adapters we tested support Wi-Fi 5, or 802.11ac. Your laptop probably supports 802.11ac—most laptops released since 2013 do—but if yours doesn’t, that’s another reason to get an adapter.

The only Wi-Fi 6 adapter on the market is the D-Link DWA-X1850.

The only Wi-Fi 6 adapter on the market is the D-Link DWA-X1850.

The Most Effective Wi-Fi Adapter

Of the adapters we’ve tested, our pick is the TP-Link Archer T9UH. For the price, this AC1900 adapter strikes the best balance between cost and signal-boosting. The Netgear Nighthawk adapter is even more powerful but costs more. The other adapters were cheaper but didn’t improve the connection in testing.

Archer T9UH

Top speeds were unreliable because congestion kept changing. As a result, I concentrated on the signal strength and speed loss when quickly moving the laptop from one location to another.

When I recently tested the D-Link Wi-Fi 6 adapter, I could do so in a more controlled environment. As a result, I compared the TP-Link Archer T9UH and the TP-Link Archer T4U Plus in terms of speed.

The more expensive adapters with better specs performed better in pure signal improvement.

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