There are a lot of opinions when it comes to PC gaming and how to do it right. What kind of hardware should you have? Is special gaming equipment really worth it? Should you build your own computer? How much money should you spend on your PC gaming setup? Everyone has their questions, and—just the same—everybody has their own idea of what the right answers are.
When it comes down to it, though, there are no right answers. How you decide to play is up to you, and it all simply depends on what you prefer. If you want to customize your setup enough to build your own PC, then that’s great. And if you’re just fine with a pre-built computer, that’s fine, as well. What matters is that you enjoy your gaming experience, and you should use whatever equipment that helps you do that.
This argument of right or wrong is pretty strong when it comes to what type of internet connection you use to game online. In today’s age, you basically need some kind of an internet connection for everything you do. While there are definitely still some games out there that don’t necessarily require an internet connection to play, you probably won’t be able to get all of the features from it without one. So with that said, what kind of connection should you use—wired or wireless?
Wired Connections vs. Wireless Connections
Wireless internet connections—commonly referred to as WiFi—are the most popular way of connecting to the internet today. Nearly everything uses WiFi now, whether that be your cell phone, your watch, your computer, or even your everyday household appliances. In fact, wireles connections are so popular now that some people may not even really know about wired connections anymore.
Wired internet connections use an Ethernet cable to connect the device to the router. Generally speaking, this connection allows for a more stable and faster internet connection in comparison to those who have connected wirelessly. With that said, this does use a physical cable, which could add to some clutter in your PC gaming setup. It could also pose a problem if your router is far away from your computer.
Wired connections are easy to set up, generally inexpensive (depending on how long you need), and provide a reliable connection to whatever device you have it set up with. But, as mentioned, they do have some cons—even though those cons mostly come down to preference. Wireless connections make up for the disadvantages of using an Ethernet cable, but they also have some disadvantages of their own. They may be more convenient and provide pretty good speed and performance, but they can also get pretty expensive. may not always be too reliable, and can be difficult to setup. For the most part, good WiFi adapters make up for those disadvantages, but they’re still things to consider.
When it comes down to it, though, all that matters is your personal preference. If you’re okay with physical wires or are on a tight budget, then an Ethernet cable may be a better choice for you. But if you’re more into convenience and are willing to get a higher-end adapter to try to make up for the possible unreliability, then a wireless connection will do just fine. Then again, the potential issues may not even be a concern for you if you don’t often game online and only need it for things like downloads or the occasional live chat. And even then, there are plenty of great WiFi adapters that have been proven reliable, fast, and secure, regardless of how big your online gaming needs are.
Things to Look for in a WiFi Adapter
You might be wondering why you even need a WiFi adapter if your computer can already connect to the internet just fine on its own. Pretty much every computer released today has the ability to connect to wireless internet already already, but that connection isn’t very good—especially not for gaming. By getting a WiFi adapter, you’re upgrading your computer’s ability to connect to the internet wirelessly, improving your gaming experience in the process.
Unlike a lot of other PC gaming equipment, you can’t just look at a WiFi adapter and decide whether or not it’ll be good enough for your setup. While some WiFi adapters are certainly a bit more attractive than others, they’re not typically made with aesthetics in mind. There are a lot of things you’ll need to look for to find the best WiFi adapter for your gaming needs. The three most important things you’ll need to pay attention to are what wireless protocols the adapter supports, what wireless frequency it uses, and what type of connection it requires.
There are four wireless protocols you’ll see while looking for WiFi adapters—B, G, N, and AC. The important thing to look out for here is that your router transmits on the same protocols as the WiFi adapter you’re planning on purchasing. If your router transmits on a particular protocol, like 802.11ac, you should find an adapter that does the same. Keep in mind, though, that this isn’t absolutely necessary, and you should keep in mind the rest of the specs of your laptop and potential adapter, as well. If you have an AC router but your computer doesn’t have a fast enough connection, you could resort to an adapter with N protocol, instead.
The frequency your adapter uses is also important. You’ve probably seen these frequencies listed on some home WiFi networks before—either 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz. There are some differences between the two, and each has its own advantages or disadvantages depending on your circusmtances and environment. For example, if you have a lot of walls between you and your router and don’t have many other routers or appliances around you interfering with your connection, you should use 2.4 GHz. 5 GHz may be a faster connection, but it finds its disadvantages with longer distances between you and the router.
There are two different types of connections you’ll see WiFi adapters using on the market today—PCI Express or USB connection. Between the two, an adapter that connects via PCI Express will give you the most connection power, but it’ll also be the most inconvenient to install. With these, you’ll need to take the casing off your computer and plug it directly into the PCI Express port on your motherboard. On the other hand, USB WiFi adapters just plug into the USB port on your computer, which are usually a lot easier to access.
The USB connections are probably the most commonly seen and least understood specifications of the bunch. What’s the difference between USB 2.0 and USB 3.0? Well, in the case of internet connection, USB 2.0 would only be able to reach a maximum speed of 60 megabytes per second, while USB 3.0 would be able to reach up to 640 megabytes per second. Other factors go into determining these speeds, however. For example, the internet connection you pay for is already below 60 megabytes per second, the USB port you use won’t matter. This also wouldn’t matter if your router only uses N protocol, which has a maximum speed of 56 megabytes per second.
The Best WiFi Adapter for Gaming
Without taking budget into account, there are plenty of WiFi adapters available on the market that could significantly upgrade the way your computer connects to the internet. Luckily, the ones you’ll be looking at don’t tend to go for much more than $100, with PCI Express adapters often ranging on the higher end of the scale. In the end, there’s definitely something for everybody here, and you should be able to find something to upgrade your internet connection ability regardless of your budget.
ASUS 4×4 AC3100 PCE-AC88 :Best PCIe WiFi Adapter
- Dual-band 4×4 AC3100 Wi-Fi with speeds up to 2100Mbps (5GHz band) and 1000Mbps 2.4GHz band. Operating Temperature: 0 °C to 40 °C ( °F to ºF)
- External magnetic antenna base allows Flexible antenna placement to maximize coverage. Note- Support MU-MIMO technology
Overall rating: 4.4 out of 5
The ASUS PCE-AC88 is a tank designed to give you the best internet connection possible. ASUS took a new spin on the PCIe wireless adapter by bringing in a “four-transmit, four-receive” design, hence the 4×4 title. This adapter upgrades your computer using a Broadcom BCM4366 processor to deliver up to 2100 megabytes per second on 5 GHz frequency and up to 1000 megabytes per second on 2.4 GHz frequency, thanks to NitroQAM (1024-QAM) technology.
Another convenient feature offered by the ASUS PCE-AC88 is the ability to attach the antenna base to basically any surface, horizontal or vertical. This opens up a lot of options, especially for people with limited space to work with. More importantly, though, it allows you to pick the prime location to get the most out of your signal. If you’d like or if it works better for you, you could also choose to attach the antennas directly to the PCI Express card, instead. With that said, ASUS does recommend using the magnetic antenna base.
Connection-wise, the adapter can fit in either a PCI Express x1, PCI Express x4, or PCI Express x16 slot, which gives you a couple options based on what you have available on your motherboard. You also won’t have to worry too much about extra heat being produces, thanks to the custom heatsink provided by ASUS. It’s designed to run nonstop, even in high heat, so you won’t have to worry too much about compensating with cooling.
Overall, the ASUS PCE-AC88 is a great WiFi adapter that is nearly guaranteed to give you the network power you need to game online with ease. There have been some issues with compatibility for some Windows 10 users, but four and a half out of five stars in Amazon reviews makes it pretty clear that, for the most part, this adapter works like a charm. It does come at somewhat of a hefty price, though, at just over $100 on Amazon. If you have it in your budget, though, the ASUS PCE-AC88 would definitely be worth a test.
D-Link AC 1900 DWA-192:Best USB WiFi Adapter
- Ultimate Wi-Fi Performance – AC1900 Speed (up to 1300Mbps on 5GHz and 600Mbps on 2.4GHz)
- Dual Band Wireless – 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands for flexible connectivity
- USB 3.0 Interface – Fast connection to your PC
Overall rating: 3.6 out of 5
It may be a bit large and on the slightly expensive side, but the D-Link DWA-192 definitely comes in as the best USB WiFi adapter with basically no argument. Unlike many other USB WiFi adapters that come in the shape of a little stick—very similar to a jump drive, the DWA-192 is a large circular orb (generally the size of a baseball or an orange) that connects with a USB cable that comes with the adapter in 3-foot length. It’s definitely not very portable, but it’s not such an obnoxious size that it takes up too much space in your PC setup.
D-Link’s AC1900 DWA-192 delivers up to 600 megabytes per second on 2.4 GHz frequency and up to 1300 megabytes per second on 5 GHz frequency. It has a wide range of support, including 802.11a, 802.11g, and 802.11n, as well as WPS, WPA, and WPA2 encryption. It also uses D-Link’s version of Beamforming—called SmartBeam—to send signals directly to the router. All of this put together makes for a pretty speedy and reliable connection.
When used at close range or even at 30 feet, the DWA-192 still delivers quality speed and reliability. It can even be plugged into a USB 2.0 port—even though it’s considered to be USB 3.0—without losing much speed. Overall, the quality this adapter delivers is undeniable and certainly worth the price, even is that price is a bit high. As long as you’re willing to forgive the slightly inconvenient size and shape and you have room in your budget, the DWA-192 is definitely the best choice for a USB WiFi adapter.
The best thing about looking for a WiFi adapter is that things are normally pretty to the point. It’s less about personal preference, to an extent, and more about the proven performance that an adapter can deliver. The only point where personal preference would really come into play is if you need portability or convenience out of how your adapter connect. Regardless, though, there are plenty of options available for you to look through. For example, if there’s not enough room in your budget for one of the higher-end WiFi adapters, there are still less expensive ones that can deliver a similar quality of performance.
TRENDnet AC1900 TEW-809UB: Runner-up for USB WiFi Adapter
- Easy setup
- AC1900: 1300 Mbps Wireless AC or 600 Mbps Wireless N bands
- High power radio and high gain detachable antennas for increased coverage
- Supports Windows and Mac operating systems
- 3 Year TRENDnet Manufacturer’s Warranty
Overall rating: 3.1 out of 5
When it comes to USB WiFi adapters, you’re probably used to seeing the little sticks that plug into your USB port, almost like a typical jump drive. Well, much like what D-Link did with the DWA-192, the TRENDnet AC1900 TEW-809UB changes all of that. This is probably the biggest and least portable USB WiFi adapter out of all of them, but it also seems to pack the most punch, as well. It works best in close proximity to the router and has received mixed reactions to its long-range performance, but it’s still an undeniably good adapter.
The TRENDnet TEW-809UB delivers up to 500 megabytes per second on 2.4 GHz and 1300 megabytes per second on 5 GHz, which is considerably higher than what you’d likely be getting without an adapter. It’s safe to say that this definitely provides a good upgrade to your gaming experience. The adapter uses Beamforming technology to send signal directly to the router, which is different than a lot of adapters that support MU-MIMO, instead. It also supports WEP, WPA, and WPA2 encryptions.
When it comes down to it, the only reason the TEW-809UB isn’t the number one choice for best USB WiFi adapter is because of how inconsistent reports have been regarding its long-range performce. In fact, some reviews have even stated that it couldn’t stay connected at 30 feet for more than 30 seconds at a time. Even with its unreliability, though, this adapter still makes a great upgrade, especially if your router is in the same room.
TP-Link AC1900 Archer T9E: Runner-up for PCIe WiFi Adapter
- Lightning Fast Speed
- Beamforming Technology
- More Stable Performance
- Industry Leading Support
- System requirements is windows 8.1 (32/64bits), windows 8 (32/64bits), windows 7 (32/64bits) and windows xp (32/64bits
Overall rating: 3.7 out of 5
TP-Link’s Archer T9E delivers premium speed in a tiny package, which is a definite bonus for gamers who have limited space in their setup. In comparison to other high quality PCI Express WiFi Adapters that use a separate base to deliver signals, the Archer T9E offers the same quality right from your motherboard, and with three antennas instead of the more typical one or two on similar models. TP-Link is known for bringing great quality and high speed to the table, especially when it comes to their Archers series, and the Archer T9E definitely doesn’t put a stop to that reputation.
TP-Link lists the AC1900 Archer T9E as providing speeds of up to 600 megabytes per second on 2.4 GHz and 1300 megabytes per second on 5 GHz. They even list the 5 GHz band as being perfect for “lag-free online gaming”. You get even better speeds with the adapter’s support of IEEE 902.11ac, which TP-Link calls the “next generation WiFi standard”. To top it off, the Archer T9E is equipped with Beamforming technology to make the delivery of wireless signals more reliable and stable.
Overall, the Archer T9E is built to last with consistency. It may not be the absolute best of the bunch compared to some other high-end models, but TP-Link has certainly delivered an adapter to consider. It’s not the cheapest, but it’s also not as pricey as other models, so it should still fit within most budgets. In the end, saving up for that better quality is what will give you the speeds necessary to play online.
And if none of those suit your fancy, there are still plenty of options left to consider. The best part about WiFi adapters—whether USB or PCI Express—is that they’re all pretty much the same when it comes to quality. The best ones all advertise approximately the same speeds, which means it all comes down to budget, convenience, and personal preference. It’s really up to you. So to find the best WiFi adapter for what you need, it’s important to consider all your options and even look into the ones that don’t seem like they’d be that great. Just because it doesn’t look like the best, doesn’t mean it won’t do exactly what you need.
- Supports Microsoft Windows 7, 8 and 10
- Next-Gen AC Wi-Fi keeps multiple Wi-Fi devices online at the same time and the same speed with Multi-User MIMO technology
- Selectable Dual-band AC Wi-Fi speeds up to AC600 (AC433/N150 Mbps)
- Unique mini design for easier mobility
Overall rating: 3.7 out of 5
If you’re looking for something small, the Linksys WUSB6100M would definitely be a good choice. It’s so small, in fact, that Linksys actually calls ut a “nano” USB WiFi adapter. If that’s not small enough, then nothing is. And even with it’s incredibly small size, it still offers some pretty decent speeds and the latest wireless technology—both Beamforming and MU-MIMO. Overall, the WUSB6100M is definitely an option, especially if you’re on a budget or hate large, clunky adapters taking up your gaming space.
Because it’s an AC600 adapter, the speeds on 2.4 GHz frequency aren’t very desirable, but it makes up for it with what 5 GHz has to offer. Surprisingly enough, it even holds up to longer ranges, which gives it a leg up on the competition in its category. Most “nano” USB WiFi adapters end up losing range due to the size, but not the WUSB6100M. In the end, considering its low price of only $25 on Amazon, this adapter is definitely a viable option.
- Upgrade your computer to revolutionary 867 Mbps Wireless AC
- Connect to a Wireless N network at up to 300 Mbps
- 5 Gbps USB 3.0 connection to computer
- Powered by the computer’s USB port
- One-touch connection to router with Wi-Fi Protected Setup (WPS)
Overall rating: 3.3 out of 5
If you really liked the TRENDnet TEW-809UB but didn’t quite like its $80 price tag, the TRENDnet TEW-805UB would definitely be worth a look. Its size is compact, and its design is essentially smudge-resistant, which could be a plus for some. This definitely isn’t the best adapter of the bunch, but it’s worth its budget price of just under $25 on Amazon.
The only place where the TEW-805UB really fails is in its 2.4 GHz speeds. With that said, its other speeds are pretty decent, and it has fairly good range, as well. If you don’t have a lot of room in your budget to work with, the TEW-805UB could still get the job done. Then again, there are a couple of other options in the same immediate price range that could do better. But if this is all you have available, you won’t have too many complaints.
- 11ac super fast Wi-Fi speed
- USB 3.0 interface enables the USB adapter to achieve the super fast speeds which 802.11ac can provide
- Beam forming technology
- High performance with 3T3R MIMO technology
Overall rating: 3.7 out of 5
So you have a little room in your budget, but an extra $20 or so for a higher-end adapter just won’t fit? The Edimax EW-7833UAC is a great mid-range USB WiFi adapter that has been tested and proven to deliver the speeds you need for online gaming. It might not do too well at long distances, but its use of AC1750 speeds definitely gives it an advantage over the competition in its price range.
The best part about the EW-7833UAC is that it actually has three antennas hidden in the USB stick that you can deploy for better signal. This design allows it to deliver pretty good speeds at both frequencies, 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. As mentioned, though, it is better at a shorter distance, so you may want to reconsider if your router is in another room. Otherwise, the Edimax EW-7833UAC is definitely a good option for a decent price.
If you’re tried of slow speeds and lag while you’re gaming online, a WiFi adapter may be exactly what you need. Luckily, there are plenty of options to consider, regardless of your budget or the connection ports you have available. It’s safe to say that there’s definitely something for everybody in this market.
Of course, it won’t take just a good WiFi adapter to get better speeds for your onling gaming. Before you go out and upgrade your computer with a better WiFi adapter, take a look at the kind of router you’re using. You might want to consider upgrading your router before doing anything else, as that could make all the difference on its own. Of course, if you already have a great router and are still experiencing slow speeds, a WiFi adapter should fix the issue quickly.
When you’re looking for a WiFi adapter, though, remember that it just comes down to what you want. A lot of the good adapters offer the same speed but with different features. If you want something a bit more convenient to set up, you may want to go with a USB adapter. If you don’t care about setup and just want something more powerful, a PCI Express adapter may be the better way to go. In the end, it all comes down to you. Do your research, keep an open mind, and you’ll find a great WiFi adapter to improve your gaming experience in no time.