Building a gaming rig and need easy internet access? Perhaps your PC is showing its age (we’re looking at you, Windows 10 holdouts) with frequent connection issues? Whether your computer is brand new or kicking the bucket, the best USB wireless adapters let you hit the reset button and breathe fresh life into your machine – getting you connected to the ‘net in a heartbeat.

USB wireless adapters are perfect for casual users and gamers seeking a plug-and-play solution for fast, stable WiFi. Simply insert the USB into any open slot on your I/O panel, install the necessary drivers, and you’re all set to play on the secure 802.11ac network. Easy as can be.

Ready to see the 7 best USB adapters on the market? Let’s jump right into the list and get you back in the game ASAP.

Zoom In: The 7 Best USB Wireless Adapters in 2020

Starting with our top pick, let’s work through the top 7 WiFi adapters in 2020.

1. Netgear Nighthawk A7000

Netgear Nighthawk A7000

The best USB wireless adapter overall

Manufacturer: Netgear | Standard: AC1900 | Frequencies: 2.4 + 5 GHz | Max Speed: 1,300 Mbps | USB: 3.0 | Support: PC, Mac | Price: 💰💰💰

Fly ahead of the competition with Netgear’s innovative wireless adapter, the Nighthawk A7000.

This WiFi adapter plugs into any USB port on PC or Mac to provide network speeds up to 1,300 Mbps. Setup is a breeze thanks to the Netgear Genie App – which walks you through the entire installation – and the adapter works with virtually any router. Moreover, Nighthawk’s dual-band beamforming technology kills two birds with one stone, delivering reliable signals on multiple frequencies at once.

The A7000 is an exceptional unit with lots of power, but it does fall off at extended ranges. That said, if you live in a small or medium-size home, this is the best USB wireless adapter on the market.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Sleek foldable design
  • Consistent (and fast) connection
  • Strong antenna extends the range an extra few hundred feet
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Large form factor
  • No Linux support (out of the box)
  • Short to moderate range best for medium-size households

2. TP-Link Archer T3U

TP-Link Archer T3U

The best cheap WiFi adapter

Manufacturer: TP-Link | Standard: AC1300 | Frequencies: 2.4 + 5 GHz | Max Speed: 867 Mbps | USB: 3.0 | Support: PC, Mac | Price: 💰💰

Seeking the best wireless adapter, but on a tight budget? The Archer T3U from TP-Link hits the mark in terms of speed and performance.

What makes it so special? For one, this WiFi adapter is built atop the 802.11ac standard to provide speeds up to 867 Mbps. It also incorporates MU-MIMO technology, which delivers beamforming across the 2.4 and 5 GHz bands for maximum network efficiency. And that’s not to mention the small form factor that puts comparable AC1300 models to shame.

But there is a downside. Due to its minute size and lack of antennas, the T3U boasts a relatively short range. Still, for the price of a large pizza, the Archer T3U is hard to beat.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Fantastic portability
  • Reliable connection w/ infrequent drops
  • Plug-and-play installation ready in minutes
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Poor range due to small design
  • Easy to lose at just 1.5 x 0.5 inches
  • Slower max speeds (867 Mbps is BEST case scenario)

3. TRENDnet TEW-809UB

TRENDnet TEW-809UB

The best WiFi adapter for gaming

Manufacturer: TRENDnet | Standard: AC1900 | Frequencies: 2.4 + 5 GHz | Max Speed: 1,300 Mbps | USB: 3.0 | Support: PC, Mac | Price: 💰💰💰💰

One glance at the TRENDnet TEW speaks volumes – just look at those formidable antennas. And yet, enhanced range and reliability are only the beginning.

Inside the unit, you’ll find the latest 802.11ac circuitry complete with beamforming technology. What’s that mean for you? Coverage that’s intelligently routed straight to your motherboard for latency-free connectivity. And with AC1900 speeds up to 1,300 Mbps, competitive-grade gaming is right at your fingertips.

The TRENDnet TEW is on the costlier side, but that’s a small price to pay for such performance. It’s the best wireless network adapter for gaming at this price tier, and we highly recommend it to players seeking that extra edge.

  • USERS LIKE
  • Compatible with PC & Mac
  • Great coverage w/ beamforming
  • Incredible range across multiple story homes
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Large & bulky design
  • Speeds may be inconsistent
  • Doesn’t support MU-MIMO (unusual at this price point)

4. Linksys WUSB6300

Linksys WUSB6300

The best USB WiFi adapter for plug-and-play operation

Manufacturer: Linksys | Standard: AC1200 | Frequencies: 2.4 + 5 GHz | Max Speed: 867 Mbps | USB: 3.0 | Support: PC | Price: 💰💰

Link to the internet in record time using the WUSB6300 WiFi Adapter. This model boasts a plug-and-play design that connects via the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies for fast and reliable coverage in a pinch.

And it’s not limited, either. We’re talking selectable dual bands, multi-user MIMO, beamforming, and more. Simply insert the USB into your PC or laptop, wait for Windows to automatically retrieve the correct drivers, and watch as the LED indicator turns green. Voila. You’re ready to game at speeds up to 867 Mbps, no problem. 

Though it’s not compatible with Mac or Linux devices, it does work with all 802.11ac routers and syncs effortlessly with Windows XP+. Not only that, but it’s even more affordable than most retailers let on. Look for a refurbished model, and you can pick one up for around $10! 

  • USERS LIKE
  • Convenient size at 6″ long
  • Very affordable for a name brand adapter
  • Plug-and-play installation ready in seconds
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Moderate speeds
  • Windows only (sorry Mac users)
  • Lack of MU-MIMO means occasional drops in connectivity

5. ASUS USB-AC68

ASUS USB-AC68

The best WiFi adapter for PC gaming

Manufacturer: ASUS | Standard: AC1900 | Frequencies: 2.4 + 5 GHz | Max Speed: 1,300 Mbps | USB: 3.0 | Support: PC, Mac | Price: 💰💰💰💰

ASUS is among the best-known brands in gaming and technology. And products like the ASUS USB-AC68 remind us why.

Instantly upgrade your machine with 802.11ac wireless connectivity using this simple plug-and-play adapter. What makes it so powerful? The USB-AC68 boasts cutting-edge internal components that deliver MIMO and AiRadar beamforming for enhanced coverage. Not only that, but its robust antennas and built-in cradle ensure extended range and reliability that’s easy to tweak and adjust to perfection.

Due to its unique dock, the USB-AC68 is among the best wireless adapters for desktop gaming, but not for laptop gaming. Still, it’s a fantastic option for players looking to up their game quickly and easily.

  • USERS LIKE
  • ASUS quality & customer service
  • Fantastic speeds up to 1,300 Mbps
  • Convenient dock with positionable antennas
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Takes time to boot up
  • Driver issues w/ macOS
  • May disconnect a bit too frequently

6. Techkey AC1750

Techkey 1750

The best versatile wireless adapter

Manufacturer: Techkey | Standard: AC1750 | Frequencies: 2.4 + 5 GHz | Max Speed: 1,300 Mbps | USB: 3.0 | Support: PC, Mac | Price: 💰💰

Want the key to great WiFi? Look no further than the AC1750.

This versatile USB adapter works in two ways. Plug it directly into your USB 2.0 port and enjoy simple, reliable connectivity. Or, drop the adapter into the USB 3.0 dock (included with purchase) for top-tier performance and blazing-fast WiFi 5 speeds up to 1,300 Mbps.

The unit boasts two 5dBi antennas that reach far and wide, providing low latency and stellar overall coverage. Unfortunately, due to its unique docking feature, it’s not well-suited for laptops or portable setups. But for desktop gamers, the Techkey AC1750 is guaranteed to unlock your PC’s wireless potential.

  • USERS LIKE
  • 2 powerful 5dBi antennas
  • Blazing-fast speeds w/ USB 3.0
  • Incredibly low latency (reports under 10ms)
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Runs hot
  • Poor customer support
  • Large design is not well-suited for laptops

7. TP-Link Archer Nano

TP-Link Archer Nano

The best WiFi dongle

Manufacturer: TP-Link | Standard: AC600 | Frequencies: 2.4 + 5 GHz | Max Speed: 433 Mbps | USB: 2.0 | Support: PC, Mac | Price: 💰

With the TP-Link Archer Nano, your possibilities are endless. At only .60 x .75 (roughly the size of a nickel), this compact dongle delivers wireless speeds up to 433 Mbps. Simply plug it into your laptop or desktop, Windows or Mac, and forget about it.

The Archer Nano works silently in the background, providing consistent network coverage atop the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies. As for security? Don’t worry about that, either. The Archer Nano boasts built-in WPA/WPA2 encryption to make connecting on the go safe and carefree.

Are there any sacrifices to such a small form factor and low price tag? Its minute size does mean lower max speeds and limited range. But for casual or moderate gaming, it’s an unbeatable option. Just be sure to install the correct drivers, lest your OS mistake it for a storage device!

  • USERS LIKE
  • Best price around
  • 433 Mbps is plenty for moderate gaming
  • Compact and portable form factor w/ consistent performance
  • USERS DISLIKE
  • Limited range
  • Lower maximum speeds
  • Driver difficulties (setup may be a chore)

Zoom Out: USB Wireless Adapter Comparison Table

Prefer a quick overview? We’ve listed the same models from above and placed them in price-ascending order for your viewing convenience.

ImageProductStandardThe BestPrice
1. TP-Link Archer NanoAC600WiFi dongle💰
2. TP-Link Archer T3UAC1300Cheap WiFi adapter💰💰
3. Linksys WUSB6300AC1200USB WiFi adapter for plug-and-play operation
💰💰
4. Techkey AC1750AC1750Versatile wireless adapter💰💰
5. Netgear Nighthawk A7000AC1900USB wireless adapter overall💰💰💰
6. TRENDnet TEW-809UBAC1900WiFi adapter for gaming💰💰💰💰
7. ASUS USB-AC68AC1900WiFi adapter for PC gaming💰💰💰💰

Buyer’s Guide: USB Wireless Adapter

USB Wireless Adapter Buying Guide

Choosing the best USB wireless adapter for your setup isn’t rocket science. But, the technical jargon can make it tricky. Not to worry – check out this simple buying guide to find the perfect adapter for your setup.

1. Standard

When it comes to wireless adapters, the “standard” refers to the generation and overall speed of the unit. It’s typically marked in this format:

AC0000

AC refers to 802.11ac (aka WiFi 5), while the numbers refer to the max speed of the adapter when running on the 2.4 and 5 GHz frequencies. But don’t let that number fool you into thinking you can attain those speeds. Your device can only connect to one frequency at any given time. So the actual max speed of each model is the fastest it can run on its fastest frequency, which is usually 5 GHz.

Confused? Don’t be. While higher standards often mean faster speeds, all the options on our list are well suited for the vast majority of gamers (this even includes the TP-Link Archer Nano, which runs on USB 2.0 for max speeds up to 433 Mbps). That’s because internet speeds in the USA average just 50 Mbps, meaning most users can’t even make use of higher-speed models.

Take that with a grain of salt, however. Internet speeds do vary, and along with a higher AC comes more features and overall reliability. For these reason, hardcore gamers and streamers will want to opt for AC1300 and above, regardless of service speeds.

2. Device

What type of device are you using: a laptop or desktop? Also, are you running Windows or macOS?

Wireless USB adapter

These are essential questions, as each adapter is best suited for different purposes. Smaller adapters and dongles excel for laptops and when portability is a concern. USB adapters with docks and cradles are better suited for desktop PCs, as you can position the antennas precisely, then forget about them.

Either way, you need to ensure the adapter supports your OS. All the models on our list support Windows, but there are a handful that don’t support Mac. Even rarer are those that support Linux out of the box. Check the spec sheets carefully to find one that works with your setup.

3. Price

It always comes down to price, doesn’t it? 

The USB adapters on our list start around $10 to $15 and run all the way to $100 or so. The more you spend, the more features and overall performance you’re likely to find. This is especially true for desktop PCs.

But make no mistake. For casual gaming and web surfing – even 4K videos – most modern 802.11ac adapters should suffice. That said, if you’re really into fast connections, we highly recommend the Netgear Nighthawk A7000 or a dedicated [PCIe] WiFi card.

Our Process

For this guide on USB wireless adapters, our writers spent 3 hours researching over 50 of the most popular options from brands big and small. After comparing this data, we then read over 100 user reviews (both positive and negative) and narrowed our list down to the top 7 WiFi cards on the market. All of this research adds up to recommendations you can trust.

We hope you’ve found the perfect model for your setup. Happy Gaming!

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