best USB Wi-Fi adapters for gaming

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The 5 best USB Wi-Fi adapters for gaming

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When you’re gaming, hardwiring into your internet via an Ethernet cord will likely produce the most stable connection — but if you have to game wirelessly, you do have options. The best USB Wi-Fi adapters for gaming both add a connection to devices without a wireless network card and boost your connection speed for a lower ping while gaming. In order to pinpoint the ideal option for your gaming setup, you’ll want to consider the data transfer rate, the hardware interface, and the compatible operating systems.

Let’s start with the data transfer rate: This measures how quickly data is transferred between two points on a network, and it’s measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Ultimately, the necessary transfer rate will depend on the game you’re playing — 300 Mbps should suffice for most games — but the larger the number, the faster the connection.

All of these dual-band Wi-Fi adapters utilize a USB hardware interface, but keep in mind that there are different types of USB connections. Supposedly, USB 2.0 offers data speeds around 480 megabits per second, while USB 3.0 ports can transfer up to 5 gigabits per second. Again, it’s going to depend on your specific gaming needs, but USB 3.0 is definitely faster.

Finally, ensure that your Wi-Fi adapter of choice is compatible with your operating system. All of these options work with Windows 10, as that’s the most popular operating system among PC gamers; that said, there are some adapters that also work with earlier versions of Windows as well as other operating systems entirely.

According to the above criteria and real Amazon reviewers, these are the best USB Wi-Fi adapters for gaming:

1. The overall best USB Wi-Fi adapter

There are multiple reasons why the ASUS dual-band Wi-Fi adapter is the best option for most gamers: For one, it can be plugged straight into the USB port for use as a dongle, or it can be placed on the included cradle and plugged in with the wire. For another, it’s fast, with a USB 3.0 connection, data transfer rates of 1,300 megabits per second, and three-position antennas that amplify reception, but can be folded for portability and travel. It features ASUS’ AiRadar technology, which is designed to improve coverage, boost speeds, and stabilize the connection.

  • Data transfer rate: 1,300 megabits per second
  • Hardware interface: USB 3.0
  • Compatible operating systems: Windows 10/8.1/8/7; Mac OS 10.7/10.8/10.9/10.10/10.11

One reviewer wrote: “Best ever. I even bought another one. I’ve owned half a dozen wireless extenders. My son doesn’t even have to direct connect because this signal is so strong for his gaming.”

2. The widest coverage

This TRENDnet dual-band adapter boasts increased coverage thanks to its four high-gain antennas, which are all adjustable and detachable. It also offers beamforming, which (according to the brand) “increases real-time performance by directing stronger wireless signals to each device’s specific location.” It’s not the most space-savvy option since it takes up a decent amount of room on your desk, but for those in basements, garages, apartments, or other spaces with room to spare, one reviewer reports: “This thing rocks and I get the speed and reliability it advertises.”

  • Data transfer rate: 1,300 megabits per second
  • Hardware interface: USB 3.0
  • Compatible operating systems: Windows 10/8.1/8/7/Vista/XP; Mac OS 10.6 - 10.13

One reviewer wrote: “For the record, I've tried everything to get my Gaming rig a decent internet connection. [...] I didn't think it was possible all the way down here in my garage without figuring out a hard connection. I tested a download of a 7 gig game from Epic Games. Mere minutes. Me so happy.”

3. The best budget dongle

Looking for something compact, affordable, and effective? The TP-Link USB Wi-Fi adapter is a best-seller with more than 20,000 reviews and an overall rating of 4.5 stars. Its USB 2.0 connector only supports data transfer rates up to 600 megabits per second, but for less than $20, it’s a cheap, easy solution for less demanding games. It also has an easy setup process, a long antenna for range, and built-in security designed to protect your connection.

  • Data transfer rate: 600 megabits per second
  • Hardware interface: USB 2.0
  • Compatible operating systems: Windows 10/8.1/8/7/XP, Mac OS X 10.9-10.14

One reviewer wrote: “I do a lot of online gaming and downloads and haven't had any issues so far. I recommend to anyone looking for a good all-around Wifi Whip antenna that doesn't cost a fortune.”

4. An affordable pick for busy networks

Because the TP-Link Wi-Fi adapter has MU-MIMO technology, it provides two different data streams simultaneously, meant to boost efficiency and minimize lag even when you’re gaming on busier networks. The dual antennas are adjustable up to 180 degrees so you can find the best reception, while the longer USB cable allows you to find the best spot for it on your desk. Reviewers also rave that it’s effective through walls and on different floors.

  • Data transfer rate: 1,267 megabits per second
  • Hardware interface: USB 3.0
  • Compatible operating systems: Windows 10/8.1/8/7, Mac OS 10.9 - 10.14

One reviewer wrote: “Speed is great, and doesn't cut out much at all. I use it mainly for gaming and don't run into issues with lag spikes or anything.”

5. The widest compatibility

Finally, if you game on any operating system besides Windows 10, the Nineplus wireless USB adapter is your best bet. Its wide compatibility (with the right driver installations) includes Mac and Linux, not to mention earlier versions of Windows — and whatever you use, it boosts USB 3.0 and speeds up to 1,200 megabits per second. The long-range antennas are also adjustable for a more stable connection.

  • Data transfer rate: 1,200 megabits per second
  • Hardware interface: USB 3.0
  • Compatible operating systems: Windows 10/Vista/XP; Mac OS X 10.5, Linux

One reviewer wrote: “I used this Wi-Fi adapter on both Linux and Windows. Windows already had the drivers installed and worked perfectly out of the box. On both my Linux Mint and Ubuntu drives I had to manually update the drivers, but it wasn't too difficult.”

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