The 10 Best USB Wireless Adapters – July 2017
Fast, reliable WiFi has become an essential part of our lives. Long gone are the days when connecting your computer to a router via a long and cumbersome cable was a necessary step to enjoying the Internet. Most modern computers come equipped with internal WiFi capabilities that allow you to pick up wireless router signals without the need for an external adaptor. Yet just like every other component in your computer, these WiFi components can go bad—resulting in a far weaker or even non-existent signal. And if the rest of your computer is still humming along when your WiFi components begin to fade, investing in an expensive repair or shelling out thousands of dollars for a brand-new machine borders on the absurd. And even for those of us who are fortunate enough to enjoy fully-functional, pre-installed WiFi connectivity, adding a USB wireless adaptor can bring a much-needed speed boost while increasing range. That’s why there are countless small, affordable, yet powerful USB WiFi adaptors that will give your computer the WiFi connectivity it deserves. Here’s our Top 10.
As with all things tech, when it comes to buying new gear, most variables depend on personal preference. In the realm of USB wireless adaptors, some potential buyers will prefer range over speed, while others will prefer style over power. Operating system compatibility also plays an obvious role in your selection, so make sure the unit you choose is compatible with your OS. That being said, in terms of an all-around, powerful and stylish adaptor, we’ve chosen to go with the Beverly 915AC Mini WiFi Adapter for our top pick.
We know style isn’t everything, but the first thing that should pop out at you about this adaptor is its sleek, modern, and slim design. It’s only 36mm/19mm/9mm and weighs practically nothing, making it the perfect candidate for the avid traveler. 11AC dual frequency capability means the 915AC supports 5G for high data use, as well as 2.4G for long distance.
This little guy can also carry speeds of up to 600Mbps for flawless, lag-free HD streaming and online gaming (you can even manually select different frequencies to match your activities), and it’s a breeze to install. A built-in WPS (WiFi Protected Setup) button allows you to securely connect different devices, and although it comes with an installation CD, everything you need to install the drivers can be easily found on line.
Another reason the 915AC won our coveted top spot is because it’s compatible with Windows 7,8,10,XP, and Vista, along with Mac OS—making it one of the more powerful, yet versatile adapters on the market.
It was a tough call between the Beverly 915AC and the Rosewill N300 for the winning title on our list, since this little guy has a lot of similarities to the 915AC. It’s pretty much the same size and weight, and looks like something you’d see an NSA agent downloading content to in an action film.
Under its tiny proverbial hood, the N300 comes packed with a super secure, reliable, and lag-free connection that can reach speeds of up to 300Mbps. Much like the Beverly 915AC, the N300 is super easy to install, and comes with a driver CD that can be easily discarded if you can access the Internet prior to installation (and we bet you can). A power-saving feature also comes in handy with this unit, and if used properly it can go into an idle mode that saves power and subsequently cash when it comes time to pay your electric bill.
The N300 also supports an impressive array of security parameters, including 64/128 WEP, WPA/WPA2, WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK (TKIP/AES), and a soft AP mode can turn the adapter into a virtual WiFi hotspot for you to use with your other devices, or to share with other users.
Another thing that’s appealing about this unit is that there are six different versions available—all ranging in speed from 150Mbps to 600Mbps with differing gains, and all of which are compatible with Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10. (Sorry Mac users, the N300 won’t work with your OS, which is another reason why we set it back to the #2 spot behind the more widely compatible Beverly 915AC).
For those WiFi enthusiasts who are looking for incredible range (and who aren’t afraid of spiders), this Trendnet AC1900 unit is worth checking out. Given its relative size and bulkiness, this adapter probably isn’t suitable for the constant traveler, however the power and range of the Trendnet AC1900 is quite astounding. And don’t let those giant antennae fool you; they’re completely detachable if you’re not looking to field 1300Mbps of speed over super long ranges. Without the antennae attached this unit clocks speeds of 600Mbps with strong coverage and range. The AC1900 is compatible with both Windows and Mac operating systems, and has handy LED indicator lights to detail its performance. You can also utilize a WPS push button to establish a wireless connection to your router or access point via WPS protocol.
If you could somehow form a physical hybrid between the Trendnet AC1900 and the Beverly 915AC, it may look something like this. In fact, such a hybrid may even perform like these two units. The EDUP ac600Mbps combines a small USB adapter with a removable antenna for added power and range. Compatible with Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8, and 10, along with Mac OS X 10.6-10.12, this handy little gadget can upgrade your PC to 802.11ac—roughly 3 times faster than wireless N speeds. And since it’s 5G capable, the EDUP ac600Mbps is ideal for online gaming and HD video streaming. And yes, its name is accurate. You can harness speeds of up to 600Mbps on 5.8GHz (433Mbps) and 2.4GHz (150Mbps) bands, and the SMA copper metal used in the contact point for both the USB port and the antenna make for a much better and more reliable signal.
The TP-Link N150 Wireless Nano adapter lives up to its name. It is a truly “nano” device that barely protrudes from your computer while plugged in. This is perhaps the most portable USB wireless adaptor on our list, but as with practically everything in life, there’s a tradeoff. In opting for this super tiny gadget you’ll lose some speed (the N150 tops out around 150Mbps), however if you’re just looking to do some basic low-fi work and maybe stream the occasional video, this could be the right unit for you. It supports Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/Linux, along with Mac OS X 10.7-10.11. It’s also compatible with 802.11b/g/n products and comes with an impressive 2-year warranty and unlimited 24/7 technical support. One of the best aspects of the TP-Link N150, however, is that it’s so small you can leave it inserted in your USB port when you travel, without worrying about it catching on your case.
There are several major similarities between this device and the TP-Link N150. Both are pretty much the same size, and both are capable of transferring data at rates of up to 150 Mbps. The only real reason the EW-7811Un was bumped one spot lower than the TP-Link N150 is that its range was slightly shorter. However, this could have been due to a variety of factors, including the environment, interference, etc. And even though the range of the EW-7811Un is slightly less impressive, it makes up for it by incorporating a power saving feature that’s designed to support “smart transmit” power control and auto-idle state adjustment, which can come in handy. It also includes a multi-language EZmax setup wizard and supports Windows XP/Vista/7/8/8.1/10 as well as Mac OSX 10.x.
This dual-band adapter is incredibly popular among wireless adapter fans, and with good reason. Although a bit bulkier than our other picks, this dual band adapter operates at 2.4 and 5.0 GHz, is incredibly easy to use, and works well with both Mac and PC platforms. And its relative bulkiness isn’t necessarily a bad thing for some buyers. In fact, this was perhaps the most rugged adapter we reviewed, and we’d therefore recommend it to people who need their Internet delivered in less-than-traditional settings where wear and tear is inevitable. Another important consideration is that NET-DYN is known for their unparalleled customer service, and offers a lifetime warranty on this unit along with limitless driver upgrades—something we couldn’t find in any of the other adapters we reviewed. The only reason this product wasn’t ranked higher on our list is because we didn’t believe its slightly elevated cost was fully justified. However, if you can find this adapter in the $20-$30 range we would highly recommend picking one up.
In the world of technology, small is indeed trendy. This little guy is about the size of a quarter and weights only 0.2 ounces. Yet don’t let its small size fool you. Compatible with both Mac and PC operating systems, this Anmier unit works flawlessly with any 2.4Ghz wireless b/g/n routers and can field speeds up to 300Mbps. It also boasts an impressive range and allows for flawless video and music streaming, along with an incredibly easy installation process. The only area in which this adapter falls a bit short is in its speed, since some users will want high Mbps transfers for larger, more involved projects. For just $11.99, however, it would be hard to go too wrong.
We arrive once again at a NET-DYN wireless adapter that’s proven to be quite popular with users seeking fast transfer rates in a small, attractive package. Although this unit doesn’t have much to offer in the way of unique features and chart-topping transfer speeds, its affordability, reliability, and overall power won it a spot on our list. Compatible with Windows 10, 8.1, 8, 7, Vista, XP, Mac 10.7 and 10.10, this unit is super easy to install, can work at speeds of up to 300 Mbps, and offers 100 yards of coverage—which is more than enough for the average user who doesn’t need to move too far from home base. This adapter is also supported by all major WLAN routers (WPA/WPA2/WEP) and comes with a lifetime warranty. For the price, you could do a lot worse than this.
Last but certainly not least, we come upon the EDUP 300 Mbps WiFi adapter. The first thing you’ll notice about this unit is that it comes with an optional, attachable antenna. People seem to like these types of adapters since they provide the option to increase range and power when super-portability isn’t needed. However, this adapter landed at the bottom of our list because we were unable to discern a large difference in range when we attached the included antenna, which does indeed add a great deal of bulk to the unit. Keep in mind, however, that this is a top ten list, and the last entry is still a relatively good find given the number of wireless USB adapters that are available. This EDUP unit can run at a solid 300 Mbps and works seamlessly with 10/8.1/8/7/XP/Vista and Mac OS10.6-10.12. Installation was also straight-forward and painless, and you get a lifetime warranty along with a signal transmission distance of about 100 meters, depending on your environment.