Computers, Laptops & Tablets Microsoft 65 65 people found this article helpful Guide to Laptop Networking Features Wi-Fi and Bluetooth are common, but cellular and wired connections work, too by Mark Kyrnin Writer Mark Kyrnin is a former Lifewire writer and computer networking and internet expert who also specializes in computer hardware. our editorial process LinkedIn Mark Kyrnin Updated on August 01, 2020 The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide The Ultimate Laptop Buying Guide Introduction Laptop Basics Laptop Size & Weight Guide Laptop Networking Guide Laptop Memory Buyer's Guide Laptop Processor Buyer's Guide Display & Graphics Guide Types of Laptop Drives Guide Netbook vs Laptop Hybrid vs Convertible Laptop Understanding Laptop Warranties Best Laptops Best Laptops Best Places to Buy a Laptop Best Linux Laptops Best Windows Laptops Best Laptops for Under $200 Best Laptops for Under $500 Best Touchscreen Laptops Best Laptops at Walmart Best Workstation Laptops Best Laptops by Size Best 14- to 16-Inch Laptops Best 13-Inch Laptops Best 17-Inch and Larger Laptops Best Lightweight Laptops Best Mini Laptops Best Laptops by Brand Best Lenovo Laptops Best Dell Laptops Best Acer Laptops Best ASUS Laptops Best HP Laptops Best Gaming Laptops Best Gaming Laptops Best Gaming Laptops for Battery Life Best Gaming Laptops for Under $1,000 Best Gaming Laptops Under $1,500 Best Laptops for Fortnite Best Laptops by Lifestyle Best Business Laptops Best Laptops for College Students Laptops for Engineering Students Best Laptops for Graphic Design Best Laptops for Kids Best Laptops for Photography Best Laptops for Video Editing Best Laptops for VR Best Laptops for Writers Individual Laptop Reviews Acer Aspire E 15 Review Apple MacBook Pro 13-Inch (2019) Review HP 15-BS013DX Review HP Notebook 15 Review HP Pavilion 15z Touch Review HP Spectre x360 15t Touch Review Best Laptop Accessories Portable Battery Chargers Compact Desks & Stands Rolling Laptop Bags Best Laptop Backpacks Best Laptop Bags Laptop Cases and Sleeves Laptop Cooling Pads Best Laptop Mounts Laptop Computer GPS Tweet Share Email Every mainstream laptop shipped today includes several methods of wireless network connectivity. Wi-Fi and Bluetooth top the list, but a few offer wireless cellular modems or Ethernet ports. The modern market is standardized to a significant degree. As recently as the mid-2010s, different devices offered more variation than today. Javier Encinas / Moment / Getty Images Wi-Fi Networking Wi-Fi is the standard for wireless connectivity. When you see 802.11, you're looking at the Wi-Fi standard. Although Wi-Fi is a recognized protocol, the relative version level of that protocol governs the relative speed of a connection. Current hardware uses the 802.11ax protocol. A Wi-Fi connection is only as fast as the oldest and slowest 802.11 protocol supported between the router and the laptop. A router that transmits using 802.11ax maxes at 10 Gbps of throughput. A Wi-Fi radio in an old laptop using the 1999-era 802.11b standard only sees the 802.11b throughput of 11 Mbps. A bleeding-edge wireless network card can't speed up a coffee-shop router that hasn't been updated since 1999. Every few years, the 802.11 protocol receives an update, which is represented by a one- or two-letter suffix. More than a dozen protocol versions remain in active use, so when you buy a new laptop or a plug-in wireless networking card, choose the most recent protocol to ensure the fastest speed and best reliability in any setting. Some low-budget laptops and some refurbished models use older Wi-Fi radios. Check the specs before you buy if maximizing speed and reliability are important use cases for your new laptop. Bluetooth Radios Although Bluetooth is most commonly associated with short-distance connections for things like earbuds, Bluetooth works great for network tethering. You don't usually find Bluetooth-based routers in airports or coffee shops, but the odds are good your laptop or tablet can connect to your smartphone to use your smartphone's data plan to access the internet. Cellular and Ethernet Connections Some prosumer-grade laptops and tablets include cellular modems to enable direct access through a mobile carrier. Some of the Microsoft Surface lines, for example, include optional 4G modems. These are convenient—no need to tether or to connect to public Wi-Fi hotspots—but usually require a data plan through a mobile carrier for an additional monthly fee. Older laptops and some laptops designed specifically for enterprise markets include Ethernet connections. Wired networking isn't common in homes and public places, but wired connections often are the default in corporate settings. Buy an Ethernet-to-USB dongle to provide a wired connection on devices that lack a dedicated Ethernet port.