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Lifewire / Rebecca Isaacs
While it doesn’t work too well on older machines, you can do no wrong with NET-DYN’s Wi-Fi adapter on a new PC or laptop.
Choosing a Wi-Fi adapter for your laptop can be tricky. Many of them cost an arm and leg, while others are so budget-friendly that you question whether they work. If you’re looking for a solid adapter that combines the best of both worlds, the NET-DYN Wi-Fi adapter encompasses both, offering both high-quality connectivity while keeping the budget reasonable. With an easy setup and dual bands for optimal surfing and gaming, it was a treat to use.
The NET-DYN comes with two components: the USB adapter, and the CD used solely for installation purposes. At 3.5 x 1.2 x 0.5 inches (LWH), the adapter is small enough to fit into the palm of your hand. However, upon insertion into a PC’s USB ports, the 1.2-inch wide body hogs space, blocking adjacent USB ports.
Upon insertion into a PC’s USB ports, the 1.2-inch wide body hogs space, blocking adjacent USB ports.
Because it’s 3.5 inches long, also expect it to jut out of the USB port. It’s not a dealbreaker for PC users, as there are typically enough USB ports on both the front and back that you can just adjust your spacing to suit your needs. Laptop users, however, will have to be conscientious of where they place the adapter. Especially if you’re on the go, one bump could cause you to knock it out of the USB port, so packing it in a separate location will be essential. On the bright side, its bright cobalt blue hue will help you find it if you misplace it in your bag.
To install the NET-DYN, the adapter provides two options: you can either use the mini CD and navigate through the software or you can download the driver software from their website. If you’re using an all-in-one PC or laptop that lacks a drive, we recommend swapping over to the software from the website.
I used the CD, and popped it into the CD drive of my desktop. From there, it provided several options: Linux, Windows, or Mac. Once you click on your preferred operating system, you’ll have to click on the setup icon that appears. Thankfully, the software is just short of a plug-and-go adapter, so while you need to initiate setup, the software takes over from there. It takes about five minutes to download. Considering there are actual plug and play Wi-Fi adapters out there, it was a little irksome, but once again, not a dealbreaker. Once installed, all I needed to do was enter the Wi-Fi password, and I was connected.
The software is just short of a plug-and-go adapter, so while you need to initiate setup, the software takes over from there.
When I first booted up the NET-DYN (this being the AC1200 model, which indicates a maximum theoretical bandwidth of 1,200 Mbps), it immediately cut out on me. It left a bad first impression, but I pressed on, determined to see whether it was just an initial moody spell or a constant hassle. As it turns out, the initial dropoff was the only issue I experienced during the entirety of testing.
Since my custom PC was located on the third floor of a home while the router resided in the basement, I was pleased to see that the speed tests showed 7.6Mbps down on the 2.4GHz dual-band network. However, the NET-DYN was supposed to be able to handle up to 300Mbps downlink up to 100 yards from the router, so it was a little disappointing that this number came in so low. This speed was enough to handle simple browser surfing, like checking Reddit cat photo posts and listening to some Lizzo on Spotify.
A 2014 all-in-one HP PC was the next machine that I used, and connecting to it was a little harder. It really grumped when I attempted to connect it, going in and out and not wanting to connect. Ultimately, I had to go in and finagle the PC’s control panel settings in order to get it to connect to the router. When it did, the speeds recorded were so glacial at 981Kbps (yes, you read that correctly) that it was next to impossible to do so much as surf Reddit. It was irksome considering that the NET-DYN released in May 2016—it should have been compatible, and is listed as being compatible with systems as early as Windows 2000 on advertisements.
Lastly, it was time to check the adapter close to the router. With the router in an adjacent room, I swapped my desktops for my new gaming laptop. It connected with ease, and didn’t drop off initially as it had on the other machines. On a 5GHz network, the NET-DYN truly shined and boasted 203.7Mbps downlink. It seemed too good to be true, but after a few more speed tests, it still hovered in the same area of 200 Mbps. Up close to the router and on a new machine, YouTube played without any pixelation, Spotify was seamless, and online games didn’t rubber band. It was a truly magical experience.
Up close to the router and on a new machine, YouTube played without any pixelation, Spotify was seamless, and online games didn’t rubber band. It was a truly magical experience.
At around $44, the NET-DYN seems fairly priced. There are, after all, some gaming Wi-Fi adapters that go for upwards of $80, while others that go for as low as $8. However, the $44 price tag for a mid-range adapter is in line with competitors.
I also took a look at the Linksys WUSB6300 Wireless Adapter (view on Amazon) while I was checking out the NET-DYN adapter because they’re similarly priced. The Linksys costs around $44—the same price as the NET-DYN adapter. Each of their setup processes is really easy; however, that’s about as similar as they get.
The NET-DYN is much faster up closer to the router than the Linksys, which pulled in 168 Mbps. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a great number—but that extra 40 Mbps the NET-DYN offers can mean the difference between winning and losing a round of Fortnite. If your PC or laptop is farther away from the router, then the Linksys might better for you, as it showed 26 Mbps compared to the 7 the NET-DYN pulled in.
What makes it harder to decide is that both of them were extremely reliable. While the NET-DYN experienced the one dropoff, the Linksys also didn’t experience any cutouts or dropoffs during use. If you’re stuck choosing between them like I was, it comes down to the distance: if you need a solid distance adapter, the Linksys might be better for you. However, if you can place your laptop or PC closer to your router, then the NET-DYN is the clear winner here.
An affordable and reliable Wi-Fi adapter.
The Wi-Fi speeds we experienced on the NET-DYN make it one of the great adapters on the market right now. Coupled with the price, it’s hard not to love this little cobalt blue powerhouse.