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Lifewire / Rebecca Isaacs
Windows and Mac compatible
Some lag for heavy gaming
The Ourlink Wi-Fi adapter packs a big punch with reliable internet speeds. Just be sure to keep it close to the router and you’ll have great internet coverage.
Finding a Wi-Fi adapter that can host dual bands yet doesn’t hog the USB ports can be a real challenge. After all, most heavy dual-band adapters are seemingly the size of Mount Everest. Not all hope for a compact adapter is lost, however—the Ourlink U631 USB Wi-Fi Adapter boasts dual bands topping over 400Mbps (5GHz network) and 150Mbps (2.4GHz network) down. Even though this little adapter is going on five years old, its speeds give newer adapter models a run for their money and designs. Read on for the verdict.
At 0.75 x 0.5 x 0.3 inches (LWH), the Ourlink Wi-Fi adapter is very, very tiny in the adapter world. It’s easy to be worried that you’ll drop it or misplace it somewhere since it’s the size of a pinky finger bone. In reality, its is what sets it apart from other models. After all, if you’re on the go with a laptop and need one, it easily inserts into any USB port. The best part is that you can’t really tell it’s there, and when you bump it, you don’t risk denting the USB insert—or worse, breaking it.
On top of its portability, its compact design also means that you can use adjacent USB ports, which is great for systems that have minimal port space available. Its size also makes it barely noticeable on any PC system, especially when most models on the market are much larger in comparison. Swapping it from one system to another though can be tricky, though. Since it’s a nano adapter, there isn’t a real place to grip it, so removing it from the USB port is irksome.
Setting up the Ourlink adapter is easy. A CD accompanies the adapter. You’ll have to insert this into the drive in order to install the information. There is an accompanying booklet that takes you through the information. You’ll have to first choose your computer type (i.e., Linux, Windows, Mac), and then you’ll have to click the “Setup” button. From there, the CD installs the necessary software onto the machine. Installation took less than five minutes, and when it was ready to connect, I manually found the Wi-Fi network, typed in the password, and was connected.
My router is located in the basement of a three-story home, so I decided to start with a distance test by placing the adapter up on a third floor. During testing, it could get solid speeds across three floors, averaging 3.92Mbps. Testing it while jamming to Lizzo on Spotify and some Mabel on YouTube, I didn’t experience any buffering issues. On YouTube, though, Mabel first started blurry, like I was watching it on a low-quality setting. After about ten seconds, the video quality jumped to a crisp, clear, and colorful picture.
If you’re planning on gaming far from the router find another adapter for your long-distance gaming needs.
However, it turns out, that’s the Ourlink’s weakness: range. After some lag and rubber-banding issues with Borderlands 2 and 7 Days to Die, I realized that 3.92Mbps just wasn’t enough at a range that far. There were a number of times I rubber-banded and lagged in gameplay, costing me health and expending valuable sniper ammo as a result. 7 Days to Die proved to be more harmful. While I didn’t have any issues hosting, my fellow survivalists rubber-banded so horribly it ended up costing them their lives in gameplay. If you’re planning on gaming far from the router find another adapter for your long-distance gaming needs.
If you can get it closer to the adapter though, the Ourlink shines. I tested it across two more distances: a 2014 all-in-one PC two floors away from the router, and on a 2019 laptop in another home, where the router was in an adjacent office space. On the 2014 all-in-one, the speed jumped by over 20Mbps, to 25.8Mbps. Up close, the speed was jaw-dropping. The speed jumped from 25.8Mbs to a whopping 209.7 Mbps.
There were a number of times in which I rubber-banded and lagged in gameplay, costing me health and expending valuable sniper ammo as a result.
At around $13, this is one of the most budget-friendly adapters on the market. There are plenty of other, more expensive options out there for internet surfing and heavy gaming. However, if you’re simply looking for something to help you work on documents and get daily internet-related tasks done, then this is the best bang for your buck.
If you’re simply looking for something to help you work on documents and get daily internet-related tasks done, then this is the best bang for your buck.
Because of its similarity in design and price, it makes sense to compare the Ourlink U631(view on Amazon) and the TP-Link N150 Wi-Fi adapters. Both the Ourlink and the TP-Link (view on Amazon) adapters are nano adapters, so small that they can easily insert into laptops without being a detriment to portability. While the Ourlink retails for around $13, the TP-Link costs half of that, at around $8.
One of the biggest downsides to the TP-Link is range: from next to the router, I recorded 23.2Mbps—a massive difference from the over 200Mbps the Ourlink recorded. Another important factor to consider is whether you’ll want dual bands. The TP-Link N150 solely focuses on the 2.4GHz band and only has a maximum of 150Mbps down, while the Ourlink boasts dual bands and can go up to over 400Mbps on the 5GHz band.
If internet surfing is the sole use for the adapter, we recommend sticking with the TP-Link N150. Should gaming be your preferred use of the internet, however, we suggest splurging that extra $4 for the Ourlink.
The best for your budget.
The size of the Ourlink U631 Wi-Fi adapter really doesn’t reflect its power. Though it’s a nano USB adapter, it’s great for basic internet. That said, lag issues during 7 Days to Die and Borderlands 2 makes me leery to recommend it for gaming, especially at long ranges. If you’re using this solely for basic internet usage, like working from home, or scrolling through your various social media feeds, it’s great. Otherwise, look for something that packs more of a punch.