The 8 Best Wi-Fi USB Adapters to Buy in 2017

Get Wi-Fi connectivity easily with these wireless adapters

There are few technology-focused items more necessary in the home than a computer and a fast Internet connection. No matter how expensive or budget-friendly the computer is, having a good Internet connection at home is an essential part of staying in touch with the world. If your computer doesn’t have a built-in Wi-Fi connection (and a lot of older machines do not), there are a plethora of USB Wi-Fi adapters on the market to get you online. Whether you’re streaming Netflix, browsing the Web or playing a game, there’s an adapter out there for everyone.

Compatible with both Windows and Mac computers, the Net-Dyn dual band USB wireless Wi-Fi adapter is an outstanding choice for adding Wi-Fi to any computer. Utilizing both 2.4GHz and 5GHz capabilities, the Net-Dyn is capable of reaching and covering an area of around 100 yards while still offering its fastest connection speed. Reaching speeds up to 300Mbps, the addition of 802.11n connectivity guarantees a future-proofed purchase.

Setup is a snap. Just plug the Net-Dyn into your computer, install the drivers (Windows only) and connect to the Internet. Supported by all WLAN routers, there are WPA/WPA2/WEP connectivity options, which ensures the Net-Dyn works with just about any Internet provider in the U.S.. Additionally, Net-Dyn provides a lifetime warranty along with routine software and driver updates.

Released in 2014, the Panda Wireless PAU06 offers a 4.2 out of 5-star rating on Amazon, thanks to both a fantastic price tag and stellar performance. Upgrading any computer to the future-friendly 802.11n standard means the max data rate can reach up to 300Mbps on the connection. Additionally, there’s backward compatibility with the 802.11g on the 2.4GHz band to ensure a stable connection regardless of your Internet service provider.

Utilizing low power technology, the Panda works to keep itself in the background so it does not take up too much of your laptop’s battery. Beyond battery, a WPS button works to connect the computer and PAU06 quickly without a headache for the user. The Panda is compatible with Windows 10, as well as Mac OS and various Linux systems. State-of-the-art security standards are also in place to provide the user with peace of mind through 128bit WEP, WPA and WPA encryption standards.

The four-antenna design of the TRENDnet TEW-809UB adapter might look a little “too much” for some buyers, but it's definitely more than meets the eye. The powerful antennas offer high-end features such as beamforming technology that excel at handling multiple Internet users connected at the same time without interfering with network performance. The antennas are independently adjustable, so you can fidget with each one to effectively increase range in your house or workplace.

It is capable of providing speeds of up to 1300Mbps on the 802.11ac standard or up to 600Mbps on the 802.11n standard. The inclusion of the latter allows for the TEW-809UB to remain future-proofed for years to come. While it might be mistaken for a router in appearance, its range rivals that of some routers (you can bank on more than 100 yards of distance before signal degradation).

With a unique dual-winged design, the Asus USB-AC68 is one of the best Wi-Fi adapters money can buy. Featuring foldable, external antennas to provide enhanced reception for laptops when open (and easy transportation and portability when closed), the Asus offers outstanding range and speed. Utilizing powerful 3x4 MIMO (multiple in, multiple out) antenna technologies, the dual three-position external antennas pair with an internal antenna for long range connectivity. Working off both the 2.4GHz band (600Mbps) and the 5GHz band (1300Mbps), the Asus is more than ready to tackle bandwidth-intensive tasks.

Additionally, the increased expense results in features such as AiRadar and beamforming technology that create extended coverage, dynamic speed increases and enhanced stability while online. To get hooked up, just plug it into a USB 3.0 port on your computer or into the cradle that arrives with the Asus. The desktop cradle allows for easy positioning in and around the computer to find the best signal position whereas USB-only options limit reach.

Released in late 2015, the TP-Link T1U wireless nano USB adapter is a compact choice that’s priced just right. As a 5GHz-only option, the T1U omits the 2.4GHz band, but offers up to 433Mbps speed utilizing the future-proofed 802.11ac standard. Additionally, the T1U omits the faster USB 3.0 transfer speed commonly found in more expensive options today, but the focus is really on data transmission speeds.

As a smaller dongle, there’s a minimal hit to the range, so sticking close to the wireless or wired router/modem will offer maximum performance. Setup is a easy, too, thanks to plug-and-play design that requires little configuration regardless of which operating system you’re working on. Once you’re online, there’s advanced security with 64/128-bit network WEP, WPA and WPA2 encryption standards for peace of mind while surfing online. One added benefit is that the compact size doesn’t interfere with other ports. 

Released in 2013, the Linksys Dual-Band AC1200 WUSB6300 Wi-Fi adapter stands the test of time with outstanding performance and lightning fast gaming speeds. Featuring speeds up to 867Mbps on the 802.11ac 5GHz network or up to 300Mbps on the 802.11n 2.4GHz band, the Linksys is more than ready for multiplayer gaming at any hour of the day. With support for any 802.11ac routers, access points and extenders, the Linksys also supports up to 128-bit encryption through WEP, WPA and WPA2 standards.

The Linksys works with all Windows platforms, including Windows 7, Window 8 and Windows 10 for maximum use cases both in the home and office. Beyond gaming, the 1200Mbps max speed is perfect for Netflix or Hulu HD video streaming, which makes it an ideal choice for the whole family. While it might be one of the older options available, the WUSB6300 still outperforms more current options and is an excellent choice for gamers that’s priced just right.

Released in late 2014, the D-Link Systems AC1900 Ultra Wi-Fi USB 3.0 adapter bares a striking resemblance to the Death Star in Star Wars. The orb-shaped adapter connects to your computer via a proprietary three-foot USB cable. At 3.2 x 3.2 x 3.2 inches in size, the D-Link might be better-associated size-wise with a baseball or tennis ball to give a good idea of just how “large” it will be on your desk. Awesome design aside, the D-Link provides up to 1300Mbps performance on a 5GHz network and up to 600Mbps on a 2.4GHz network. The flexible technology allows the D-Link to be backward compatible with 802.11/n/g/a networks.

The D-Link has advanced D-Link’s SmartBeam (aka beamforming) technology that improves coverage by directing network signal straight between a router and the DWA-192 adapter. Additionally, the inclusion of USB 3.0 transfer mode allows the user to transfer data more than 10x faster than USB 2.0 performance. All in all, while it's a little on the pricey side, it's definitely worth it.

Whether you’re looking to stream video, browse the Web or host an online video conference, the Glam Hobby AC600 USB Wi-Fi dongle is ready for action. The device offers fantastic speed capabilities (including a 600Mbps connection speed running 3x faster than similarly priced Wireless N adapters). It's capable of working on the 5GHz band for a 433Mbps max connection speed (150Mbps on 2.4GHz), and support is available for both Windows 10 and Mac OS (the former requires a software download from the Glam Hobby website).

Measuring just 22mm in length, the Glam Hobby is an excellent and smart way to add a 5GHz connection to a laptop or desk in a small package (and at a budget-friendly price tag). While the omission of the 802.11n is noteworthy, the Glam Hobby makes up for it with unique features like creating a Wi-Fi hotspot for additional mobile devices whenever there is a wired internet connection.

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