Where Can I Buy A Wireless Adapter BETTER
The Netgear Nighthawk A7000 is a bulky USB adapter that costs almost three times as much as the budget Archer T2U Plus. However, the trade-off is worth it if your broadband connection is faster than 200 Mbps. It posted our top throughput scores all over our test home, significantly outperforming other Wi-Fi adapters.
where can i buy a wireless adapter
We looked for Wi-Fi 5 and Wi-Fi 6 (also known as 802.11ac and 802.11ax, respectively) USB Wi-Fi adapters from the major manufacturers, as well as others that appeared often in online searches and on shopping sites. We immediately disqualified 802.11n-only adapters, since that standard is over 10 years old.
The Archer AX50 was placed in the family room on the first floor of the 2,300 square-foot home, where the internet enters the house. We placed the Lenovo ThinkPad laptop at two testing points within the home. The close-range test location was within line of sight of the router, 7 feet away. The long-range testing location is in a basement corner bathroom on the other side of the home, about 75 feet away, with the underground foundation of the house on two sides of the room. The signal to the bathroom has to pass through the floor and several walls. We measured the throughput at both locations and used that data to determine our picks.
The TP-Link Archer T4U is the best USB Wi-Fi adapter for most people. It typically sells for around $40, and it performed well on our throughput tests, just behind our upgrade pick, the Netgear Nighthawk A7000. And as with all our picks, we had no problems with dropped connections during testing. Though it has a AC1300 rating (400 Mbps on the 2.4 GHz band and 867 Mbps on the 5 GHz band), the Archer T4U was able to perform better than the Asus USB-AX56 and D-Link DWA-X1850, both of which have a supposedly faster AX1800 Wi-Fi 6 rating (600 Mbps on 2.4 GHz and 1,200 Mbps on 5 GHz).
The TP-Link T4U has been our top pick since 2019, when it was near the top of the seven of 22 USB adapters that made our cut by being able to copy large file transfers in a reasonable amount of time. This result (along with pricing and other factors) led to us naming the T4U as our pick for Wi-Fi USB adapters.
I'm that 5G guy. I've actually been here for every "G." I've reviewed well over a thousand products during 18 years working full-time at PCMag.com, including every generation of the iPhone and the Samsung Galaxy S. I also write a weekly newsletter, Fully Mobilized, where I obsess about phones and networks.
Good Wi-Fi is a modern necessity, especially for homes where multiple people are trying to work, learn, or be entertained. As you carve out odd spaces for home offices, you may end up in weird corners of kitchens, attics, or basements where your Wi-Fi doesn't reach. I live in a pretty small apartment, but two thick, 1928-era walls separate my home office from my Wi-Fi router. The router itself is perfectly adequate for the space; my computer's Wi-Fi antenna is what falls short.
The best way to improve your Wi-Fi signal is to switch from a single router to a mesh network system, but mesh systems can be expensive. Wi-Fi extenders are another option, even though they can create interference and add latency; I wasn't thrilled when I tried one. If you just need to eke a little bit more Wi-Fi out to one laptop or desktop, a USB adapter is a much cheaper alternative.
These adapters work on a simple principle: If you improve your antenna, your signal will improve too. In 2021, we purchased three adapters from TP-Link, one from Netgear, and two random low-cost Amazon brands. We tested those models in four locations: right next to my router; in my home office, only a few feet away but through two walls; by my building elevator, which is another 20 feet away and through another wall; and on the next floor up. Recently, we purchased the first available Wi-Fi 6 adapter and tested it against some of the best-performing models from the earlier bunch.
All of these adapters are compatible with Windows PCs and several also work with Linux. None of them have official drivers for macOS versions later than 10.15 (and some don't even have that), because the chipset vendors don't bother to support macOS. An enterprising independent programmer has developed macOS 11 and macOS 12 drivers(Opens in a new window) for many of the adapters we've reviewed, but you should yse these at your own risk. Adapters also likely won't work with other home electronics, as they require the right drivers.
The 802.11ac Wi-Fi spec is disturbingly complicated, with more than a dozen different performance levels referred to by AC and a number. The adapters we found perform at the AC1200, AC1300, and AC1900 levels. Here's how all of those AC numbers in that range translate into potential speeds on the two main Wi-Fi frequency bands: 2.4GHz and 5GHz. If this chart makes your head hurt, just remember that higher numbers are better.
Since the first one launched last summer, a few other Wi-Fi 6 USB sticks are now available, including the Asus USB-AX56, the D-Link DWA-X1850, and several shifty-looking Amazon brands. We reviewed the first model to hit the market, D-Link's DWA-X1850. All of the current adapters use the AX1800 version of the Wi-Fi 6 spec, so they aren't inherently faster than the best 802.11ac adapters we tested. In our full review of the X1850, we found that while it showed better signal strength than the Wi-Fi 5 adapters on a 2.4GHz network in a weak signal situation, that characteristic didn't at all translate into actual speed or reliability improvements in other situations.
Of the adapters we've tested, our pick is the TP-Link Archer T9UH. For the price, this AC1900 adapter strikes the best balance between cost and signal-boosting. The Netgear Nighthawk adapter is even more powerful, but costs more. The other adapters are cheaper but didn't improve the connection as significantly in testing.
I tested Wi-Fi 5 performance with a 500Mbps symmetrical Verizon Fios fiber connection using a Verizon Fios G1100, an AC1750 router. When I tested the Wi-Fi 5 adapters against each other earlier in 2021, my whole family was working and learning from home. Top speeds were unreliable because congestion kept changing. So, I focused on the signal strength and the speed loss when moving the laptop quickly from one location to another.
When I tested the D-Link Wi-Fi 6 adapter more recently, I could do so in a more controlled environment. As such, I was able to compare speeds between that adapter, the TP-Link Archer T9UH, and the TP-Link Archer T4U Plus. Those results are in the full D-Link DWA-X1850 review.
In terms of pure signal improvement, the more expensive adapters with better specs performed better. The below chart shows how each Wi-Fi 5 adapter affected pure 5GHz signal strength on my laptop, averaged over the four locations I tested it.
Of course, what you should most care about is the data download speed you'll get in places where you were previously having Wi-Fi trouble. In my tests, those two locations were in my office (bad speeds) and by the elevator (really bad speeds). The chart below shows how each adapter affected speeds in those two locations, relative to the speeds I got right by the router. The Y-axis is flipped, so a higher point indicates better performance and less speed lost.
The Archer T9UH, an AC1900 dongle, had the best overall speed performance of any of the adapters I tested, making my home office wall seem nearly transparent to signal. The T9UH is 0.5 inch thick and 3.5 inches long when closed; it flips open to a height of about 6 inches. You can plug it directly into your laptop or use an included USB 3.0 cradle. The dongle has a small blue LED to show it's working.
And work it does. Over my 5GHz 802.11ac network, I saw an average signal improvement of 11dB at my four locations, as well as the lowest overall speed loss. At one point, I was getting a higher speed in my office than right next to the router, which was probably because of how other people in the house were using the internet. Still, this performance shows that the T9UH can really reach through the wall. The dongle didn't do well with my router's 2.4GHz network and refused to connect to that network from farther than a few feet away, but you shouldn't be using a 2.4GHz network with an adapter like this. It's really for boosting 5GHz signal and does that very impressively. the T9UH is our Editors' Choice winner out of the adapters we tested.
TP-Link's most basic adapter is a small USB dongle with a 7-inch rotatable antenna sticking out of it. Plug it in and macOS or Windows will automatically detect it. It is the purest, simplest example of "stick a big antenna on something and see what happens."
The Archer T4U Plus sits at the sweet spot of price and performance. This adapter doesn't plug directly into your PC; it's a trapezoidal dongle with two six-inch antennas. Plug it in with the included USB cable and you're good to go. The T4U Plus uses the AC1300 standard.
This off-brand adapter is shoddily made and generic. It's an AC1200 adapter with two rotatable antennas. You can plug it directly into your PC or use the included dock. However, the USB dongle doesn't plug all the way into its dock, leaving some of the connector exposed. The cable is supposed to route out of a notch in the bottom of the dock, but it tends to pop out of the notch and make the dock wobble.
Performance-wise, the BrosTrend adapter did worse than I expected from something with two large antennas. On average, it got a 5.75dB better signal at 5GHz than the laptop alone, which was better than the Archer T3U but worse than the other TP-Link and Netgear adapters. It also lost more connection speed than any of the TP-Link or Netgear adapters, though it still performed better than the laptop alone. If you buy this adapter, you might think it's good, but that's just because you haven't tried anything better. 041b061a72