The Best Wi-Fi Adapters of 2023

TP Link Archer T3U Plus plugged into laptop

What to Look for in a Wi-Fi Adapter in 2023

Wi-Fi adapters look like relatively simple devices, but as you start to look at available adapters, you quickly learn that there are many configurations available. Some are tiny external adapters that are easy to pack with a laptop, others require opening up your PC tower to install, while others still have multiple antennas to get the best signal possible. What should you look for to get the right Wi-Fi adapter for you?

The first thing to consider is which wireless standards a Wi-Fi adapter is designed to work with. If you have a Wi-Fi 6 router, it makes sense to get a Wi-Fi adapter that also supports Wi-Fi 6. A Wi-Fi adapter that only supports up to Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) will work, but it won’t take full advantage of the newer and faster wireless standard.

Additionally, Beamforming and MIMO (Multi-input, Multi-output) are designed to improve wireless networking performance. They usually go hand-in-hand, and compatibility with both is desirable in any modern Wi-Fi adapter.

Beamforming is a way of focusing a wireless signal towards a single receiving device, making connections faster and more reliable, while MIMO allows multiple antennas to be used as both transmitter and receiver. MU-MIMO (Multi-user, Multi-input, Multi-output) is the same but allows multiple devices to use MIMO simultaneously.

Just remember that both MIMO and beamforming are router-based technologies. If your router does not provide them, your Wi-Fi adapter can’t use them.

If you use a Windows desktop PC, you have the widest choice of Wi-Fi adapters. You can choose either an external USB adapter you can quickly plug in or a PCIe (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express) card adapter, which must be installed inside your PC’s case.

Internal PCIe Wi-Fi adapters can achieve much higher potential speeds than USB Wi-Fi adapters. This is due to the limits to the data transfer rate that USB has. The introduction of USB 3.0 helped, as did the updates to 3.1 and 3.2, but data transfer rates still fall short of the upper limits of PCIe. Of course, if you decide on a PCIe adapter, you have to be comfortable with opening up your computer to install it.

Mac users have fewer choices when buying a Wi-Fi adapter, but there are still some good options out there. Most of our picks listed here that connect via USB will work with macOS, but make sure to check for compatibility before purchasing.

Finding a Wi-Fi adapter that will work reliably with Linux is another matter. Several of the adapters we looked at promised Linux compatibility—but often not for modern versions of the Linux kernel—and feedback from users is mixed on whether those promises are met in real life. As such, we don’t recommend any Linux adapters below.

Frequently Asked Questions

What does a Wi-Fi adapter do?

A Wi-Fi adapter is a nifty little component that grants your laptop or desktop PC wireless connection capability.

Aside from Wi-Fi, most Wi-Fi adapters also come with Bluetooth. Wi-Fi adapters connect to your PC either via a PCIe port or a USB port.

How do you reset a Wi-Fi adapter?

To reset a Wi-Fi adapter on Windows 10 and Windows 11, click the “Start” button and then click on Settings, Network, Internet, Status Change Adapter Options.

Once you click on the “Change Adapter Options” button locate your network adapter, right-click on its icon and then click on “Disable.” After you disable it, right-click on its icon again and then click on “Enable.” That should do the trick

If you’re still facing Wi-Fi issues, check our guides on how to reset your entire network, how to use Windows troubleshoot features, and how to diagnose network connection issues with Windows command line utilities,

Are there Wi-Fi adapters for smart TVs?

If we’re talking about regular PCIe or USB Wi-Fi adapters featured in this guide then no, there aren’t any.

Samsung offered proprietary USB Wi-Fi adapters for some of its TVs back in the day but nowadays, the company doesn’t offer them anymore.

Also, while you can find wireless repeaters online that can grant your TV Wi-Fi capability, those aren’t Wi-Fi adapters.

Does a Wi-Fi adapter have its own MAC address?

Every piece of hardware connected to your local network has a MAC address, including your Wi-Fi adapter. To find out the MAC address of your Wi-Fi adapter, read our guide on the subject.

Best Wi-Fi Adapter Overall: ASUS PCE-AXE58BT

ASUS PCE-AXE58BT on purple background


  • ✓ Lighting-fast data rates over Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E
  • ✓ Bluetooth 5.2 support
  • ✓ OFDMA and MU-MIMO
  • ✓ Adjustable antennas
  • ✓ High-quality construction


  • ✗ Expensive
  • ✗ Wi-Fi 6E only works on Windows 11 (Microsoft’s fault, not ASUS’)

The PCE-AXE58BT is ASUS’ flagship PCIe Wi-Fi adapter that uses Intel’s AX210 Wi-Fi chip. This Wi-Fi solution features Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E support, offers tri-band coverage—2.4GHz, 5GHz, and the Wi-Fi 6E-exclusive 6GHz band—and comes with blazing-fast speeds.

While the 2.4GHz data rate isn’t the fastest around, topping out at 574Mbps, Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E transfer speeds can go up to 2402Mbps per ASUS, which is impressive. That’s plenty even for downloading massive AAA games, streaming 4K videos, and any other use case you might have.

Alongside Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E, you’re also getting Bluetooth 5.2, which is a pretty cool bonus. The card slots into a PCIe x1 slot, and it comes with two external antennas with gold-plated connectors, which should provide pretty solid coverage.

The ASUS PCE-AXE58BT also comes with OFDMA and MU-MIMO support, just don’t forget that your router has to support those features for them to work. The installation process is quite simple, with the only catch being that you have to install the latest drivers for the AX210 chip to use Wi-Fi 6E features.

You can install Intel Driver & Support Assistant (Intel DSA) or manually download drivers for the AX210 chip from Intel’s website. We recommend the former option since the Intel DSA utility will automatically download and install necessary drivers and keep your drivers up to date in case a new driver update comes out.

Another thing to look out for is to disable Wi-Fi and Bluetooth features in BIOS before installing the PCE-AXE58BT, in case your PC has built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capabilities. If you don’t perform this step, you’re likely to be met with the good old BSOD (blue screen of death) upon turning on your PC after installing the adapter. Note that this issue mars most Wi-Fi adapters. Even if you get some other adapter on this list, make sure not to skip this step.

Talking about negatives, aside from the high price, the Wi-Fi 6E features that include using the 6GHz band only work on Windows 11. This is on Microsoft since the company offers Wi-Fi 6E support only on Windows 11. If you’re still on Windows 10, think about getting the ASUS USB-AC68, our pick for the best USB Wi-Fi adapter. Our Best Wi-Fi Adapter for Gaming is another excellent alternative, but again, its Wi-Fi 6E features only work on Windows 11.

Best Wi-Fi Adapter Overall



Excellent Wi-Fi 6 and Wi-Fi 6E adapter that also features Bluetooth 5.2. With lightning-fast data rates, OFDMA and MU-MIMO support, as well as good wireless coverage thanks to its dual antennas, the ASUS PCE-AXE58BT is the best Wi-Fi adapter you can get.

Best Budget Wi-Fi Adapter: TP-Link Archer T3U Plus

TP-Link Archer T3U Plus on grey background


  • ✓ Very good value for money
  • ✓ Adjustable external antenna
  • ✓ Small and very portable
  • ✓ Supports Multi-User MIMO


  • ✗ Only average data transfer speeds

The Archer T3U Plus from TP-Link, at around twenty dollars, is something of a marvel. It is not only small and easily portable, but it is also impressively competent for the low price point. As a cheap way to add Wi-Fi to your computer, this little adapter is hard to beat.

Of course, a Wi-Fi adapter this inexpensive won’t be great at maintaining high data transfer speeds for gaming or dealing with large files. The T3U is rated as AC1300, meaning potential maximum speeds of 867Mbps on 5GHz and 400Mbps on 2.4GHz. While these speeds aren’t bad at all, if you’re looking to do hardcore gaming, you’ll need something more robust.

It has a single external antenna that can be adjusted to get the best possible coverage, and the Archer T3U Plus fully supports MU-MIMO. This helps that single antenna work as effectively as possible, even on a crowded Wi-Fi network.

The range is not as good as other USB adapters on this list, and you don’t get an extension cable or a dock to help find that perfect position. That is a shame, but not unreasonable considering the price. As long as you are not too far away from the Wi-Fi source, your performance will be good.

The TP-Link Archer series of network adapters are known for providing good performance at a reasonable price. If you need a cheap Wi-Fi adapter that will allow you to do most things online with ease, the Archer T3U Plus is a fine choice.

Best Budget Wi-Fi Adapter


TP-Link Archer T3U Plus

A small and portable Wi-Fi adapter that can add general use wireless networking capability to your computer for a price that definitely shouldn’t break the bank.

Best USB Wi-Fi Adapter: ASUS USB-AC68

ASUS USB-AC68 on yellow background


  • ✓ Compact enough to be portable
  • ✓ Good speeds on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz
  • ✓ Dual, adjustable antenna
  • ✓ Supplied with extension cable and dock


  • ✗ Quite expensive
  • ✗ May block adjacent USB ports

Just a few years ago, trying to find a decent USB Wi-Fi adapter was a difficult task. Thankfully, there are now several great options to choose from. Our favorite, which combines good wireless speed with the ease of use of USB, is the small and practical ASUS USB-AC68.

The AC68 can be plugged directly into any free USB port on your computer, although a USB 3.0 port is preferable as it supports higher data transfer speeds. It also comes with an extension cable and dock, allowing you to position the adapter for the best reception.

The extension cable is also useful if your available USB ports are close together because although the device is small, it will block adjacent ports if the ports are next to each other.

Two adjustable antennae on the USB-AC68 fold out from the body to help you achieve the best coverage. These are more practical when the adapter is docked, but the antenna can easily be folded out and positioned even when it is plugged directly into a laptop. The AC68 also supports 3×4 MIMO and beamforming to enhance wireless signal reception.

The potential data transfer speed of a USB Wi-Fi adapter will always be limited by the speed of the USB port. Although that is the case here, the AC68 pushes speeds up to the practical limit of USB 3.0.

On the 2.4GHz channel, the maximum speed is 600Mbps. For the 5GHz channel, you’ll get up to more than double that at 1300Mbps. Realistically, you won’t find faster speeds from a USB adapter.

Asus’s USB-AC68 might not be the cheapest, but it provides a very appealing combination of practicality, ease of use, and high speeds. The device is small enough to be easily portable and the clever antenna design and dock make it flexible enough to be used anywhere.

Best USB Wi-Fi Adapter



A very capable USB Wi-Fi adapter that provides good connections speeds and has a good range, all wrapped up in a compact and portable body.

Best Wi-Fi Adapter for Gaming: TP-Link Archer TXE75E

TP-Link WiFi 6E AX5400 on blue and purple background


  • ✓ Supports Wi-Fi 6E routers
  • ✓ Great speeds on all three Wi-Fi channels
  • ✓ Magnetic antenna base for easy positioning
  • ✓ Also adds Bluetooth 5.2
  • ✓ High-quality connectors and heatsink


  • ✗ Only two external antenna
  • ✗ 2.4GHz speeds could be better

If you want high speeds and a reliable connection from your Wi-Fi adapter, choosing a PCIe adapter card will almost always be better than a USB dongle. If you have upgraded your router to Wi-Fi 6 or Wi-Fi 6E, the TP-Link Archer TXE75E should be at the top of your wish list. It certainly isn’t a budget option, but it can provide data transfer speeds that will put a smile on any gamer’s face.

This adapter gives up to 574Mbps at 2.4GHz and 2402Mbps at 5GHz, and you also have access to the 6GHz channel. The third channel can also provide data transfer speeds of up to 2402Mbps, but with a much more stable connection and less network interference. You do need a Wi-Fi 6E router to see these top speeds, but it’s worth the investment if you’re a hardcore gamer.

This dual-antenna adapter can be configured in a couple of ways. You can attach the antenna directly to the card at the back of your PC or plug in the supplied extension cables and antenna base. This allows you to position the antenna for the best possible network reception, with the magnetic base helping to keep them fixed exactly where you want them.

The PCIe card itself is fitted with an advanced heatsink. This might seem like overkill for a Wi-Fi adapter, but the card can quickly get hot with the amount of data potentially being transferred. The heatsink and the gold-plated connectors, helps to ensure smooth and stable performance for even those extended gaming sessions.

Alongside adding high-speed Wi-Fi to your computer, the Archer TXE75E also adds Bluetooth 5.2. Bluetooth 5 is more than twice as fast, has four times the range, and can transfer much more data than Bluetooth 4.

Version 5.2 adds audio improvements such as higher quality audio at a lower power cost, and multiple synchronized data streams. You might not be too concerned about adding faster Bluetooth to your PC, but even so, it is a nice feature.

As Wi-Fi 6E becomes more common and supported by more devices, the number of Wi-Fi adapters that can make use of it will increase. If you have one of the latest routers in your home—or are planning to upgrade soon—it would be a shame to let an old or slow Wi-Fi adapter create a speed bottleneck.

Best Wi-Fi Adapter for Gaming



A high-quality PCIe network adapter that allows you to enjoy the gamer-friendly high speeds, low latency and stable connection of Wi-Fi 6E.

Best Small Wi-Fi Adapter: D-Link DWA-181

D-Link AC1300 on pink background


  • ✓ Extremely small and compact
  • ✓ Fast enough for general Internet use
  • ✓ Supports MU-MIMO and Beamforming
  • ✓ Compatible with Windows, macOS and Linux
  • ✓ Doesn’t cost very much


  • ✗ Won’t win any speed awards
  • ✗ Lack of external antenna impacts range

When using a laptop, it isn’t always practical to have a large Wi-Fi adapter with a couple of antennas sticking out of the side. But that doesn’t mean that you can’t give your network connection a boost, as there are several micro Wi-Fi adapters available that are barely visible when they are plugged in. Our favorite is the D-Link DWA-181.

This tiny device is about as fast as micro Wi-Fi adapters get, providing speeds of up to 400Mbps on 2.4GHz and nearly 900Mbps on the 5GHz channel. If you have an older laptop, this should be a significant speed boost when compared to the internal Wi-Fi chip. These are even reasonable general Internet use speeds if you want to use the adapter to add Wi-Fi connectivity to a desktop.

The lack of an external antenna does restrict the potential coverage range. This is lessened by the addition of MU-MIMO and beamforming, but don’t expect the DWA-181 to provide the same range performance as you might get from an adapter with multiple antennas. These small Wi-Fi adapters just don’t have room for a large, efficient internal antenna, so this is not a problem exclusive to this device.

Compatibility is another point in the D-Link adapter’s favor. It is fully compatible with several versions of Windows and macOS and advertises support for version of the Linux kernel, too. Alongside its small size, this makes it a great option for anyone wanting to upgrade the Wi-Fi capabilities of a Raspberry Pi or other single-board computer.

The final thing worth mentioning is the price. The DWA-181 is available for $20. This makes it cheap enough to be bought as a backup adapter, making it ideal for keeping in a laptop bag in case of a Wi-Fi emergency.

If you are prepared to put up with an adapter that is a little bit bigger, some available offer slightly better performance, including this AC1300 adapter from Cudy. But as a combination of tiny size, performance, and price, the D-Link DWA-181 is hard to beat.

Best Small Wi-Fi Adapter


D-Link DWA-181

Small, but perfectly formed, this micro Wi-Fi adapter will allow you to add AC1300 wireless networking to your computer without getting in your way.

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