USB adapters can be an easy way to connect a computer to a wifi network. Even though Ethernet is generally best for gaming, USB adapters can also be more than good enough for gaming if you chose the correct one.
Top Picks: Best USB Adapters For Gaming
More on the top picks and other adapters below. The links above will take you straight over to the product pages within Amazon
Read on for a look at wireless USB adapters, the best ones, and whether or not you need one for your gaming setup!
Do I Need a USB Adapter?
Gamers most often consider USB adapters because either:
a) they don't have wifi on the device they are using...or
b) they want an upgrade from the wifi the device already has (often to upgrade to Wireless AC).
Regardless, whether or not you require a USB adapter is dependent on the situation, because there are alternatives...
A Wireless Card?
Your laptop will already have a built-in wireless card. If you start playing games and realize your connection isn’t good enough. This could well be because the wireless card built into your laptop doesn't connect well with your router due to age. Or perhaps it's Wireless N and you want AC to go with your lovely new AC router!
If this is the case, you could replace the card. Or you could go USB instead, as it is certainly easier to get a USB adapter up and running...instead of ripping apart your laptop and removing/installing a new card.
And if your laptop is still under warranty, you probably want to avoid taking it apart as it may ?void it!
Computers almost always come with PCI slots. This means you can connect to your wireless network using a PCI card. PCI cards can involve a bit more setup than USB adapters but they can offer advantages when it comes to the range of your connection.
Or Use Ethernet?
The second thing to think about is if it is possible to connect your computer using an Ethernet connection. Ethernet connections are generally better for games as the technology suits games (which use UDP - and like low latency). As such if you can connect via cable, you should do.
On the other hand, if you can’t connect via cable, or if it is too much hassle, then connecting via a decent USB adapter is certainly a good second choice.
How About Powerline?
Another way to connect a computer to a network is via powerline networking. This is a solution that uses the electrical wiring in your home to transfer data. Simply plug two powerline adapters into your wall electricity sockets and then plug Ethernet cables from your powerline adapters to your PC and router.
These adapters are a great way to utilize the existing wiring in your home, meaning no messy cables trailing around the house. These cables can offer a reliable and fast way to connect to networks.
Be careful though. Older wiring infrastructures can degrade performance somewhat. Also bear in mind that when other appliances are used around the home, it can affect your connection.
So Powerline can be a little hit and miss - especially if you are using it specifically for gaming.
Pros and Cons of Using a USB Adapter For Gaming
There are both many pros and many cons to using a USB adapter for gaming. Here is a look at some of them.
Connecting to a network via a USB adapter is incredibly easy and means you don’t have to worry about having cables trailing through your house. It also means that you can easily move your computer. This can be great if you play games on your laptop.
Easy To Install
When compared to setting up Ethernet cables throughout your house, or installing a PCI wireless card, USB adapters are an absolute breeze to install. Usually all you have to do is plug them in and within thirty seconds the drivers will have automatically installed and you’ll be ready to go.
When compared to using an Ethernet connection, USB wireless adapters can be more likely to have a higher latency. This can affect the in-game reaction time and be a bit of an annoyance when playing games that require a fast reflex time. Like first person shooters for example (Call of Duty, Battlefield etc).
How much interference you get will depend on a number of factors including other networks in the area, other wireless devices, and even physical objects. If you have a lot of interference it could affect your gaming experience and you may find it best to just stick to an Ethernet connection.
Different Types of Wifi USB Adapter
802.11n is probably the most common wifi standard among gamers. It can offer theoretical speeds of over 450Mbps and has good coverage.
Although 802.11n has generally good range, there is the potential for interference, especially on 2.4GHz with just 3 non-overlapping channels, and if there are a large number of competing networks nearby.
802.11ac is the newest wifi standard and as such offers the best speeds. It uses the 5GHz band (up to 23 non-overlapping channels) which is less crowded and is generally less affected by interference and wifi congestion.
However, its wavelength isn’t as long, which means if your computer is far from your router or if there are multiple walls in the way, you should perhaps think about connecting via one of the other connection options discussed above. Or stick with an adapter that uses Wireless N 2.4Ghz.
Top 5 Best Wireless USB Adapters For Gaming
TP-Link Archer T4UH AC1200 Wireless Dual Band USB Adapter
- Dual-band (5GHz and 2.4GHz bands). This can reduce interference and makes it perfect for gaming.
- Connects via USB 3.0. If your computer has a USB 3.0 slot, you get the full benefits.
- Two high gain external antennas give excellent coverage.
- Connects via cable so you can put the adapter in the best place for optimum coverage.
This is an excellent device with all the features you could want for gaming. Its high gain antennas and wireless 802.11ac connectivity mean you get both a quick connection with good range.
Netgear A6210-100PAS Wifi USB 3.0 Dual Band AC1200 Adapter
- High-performance dual band adapter that connects on both 2.4GHz and 5GHz bands.
- Also uses USB 3.0 and 802.11ac for top speeds.
- Compact design easily fits into the USB slot on your computer.
Another high-end design that should be good enough for gaming. If you are looking for a more compact design than the TP-Link adapter above this will offer similar performance and could be the adapter for you.
Edimax EW-7711ULC 11AC Nano WiFi USB Adapter
- Tiny size makes it perfect for laptop computers.
- Competitively priced for an 802.11ac adapter and even comes in a cheaper '802.11n only' version.
- Strong signal for its size. May struggle to give as good coverage as the Netgear & TP-Link options above though. All depends on how far away you need to be from your AP/router when gaming.
This is a great adapter that is perfect for upgrading laptops to the 802.11ac wireless standard. It is so small that it won’t affect the portability of your computer.
Linksys Wireless Mini AE6000 AC580 Dual Band USB Adapter
- Selectable dual band allows you to choose the best band to connect to in every situation.
- 5GHz connection available for the best gaming experience.
- Compact design and cheaper than the two high-end adapters at the top of the page.
If you are looking for a dual-band adapter for a good price this could be the one for you. If is compact, easily installed and offers good connectivity.
Glam Hobby 600Mbps .11ac Dual Band Wi-Fi USB Adapter
- Comes with a detachable 2dBi antenna for increased coverage.
- Dual band option.
- Beamforming technology can boost and improve your signal.
This adapter is the only one with a detachable antenna, so you can add your own antenna if you wish. It comes with a lot of top features like dual-band and 802.11ac wireless.
Wi-Fi USB Rounding-Up
If after reading this article you think a USB adapter is for you, then the next thing you need to think about is your budget.
Luckily, USB adapters don't generally break the bank. All these AC adapters are recommended. Consider the TP-Link, Netgear or Glam Hobby options if you're after an adapter that lets you have control on the position the adapter (and its antenna) which can help with coverage.
The Edimax adapter is a great budget option for those looking for a super-small and lightweight option!
Just remember to weigh up if a USB adapter is the right way to go for you (as we've discussed in this post). It is an easy connection option, but it is definitely not your only option for network connectivity.
That is it for our look at USB adapters. If you have any questions please leave a comment below!