If you can’t run a network cable from your router to your PC or your laptop’s Wi-Fi is on the blink, then a USB dongle can be the way to go. We’ve rounded up some of the best ones currently available, so you can get online in no time at all. Best Wi-Fi USB adapters
If you can’t run a network cable from your router to your PC or your laptop’s Wi-Fi is on the blink, then a USB dongle can be the way to go. We’ve rounded up some of the best ones currently available, so you can get online in no time at all.
Best Wi-Fi USB adapters
Best Value: Foktech Wi-Fi dongle
Best Design: D-Link AC1900 DWA-192
Best All-rounder: Asus 90IG0230
Also recommended: TP-Link T9UH
Also recommended: Netgear A6100-100PES
Foktech Wi-Fi Dongle
- Very affordable
- Ultra-compact design
Price: £12.99 / $13.99
You might think we’ve included this one just because of its hilarious name, but that’s only partly true. If you’re looking for a small, unobtrusive way to add basic Wi-Fi to your laptop, then the Foktech is an excellent candidate.
It supports 802.11ac with twin bands of 2.4GHz @ 150Mb/s and 5GHz @ 433Mb/s and runs over USB 2.0. It isn’t the absolute fastest, but for getting online, doing some shopping, keeping up with social media, and streaming content up to HD quality it will be fine.
The cost is a major selling point, as is the compact design that makes the dongle essentially about half the size of a standard USB memory stick. At the time of writing it has over 2,400 reviews on Amazon with an average rating of 4.5 stars, so it seems that plenty of people have found it to be a trusty servant.
US readers can try the USBNovel dongle which shares the same design and features, while also notching up a similarly impressive catalogue of Amazon reviews.
- Cool design
- AC1900 network standard
Price: £47.49 / $86.86
Shirking the stick-style design of other adapters, D-Link instead opts for a ball shaped chassis that resemble either a Poké Ball or Thermal Detonator (depending on your particular taste in sci-fi and gaming). The result is a very cool-looking addition to your desktop which can also beef up your Wi-Fi capabilities.
With dual band antennas supporting 802.11 a/g/n/ac and USB 3.0 transfer rates, the DA-192 is no slouch in the performance stakes. Advanced AC SmartBeam technology means that connections remain stable and fast, and D-Link even states that the high-powered amplifiers it fits to the DWA-192 will extend the range of your router by up to three times that of standard adapters.
- AC1900 network standard
- AiRadar beamforming for more stable connections
Price: £59.10 / $84.99
Alongside the wealth of features that Asus has packed into the sleek frame of the AC68 adapter, there’s also the added bonus of feeling like a secret agent on some covert mission thanks to the unfolding design.
Plug the device into your PC then carefully open up the twin red-antenna arms, or sit the adapter in the included desktop cradle, and it seems like you’re about to send highly classified information back to Control.
Teenage fantasies aside, the 90IG0230 is a highly-rated adapter that can bring your humble old Wi-Fi card up to the AC1900 network standard. It has dual-band support for 2.4GHz @ 600Mb/s and 5GHz @ 1300Mb/s, 3×4 MIMO, and Asus’ own AiRadar beamforming technology to ensure a strong and stable connection to the network. USB 3.0 also adds to the speed, with fast, local data transfer rates.
It’s a little bigger than some of its rivals, mainly when the antennas are deployed, but at 100 x 30 x 20mm the AC68 is still small enough to put in your pocket.
TP-Link Archer T9UH
- HD & 4K streaming capabilities
- AC1900 network standard
Price: £39.99 / $60.56
Another popular Wi-Fi dongle that features a fold-out design is the Archer T9UH from TP-Link. Unlike the multi-appendage approach of the Asus 90IG0230, this has a hinged edge to the body that opens up to make it nearly twice as tall.
Inside the unit are dual-band antennas (2.4GHz @ 600Mb/s and 5GHz @ 1300Mb/s) with 802.11 AC1900 support. As is standard now with higher-end adapters, TP-Link includes beamforming capabilities which delivers consistent performance, ideal for streaming HD and 4K media content, and USB 3.0 technology.
The T9UH also comes with a dock that allows it to be connected to a standard PC or laptop. The 3m cable means you can position the adapter in a range of places if Wi-Fi connectivity is spotty in your location.
- Compact design
Price: £19.99 / $36.15
Sticking with the small-form adapters, Netgear is a name synonymous with Wi-Fi routers and networking. This diminutive construction houses dual antennas that operate at 2.4GHz (150Mb/s) and 5GHz (433Mb/s) with support for 802.11 a/b/g/n and ac routers.
Data transfer is a little slower than some of its rivals due to the choice of USB 2.0 rather than USB 3.0, but the inclusion of Beamforming+ gives the A6100 the power to keep solid connections in challenging environments.
We wouldn’t necessarily recommend any Wi-Fi adapter for gaming as it doesn’t deliver the kind of latency you might want for time-critical adventures, but HD videos are easily coped with, and for general internet duties the Netgear A6100 is a solid choice at an affordable price.