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The 10 Best Wireless Network Cards  May 2019

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Best Wireless Network Cards - Hommie PCIe Network Card N900 Wireless Dual B Review Hommie
9 . 8
Best Wireless Network Cards - Gigabyte GC-WB1733D-I Wireless-AC PCI-E Network Interface Card + Review Gigabyte
9 . 4
Best Wireless Network Cards - FebSmart High Power Dual Band Wireless Network Card Review FebSmart
9 . 2
Best Wireless Network Cards - USB Wifi Adapter 1200Mbps, USB 3.0 Wireless Network Review Inamax
9 . 0
Best Wireless Network Cards - FebSmart Wireless Dual Band N600 Review FebSmart
8 . 5
Best Wireless Network Cards - ASUS PCE-AC55BT - Network adapter - PCIe low Review ASUS
8 . 4
Best Wireless Network Cards - TP-LINK T6E AC1300 Archer Dual Band Wireless PCI Review TP-LINK
8 . 1
Best Wireless Network Cards - FebSmart Wireless AC 1200Mbps Dual Band PCI Express Review FebSmart
7 . 8
Best Wireless Network Cards - MingBin USB Wifi Dongle, Mini Wifi Adapter AC1200Mbps Review MingBin
7 . 5
Best Wireless Network Cards - Hommie AC1200Mbps Bluetooth 4.2 WiFi Card 5GHz/2.4GHz Dual-Band Review Hommie
7 . 1

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Your Guide To Buying a Wireless Network Card

By Yehudah Posnick

    If you bought a laptop or desktop computer, maybe you want to install hardware that will allow faster download times. (Or maybe your desktop PC doesn't have any wireless network card.) You can always hook up to the Internet with an Ethernet cable directly to your router. But it could be that your computer is too far away from the modem, and an Ethernet cable is not a good option. If so, installing a wireless network card is a convenient solution. You'll find that there are a variety of options out there, depending on your computer's hardware, as well as your needs and expectations. Here is a guide to some of the best wireless network cards on the market. 

    There are two major ways of enabling your computer to be able to hook up to a wireless modem:

    • PCI cards: This is a physical card that you insert into a slot of your PC. There are (at least) three varieties:

    1. Mini PCIe: Laptops usually will have a built-in antenna for wireless Internet. If you want something with greater range, you may want a Mini PCIe card. This is a type of card that fits into a slot on the side of some laptops. (Check if you laptop can accept such a card.)

    2. PCI: This is inserted into the long white slot on your desktop PC. This has a 32 bit wide bus, with a bandwidth of 133 MB/s (Bandwidth is the amount of information that can pass through the interface per second). A number of antennas (1, 2, or 3) will protrude from the back of the PC.

    3. PCI Express (PCIe): This will fit a short yellow slot on your motherboard. They offer a range of bandwidths: PCI Express x 1 offers a bandwidth of 250 MB/s. That will fit in a short yellow slot. The PCI Express x 16 offers a bandwidth of 8 GB/s. That will fit a long yellow slot.

    • USB adapter: There are several USB type connections available nowadays: USB 2.0 (a gray USB port) and USB 3.0 (a blue USB port). USB 3.0 offers faster speeds. This has less power than a PCI network card, but it's a lot more convenient to install.

    Based on all the consumers' reviews we've scanned, these are the top things they mentioned about their new stuff:

    • Installing a PCI card: If you can find an empty PCI slot in your desktop computer, you can slide in a PCI wireless network card. But to get the thing to work, you'll have to get the drivers (i.e., the computer software) for your particular operating system. The network card will probably come with an installation disk, containing those drivers. You'll also have to disable any existing network interface device that you have already (maybe it's hardwired into the motherboard).

    • Installing a USB adapter: This is very easy to insert--you just put it into any vacant USB port. But the installation might be tricky--some USB adapters are not compativle with Linux, only with Windows or for a Mac. So make sure it's good for your operating system before making a purchase.

    An example of a standard PCI network card will have the following specifications: “300 Mbps 2T2R 300M 801.11b/g/n Dual Band Wireless Wifi Card Adapter”. What do all these numbers mean?

    • Speed: The network card's data transfer rate will be listed in Mbps (=Megabits per second), or even in Gbps (=Gigabits per second). So here, this adapter operates at 300 Mbps.

    • Number of antennas: You'll also see 1T1R, 2T2R, or 3T3R. This indicates the number of antennas in the network card doing transmitting (T) and receiving (R). The number of antennas is only one indication of the network card's performance.

    • Signal to noise ratio: A better indication of the card's performance is a high signal-to-noise ratio (SNR)--you want a strong signal, and not so much noise. That means a better quality signal. The ratio will be in dB (decibels), or dBi (decibels isotropic—measured in all directions).

    • Frequency: The “300 M” is short for 300 MHz—that is the frequency (cycles per second) at which the network card operates. You will see network cards that are Dual Band: This means that the device will transmit in one of two different standard frequency ranges, for example, both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz.

    • Network Connectivity: There are a number of wireless local area network (WLAN) channels that are allowed for wireless Internet connectivity. They are known as the 802.11 standard—which started in 1999, and is constantly being upgraded for greater encryption and security. They are distinguished by the suffix (letters a-n). For optimal performance, you want your network card to have the same standard as the wireless modem/router to which you want to connect. Otherwise, your Internet experience will be slowed down. Here is a summary of the major service types:

    • 802.11a: This works at 5.725-5.850 GHz frequencies, and up to 54 Mbps (Megabits per second) speed. The range will be up to 50 feet.

    • 802.11b: This works at 2.400-2.4835 GHz frequencies, and at 11 Mbps speed. The range will be up to 150 feet.

    • 802.11g: This extends the data rate of WLAN devices. It runs to a distance of 50 feet, has a speed of 54 Mbps, and a frequency of 2.4 GHz.

    • 802.11n: This standard works at a range of 175 feet, at speeds of 300-450 Mbps, and a frequency of 2.4 -5 GHz.

    • 802.11ac: This standard works at a 5 GHz band, and a speed of up to 1 Gbps.

    So, in this case, a network card that says “802.11b/g/n” will work with a modem/router that has the service type 802.11b, or 802.11g, or 802.11n.

    Panda Wireless—is located in Los Gatos, California. They make a series of USB wireless network adapters. They have adapters that work with or without an antenna, or use Bluetooth technology.

    TP-Link — was established in 1996 by Zhao Jianjun and Ziao Jiaxing, and have their main headquarters in Shenzhen, China. They make wired and wireless routers, range extenders, IP cameras, WiFi adapters, switches, and power banks.

    Asusor ASUSTeK Computer, Inc., is a computer hardware and electronics manufacturer. They were founded in 1987, and are located in Taipei, Taiwan. They make a wide range of computer products, for desktop, laptop, and netbook computers, as well as peripheral computer products.

    Intel—was founded in 1968 by Gordon Moore and Robert Noyce. They have their headquarters in Santa Clara, California. They are one of the world's largest computer chip manufacturers, making computer processors, motherboards, network interface controllers, and more.

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