Are USB WiFi Adapters Good for Gaming?

Do you like to play online games on your computer?

I certainly do but one of the most frustrating things about doing this is when your Internet connection drops and everything freezes up. The second biggest frustration is when your Internet connection is slow for some reason and this affects the movement of the characters, screen refresh rates and so on.

PUBG Online Game

When I first moved over to a wireless router and used this to connect to the Internet my gaming experience wasn’t as great as it should have been. I purchased a cheap USB WiFi adapter for my desktop and quite honestly this was the wrong decision. It just wasn’t up to the job and I experienced slow connections and even total Internet outages.

This led me to wonder whether USB WiFi adapters were really suitable for online gaming applications. I knew that the USB WiFi adapter was the problem because other members of my household used other connection methods and they were fine.

So I did some further research on the subject because I was convinced that there would be some USB WiFi adapters out there that could handle the job. In this article, I’ll share with you what I found out.

Are USB WiFi Adapters any Good?

Yes, they are but if you want to participate in intense online gaming then you need to get a USB WiFi adapter that can handle this. A lot of so-called “experts” will tell you that if you are going to use a wireless connection for online gaming then the only answer is to buy and install a good PCI-E wireless adapter card.

But I refused to believe that this was the only option. It is always likely to be the best choice because a PCI-E card connects directly with the motherboard in your computer and so you will get the fastest speeds from this. But USB technology has come a long way over recent years so I always believed that there was a robust USB WiFi adapter out there for gaming.

USB Specifications

USB 3 cable

If you have a modern computer you will probably have the latest USB 3.0 specification. This is significantly faster than the USB 2.0 spec. A lot of USB WiFi adapters now come with external antennas which are much better than the built-in ones. The best ones also have “Beamforming” technology which I will explain in more detail a little later.

What this all means is that with this kind of quality USB WiFi adapter you have a much better chance of picking up a really strong signal and the transmission speeds are now faster. This will help to overcome slow connection issues and you losing an Internet connection during your online game.

Convenience Factor

USB wifi adapter

The main reason that I think the high-end USB WiFi adapters are good for online gaming is because they are very easy to set up. You do not have to open your computer and install a PCI-E card. For someone that has a lot of experience with computers, this is not a big deal but if you are inexperienced then this may concern you a lot.

Another good thing about USB WiFi adapters is convenience. If you have more than one computer that requires wireless Internet functionality then you can move the adapter from one machine to another with a minimum of fuss.

Are USB WiFi Adapters Better than PCI-E Wireless Adapters?

I am going to sit on the fence here and say “yes and no”. In terms of pure performance, the PCI-E wireless adapter is going to be better than a USB WiFi adapter at the moment. A PCI-E adapter has a direct connection to the motherboard and this will make it perform better and faster.

Four Antennas now available

Also, you are likely to pick up a stronger signal with a PCI-E wireless adapter particularly if you have three or four external antennas. There is actually a USB WiFi adapter that has four antennas available now so this is going to provide you with the very best signal strength capability.

The majority of USB WiFi adapters will only have one or two external antennas though so if your computer is not in a great location in relation to your wireless router and you want to play online games then a PCI-E card could be the better option here.

TRENDnet AC1900 High Power Dual Band Wireless USB Adapter, TEW-809UB, Increase Extend WiFi Wireless Coverage, High Gain Antennas, Stream 4K HD Video, USB 3.0 to USB Type A, Windows/Mac OS Compatible

When you are looking for a good USB WiFi adapter you need to look for the same specifications that you would if you wanted to buy a PCI-E wireless adapter. You need to check the transmission speed of the USB WiFi adapter and what WiFi standards it will operate on.

Modern wireless routers are usually dual-band which means that they can run in the 2.4 GHz mode as well as the faster 5 GHz mode. So when you are choosing your USB WiFi adapter, check the specification of your wireless router and go for one that matches it. Dual-band is usually the best option here.

Where USB WiFi adapters definitely score over PCI-E wireless adapters is their convenience factor. You do not have to install any hardware – just plug your USB WiFi adapter into a free USB port.

Beamforming Technology

The technology employed with USB WiFi adapters is improving all of the time. I mentioned earlier the Beamforming technology so now is the time to explain it to you. What Beamforming does is to concentrate a wireless signal towards a wireless adapter. This prevents the wireless signal from spreading in all directions.

The science behind Beamforming is pretty complex and beyond the scope of this article. Please just trust me when I tell you that it is a really good idea to go for a USB WiFi adapter that has this technology incorporated. It may cost you a little extra but it will be worth it.

So to summarize this section a PCI-E wireless adapter is better from a performance perspective at the current time and a USB WiFi adapter is more convenient. For signal strength, it is pretty close with the introduction of a four antenna USB WiFi adapter now. It really is up to you whether you think small performance gains or convenience is more important.

Are USB WiFi Adapters good for Online Gaming?

Having tried some of the top end USB WiFi adapters with intense online gaming applications, I would definitely say yes they are good. What I don’t recommend is that you go for the cheapest USB WiFi adapter that has a built-in antenna. Unless your computer is right next to the wireless router then you are very likely to experience problems with this.

You need to pay careful attention to the specification of the USB WiFi adapter that you want to purchase. Go for the highest possible transmission speeds, dual-band and Beamforming technology and the maximum amount of external antennas that you can afford. All of this should ensure a trouble-free online gaming experience for you.

Since the age of 16, Prayas has been enthralled with all things tech. As a result, he’s developed an extensive skillset that has allowed him to help people with their computer and smartphone problems. When he’s not at his PC, you can find him riding his motorbike.

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