Connecting your PC to a local network through an ethernet port is easy, we all know.
Nevertheless, if you don’t want a fixed-line connection and instead need a flexible Wi-Fi connection, you need a Peripheral Component Interconnect (PCI) wireless card.Invalid table id.
The PCI wireless card can render a seamless and reliable connection to your PC while bringing the flexibility of working anywhere you want as a huge plus.
If you are on the hunt for the best WiFi Card for PC in 2021, this guide may help. There are just too many choices, with a broad range of specifications. Selecting one that’s right for you can hence be challenging.
To help you navigate the tough terrain, we have tested the top 9 PCI wireless cards available in the market right now and elaborated on each recommendation in detail. If you want a little more guidance beyond the recommendations we have made, scroll down to the end of the review and drop your suggestion in the comment section below. This review isn’t set in stone, as you know, and will evolve with them.
If you need to replace your Ethernet connection with something exceptional, ASUS PCE-AC68 is your choice to be.
ASUS PCE-AC68 comes integrated with TurboQAM hardware, which helps render the speed benefits of next-generation 802.11ac Wi-Fi in both 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands at 600Mbps and 1.3Gbps respectively. Given so, you can watch 4K Ultra HD streaming videos and play online games without any lags. This Wi-Fi card is 3 times faster than the 802.11n Wi-Fi chipset but maintains complete backward compatibility with other Wi-Fi protocols.
The integration of AiRadar technology with ASUS PCE-AC68 strengthens wireless device connectivity by precise amplification of signals for enhanced speed of data-throughput, stability, and extended coverage. It can intelligently detect the location of wireless routers and shape its data transmissions with its three external omnidirectional antennas and high-powered beamforming technology. The flexible antenna placement feature helps pinpoint them for the best reception in any environment. This assures the fastest possible stable connection.
The device has an integrated high-gain design, boosting signals and giving the PCE-AC68 an improved two-way transmission. This extends the coverage area by up to 150% and makes sure that there are no dead spots. So, you can enjoy smooth multiplayer gaming and uninterrupted HD streaming anywhere within the coverage area.
The ASUS PCE-AC68 Wi-Fi card has an aluminum heat sink that distributes the heat away from the core and improves performance, reliability, and stability to the hilt.
The ASUS AC1900 PCE AC68 supports advanced security features such as WPA-Enterprise, 64-bit WEP, 128-bit WEP, WPA-PSK, WPA2-PSK, and WPA2-Enterprise.
If you are looking for something that doesn’t have many installation hazards, go for TP-Link AC1200. Just plug the card into the available PCI-E slot in your PC and enjoy an uninterrupted internet connection.
The TP-Link AC1200 offers high-speed Wi-Fi connection of up to 1200 Mbps speeds i.e. 300 Mbps in the 2.4 GHz frequency band and 867 Mbps in the 5 GHz frequency band. It runs on the latest 802.11ac chipset and has a dual-band capacity. Owing to this configuration, it offers three times more speed than conventional 802.11n wireless protocol, which makes it perfect for high-bandwidth jobs.
Not only does the TP-Link AC1200 work the best with IEEE802.11ac wireless network, but it’s also compatible with all existing Wi-Fi standards such as IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11n, and IEEE 802.11g. This makes it suitable for working in every wireless network. The 2.4GHz network is useful for web browsing and sending emails and the 5GHz band is useful for streaming movies, gaming, and similar bandwidth-intensive jobs.
Additionally, the card comes with beamforming technology which makes sure that the Wi-Fi signals are directed towards the required direction. It also comes with 2×2 MIMO technology that helps users access high-speed wireless connection easily.
The TP-Link AC1200 has two external omnidirectional antennas which ensure enhanced stability and better Wi-Fi coverage. These antennas are built using the latest wireless technology and ensure enhanced stability and greater coverage. Being omnidirectional, they also ensure equal signal strength in every direction. Plus, there are multiple-size brackets available for both low profile and full high profile which makes it suitable for all PCs.
What’s more, there is a heat sink to dissipate the heat generated by the card and improve the stability of operations. Lower operating temperatures also extend the lifespan of the product.
The TP-Link AAC1200 offers advanced security by using 64/128 bit WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK, WPA/WPA2, and WEP encryption standards to ensure that your data is protected from the prying eyes.
If you have a 4×4 router at home and need superior performance throughout the coverage area, you need ASUS PC-AC88 wireless card.
The ASUS PCE-AC88 is best-known for its superior performance and is a constant mention on the lists of best Wi-Fi cards for PC. This 4×4 dual-band device enables a 60% faster Wi-Fi connection compared to 3×3 cards. Powered by the IEEE 802.11AC specifications, it fires up your PC with speeds up to 1000Mbps in the 2.4GHz band and 2100Mbps in the 5GHz band. Notably, this is a far-reaching high-throughput device with 4 antennae. That said, it’s also compatible with other wireless network protocols.
The magnetic 4-antenna base of the AC88 offers flexible placement of antenna and maximizes coverage. Individual antennas too can be attached directly to the card for compact installations. The R-SMA antenna connectors ensure compatibility with a number of antennas available in the market, along with providing support for MU-MIMO technology which stands for Multi-User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output. This technology helps if you have more than one PC vying for the wireless signal. Moreover, the antennae are omnidirectional which means equal signal strength in every direction.
In addition to this, the ASUS PCE-AC88 has a custom heat sink that helps dissipate the heat and keep the temperature within the operating temperature range i.e. 0 °C to 40 °C. This explains why the card is a reliable investment to make. The card supports every Windows operating system, ranging from Windows 7 to Windows 10.
The ASUS AC1900 PCE AC88 supports advanced encryption features such as WPA (PSK) and WPA2 (PSK) for Wi-Fi Protected Access.
If you are into heavy gaming and watching high-resolution streaming videos, you need a Wi-Fi card that’s suited for this purpose. The TP-Link Archer T9E is your best answer.
The TP-Link Archer T9E wireless card runs on 802.11ac chipset and 3×3 dual bands that upgrade your PC to the most powerful Wi-Fi technology available. It’s perfect for online gaming as well as 4K Ultra HD video streaming. Not only does it work best with 802.11ac wireless transmission, but it’s also compatible with older networks. So, you can plug in the card and get into the web even if the wireless protocol in use is an outdated one.
With speeds of up to 1900Mbps and built-in beamforming technology, this Wi-Fi card can give you an uninterrupted gaming and streaming movie experience. Because of the beamforming technology, it receives more directional Wi-Fi signals, resulting in improved reliability and speed of 300Mbps and 600Mbps in 5GHz band and 2.4GHz band respectively. You can use the 2.4GHz band for browsing and email while keeping the 5GHz band frequency for more network-intensive tasks.
The upgradeable, omnidirectional antennas maximize the range of connection and stability. This ensures equal signal strength in every direction. It is also compatible with existing wireless protocols, which include 802.11a, 802.11b, 802.11g, and 802.11n. Further, it has built-in heat sink technology which prevents the core components from heating up by distributing the heat away from them. This helps stabilize reliability and performance.
5. Rosewill RNX
If you need an internet connection for blazing-fast gaming and 4k video streaming, you need to buy this PCI Wi-Fi card for your PC.
With dual-band connectivity of 2.4GHz and 5GHz, the Rosewill RNX is compatible with all Wi-Fi networks, irrespective of whether it’s operating at 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band. This wireless card offers internet speed of over 1300Mbps, which is of a superior kind for online gaming and ultra-HD video streaming in the 5GHz band. For simple tasks such as sending e-mails and web surfing, you can use the 2.4 GHz frequency band.
Equipped with an aluminum heat sink, distributing the heat away from the core components, the Rosewill RNX is known for its impeccable performance and reliability. And, with beamforming technology that lets you connect the PC with stronger and more reliable wireless connections, the card provides precise directional signal amplification for enhanced stability and increased data-throughput speed.
This Wi-Fi card comes with the next-generation Wi-Fi 802.11ac chipset that renders a maximum speed of 1300Mbps at 5GHz band, which is three times faster than the 802.11n standard Wi-Fi speed. Although it achieves the best performance with IEEE 802.11ac standard network, it also maintains backward compatibility with previous Wi-Fi standards like IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, and IEEE 802.11n.
There are three detachable dual-band high-gain detachable antennas that are optimally tuned for wider wireless coverage. The antennae are omnidirectional and upgradeable. This maximizes the range and stability of the wireless connection and supports a range of Windows operating systems including Windows XP, 7, 8, 8.1, and 10.
The Rosewill RNX supports advanced security features such as 64/128 WEP, WPA/WPA2, and WPA-PSK/WPA2-PSK(TKIP/AES).
6. Asus AC55BT
The Asus AC55BT is a powerful little machine, delivering internet speeds up to 1200 Mbps. These fast packets of data allow you to play games, watch higher-quality videos, and do a lot more, with great consistency.
Though Asus AC55BT packs great power, it pales in comparison with other models in the market. The circuit board looks typical, and there is no heat sink to absorb excessive heat. This is quite worrying; however, during our test, there were no issues at all. We advise discretion, still.
Performance-wise, this Asus wireless card delivers the best on the 5GHz band and stays less crowded on the 2GHz band. The Bluetooth facility is value addition and had worked optimally on our wireless keyboard.
The antenna architecture doesn’t win hearts and seems a bit shoddy. However, having a separate antenna base ensures smooth connectivity. The gold antenna connectors, on the other hand, look appealing and are robust in quality.
Despite being a debutant, BrosTrend has the fastest growing customer base. This piqued our interest, and we decided to test this PCI wireless card to find out why.
On the performance front, BrosTrend wireless card is impressive. The device offers you a stable connection in the long-range even when there are obstructions in the way. In our test, we were able to receive a consistent internet connection for about 100 feet.
We decided to do more stringent testing and checked how far the signal could reach. To our surprise, the signal didn’t falter even with three walls in the way at the distance of 100 feet.
The BrosTrend wireless card leverages the PCI Express network interface technology and the latest 802.11 AC Wi-Fi. This means the card will optimize the available Wi-Fi to a maximum and effectively work on both 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands.
To speak of the architecture, this 4×5 wireless card comes with 5dBi external antennas and a magnetic base. The design is well-built, looks great, and feels solid. The card is powered through the PCI Express slot that’s located on your computer’s motherboard, which is why there is no need for external power supply for the card.
8. TP-Link N900
The TP-Link N900 wireless card isn’t the top of the range but is fairly equipped to help you access wireless connectivity anyway.
This dual-band wireless card accelerates the internet speed by up to 450 Mbps on both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz bands. This isn’t as fast as what other wireless cards offer but it sure is fast enough to let you stream videos and play videos, albeit of moderately good quality.
Installing this wireless card is easy. And on the security front, it’s equipped with WPA/WPA2 for advanced security. What’s more, with three external antennas, the TP-Link N900 provides you steady and secure around your house or office area.
On the downside, the card has no driver for Windows 10.
The Trendnet Wireless N150 wireless card doesn’t really measure up to its peers but packs some pretty nice features to be on the list. It’s definitely the best bargain if you are on budget and don’t need fast internet speeds.
It has a detachable antenna and drives internet speeds up to 150 Mbps, which of course isn’t the best you get, unless you have basic requirements.
PCI Cards – A Brief Explanation
These days, Wi-Fi networks are available almost everywhere you go. Be it a small-scale cafe or expansive metro stations, the sight of people, clacking keyboards, is a new normal. However, to access these public internet touchpoints, your PC must have Wi-Fi capability. This is exactly where a PCI wireless card makes a difference.
A PCI card is a handy tool with the ability to add wireless connectivity to a laptop or a desktop computer. These are installed on your device using a spare PCI expansion slot. Once you get a PCI card installed, you get a freeway to access any Wi-Fi network without any hassles.
Why Should You Invest in a PCI Wireless Card?
For the uninitiated, buying a PCI wireless card may seem worthless. But believe us, it isn’t. In fact, it can prove to be your best decision ever in situations that can’t wait. Below, we have listed out all the reasons why you need a PCI wireless card.
Even if you can access a wireless network, there is no guarantee that the internet speed will be flawless. The connection may falter or completely drop for that matter. At such a juncture, a PCI wireless card can ride to the rescue. It can help in boosting the speed of the connection, ensuring better throughput.
- Wi-Fi Range
A PCI wireless card can be effective in expanding the range of wireless networks. The antennas on the card are capable of picking up the signals and boosting them, enabling internet connection to a great extent. Given so, it’s indeed a value addition if you work at a location infamous for poor signals.
Moreover, a PCI wireless card can optimize the internet speed around those corners in your house where the modem or router’s connectivity is poor. You can access the internet at speed without having to rewire your house or buy Wi-Fi extenders.
- Extension Cable
Usually, PCI cards let you connect the antennas via a cable. This is a great benefit if your computer is placed close to a wall or against an obstacle. The extension cable can help you flexibly arrange the antennas to a desirable height while ensuring that they don’t run into any obstacle and ensure a seamless connection.
How to Install a PCI Wireless Card?
Though installing a PCI wireless card can be more difficult than installing a USB adapter, it still isn’t rocket science. However, it does involve opening up your computer, which is why you should check how it is going to affect the warranty in place before doing so. Also, if you have no prior experience in opening up the case of your computer, you must seek help from an expert and spare yourself the trouble.
Now that we have specified the dynamics involved, it’s time to discuss the installation process. So, here it is.
Step 1: Firstly, turn off your computer, or else you will expose your device to serious damage.
Step 2: Open your computer’s case but with great care. Most computers have removable cases so it will be easier for you to get to the insides. However, we recommend that you read the manual first and figure out the right way of doing it.
Step 3: Next, identify the PCI/PCI-E slot to install the wireless card. If you don’t know what it looks like, refer to the manual.
Step 4: Remove the protective plate over the PCI slot. You can do it by simply unscrewing the plate.
Step 5: Embed the PCI card while ensuring that it’s firmly aligned with the slot. Don’t be harsh or reckless. Remember that these are fragile components, prone to quick damage.
Step 6: Now, screw the protective plate back in its place and fix the wireless card.
Step 7: Your wireless card should have come with antennas. Screw them in place.
Step 8: You have successfully installed the Wi-Fi card. Turn on your computer and install the driver, which will be an automatic process.
Things You Should Know Before Buying a Wi-Fi Card for PC
The variety of Wi-Fi cards in the market, which is huge, can seriously mess with your decision-making ability. Every product might appear better than the last one, and you may end up squandering off your money for a substandard offering. So to help you maximize your investment, we have listed down a few aspects you must definitely consider before getting yourself a Wi-Fi card. Take a read!
- Wireless Networking Standards
Whatever Wi-Fi card you choose, its standard should complement with the device you’re using. A majority of dual-band wireless PCI adapters leverage the latest IEEE 802.11 ac standard, which ensures uber-fast speed and optimal performance. Besides, this standard is compatible with older versions like IEEE 802.11 n, b, and g.
If you’re buying a Wi-Fi card without checking the speed it offers, you are running straight into a problem. Note that it’s the most important thing to look for, and if you end up buying a card that doesn’t meet your daily requirements, the whole purpose of getting one is defeated.
- Wi-Fi Range
Your work machine may or may not be in the vicinity of the router. The farther you sit, the poorer is the connection. Given so, it’s recommended that you buy a Wi-Fi card with a broad range to avoid lags in performance. Some hand-picked Wi-Fi PC cards have powerful antennas that act as both receivers and transmitters for boosting signal strength. Some cards are also powered by Beamforming technology that directs Wi-Fi connection from the router to the device location to ensure uninterrupted performance.
- Easy Installation
Choose a Wi-Fi card whose installation process doesn’t turn out to be an upskill struggle. You should be able to set it up in a matter of minutes without seeking professional help. Just in case you’re wondering where to start with, every PC Wi-Fi card comes with a user manual that comes pretty handy in taking you through the installation niceties.
Every Wi-Fi network is prone to unauthorized access, which weakens its performance and makes it a starting point for hackers to exploit. Always make it a point to choose the best combination of security settings on your Wi-Fi card and build up your defenses. Set a password-enabled connection, and search for WEP encryption or WPA/WPA2 encryptions, which is the most advanced and reliable out there.
- Number of Antennas
A Wi-Fi card with a bunch of antennas will relatively perform better more than the one with a single antenna. Having more antennas means you can adjust one in every direction across your house to help the chances of capturing the Wi-Fi better – easier and faster.
- PC Slots
Select a Wi-Fi PC card that perfectly aligns with your device. As a rule of thumb, buy one that’s equal or smaller than the slots available. The various sizes of the Wi-Fi PC slots are mentioned below:
- PCI-E 16: 89 mm (82 pins)
- PCI-E 8: 56 mm (49 pins)
- PCI-E 4: 39 mm (39 pins)
- PCI-E 1: 25 mm (18 pins)
PCI Wi-Fi Card VS. USB Adapter – A Comparison
In terms of purpose, both PCI wireless cards and USB adapters can help you access the internet. There are a few differences, however, that set them apart.
A Wireless Card
PCI wireless cards have emerged as a go-to choice for maximizing wireless connectivity. You can plug one into the PCI port in your computer’s motherboard and adjust the antennas to get your connection up and running.
A lot of users set off in fear at the thought of opening their PC to embed a wireless card, and their reasons are legit. After all, working around with electrostatically-sensitive parts of your computer is no joke. However, once the card is successfully installed, it can boost the Wi-Fi signal reception.
Most of the wireless card models typically have two antennas. Some of them pack three to four antennas to scale the networking speed even more.
Multiple antennas take advantage of multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) networking, which can rather be complicated. On the upside, these can be beneficial in terms of signal strength and connectivity. Also, most wireless cards have Bluetooth capability, which is mostly unavailable in USB adapters.
The placement of antennas is a matter of concern with wireless cards. Some people have found that placing antennas between the computer case and the wall have negatively impacted the receptivity of the connection. Even though the antennas are power-packed, putting metal in between antennas and the source of your Wi-Fi signal can lead to poor signal strength.
A USB Adapter
A USB adapter works on similar lines as those of a PCI wireless card. You plug it into a USB port and it connects your device to a wireless connection. The biggest advantage of a USB adapter is that it’s easy to use, and you don’t have to fiddle with the sensitive components of your device’s motherboard. Moreover, a USB adapter is compact and can be used with a laptop or a desktop.
However, the manageability of a USB adapter comes at the expense of performance. Most USB wireless adapters don’t have external antennas and hence provide poor signal strength. Some models, on the contrary, have a single antenna but their receptivity isn’t any close to what triple-antennaed PCI Wi-Fi cards can provide.
That said, some people have had a positive experience of working with USB adapters and prefer them for the sake of intuitiveness.
PCI Wireless Cards VS. USB Adapters – Which is better?
Now that you are clear about the pros and cons of using a PCI wireless card as well as a USB adapter, here’s the bottom line.
- You should choose a USB adapter if you want to get rid of the hassles of installing a PCI card by opening up your computer.
- You should choose a USB adapter if you want the flexibility of using it between computers while relishing the respectable internet speeds.
- You should choose a PCI Wi-Fi card if you are looking for strong internet connectivity and the freedom of working anywhere, anytime.
- You should use a PCI Wi-Fi card if you are a gameholic and require intense connectivity to support high-resolution gameplay.
- You should use a PCI Wi-Fi card if you want to access multiple transmission points for higher internet speeds and better stability of the connection.
- PCI or Peripheral Component Interconnect: Slots that are found on the motherboard of your computer system and are wirelessly connected when used with a PCI card.
- PCI-E or Peripheral Component Interconnect Express: It is the advanced version of PCI and provides faster internet speeds.
- 802.11ac: A new IEEE wireless standard, it uses the 5GHz band.
- 802.11n: An older wireless standard that can use both 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands.
- USB Adapter: (Universal Serial Bus) – These are used alternatively to access a wireless connection.
- Dual-Band: A Device utilizing both 5GHz and 2.4GHz bands.
- 5GHz: Faster frequency, effective for transmitting data at faster speeds, and the one which faces less interference than the 2.4GHz band.
- 2.4GHz: Frequency that provides good coverage but transmits data at slower speeds and faces more interference due to overlapping channels.
Best Wi-Fi Cards for Desktop in 2021: Final Words
That’s a wrap to our review of the 9 best WiFi card for PC. We hope our effort helps you make the right choice for yourself. If you have any recommendations or suggestions, drop a line to us in the comment section below.
Some of the most common parameters for comparison of Wi-Fi cards for PCs are—wireless protocols, the number of bands, OS compatibility, stability of the connection, signal strength, and coverage area. While a majority of Wi-Fi cards we mentioned above run on IEEE 802.11ac, a few of them may not be compatible with previous versions such as IEEE 802.11n, IEEE 802.11a, IEEE 802.11b, IEEE 802.11g, and more.
So, make sure that whichever device you choose should be compatible with previous versions. Also, you need to make sure that the device is compatible with the operating system of your computer since some of these may be difficult to install and operate in Windows 10.
For stability of the connection, optimized signal strength, and better coverage area, you need to ensure that the Wi-Fi card you choose must be integrated with proper heat-dissipating mechanism and has multiple numbers of antennas. A 3×3 is often the most suitable one for advanced operation.
Another consideration should be the router antenna, which should be pointed in the right direction. It’s important because Wi-Fi signals are short and cannot reach beyond 150 feet from the source. Moreover, these signals can be blocked by metallic surfaces or absorbed by walls. So, the position of the Wi-Fi router antenna is important for internet speed and strength.
All the above-mentioned Wi-Fi cards have an omnidirectional antenna which emits equal strength electromagnetic wave in all direction. They are commonly used in Wi-Fi Routers and Wi-Fi Adapter. However, you also need to make sure that it can focus the signal in one direction with additional built-in technology. Moreover, detachable and upgradeable antennae are of great help in case you need to change for better in the future.