Investing in a laptop is all about mobility with your workstation. So, it goes without saying that the preferred mode of internet connectivity for most people is wireless when it comes to a laptop. But not all laptops come with pre-installed WiFi cards or even if they do, in the long run, you may have to upgrade it.
The WiFi card is a wireless module for the laptop and these are designed for all types of portable devices. When you have these cards installed, connecting to a nearby wireless connection is made possible. They come with a built-in antenna that enables the connection and depending on its specification and type of card, the range is also determined accordingly.
Why will you need such a card? Usually, to upgrade the WiFi connection and get connectivity to all types of wireless networks, you may have to upgrade the WiFi card. Furthermore, the best WiFi card for laptop is designed to ensure you get seamless and fast connectivity on your WiFi which is another reason behind investing in these cards.
But choosing the best and most compatible option is essential to keep your device going. To do this there are several factors to be considered which will be elaborated in our buying guide provided in this article in the next segments.
We have also tried and tested several best WiFi cards for laptops available in the market today to give you detailed reviews of the same. Here, you can learn all about some of the best options so that you can make an informed decision and invest in the most compatible choice for your device.
What is a WiFi Card?
A wireless internet card or a WiFi card is a small device resembling a credit card. WiFi hotspots are a very common thing to find in any part of the world. Whenever you are out of your home sitting in a coffee house or a library, spotting a WiFi hotspot is very normal. This WiFi hotspot is always connected to a larger source of internet through signals or wire.
Now the work of a WiFi card is to pick up that signal of a WiFi hotspot and connect our laptops or tabs to the internet. These wireless internet cards are most useful in picking an internet connection for your wireless computer when you are outdoors.
Why Do You Need A Laptop WiFi Card?
The WiFi card is a wireless module, specifically designed to let you access the internet, whether you’re using a laptop or any other portable device. You can connect it to a wireless router, or any accessible network, thanks to its built-in antenna.
A good quality wireless module can offer you a good range and you can easily install it with an M.2 slot that is present in most present-day laptops. However, if you’re using a previous generation laptop, then a mini PCIe WiFi card is required for it to function. It all comes down to the type of motherboard you’re using.
But the primary reason for using a WiFi card is that it allows the signal from your router to be transmitted and transferred to your laptop. This makes it an essential part of any laptop you use because, without it, you cannot go online. A broken wireless module can prevent you from working on the internet.
Sure, you can use a USB WiFi adapter, but they are meant to be temporary replacements, not a permanent solution. At least not when you want to avoid the frequent dropouts along with other issues. Therefore, upgrading your laptop with a proper WiFi card is the right solution.
Can Any WiFi Card Be Used in a Laptop?
Since your laptop is much smaller than a standard desktop computer, quite naturally, its motherboard and the slots are also going to be smaller. As a result, the WiFi cards that need to be installed in a laptop are smaller too compared to the ones in the PCs. For this very reason, you cannot just get any WiFi card, that is used in desktops, for your laptop.
Another major difference between the WiFi cards used on a desktop and the ones for laptops is that the laptop ones use PCI or PCI-E cards. These don’t work on desktops. Also, when you’re installing an 802.11ac wireless card, you are going to get a much faster and consistent WiFi network as compared to the old versions. In fact, the difference is very significant, whether you want to download videos at high speed, transfer data wirelessly, or simply play games online.
Not even the best USB WiFi adapters, available in the market can boost your laptop speed with that much reliability. Sure, they can enhance the speed, but a WiFi card also allows your valuable USB port to be free. Also, since it is an internal component, you need not worry about it getting lost.
How to Choose a WiFi Card Specifically for a Laptop?
Firstly, always prioritize the compatibility of the wireless module with your system model. You can even ask the manufacturer to do it for you so that they can suggest the best WiFi card for your particular model.
Secondly, the module needs to be compatible with not just your laptop, but the router in use as well. If your WiFi card is not compatible with either one, then you’ll have a lot of problems connecting your device to the router.
Just make sure to check the card size to know whether it will fit into your system. Since laptops are much smaller, their motherboard and given slots are smaller too. Not only that, but different models have card slots of different sizes as well. So, you need to get a wireless module that fits.
Next, understand your reason for getting a WiFi card properly. If your device has a pre-installed WiFi card, and you’re looking to upgrade it, then make sure that both of them have the same number of antennas.
This is also important as it will come in handy during the installation and will help ensure optimum compatibility as well as let you verify the authentication protocols. You can find this info in the WiFi card manufacturer’s guidelines.
- Laptop Upgradability:
This is another feature that is often overlooked. You need to understand that not all laptops are made alike. Some are harder to open or modify than others. That is why you need to cross-check well to avoid investing in the wrong type of WiFi card. Avoid the laptops with a BIOS “whitelist” at all cost, since the whitelist prevents the replacement of any WLAN card not authorized by the manufacturer.
Never invest in a laptop WiFi adapter that doesn’t have Bluetooth. Even though most M.2 WiFi cards today come with in-built Bluetooth, make sure to double-check. Bluetooth is an important feature as it lets you connect devices without a physical connector. Also, the version of the Bluetooth available is equally important so try to get the latest version.
- Software or Drivers:
Lastly, the purchased hardware should have its available driver. This way, the Windows OS can automatically detect and install it for you.
Best WiFi Cards For Laptops Reviews:
Here we have listed seven products that we have tried and tested. Their specifications, pros and cons and overall performance has been provided in detail so that you can draw comparisons easily and select the best choice for your device.
1. Intel Wireless AC 9560
This WiFi card by Intel is one of the most popular adapters in the market. Equipped with dual-band support this card can be supported in all the trendy operating systems like Windows 10, Linux, 64 bits* and the Chrome OS.
Speaking of performance, this Intel wireless AC has a Maximum speed limit of 1.73 Gbps and is compatible with a Bluetooth 5. Another pointer to this product is its affordability and reasonable price and it is also less costly than a WIFI 6 card.
Also, it supports preserving a longer battery life compared to the Legacy 802.11ac. So, in case you are not sure about switching to the next Gen WiFi 6 yet then this product is the perfect choice for you. Its fast downloading and uploading speed and longer band range make the AC9560 a very productive buy and also a perfect choice for your home computer.
- Has an integrated Bluetooth system in it.
- It requires an M.2 wireless card slot.
- Compliant with the FIPS, FISMA compliance to ensure smoother network access.
- 2.4GHZ to 5 GHz bands width gives maximum access throughout the day.
- 2X2 TX/RX stream for faster internet speed.
- Supports a better and longer battery life
- Supports all the popular operating system
- Dual-band support
- Fast upload speed
- Have a fast download speed
- Comes at an affordable price.
- The card only fits an M.2 card slot.
- Only supports 5.0 Bluetooth in place of 5.1 and 5.2 versions.
2. WiFi 6 AX200 WiFi Adapter
Intel was planning on the launch of AX200 with the latest WiFi 6 standards for quite some time. Finally, the release took place back in January and the product is instantly popular in the market for its spectacular performance. Known by the name of Cyclone Peak initially, the name indicates the superfast performance of the product.
Compatible with all the latest operating systems like Google Chrome and Windows 10 this adapter can also support the Linux 5.1 Kernel. Perfect for your laptops and PC the module can support the latest WiFi 6 as well as WiFi 5.
The best part of this Wireless adaptor is its improved spectral rate which has immensely benefited from the performance of the speedy transmission of information. Another pointer for this card is its improved battery backup for the device and a USB port that fits M.2 cards will be perfect.
- Supports several latest technologies like MU-MIMO, Intel VPro and OFDMA.
- It is also compliant with the wifi 6 technology.
- Supports the 5.2 latest version of Bluetooth.
- High speed with a limit of 2.4Gbps.
- 2.4 GHz to 5Ghz bandwidth.
- It has an affordable price.
- It supports the latest operating systems like Chrome, Windows 10 or Linux.
- It has a longer battery life.
- It supports the latest version of Bluetooth 5.2.
- It supports the latest wifi 6 version.
- It has faster downloading and uploading speed.
- One disadvantage of WiFi 6 is its shorter bandwidth compared to the WiFi 5 which result in a more frequent obstruction of the network between the device and the router.
3. Intel Wireless-Ac 9260, 2230, 2X2 Ac+Bt, Gigabit, No Vpro
If you’re looking for a complete wireless solution for your laptop, then it doesn’t get better than this. The Intel Wireless-AC 9260 adapter, with Bluetooth 5 and 2×2 802.11ac WiFi support, delivers superior connectivity. Just like any Intel WiFi card, this one comes with a slightly upgraded Bluetooth version and an increased range of functionality. Also, the download and upload speeds are pretty impressive. All in all, it’s worth your money.
Let’s be honest, we all have been victims of poor WiFi cards knocking connectivity out of the park. Well not anymore! The Intel Wireless-AC 9260 comes with an M.2 2230 WiFi module to solve all your problems. Specially designed for your portable devices, it will help you connect to a wireless router, or a network in proximity easily. Built-in antenna guarantees maximum coverage and you can even install it on an M.2 slot.
- 2X2 Ac+ Bt (802.11n and 802.11ac) technology allows multiple antenna-support.
- It comes with a Smart Power Optimizer feature that allows lower power consumption, so you can stay online longer.
- This module is compatible with your 8th generation intel core processor.
- Minimal dropouts or DNS errors, so you can easily move around with your laptop around your home.
- It comes with an M.2 2230 module that enables you to configure and use the platform with a standard Key A or E socket.
- Supports dual-band connectivity (2.4 and 5 GHz).
- Works fine within 0°C to 80°C.
- It allows sustainable internet connectivity within its range.
- In a dense WiFi area, you’ll experience no dropout.
- Cheapest dual-band laptop WiFi card you can get.
- Easy, sustainable, and uninterrupted wireless connectivity at all times.
- Doesn’t come with Intel vPro technology.
- Not as efficient as WiFi v.6, but gets the job done.
4. Intel 3160 Dual Band Wireless AC + Bluetooth Mini PCIe Card
According to recent buyers, the Intel 3160 Dual Band Wireless AC + Bluetooth Mini PCIe Card comes as a surprise. Many expect very standard features from the product owing to the low price point but the efficiency of the product is noteworthy. The most remarkable part about the WiFi card for laptops is the high speed and stable connectivity. coming from Intel, the product is reliable but you should always check whether it is a compatible choice for your device.
The full Intel warranty you get on investing in this product sets it apart from the others on the list. If you are looking for a long-lasting WiFi card that is reliable, this is definitely a noteworthy choice. Since it is backed up by the warranty, even if there is a problem with the device, it can be quickly sorted by consulting Intel customer care.
Overall, the product is a good choice as an upgrade of the pre-installed WiFi card in your device and is ideal for those on a tight budget.
- The card comes with full warranty coverage from Intel.
- It is compatible with Windows and Linux OS.
- The WiFi card comes with dual-band support and the latest 802.11 ac/n/g/b/wireless standards for maximum performance.
- The transfer rate is as high as 433mbps through 1X1 TX/RX Stream.
- You get a Bluetooth 4.0 module integrated into the smart power optimizer.
- The complete Intel warranty ensures minimum issues are posed by the product.
- The high transfer rate ensures you get optimum performance round the clock.
- It is a mini-PCI-E card but supports all the features you can expect from the standard sized ones.
- The small power optimizer is Bluetooth enabled.
- Versatile product that supports a variety of connectivity options so that you get a stable connection.
- The range is not large enough so you need to stay closer to the router.
- It is not the most compatible choice for several brands of laptops.
- It has a 1×1 radio system which can limit the performance. You may not get the best possible speed from the device.
5. OKN WiFi 6E AX210
WiFi 6 is the latest technology available today which is still at a nascent stage. Hence, it is quite early to upgrade to the WiFi 6E card. However, for those users who still wish to go through with the upgrade and be on top of everything in terms of technology, one of the best WiFi cards for laptops is the OKN WiFi 6E AX210.
Ideally, users who are thinking for the long run and want to make their laptop future-ready would find this the perfect choice for a WiFi card upgrade.
The card is designed with the latest AXE technology and hence you can get the 6 Ghz band which is ideal for gaming and live streaming without any hindrance. You can enjoy high speed from 574mbps to 2400mbps speed on bandwidths 2.4ghz, 5ghz and 6 ghz along with the 164mhz wireless channels.
Right now, the only drawback you are likely to face is finding maximum use out of this WiFi card since there is only one router available that supports the WiFi 6E technology.
- It is compatible only with the Windows 10 64-bit version.
- The device is equipped with Bluetooth 5.2.
- It is compatible with AMD and Intel CPUs.
- The WiFi card features M.2 2230 Slot Key E/A.
- The card features the AXE technology which is the latest one and ideal for gaming and live streaming without any hindrance.
- The WiFi card is equipped with Bluetooth 5.2 which is the latest version.
- It is tri-band connectivity enables a WiFi card and you get high-speed internet up to 2400mbps from it.
- A futuristic device that is ideal for users looking for a WiFi card to connect with the WiFi 6E Router.
- Only compatible with Windows 10 64-bit which means most people will not be able to use it unless they upgrade their devices too.
6. OKN WiFi 6 AX200
Another spectacular choice from OKN, the WiFi 6 AX200 is the predecessor to the AX210. However, it is equally powerful and has several features which make it comparatively more compatible with older technologies.
The WiFi card is known for its reliability and consistent service and many opt for this one because of these reasons. Furthermore, the OKN WiFi 6AX200 is a “low latency” option that gives a powerful performance that is compatible with most routers and ensures uninterrupted gaming and video streaming. The installation of the card is also very easy which is another reason behind it being a preferred upgrade among most users.
Overall, it is a much more powerful version with a 40% power saving capacity compared to the predecessors.
- It is compatible with the 64-bit Operating system of both Windows and Linux.
- The device is equipped with Bluetooth 5.1.
- It is a suitable choice for Intel and AMD CPUs.
- You get M.2 2230 Slot A/E Key when you invest in this WiFi card.
- It is a tri-band WiFi card and also supports WiFi 6E technology.
- There is high-speed Bluetooth transmission and you can easily connect several other Bluetooth enabled devices and enjoy better connectivity when you are using this WiFi card.
- You get powerful performance and connectivity with several types of network options like MU-MIMO, OFDMA, Target wait time and more.
- Compatible with the latest technology as well as older versions too.
- You cannot get the maximum utility unless your router is compatible with WiFi 6E.
7. Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 2×2 Network plus Bluetooth
Your search for the perfect wireless solution within a budget ends here. Say hello to the Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 Network plus Bluetooth adapter that delivers unmatched W-Fi performance. Exceptional Intel innovation is now at your doorstep, giving you an experience like never before.
Whether you’re looking for speed, coverage, or larger capacity, this device is undoubtedly an all-rounder. It also comes with Intel Smart Connect Technology and delivers a data transfer speed of 867Mbps. This business-class wireless device takes your laptop activity to a whole new level. And at this price range, it doesn’t get any better.
You get a decent speed, and all the other features of a standard premium-quality WiFi card without jeopardizing your budget. The Intel dual-band wireless 7260.HMWWB.R card comes with all standard specifications, offers a smooth and secure operation, and is also at a reasonable price. However, you might want to make sure to check the model number to see if it’s compatible in case you have a Lenovo or Hp notebook.
- Larger capacity and Bluetooth 4.0 support allow for a more stable and better coverage.
- Comes with the Intel WiFi HotSpot assistant and a wireless display for a seamless experience.
- It is compatible with the 4th gen intel core processor.
- At this price, this is the best overall dual-band wireless adapter you can get
- It is fully compatible with the standard wireless version 802.11ac/n/g/a/b.
- Comes with Intel Smart Connect Technology that lets you update programs automatically and get required data from the internet.
- Dual-band 2 x 2 wireless Bluetooth 4.0 adapter that is fully compatible with the intel core processors.
- For those with a Windows 10 laptop, this can be a huge upgrade.
- Adds more life to your laptop battery.
- Works on desktop and laptop both and is compatible with most OS too.
- You can enjoy a connection that is stable and fast thanks to this WiFi card.
- You get decent connectivity with all the other perks.
- Most users have given it a positive review after using it.
- None as such.
Wi-Fi Card for Laptop Buying Guide:
A laptop is the one wireless gadget that has become a necessity among people. As time is passing by, the usage of a laptop is getting more and more common. The compact design, easy handling, lightweight and availability in any place you are in is what makes this device so useful.
But other than the wireless computer itself that one thing without which it will be of little use is the internet connection. The wireless networking module that makes sure we get a fast signal is called a WiFi Card or wireless card.
Choosing the perfect wireless card for your laptop is the key to a speedy and uninterrupted network. But as there is now more and more availability of different wireless cards in the market, choosing only one from this abundant range can be quite intimidating.
So, to make it easier for you guys, here is my guide for buying the perfect wireless card that can help you with a faster and improved network.
- Purpose Of The Card And Compatibility:
First, you have to understand what exactly a WiFi card is and its contribution to our laptop. To put it simply a WiFi or wireless card is a small device designed to connect your laptop to the internet or a router.
While selecting a WiFi card the first thing we should check is whether the WiFi card is compatible with the computer. The wireless card that is available in the market commonly plugs into PCI e or M.2 key B for cells and M.2 key E for WiFi.
- Availability And Types Of Slots:
Now before buying the card, we have to make sure that our device comes with any one of these slots so the card will fit automatically. Also, now the majority of the cards we buy use USB for Bluetooth connection and PCIe for WiFi connection. As most of the cards that we find for our laptop now are based on PCIe so it is best to confirm that your motherboard or laptop slot supports PCIe as well as USB signals.
- Compatibility With Different OS:
Another factor we should be aware of before buying a WiFi card is to see whether it supports all the popular operating systems. As there are many cards out there that support the common operating system like Windows, Linux or Chrome.
- Supports WiFi-6 Or Not:
After you are sure that the card will be compatible with your computer the next thing you need to find out is the right network connection. The latest technology of WiFi we find in the modern card is wifi6, the latest standard for the wireless card is 802.11 ax. This new generation network works faster and provides better performance. The battery life of our computer gets extended and this WiFi provides excellent spectral efficiency to your network.
- Brand Of The WiFi Card:
Also, the brand you intend to buy plays an important role. As brands like Intel or Broadcom, both are efficient companies but we intend to choose one by their experience and reputation in this field and it also depends on our personal choice.
- Bluetooth Version Compatibility:
The last thing we look at before choosing our card is which version of Bluetooth it can support. As there are many versions of Bluetooth like WiFi. The most recent version being 5.2 in case our laptop is old and cannot support the new version it is best to check beforehand.
Types of Laptop WiFi Cards:
- PCI Adaptor:
It is a card designed for desktops, these PCI adaptors provide good network speed and fit a compatible PCI slot of your computer motherboard.
- Mini PCI Adapter:
This type of adaptor comes with an in-built antenna and fits any laptop of your choice.
- PCMCIA Adaptor:
These types of adapters or PC cards are built for small notebook computers. We can see the antenna sticking outside the computer and it provides better memory, various storage.
How to Install/Upgrade a Laptop WiFi Card?
Now, you can install a wireless card to your laptop system, all by yourself, easily thanks to this guideline. Simply, follow the steps mentioned below to do it yourself:
- First, turn off the power, before you unplug the system and remove its battery.
- Then, open the laptop from the backside and find the older WiFi card (if your system had one).
- Now, remove the antennas of the previous card, but remember the position of the antennas for future reference.
- Remove the pre-installed card present in your device by unscrewing it carefully.
- After that, put the new WiFi card inside and tighten it with the screws.
- Now, attach the antennas in the correct position, as they were with the previous WiFi card.
- Now that you are done installing, simply close the back of your device.
- Insert the battery, and now it’s ready to be powered up.
- Finally, install all the drivers required for your new WiFi card to function properly.
- Enjoy faster wireless connectivity on your laptop without any hindrance.
As you can see, the process is pretty straightforward. Just make sure to check the guidelines for installation from the website of the manufacturer before attempting to do it yourself.
Frequently Asked Questions:
What is the best WiFi card for gaming laptops?
You must choose a powerful and compatible WiFi card with a high data transfer rate to use on a gaming laptop so that you can smoothly enjoy any online game. The key is to choose WiFi cards that are a dual-band or tri-band and can connect with a variety of WiFi connections. You will find some of the best options for gaming laptops among the cards which are reviewed here.
Can I replace a WiFi card?
Replacing or upgrading the internal WiFi card is possible in certain laptops but not in all. If your laptop comes with a plug-in mini-PCI-E WiFi card you can easily access it. To replace the card, you need to pop out the existing one and then replace it with a new one in the same slot. However, it is best to seek professional help for the purpose and not try doing the replacement yourself.
Which is better: a WiFi card or USB?
This depends on the WiFi card you are choosing. Usually, most PCI-E WiFi cards are more powerful than USB WiFi adapters. This is because the PCI-E card can connect directly with the motherboard of the computer. Hence the connectivity is faster as there is a direct connection between the WiFi card and the motherboard.
Where is the WiFi card located on the laptop?
In most full-sized PCs, when you remove the side panel, you will find the card slot of the device where all the cards including the WiFi card are located. In a laptop that has such specific slots for plug-in WiFi cards, you can find the location once you remove the back panel of the device.
Can a laptop WiFi card go bad?
The WiFi card usually does not go bad physically and there are no changes which you are likely to notice. If you are experiencing lagging and slow connectivity that is usually because of software clutter and not physical damage to the card. The card has to be changed or replaced still to upgrade the connectivity system of the device.
The best WiFi laptop card can ensure that you can connect to the internet seamlessly on your device. A product that is compatible with your OS and the device will be the ideal choice. Keeping in mind the detailed reviews and the techniques to find the best laptop wireless card will help you make an informed decision about the investment. Upgrading the WiFi card can make a significant difference in the service you enjoy, making it a vital decision in the overall maintenance of your device. Now that you have everything you need to know about the best wireless card for a laptop, finding the most compatible option should become much easier for you.