Best PCI Wireless Cards & PCIe Wi-Fi Adapters for Desktop Computers: Buying Guide 2021
If you own a computer or a smartphone, getting a stable internet connection is very critical. For this reason, these gadgets are engineered with Ethernet ports, USB inputs, and cardholders to facilitate consistent internet connectivity. There are several ways of connecting your PC to the local network. You can use the Ethernet cables, PCI wireless cards, or USB Wi-Fi adapters depending on the computer’s compatibilities. However, each one of these technologies has its pros and cons.
Ethernet cables guarantee stable internet connectivity, but there is a big concern due to cluttering wires and being tethered to specific locations. However, the PCI-E cards are our point of interest. Here’s a comprehensive review of why they should be your all-time networking devices.
Best Wi-Fi PCIe Wireless Card (Adapter) 2021
|PCIe WIFI Card||Standard/Speed||Rating|
|TP-Link AX3000||Wi-Fi 6/3Gbps||4.9|
|Asus AX3000||Wi-Fi 6/3Gbps||4.9|
|ASUS PCE-AC88||Wi-Fi 5/3Gbps||4.9|
|ASUS PCE-AC68||Wi-Fi 5/1.9Gbps||4.8|
|TP-Link Archer T6E||Wi-Fi 5/1.3Gbps||4.7|
|TP-Link Archer T9E||Wi-Fi 5/1.9Gbps||4.7|
|Rosewill AC600||Wi-Fi 5/600Mbps||4.7|
Why Own a Wireless Network Card?
You’re probably wondering why you should spend money on a wireless card when you already have a pre-installed wireless standard. Well, there are several reasons why these devices are not only a necessity but also a requirement. If your PC is not able to connect to a wireless network, you need a wireless adapter. Your PC might also be calling for an upgrade because of the old wireless standard or a powerless radio. In some rare cases, the antennae may be hidden within the case, hence, interfering with the network signals.
Though you still have the option of using an Ethernet cable, running wires can be a little messy around the house. Worse yet, your router may not have any more ports to link up another cord.
Once you’ve installed a wireless network card, you can sit and browse from anywhere, for as long as it is within the router’s range. With Ethernet cables, you are likely to be chained in specific locations due to the potentially shorter wires and limited ports. In as much as using a wireless adapter seems to be the best option, there are few limitations especially on laptops. Most of them are incompatible with the cards. If you’re lucky, you’ll successfully connect the wireless network adapter, but the procedure will interfere with the laptop’s portability.
Top PCIe Wireless Cards For Your PC | Reviewed By Experts
This adapter helps your wired computer to access fast, clear and strong Wi-Fi connections. The performance of high-bandwidth activities on your computer will no longer be a disappointing experience since this incredible adapter you can do so at unbelievably high wireless transfer speeds to a maximum of 2100Mbps.
Super-powerful antennas are attached to the adapter by a magnet to for flexibility purposes, consequently maximizing Wi-Fi coverage. Alternatively, the antennas can be attached to the PCI-E wireless card.
The adapter gives you an option of upgrading it with more powerful antennas. ASUS PCI-E Adapter supports sink technology which prevents the core constituents from overheating by transmitting heat away from them. This is a finest card for pc and even better option for a gaming pc.
- Extreme speed of 3.1Gbps
- Four external, replaceable, omnidirectional dual-band antennas
- External antenna adapter improves signal quality.
- Great heatsink.
- Overall best performance of any WiFi card to date.
The ASUS AC88 can be best described as the Bugatti Chiron of PCI-E wireless adapter card: Loud, showing off, aggressive, faster than any of its competitors, incredibly impractical and probably completely outdated in a few years.
Still, it’s hard not to love the AC88’s insane bandwidth of 3.1Gbps. Just be aware that insane performance comes at insane prices, as $115 is what you have to be able and willing to spend if you want to experience the best of the best in terms of wireless speeds.
You mustn’t use Ethernet cables to make your wired computer access Wi-Fi. With this wireless card in your PC, you can access Wi-Fi at ultrafast total theoretical speeds up to 1300Mbps on its 2.4 GHz and 5GHz bands.
You can use the card on a wide range of computer models, thanks to its 802.11ac technology. It is designed to offer you maximum flexibility as well as performance.
ASUS PCI-E Adapter utilizes sink technology which prevents the core constituents from overheating by transmitting heat away from them.
This amazing card also eliminates dead spots so that you can access Wi-Fi from the comfort of whichever part of your local network.
- Unique antenna design incorporating external adapter for better signals.
- Heat sink.
- Three dual-band antennas for great connection quality.
At first glance, the ASUS PCE-AC68 is very similar to our top pick, the previously reviewed TP-Link Archer T9E.
However, as we all know, the devil is in the details, and in this case, the details are what makes this ASUS card drastically inferior in comparison.
From the bulky, space-hungry external antenna adapter to the unjustified high price of $90, there is no particular reason besides brand bias to recommend this over the excellent T9E.
This PCI-E network card supports 802.11 ac standards, allowing you to install and use it on old and modern A, B, G and N computers.
After installing the card on your wired computer, you will have the have the freedom to utilize the 5GHz and 2.4 GHz wireless frequency bands to access internet connections at fast speeds up to 1267 Mbps.
With these Wi-Fi speeds, you can perform bandwidth-intensive activities such as online gaming and video streaming hassle free. It can be a great option for any gaming builds.
Rosewill Wi-Fi Adapter utilizes sink technology which prevents the core constituents from overheating by transmitting heat away from them. It works well with computers having Windows XP, 7, 8, 8.1 or 10.
- The low price makes it very affordable.
- It provides wireless internet.
- 1.3Gbps top speed is very satisfying considering the cost.
- Fully integrated heat sink.
- comes with beamforming technology.
- upgradeable, omnidirectional dual-band antennas.
For $45, this, the Rosewill AC1300, is probably one of the best PCI-E WiFi cards to get. A true budget model, this card gives you only the most basic features, with a few noteworthy upmarket extras like a simple heatsink and omnidirectional antennas.
Still, this card is only recommendable if you’re looking for the best price-to-performance ratio, not the best quality, as that can only be offered by more expensive models.
Tplink wireless AC1300 WiFi PCI-Express wireless wifi adapter(Archer T6E) – Best dual band wireless pci Card Under $50
The installation of this adapter is a breeze; you just need to plug it into the PCI-E slot of your computer and within a few seconds you will have your computer’s wireless ability will be up and running.
You will then be able to access your local network wirelessly at speed up to 1300Mbp over the dual-band (5GHz and 2.4 GHz) and boost your connection speeds.
With these super fast internet connections, you will be able to perform activities that consume a high amount of data, for example, streaming of high-quality videos and playing online games without experiencing lags.
The two antennas on the network adapter card extend the range of your Wi-Fi and enhance network reliability. The adapter is compatible with computers having Windows XP, 7, 8, 8.1 or 10.
- Shares many features and components with the more powerful T9E.
- 1.3Gbps top internet speed.
- Two omnidirectional, upgradeable, beamforming external antennas.
- Wireless-AC supported.
- Heat sink.
- Low price.
The T6E is marketed as a downgraded, cheaper version of the excellent T9E, and that is exactly what it is. Four antennas less and a lower top speed are the most noticeable changes, but most of the T9E’s essential features and physical components remain the same on the T6E.
Therefore, it can be rightfully called the best “T9E for people who can’t afford it model”, especially as, thanks to the price tag of just $50, there is one good argument for buying this in favor of its more powerful brother.
This chipset offers your computer the ability to connect your PC to Wi-Fi at superfast speeds.
If you like performing activities that consume high bandwidth for instance streaming of high definition videos and online gaming you can conveniently do so after installing this powerful card on your PC.
With the card, your computer can access WI-FI to maximum theoretical speeds of 1900Mbps.
The sink technology and beamforming ability of the card have a hand in the reliable and fast connections.
- Latest 802.11ac chipset.
- Unique heat sink lowers and spreads generated heat for better performance.
- Beamforming makes signals stronger.
- Three omnidirectional, dual-band antennas provide excellent range and signal clarity.
- High 1.9Gbps theoretical top speed.
Let’s just get one thing out of the way: The TP-Link Archer T9E is one of the best-performing PCI-E wireless cards currently on the market, and for good reason at that.
From its satisfyingly high top speed of 1900Mbps to the three excellent beamforming antennas to the unique, functional heat sink that helps cool not just the card, but also surrounding devices, the Archer T9E is the performance aficionado’s WiFi card of choice.
Normally, we would end this with something like, “The T9E’s only real flaw is the price,” but that would be factually incorrect in this case.
Though the Archer was originally released with a pretty hefty $80 price tag, this has since dropped to comfortable $60, making it highly affordable considering its features.
Table of Contents For PCI Wireless Adapter Cards
- Why Own a Wireless Network Card?
- What you should know About PCI Wireless Adapters
- Which is Better? A PCI Wi-Fi Card vs. a USB Adapter
- PCI or PCI-E; What Should I go for?
- PCI ExpressStandards, Size, Corresponding Pins, and Connections
- Terminologies Relating to Wireless Cards
- Considerations When Shopping for a Wireless Card
- PCI Card Installation Techniques
PCI Wireless Cards Buying Guide
Are you looking to effortlessly upgrade your PC or laptop from a wired to a wireless networking gadget? Check out the best Wi-Fi card for your non-wireless computer and an in-depth buying guide. You’ll learn about our top picks and the pros of incorporating this technology into your device.
What you should know About PCI Wireless Adapters
PCI is an abbreviation for Peripheral Component Interconnect, which is a bus technology for directly connecting peripherals to the computer processor. This device allows your PC to connect to a local wireless network, especially if it does not have Wi-Fi capabilities. In most cases, the design of the PCI wireless cards will require you to connect it to the motherboard using a spare expansion card slot. Unlike the PC cards or USB adapters, these devices call for internal installations, but they transfer data four times faster than their counterparts.
Which is Better? A PCI Wi-Fi Card vs. a USB Adapter
If we were to give a stepwise review of these two wireless adapters, you might end up owning both. Seeing that none of them is inferior to the other, you play a central role in establishing which befits your needs.
You already know how to operate a plug-and-play flash drive, right? If so, installing a USB adapter is as easy as a count of three. It is convenient considering that you can effortlessly plug it into a USB port and remove it with ease.
Once you connect it to the PC, sit back, and wait as Windows install the compatible drivers. A Wi-Fi signal will pop up after the installation.
Conversely, a PCI card requires an internal connection via the motherboard. For this reason, it is inconvenient if you need to transfer it to another device. Refer to the installation procedure at the end of this article.
2. Signal Strength
USB adapters may appear small, but the size should not fool you. Although they are not as powerful as PCI wireless cards, some of them feature dual-band N networking technology.
On the other hand, some PCI cards come with spatial multiplexing technology featuring large antennas, for maximum performance and high-speed connections. If your computer is far away from the router, getting a stable signal may be a real struggle. The best thing about these devices is that they are equipped with extra antennae, which boost the signal strength.
A USB adapter does not affect the laptop’s weight. However, a PCI Wi-Fi card makes a device less portable. For a computer, the changes may go unnoticeable, but for a small PC, the size of the card and the antennas will contribute to the bulkiness.
4. Device Compatibility
USB adapters are compatible with all PCs and laptops. The case is different with PCI wireless cards because small PCs may not have space and features to accommodate them. The good news is that some laptops will allow you to upgrade the internal cards and connect with the card.
Going for a USB 3.0 adapter is more advantageous since it guarantees high throughput and faster connections. The speed of your router, the internet provider, and the USB adapter will always determine the overall network performance.
Only a few USB adapters feature the dual-band technology. Besides, there are just countable brands that incorporate antennas to their adapters to achieve some reasonable speed. If you shop around, these devices may only have a single antenna, but the cost may be as high as that of a PCI card.
Unless you own a laptop with a bias to portability, a PCI wireless card remains to be an odds-on chance. It will stick to the same position all the time even when you want to engage all the USB slots.
PCI or PCI-E; What Should I go for?
There are three types of wireless cards. You can either go for a PCI or PCI-X or upgrade to the most recent PCI Express (PCI-E) card.
PCI-E is the latest technology, which is now common to the recently-bought PCs. Moreover, most of the cards produced today are PCI-E. If you have a new computer, it’s a good idea to buy this card as it’s likely compatible with the motherboard.
There is something more about PCI-E wireless cards than just being the talk-of-the-town kind of technology. They offer more bandwidth than their counterparts especially if you do many file transfers across the local network. However, the difference goes unnoticeable when using them for general internet browsing.
PCI ExpressStandards, Size, Corresponding Pins, and Connections
There are four PCI-E versions, which are 1.0, 2.0, 3.0, and 4.0. All these standards support both forward and backward compatibilities.
2. Size, pins, and length
The number of pins and the length may freak you out as a given PCI Express card may be 89mm longer. However, you should not fret because it will still fit in the slots.
|Size||No. of Pins||Length (mm)|
Terminologies Relating to Wireless Cards
Here is a list of some of the commonly used terms when shopping for wireless cards. You might have met a few of them in the above context.
1. PCI-E (Peripheral Component Interconnect Express)
This is the latest version of PCI wireless card, coming after PCI and PCI-X. PCI-E is an expansion card standard linking peripheral devices to the computer’s motherboard. Although it has few pins, it boasts more bandwidth than its predecessors. For this reason, it has a higher bus speed and higher throughput.
2. PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect)
This is a 64-bit (or 32-bit) bus standard for connecting peripheral devices to the motherboard or a microprocessor of a computer. This technology has been around since the early 90s, and most PCs are engineered with enough room for up to 5 PCI cards. It allows you to slot in expansion cards such as network hardware, modems, video cards, and related devices.
3. Mbps (Megabits per second)
This is a measurement unit of a network’s throughput and bandwidth. This data transfer rate in Mbps is equivalent to a million bits per second.
4. Gbps (Gigabits per second)
It is a unit for measuring the rate of data transfer between hardware devices. The more the bandwidth or Gbps, the higher the speed would be in the given network.
This band is the best wireless range and the most common among the wireless networking devices. Although it flaunts a broader coverage, it has lower speed and bandwidth. Besides, 2.4GHz bands are prone to frequent interferences because of the few non-overlapping channels.
This band boasts a faster data transmission, higher bandwidth, and little to no interference, thanks to the many non-overlapping channels. However, the wireless range is less.
7. Dual band
These are devices that use both the 5GHz and 2.4GHz frequencies.
The prefixes N and AC refer to the networking standards. The number that follows depicts the maximum theoretical speed of data of the transmission radio.
Note that the number can be any value and not just the ones above.
This is an older wireless networking standard that uses 2.4GHz and 5GHz frequency bands.
This is the latest and fastest IEEE networking standard, which applies the 5GHz band for data transmission. The best thing about it is the compatibility with the previous wireless standards.
Considerations When Shopping for a Wireless Card
1. Extension Cable
Most people place their PCs near the walls, around the corners of a room, or at the floor level. If you’ve permanently positioned your computer like this and you coincidentally purchase a wireless card whose antenna has been screwed in it, you’re susceptible to the worst Wi-Fi experience. Even though the router may be a few feet from you, all the strong signals will bounce off.
An extension cable comes in when you are caught up in this nightmare. You can use this wire to boost the height of the short antennas and position them away from the wall, table, desk, or any other barriers.
2. Number of Antennas
A wireless card can have an average of 3 to 5 antennas or more. An antenna will boost the signal propagation of the Wi-Fi network so that the receivers may access it. The higher the number of the antennas, the stronger and faster the Wi-Fi would be. Most PCI wireless cards have three antennas. The best way to position them is by fine-tuning at 45 degrees from each other. However, make sure to place the third antenna vertically. At least, doing so will ensure better coverage of the wireless signal while eliminating dead spots.
Note that the signals will bounce back when hindered by walls or furniture. For this reason, it is advisable to angle the antennas correctly or raise their height. The adjustments should be away from the stumbling blocks.
PCI Card Installation Techniques
You might have backed out from this PCI -stuff when you just read that the adapter requires internal installations. The state is even worse when you’re an infrequent DIYer, or you’ve just bought a new PC with active warrant period. Don’t freak out because the procedure is straightforward. If you are not confident in yourself, seek help from an expert.
1. Shut down the PC
This is the most obvious step that a good number of people overlook. Turning off the computer will prevent accidents and potential damages.
2. Open the PC case
Refer to your PC’s manual when performing this step.
3. Single out the PCI or PCI-E slot
The details are in the manual, but if you’re keen enough, you will see the slot in the computer even without referring.
4. Detach the protective plate
Unscrew the plate, which gives cover to the PCI slot.
5. Install the card
Correctly align the bits of the wireless card while making sure that the chips face the bottom side. If everything is in place, push the PCI card into the slot before screwing it back in place. Use the screws that you obtained while unbolting the protective plate in the above step.
6. Screw in the antennas
Fix the antennas in place.
7. Close the PC casing
To this point, you will have successfully installed the wireless card. Close the housing and power on the computer.
For Windows 8 and above, the driver installation process will occur automatically. Windows 7 would require you to set up the drivers using a CD manually.
Wireless cards are the best options to connect to the local network. If you are fed up with the cluttering wires, tangling Ethernet cables, unstable connections, and poor coverage, the answer is with PCI cards. For maximum performance, go for an adapter with several antennas and buy a separate extension cable. For as long as you’ve positioned the antennae appropriately away from obstacles, you get the assurance of uninterrupted network. Additionally, a USB adapter is excellent, but the joy of disengaging all of your USB ports is immeasurable especially if you’re working with several I/O devices.