Over the past couple of decades, the technology industry has gone a bit bonkers for wireless compatibility. We’re seeing more wireless mice, headsets, and keyboards than ever before, mainly thanks to new, more cost-effective ways of removing the hassle of cables.
With that being the case, it’s no surprise that more and more people are now wanting to remove the hassle of cables when it comes to their internet needs as well. PCIe Wi-Fi cards have been growing in popularity exponentially over the past could of years, with the marketplace now offering a sea of affordable options for all levels of performance. That makes choosing the best PCI-e Wi-Fi card for gaming all the more difficult.
Fear not though, here at WePC we like to lend a helping hand – do some of the hard work for you, if you will. We’ve got our hands on some of the best Wi-Fi adapters out there, and we’re gonna put them through their paces to see which is best for gaming.
In the following article, we’ll be exploring signal strength, signal distance, speeds, reliability, heatsinks, and everything else that comes with a PCIe Wi-Fi card purchase. We’ll be concluding with our four best PCIe Wi-Fi cards and why we think they’re worth your consideration.
So, with all that in mind, let’s waste no further time and dive straight into it!
Our Top Picks
Best PCIe Wi-Fi Cards In 2021: First Look
Our number one pick goes to the ASUS PCE AC56 for a number of different reasons. It’s not only one of the best looking Wi-Fi adapters in this guide, but it’s also one of the most powerful too. A great choice for all gamers.
With speeds of up to 876Mbps in 5.0GHz range and 400Mbps in 2.4GHz range, the PCE AC56 is more than equipped to handle your gaming/web browsing needs.
With a nicely designed heatsink and great compatibility, this Wi-Fi card pretty much does it all.
TP-Link is one of the biggest names in the networking sector, bringing high-performance, affordable offerings to the marketplace.
For that reason, and others which we’ll touch upon shortly, we’ve given their AC1300 our second spot in this best-of guide. It is one of the best value for money products in this list, providing great performance for your wireless needs.
Gigabyte probably isn’t the first name you think of when considering Wi-Fi adapter cards. However, here we are recommending one in our best PCIe Wi-FI guide.
This Wi-Fi card not only offers good speeds, strong signal strength, and the reliability that comes with buying Gigabyte products. It also comes equipped with a cabled antenna system, alongside strong BlueTooth connectivity too.
Lastly, we have the Rosewill AC1900PCE Wi-Fi card. This handy all-rounder provides plenty of performance for the budding gamer – albeit not as cost-effective as the above options.
This nicely designed Wi-Fi card looks very similar to our top pick. However, looks aren’t the only place this one excels. It also provides strong signal strength, great coverage, and a heatsink that is more than equipped to keep thermals at manageable levels.
Like all hardware components, choosing the best PCIe Wi-Fi card for gaming requires certain levels of consideration to ensure you choose the right one. As the market is currently flooded with a sea of options, it can sometimes be difficult choosing the one that best suits your setup.
For that reason, we’ve put together the main aspects of a Wi-Fi card that should always be considered prior to purchase. These will cover the main factors that affect you from a performance and gaming standpoint.
Data Transfer Speed And Bandwidth
Data transfer speed and bandwidth is a hugely important aspect when it comes to gaming, especially those that like to play more competitive titles. The speed and bandwidth of your Wi-Fi card will dictate how quickly you’ll receive your internet connection. For gamers, you want to be choosing a data transfer speed that covers the speed of your internet.
The speed of your Wi-Fi card is a combination of several factors working together, but ultimately all comes down to the demands of your network. A Wi-Fi card that works well for your work colleague might not work as efficiently for you.
That said, any PCIe Wi-Fi card worth its weight will provide adequate speeds for a gamer and their household. As a base figure, gamers should be looking for at least one Gigabit of data throughput. This is more than enough speed to accommodate your gaming/browsing needs. However, for those looking to achieve the highest levels of wireless connectivity, two and three Gigabit Wi-Fi cards are available.
Number & Quality Of Antennas
The antennas that come attached to your Wi-Fi card are probably much more important than you would initially think. Firstly, the antennas are the feature of a Wi-Fi card that transmits and receives the data given out by your wireless router. That makes them hugely important in the greater scheme of things. Whilst the quality of the antenna is extremely important, so are the number of antennas that your Wi-Fi card accommodates.
Each of the antenna on your Wi-Fi card can transmit and receive data. So, having more antenna theoretically means you can receive more data. Furthermore, positioning your antenna in different directions can increase the coverage of your wireless connection.
However, it isn’t all about quantity – we’ve also got to consider quality. The marketplace is a sea of Wi-Fi card options, many of which try to claim your cash by offering ‘bang for your buck’ price tags – achieved by reducing the quality of certain features. That said, if you are serious about wireless gaming, you must factor in the quality of your antennas.
The quality of your antennas will dictate certain characteristics of your Wi-Fi card, including signal strength, signal distance, speed, bandwidth, and overall coverage.
When purchasing a Wi-Fi card, try and discover what antenna the manufacturers have used. If they’re unimpressive stock antennas, you might want to consider replacing that.
Like most PC components, thermals and cooling are some of the most important things to consider when it comes to gaming. If thermals start to increase, you see a rapid decline in the efficiency of that hardware component. The same can most definitely be said for Wi-Fi cards – the main reason why you’ll often see them equipped with fair large heatsinks.
Ultimately, if you want the best Wi-Fi experience, look for an adapter which comes equipped with a fairly good sized heatsink. This will ensure that your Wi-Fi card is running in optimal conditions.
Whilst the size of your Wi-Fi card doesn’t actually have a direct correlation with gaming performance, it can affect you in other ways. For example, if your Wi-Fi card is too large, you might end up blocking other more important hardware components – such as the GPU.
Just keep in mind how much available space you have to play with when purchasing a Wi-Fi card. The last thing you want to be doing is sending stuff back and restarting your search.
The 4 Best PCIe Wi-Fi Cards For Gaming In 2021
Prioritizes data transfer
Large wireless coverage
Does not support Linux
The ASUS PCE-AC56 gets the number one spot for PCIe Wi-Fi card for gaming and it’s easy to see why. The AC56, as we’ll call it, not only provides excellent speeds and overall performance, it also brings a ton of reliability to the table as well.
The ASUS PCE-AC56 offers dual-band operations and supports transfer speeds up to 876Mbps (5GHz) or 400Mbps (2.4GHz). Alongside this, ASUS has equipped it with various modulation technologies, including OFDM, DQPSK, CCK, DBPSK, 64QAM, and 16QAM, all helping to improve the performance whilst allowing for data transfer prioritization.
Thanks to the two external antennae, locating the perfect position from your laptop/PC to your router couldn’t be easier. Pairing this with the wide-range the AC56 supports and you can pretty much put your computer wherever you want.
The easy to install AC56 is compatible with most versions of Windows and adds a certain level of aesthetic appeal to your build. Take all these factors into consideration, alongside the powerful heatsink it comes equipped with, and you have a superb little PCIe Wi-Fi card for your next build.
High quality range
Excellent heatsink for the price point
Doesn’t offer great speeds
If you’re looking for wide coverage, solid signal strength, and an affordable price tag, look no further. The TP-Link AC1300 PCIe Wi-Fi card is a well-balanced mix of all three, bringing the reliability of TP-Link’s name with it.
This particular adapter offers up speeds of 867Mbps in 5GHz range and 400Mbps in 2.4GHz range, putting it bang in line with the top performers in this guide. Speeds of this height are going to be more than enough to play most gaming scenarios, alongside excellent streaming and browsing results too.
Whilst the two external antennas aren’t the best in the world, they do provide adequate range reception for your Wi-Fi – allowing you more freedom when choosing a location to game. The heatsink on the AC1300 is up there with the best in this guide, providing excellent thermal dissipation whilst in use.
This model supports most versions of Windows – including Windows 10. However, that being said, it, unfortunately, does not cover Linux. Overall, it’s still one of the best Wi-Fi cards in today’s market – and a damn good value one too.
Great Bluetooth capabiltiies
Great speeds – 800Mbps
Gigabyte’s GC-WB867D-I Wi-Fi card offers up a combination of high transfer speeds and a lag-free experience, making it a fine choice for gamers of all genres. It is also the only card in this list that comes equipped with a cabled antenna system, giving it a slight edge in the range department.
The WB867D comes equipped with two detachable antennas that connect to the Wi-Fi card via cables. This allows users to re-position the antennas around their gaming space to increase the quality of the Wi-Fi signal. The base of the antenna has also been fitted with a mild magnet to help secure it in place – nice touch.
Users are offered a dual-band frequency with the Gigabyte WB867D, providing around 875Mbps in 5.0GHz range and 433Mbps in 2.4GHz – both of which are ample to support most gaming needs. Furthermore, this Wi-Fi card comes with a BlueTooth 4.2 connection, allowing you to easily connect to compatible devices if you wish.
Overall, when you consider all the factors involved, we consider the Gigabyte WB867D to be fantastic value for money – easily one of our top picks in this category.
Very easy to install
Decent transfer speeds
Did experience some driver issues
If you’re looking for is a fast-performing PCIe Wi-Fi card but don’t have the cash to splash out one of the premium offerings, fear not, Rosewill has you covered. This, their RNX-AC1900PCE, is a superb combination of performance and affordability. It’ll provide you with all the speed you require to run games efficiently, alongside a wide-range and good quality antennae.
As far as speeds go, the AC1900 provides a handsome 1300Mbps on 5GHz range and 600Mbps on 2.4GHz – both extremely good for the price point. The AC1900 comes equipped with three detachable, omnidirectional antennas that are one of the main factors that contribute to its great performance. They make finding a clean, strong, and interrupt-free location for your PC/laptop very easy indeed.
As far as support goes, the AC1900 was extremely easy to install and worked with most Windows-based systems. That being said, there have been documented cases on this Wi-Fi card not working with Windows 10 systems. We, however, encountered no issues what so ever.
Is a PCIe WiFi card worth it?
Yes, when it comes to choosing Wi-Fi for your gaming PC, a PCIe Wi-Fi is certainly one of the best options you can choose. It connects directly to the motherboard, and given this, it tends to provide particularly great and fast speeds.
While it does provide a good connection and speed overall, if you need to connect this yourself, and you have no real experience with where it needs to go and how to open the PC case for example, this may not be the best option for you.
However, the power and connection it can supply is fantastic. The majority of PCI Wi-Fi adapters feature two or more antennas to ensure that the connection remains stable.
On the whole, PCIe Wi-Fi tends to be better than USB Wi-Fi, and is the preferred choice in the vast majority of cases.
Are PCIe WiFi cards better than USB?
Yes, PCIe Wi-Fi cards are better than USB for a number of reasons. While they are both good options, Wi-Fi cards do tend to be faster, and more responsive.
Given that PCIe Wi-Fi cards have antennae, they tend to pick up a stronger Wi-Fi signal in comparison to USB. This is something that is important, especially if you are streaming games or playing them online. The last thing you will want is a bad signal.
In addition to being fast and better for connectivity, the PCIe Wi-Fi card connects straight to your motherboard, whereas a USB connects to the USB port. If you have space USB ports, then this will not be a problem for you. However, if you have a limited amount of USB slots, having to use an extra one for your Wi-Fi can potentially be a problem.
The only issue with PCIe Wi-Fi cards is that they are a little trickier to install in comparison to USB ports. If you are looking for the easiest option overall, the USB may be better.
Where do you put PCIe WiFi card?
As we have mentioned in this article, the PCIe Wi-Fi connects to a specific part of the PC. Instead of connecting via a USB port like the USB Wi-Fi, it connects directly to the motherboard. Given this, you will need to open your PC case and locate where it needs to be connected to.
It is fairly easy to locate the connection point, but if you are new to the PC tech world, you may not know where this is. To begin with, turn off your PC and open up the PC case.
You will then need to locate a space PCIe slot on the motherboard itself. The PCIe slots are raised from the motherboard, and are fairly easy to spot. Once you have chosen the slot, you will need to remove the back panel behind the slot in order for the antenna to be placed outside the PC case.
Once you have done this, you will simply need to push the Wi-Fi card into the case, and it will be ready to use.
Can you put a WiFi card in a PCIe x16 slot?
Whether the Wi-Fi card can be placed in a PCIe x16 slot is all dependent on the Wi-Fi card itself. While some are compatible, others are not. Typically, you would use a PCIe x16 slot to connect your GPU to the motherboard. So, if you only have one of these slots, you will want to keep it for your GPU.
Using a x16 slot for this purpose is not really necessary, but it is possible for many Wi-Fi cards.
So, there you have it guys, our comprehensive rundown of the best PCIe Wi-Fi cards for gaming in 2021. We hope this article has shed a little light on a topic that is sometimes overlooked. We’ve tried to break the technology side of things down into easy-to-digest pieces of info that could actually aid you in your next Wi-Fi purchase.
All of these Wi-Fi adapters are great options, and each offers something slightly different, though our top all-rounder is the ASUS PCE AC56. This card comes with great range, solid coverage, and a well-designed heatsink are all factors that make this the best for gaming.
Let us know which Wi-Fi adapter you’re most likely to choose by dropping us a comment in the section below.