If you can't run a network cable from your router to your PC, or your laptop's Wi-Fi is on the blink, then a USB Wi-Fi adaptor is the way to go. We’ve gathered together some of the best ones currently available, so you can get online in no time at all.
For more ways to improve the browsing performance of a PC, read our How to upgrade a laptop’s Wi-Fi guide.
As well the wealth of features that Asus has packed into the sleek frame of the AC68 adapter, there’s also the added bonus feeling of being a secret agent on some covert mission thanks to the folding antenna design.
Plug the device into your PC then carefully open up the twin red-antenna arms, or sit the adapter in the included desktop cradle, and it seems like you’re about to send highly classified information back to Control.
Teenage fantasies aside, the AC68 is a highly-rated adapter that can bring your humble old Wi-Fi card up to the AC1900 network standard. It has dual-band support for 2.4GHz @ 600Mb/s and 5GHz @ 1300Mb/s, 3x4 MIMO, and Asus’ own AiRadar beamforming technology to ensure a strong and stable connection to the network. USB 3.0 also adds to the speed, with fast, local data transfer rates.
It’s a little bigger than some of its rivals, mainly when the antennas are deployed, but at 100 x 30 x 20mm the AC68 is still small enough to put in your pocket.
TP-Link Archer T9UH
Another popular Wi-Fi dongle that features a fold-out design is the Archer T9UH from TP-Link.
Unlike the multi-appendage approach of the Asus AC68, this has a hinged edge to the body that opens up to make it nearly twice as tall. Inside the unit are dual-band antennas (2.4GHz @ 600Mb/s and 5GHz @ 1300Mb/s) with 802.11 AC1900 support.
As is standard now with higher-end adapters, TP-Link includes beamforming capabilities which delivers consistent performance, ideal for streaming HD and 4K media content, and USB 3.0 technology.
The T9UH also comes with a dock that allows it to be connected to a standard PC or laptop. The 3m cable means you can position the adapter in a range of places if Wi-Fi connectivity is spotty in your location.
Foktech WiFi dongle
Price: £12.99 on Amazon UK
Now, you might think we’ve included this one just because of its hilarious name, but that’s only partly true. If you’re looking for a small, unobtrusive way to add basic WiFi to your laptop, then the Foktech is a fine candidate.
It supports 802.11ac with twin bands of 2.4GHz @ 150Mb/s and 5GHz @ 433Mb/s, and runs over USB 2.0. So it isn't the absolute fastest, but for getting online, doing some shopping, keeping up with social media, and streaming content up to HD quality it will be fine.
The cost is a major selling point, as is the compact design that makes the dongle essentially about half the size of a standard USB memory stick.
Sticking with the small form adaptors, Netgear is a name synonymous with Wi-Fi routers and networking.
This diminutive construction houses dual antennas that operate at 2.4GHz (150Mb/s) and 5GHz (433Mb/s) with support for 802.11 a/b/g/n and ac routers. Data transfer is a little slower than some of its rivals due to the choice of USB 2.0 rather than USB 3.0, but the inclusion of Beamforming+ gives the A6100 the power to keep solid connections in challenging environments.
We wouldn’t necessarily recommend any Wi-Fi adapter for gaming as it doesn’t deliver the kind of latency you might want for time-critical adventures, but HD videos are easily coped with, and for general internet duties the Netgear A6100 is a solid choice.
TP-Link Archer T4UH AC1200
Price: £25.67 on Amazon UK
Finally, sitting squarely in terms of price and performance between the high-speed dongles and the mini offerings is the T4UH. This is a little different from the others in this roundup because it doesn’t plug directly into your PC, but instead attaches via a USB cable.
The reason for this is the larger body that’s home to twin adjustable antenna and a bevy of respectable components. As the latter part of the name suggests, this tops out at 802.11ac @1200Mb/s, split across the 2.4GHz (300Mb/s) and 5GHz (867Mb/s) frequencies, while there’s also legacy support for 802.11 a/b/g/n networks.
This isn't ideal if you want a discreet dongle for a laptop, but it makes a lot of sense for a PC that's under a desk. USB 3.0 makes data transfer much faster than that of USB 2.0 adapters, and if you can deal with having what looks like a badly mutilated robot corpse on your desk.