January 2023 Ian Chiu
When you need to quick and easy way to upgrade your laptop and desktop to the latest wireless and wired network standards, nothing beats the convenience of a USB adapter. Wi-Fi 6/E and 2.5GbE options are available with some shipping in a small, pocketable dongle. And since virtually every USB port supports at least 5Gbps, bandwidth bottleneck has become a thing of the past even with the network adapters going full throttle. Last but not least, you will find Realtek chipset in almost all of these adapters listed below as the company traditionally has been the dominant force in this market sector.
D-link DWA-X1850 is one of the first dual-band USB Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax) adapters. Being a 2×2 device, the D-link can reach a top speed of 1200Mbps theoretically on 5Ghz waveband and 574Mbps on 2.4Ghz. This suggests the adapter is capped at 80Mhz channel width.
Opening up 6Ghz band for unlicensed use by FCC in the States and its equivalents worldwide has also put Wi-Fi 6E on the fast track. If you have a compatible router, the Nighthawk AXE3000 is the right dongle on the receiving end.
NETGEAR Wi-Fi 6E USB adapter – the first of its kind- is a tri-band device that takes advantage of the relatively unused 6Ghz wireless spectrum. Maximum performance to be around 1200Mbps even on 6Ghz since the NETGEAR – like the D-link – also lacks 160Mhz data channel support. Having said that, those who already run a heavily congested Wi-Fi network should find AXE3000 works better as it has a lot more channels to avoid overlapping with other clients on the same network.
Whereas the previous two Wi-Fi adapters feature internal antenna, TP-Link Archer TX20U Plus features external dual-band 5dbi high gain antennas. Being able to adjust the antenna depending on the environment makes a world of difference. It’s crucial if you choose to go with 5Ghz when you need all the signal strength to maintain a strong connection with your Wi-Fi 6 router through walls and floors. Oddly, the adapter’s driver that comes pre-loaded on Archer TX20U Plus is flagged by some malware scanners. It’s probably best to download the latest one from TP-Link instead.
Plugable USBC-E2500 is a compact adapter with an RJ45 connector on one end and a short USB-C cable tethered to the opposite end. Powered by Realtek RTL8156B, the USBC-E2500 goes beyond Gigabit performance to deliver 2.5Gbps with ubiquitous Cat 5E cabling. The adapter comes with a built-in driver that works with major OSes including iPadOS and ChromeOS. For additional performance boost and compatibility, Plugable provides updated drivers on its website.
Belkin USB-C to Ethernet with Charge Adapter is another option. This one delivers Ethernet speed up to a gigabit and includes a USB-C jack as power pass-through that delivers up to 60W for the host. Normally, most users wouldn’t need the power pass-through except on an Apple iPad or an Android tablet in which case there’s only a single USB-C onboard. For handheld PC gamers, the adapter will also charge Steam Deck at full speed while you enjoy lag-free competitive gaming over wired Ethernet.
Touted as a gamer’s 5G dongle, the Predator Connect D5 has various means to improve network performance during esports games. First and foremost, Acer partners with WTFast to allow the dongle’s “gaming traffic” to be routed through a special VPN (or GPN as WTFast would call it) to minimize latency. When that time-limited trial ends, there’s still ExtremeRoute utility that automatically gives priority to traffic associated with online games.
Cable Matters makes such a cable. It has USB-C on one end and good old USB-A on the opposite end for your older computer. As the 2m transfer cable is designed for last-generation USB ports, the maximum speed is limited to 5Gbps for compatibility purposes.
For cross-platform data exchange, the Cable Matters’ bundled PClinq 5 comes into play. It supports drag-and-drop file transfers between any compatible OS – Mac and Windows. Also included is Bravura’s Easy Computer Sync which further allows remote control of another PC connected via the bridge cable. Additionally, the Cable Matters is compatible with PCMover if you need a smooth transition of your user settings along with applications.
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