Gigabit Wireless Adapters
Gigabit Wireless Adapters
As of now, there aren’t any wireless adapters than can guarantee a Gigabit of throughput to your computer. In fact, many computers can’t even process information as fast as our connection can provide! The focus here is to get as much performance from your wireless connection as possible, while retaining the convenience that WiFi offers. The best way of selecting the right device for your needs is to break down the technical information available for your adapter specifically. For the purposes of this guide we'll be addressing wireless standards, antennas and streams, and dual band capabilities.
WiFi has undergone many revisions, from 802.11a way back in 1999, to the more common 802.11n, and in recent years the introduction of 802.11ac. Each revision has improved upon the last, and the best option currently to maximize your speed is to use a recent 802.11ac adapter. Altogether, there are 5 wireless standards: A, B, G, N, and AC. The wireless-N and wireless-AC standards are the two currently in use, with N being more common, and AC being the most speedy. Advertised speeds for wireless adapters will typically differ vastly from the actual speeds you'll see in real world applications as those speeds are achieved in an ideal laboratory setting. As a rule of thumb all standards will lose a portion of the theoretical max speeds, but the real world throughput will be in proportion to the max so choosing a newer standard will almost certainly deliver better speeds. For the sake of illustration the wireless-N standard can deliver a theoretical maximum speed of 150 Mbps per spatial stream (essentially per receiving antenna on the adapter) but in reality will deliver closer to about 40 Mbps of speed per stream, and the wireless-AC standard can deliver a theoretical maximum of about 433 Mbps per spatial stream but will likely only deliver about 70-100 Mbps per stream.
Antennas and Streams
In checking the specs of your existing adapter or shopping for a new one you may come across the term 2x2 MIMO, 3x3 MIMO, 4x4 MIMO, etc. This stands for multiple-input multiple-output, and is referring to the number of antennas the adapter contains which can act as both receivers and transmitters. If you are using a router which contains multiple antennas and can handle multiple streams this will almost always interpret into better speeds if you are also using a wireless adapter which can receive/transmit multiple streams at a time. Should you be in the market for a new adapter remember that extra antennas in a wireless adapter will not likely yield improved performance if they exceed the number of antennas and spatial streams that your router can support. Our own rental modem/router (Pace 5268AC), for example, uses 4x4 MU-MIMO wireless technology, so to ensure the best possible performance you'd want a wireless adapter that also employs 4x4 MIMO wireless technology.
Dual Band Capabilities
Dual band means that the adapter can communicate on multiple frequencies, depending on your needs. The equipment that we provide, for example, broadcasts on both the 2.4Ghz and 5Ghz frequencies, with 2.4Ghz being used specifically for wireless-N, and 5Ghz for the wireless-AC standard. The 5Ghz spectrum allows for much faster speeds, and also avoids congestion present on the 2.4Ghz spectrum (more information on when to choose one vs the other can be found in this article). In short, you'll generally want to connect to the 2.4Ghz band when further than roughly 50 ft from the router (and especially if there are walls between your device and the router), and the 5Ghz band will be preferable within the 50 ft. range and with direct line-of-sight to achieve the best possible speeds.
In the even that speeds are far below what you would expect for the bandwidth your connection delivers, and the capabilities of your wireless adapter and router, please check out our Wifi Troubleshooting article.