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When comparing Wi-Fi cards, which properties should I compare?

Is it always the rule that the 2000mW card is better than the 1000mW card? Or should I also consider something else?

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up vote 3 down vote accepted

When comparing Wi-Fi cards, which properties should I compare?

  • What host interface do you need (PCi, PCI-E, USB)? (USB devices are called "adapters" not "cards". "Card" refers to an assembled printed circuit board, PCB, without an enclousure/case.)
  • What 802.11 standards are you trying to connect to (a, b, g, n)?
  • Do you need/want dual band (5GHz as well as 2.4GHz)?
  • Do you want the convenience and limitation of a built-in/fixed antenna, or do you need a detachable antenna?
  • Do you need Linux, Mac or other non-Windows OS drivers?

If you're enamored with numerical specs, then you're out of luck with wireless adapters. Manufacturers do not provide performance specs; it's hard enough to find out which chipset is used. Sometimes it seems as if the "manufacturer" is just building a version of the chip's reference design, and any technical information you might want is locked up by the chip manufacturer using NDAs, nondisclosure agreements.

Is it always the rule that the 2000mW card is better than the 1000mW card?

There is no rule that more power is always better. That used to be almost true for cars, but then gas was no longer cheap (< dollar a gallon) and fuel efficiency became a consideration. For WiFi there is no axiom that more power will always get you more range and/or faster speed. RF propagation is an inexact science, and dogmatic rules are just guidelines at best. Location specifics and antenna type & orientation are just as important.

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Thank you for your answer :) I am referring to USB adapters ;) I'm just wandering what I should buy ? I'm considering some Alfa and WiFiSky models, but don't know which is the best. I don't need 802.11n capabilities, but it could come "as bonus". I don't need dual band, and need detachable antenna. Can you recommend me something ? – xx77aBs Sep 10 '11 at 16:44
@xx77aBs - Sorry, I'm unable to offer any recommendations. You might look for professional and user reviews. Negative user reviews tend to be worthless because you don't know if the user configured the device improperly, and there's rarely mention of an alternate device that did work in that particular environment (to prove that the first device was really faulty/inferior). – sawdust Sep 12 '11 at 0:57
Ok, no problem :) Thanks for reviews suggestion, I'll read them :) – xx77aBs Sep 12 '11 at 13:20

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