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My laptop's wireless card uses the older wireless 802.11n protocol, and I would like to upgrade to the 802.11ac protocol. So, I can either use a new mini PCIe wireless card or use a dual-band wifi dongle.

My question is: Which one is better? Assuming that I won't exceed 100-200mbps max speeds, would a new card or dongle be beneficial. Also, what would have lower latency and range(since some dongle adapters that I saw had powerful antennas)?

Thanks in advance!

closed as primarily opinion-based by Ramhound, PeterH, jww, n8te, surfasb Oct 6 '18 at 2:49

Many good questions generate some degree of opinion based on expert experience, but answers to this question will tend to be almost entirely based on opinions, rather than facts, references, or specific expertise. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • What type of USB ports does the computer have? USB 2 or 3? – Tim_Stewart Oct 3 '18 at 18:43
  • I have both, but would prefer to use the 3.0. – Rohan Oct 3 '18 at 18:49
  • @Rohan With your 100-200 Mb/s speed the USB2 is fast enough. You can get approx. 300 Mb/s on a USB2 dongle. Some even do approx 400 Mb/s on USB2 which is realistically the best you can expect from USB2. (Of course that is considering the dongle doesn't have to share the USB bandwidth with another bandwidth device like a USB stick on the same USB root-hub. All devices on the same root-hub share the bandwidth with is 480 Mb/s maximum, but in practice tops out at about 440 Mb/s considering overhead in protocols.) – Tonny Oct 3 '18 at 18:55
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Although everything Christopher Hostage in the other answer has said is correct I would still go for the USB adapter.
For 2 reasons:

  1. It is quite possible that your laptop will not accept an arbitrary mini-PCIe card. Many laptops have a check in thr Bios to see if the card is supported and they refuse to work with any unsupported card. The only way to find out if this is the case is to try it. Would be a shame to buy a card that won't work.
  2. The internal antenna(s) of your laptop may not work well with 802.11ac. It is quite possible to get worse reception than you already had with the 802.11n card.
    Again: You have to try it to see if this is the case.

A USB dongle wouldn't have either of those problems. Since they cost just about the same and the USB dongles antenna isn't restricted by the laptop housing the USB dongle is, to me, the safer bet.

  • Thanks for answering this question so quickly, and providing me with well-reasoned explanations. I think I'm going to go for the USB dongle since it has better compatibility and is easier to use. – Rohan Oct 3 '18 at 18:55
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My experience is that USB wifi adapters can get loose and disconnect easily. If the mini-PCIe wireless card and antenna are entirely inside the case, then you don't have to worry about jostling them loose.

The USB wifi adapter is limited in the size and number of antennas (1), but the internal card can use multiple antennas the whole length of the device. However, the USB wifi adapter's antenna can be repositioned, while the internal card's antennas built into the laptop bottom and screen are in relatively fixed positions.

There may be speed considerations, but most ISP connections are slower than wifi adapters are capable of.

  • Thanks you so much for the quick response! What you said makes complete sense. But, can you please elaborate on the range aspect. Since I has thinking about using this for the dongle link. – Rohan Oct 3 '18 at 18:45
  • Would this have less range than the internal antennas of the laptop? – Rohan Oct 3 '18 at 18:47
  • Not certain without testing. The multiple antennas on your linked USB dongle are useful in that you can set them 90* apart, and thereby improve reception in multiple directions. – Christopher Hostage Oct 3 '18 at 18:53

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