Best Laptop Wi-Fi Cards in 2020

No matter the brand or model, we all buy laptops for the same reason — mobility. So it can get pretty frustrating when your WiFi Card conks out, and you’re left tied to the Ethernet. Luckily, there are tons of M.2 WiFi modules available online, including 802.11ax Wi-Fi 6 that can easily solve your problem.

The obvious solution would be to purchase a USB WiFi dongle, right? Well, they’re cheap and relatively easy to set up — but they are also bulky and annoying to bring around. Plus, they take up precious USB slots that could be better used for a mouse, tablet, external SSD or a hard drive. So, what’s the most worry-free solution in the long run?

Just replace your laptop Wi-Fi card altogether!

Finding and installing a new Wi-Fi card isn’t as hard as it seems. In fact, the hardest part is choosing the best one out of hundreds of laptop WiFi cards online. Wi-Fi cards vary in many ways, from their frequency bands and QAM levels to their compatibility with certain systems. While comparison tools exist online, you’ll still have to sift through dozens of reviews to find a good one.

Interested in 802.11AX? Read more: Best WiFi 6 Routers in 2020

Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 – Best Wi-Fi 6 Card for Gaming

Killer Wi-Fi 6 AX1650 with Bluetooth 5.0
  • M.2 Slot A/E Key
  • Intel based system
  • Bluetooth 5.1
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)

Gamers, here’s one for you. This AX Wi-Fi card is built for gaming with its Advanced Stream Detect 2.0 technology. This allows the card to identify, sort, and prioritize gaming traffic. Meanwhile, its GameFast technology halts processes that are not related to gaming. This gives you 10 percent more CPU cycles and 20 percent of memory.

The Killer AX1650 also provides great connectivity. With a Wi-Fi 6 router, this card can get three times more throughput than earlier 80MHz 2×2 AC devices. It’s also got up to 4 times more network capacity in dense environments. This adapter also comes with Bluetooth 5.1.

Note: This is an M2 Wi-Fi card and can be installed in a laptop with an M.2 slot (Key A or E socket). This Wi-Fi adapter is only compatible with Intel-based systems that use Windows 10 as well.

NETELY’s Intel AX200 – Best Wi-Fi 6 Adapter for Most Laptop

NETELY Wi-Fi 6 AX200 NGW
  • M.2 Slot A/E Key
  • Intel based system
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 64-bit OS – Windows, Chrome, Linux

Intel AX200 is the first WiFi 6 adapter, which released in the first quarter of 2019. This AX Wi-Fi card runs on Windows 10 64-bit, Google Chrome OS, and Linux, and has a built-in Bluetooth 5.0. It’s also backward-compatible with 802.11a through ac. For heavy gaming, large file transfers, and ultra-fast streaming, this card delivers.

Note: This Wi-Fi card is compatible with systems running on Windows 10 64-bit, Google Chrome OS, and Linux. Key A or E socket only. This module is also only compatible with Intel processors.

OKN WiFi 6 AX200 – Best M2 WiFi Card

Intel AX200NGW M.2 Wi-Fi 6 Card for Laptop
  • M.2 2230 Slot A/E Key
  • Intel & AMD CPU
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 64-bit OS – Windows & Linux

Reliability and consistency are two qualities you’ll be happy to find in OKN’s AX200 Wi-Fi 6 adapter. According to OKN, this card has “low latency” and a reliable connection. It’s compatible with all WiFi routers and is capable of running games, HD Video streaming, and downloads smoothly. Installation is also fairly easy with this card, which can be set up in 15 minutes or less.

Another great thing about this adapter? It’s faster and so much more efficient than previous versions and has a 40% power saving capacity.

Note: This WiFi card is compatible with systems running on Windows 10 64-bit. Key A or E socket only. This adapter is also only compatible with Intel processors.

OIU Wi-Fi 6 Module AX200 – Best Budget NGW Laptop WiFi Card

Intel AX200NGW M.2 Wi-Fi 6 Card for Laptop
  • M.2 Socket A/E Key
  • Intel CPU Ony
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 64-bit Windows 10

Here’s another stable and reliable Wi-Fi adapter for you. OIU’s WiFi 6 card module experiences virtually no signal drop-outs and disconnections and performs at lightning-fast speeds. On top of that, you can enjoy super-fast gaming and fuss-free installation with this adapter. While this M.2 module comes with Bluetooth 5.0, unfortunately, some have found it less reliable.

Note: This WiFi card is compatible with systems running on Windows 10 64-bit. Key A or E socket only. This adapter is also only compatible with Intel processors.

Intel Wireless-AC 9560 – Best Dual Band WiFi Card

Intel Wireless AC 9560 with Bluetooth 5
  • M.2:CNVio Socket Key E
  • Intel CPU Only
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)

This AC Wireless Card is cheaper than the Wi-Fi 6 cards on this list. Performance-wise, though, there isn’t that big a difference. Compared to earlier 802.11ac cards, this one allows faster downloads and generally faster internet speed. Thus, Intel’s Wireless-AC 9260 Wi-Fi card for laptops is a bang-for-your-buck buy. It’s perfect for those who aren’t quite ready to make the switch to Next-Gen WiFi 6.

Note: This Wi-Fi adapter is compatible with systems running on Windows 10 64-bit. Key A or E socket only.

Intel Wireless-AC 9260 NGW – Best Dual-Band Laptop WiFi Card

Intel Wireless AC 9260 Dual Band WiFi Card with Bluetooth 5.0
  • M.2 2230 Socket Key A/E
  • Intel CPU 8th-Gen or later
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • Windows 10 (64-bit)

Intel Wireless-AC 9260 is a WiFi 5 card that has a low power consumption. This lets you stay online for longer periods. It also has minimal to no dropouts and DNS errors throughout the day. Even several rooms away from the wireless router, you can expect a sustained connection! That’s uninterrupted internet usage all day, every day, wherever you go.

Note: This WiFi adapter is compatible with systems running on Windows 10 64-bit, Google Chrome OS, and Linux. Key A or E socket only. This card is also only compatible with Intel processors.

Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 8265NGW – WiFi Module for Older Laptops

Intel Wireless AC 9260 NGW with Bluetooth 4.2
  • M.2 2230 Slot Key A/E
  • Intel Processor Only
  • Bluetooth 4.2
  • 32/64-bit Windows 7 or later

Intel Wireless-AC 8265 is a 4th Generation 802.11ac or WiFi 5 card. It delivers up to 867 Mbps — that’s three times faster Wi-Fi speeds than WiFi 4 cards. The adapter enables smoother video streaming, a decrease in drop-outs, and fast speeds despite being far from your router. This Windows 10, 8.1, 8, and 7 32/64-bit-compatible adapter is great for folks with older laptop units.

Note: This Wi-Fi card is compatible with systems running on Windows 10 64-bit, Google Chrome OS, and Linux. Key A or E socket only.


Buyers Guide

Here are a few things to consider when looking considering WiFi adapter for laptops:

Laptop Upgradability

Before even considering replacing your Wi-Fi card, ensure that your laptop can be upgraded in the first place. Some laptops are harder to open up and modify than others. Make sure your laptop doesn’t have a BIOS “whitelist,” either. The whitelist restricts you from replacing your WiFi card that isn’t authorized by the manufacturer. Usually, these laptops only accept the same brand of Wi-Fi adapter as your old one.

Compatibility

Check if your laptop is compatible with the kind of card you want to get. It can be tempting to go for the newest laptop wireless adapter — the WiFi 6 card. But if you’re using an old unit, it may not accept the latest module. Usually, laptops running on 64-bit Intel processors are safe. Meanwhile, AMD systems are a little more unpredictable.

Size

Laptop Wi-Fi cards come in different sizes, as do the card slots on your devices. Make sure you have the correct measurements before making the purchase. The WiFi 6 adapter is a 2230 M.2 card, which is 33 mm long and 22 mm wide. Most laptops released in recent years have that M.2 WiFi card slot. So if your laptop is fairly new, you’re most likely in the clear.

Bluetooth

Don’t make the mistake of getting a laptop WiFi adapter that doesn’t come with Bluetooth. Though most M.2 Wi-Fi cards on the market usually come with Bluetooth, it doesn’t hurt to check. Bluetooth is important because it lets you connect devices like your phone or speaker without a physical connector. It’s also important to check on the version of Bluetooth found on your potential Wi-Fi card. Keep in mind, Bluetooth 5.2 is the latest version, which has Enhanced Attribute Protocol, LE Power Control, and LE Isochronous Channels.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between a WiFi 5 and a WiFi 6 card?

WiFi 6 is, as its name suggests, the sixth generation of Wi-Fi. The WiFi 6 name corresponds to the 802.11ax card. Meanwhile, WiFi 5 corresponds to the 802.11ac card. There are some key differences in the two, particularly in their frequency bands, max data rate, and QAM level. Unlike Wi-Fi 5, which covers the only 5GHz, Wi-Fi 6 covers high and low speeds with 2.4 and 5 GHz. And with 1024 QAM, AX WiFi can reach up to 9.6 Gbps. That’s more than double the rate of AC WiFi.

Can I use my Desktop PC Card for my Laptop and vice versa?

No, because you won’t find a compatible slot. Wi-Fi card slots differ in size and shape in desktop computers and laptops. If you want to use a laptop WiFi card for a desktop PC, you’ll need to find a mini PCI to PCI or mini PCI-e to PCI-e adapter. Make sure these come with antennae too.

How do I identify my laptop’s current Wi-Fi card?

Option 1

  1. Open up Device Manager and go to Network adapters.
  2. Expand the Network adapters list to view all networking devices.
  3. Here, you can look for your Wi-Fi card.

Option 2

  1. Go to your Control Panel and click Network and Sharing Center.
  2. Go to Manage Network Connections and locate your WiFi connection on the list.
  3. Right-click on your connection and choose status and the details.

How do I know when I need to replace my Wi-Fi Card?

There are two surefire signs that your WiFi card is on the fritz and in need of replacing. First, an unstable network connection could be an indicator that there’s something wrong with your Wi-Fi card. This is especially true if you can connect to your router easily with other devices. Next, you can look for your wireless adapter in your Device Manager. If it’s not there, it means your laptop is not reading your wireless module. This could be the result of having the wrong or corrupted driver or a defective adapter.

How do I replace my laptop’s WiFi card?

Here’s a step-by-step guide on replacing a laptop Wi-Fi card:

  1. Remove Battery

    Make sure your charger isn’t plugged in and remove your laptop’s battery if you can.

  2. Disconnect Antennas

    Disconnect the antennas from your old adapter. Usually, there is a black antenna and a white antenna. You’ll need to remember which one goes where otherwise your new adapter won’t work.

  3. Remove Older WiFi Card

    Remove the old Wi-Fi module from its dock. You’ll need a small screwdriver for this, as most cards are kept in place with two screws. The adapter will then pop out.

  4. Install New WiFi Module

    Place the new module onto the slot, carefully aligning the contacts.

  5. Screw it and Connect Antennas

    Screw it in place, reconnect the antennas, and put your battery and laptop cover back.

  6. Install or Update Driver

    Using the correct driver, install your WiFi card, and enjoy surfing the web!

I’ve installed a new WiFi card and made sure everything is up to date. Why is my connection still so slow?

If you’re certain you’ve purchased the latest WiFi card and have gone through the correct installation procedure, perhaps the problem is with your WiFi router! If you’re using an old router, you’ll need to try a few easy hacks.

First, place your router in the center of your home, ensuring there aren’t many walls and doors obstructing it. Next, make sure your Wi-Fi router isn’t on the floor because routers broadcast waves slightly downwards. This helps you utilize the signal as much as possible. Third, keep the router away from other electronics that could interfere with the signal. Lastly, if your modem/router has two antennas, place one in a vertical position and another in a horizontal position. It’s easier to secure a stable connection when your device’s internal antenna is parallel to your router’s external one.

If you’ve done all these router hacks, you can also try to declutter your laptop. Delete unnecessary files and unused software that could be slowing your computer down.


Final Verdict

Speed, reliability, and consistency — these are three qualities to look out for when canvassing for a new laptop Wi-Fi card. And if that means shelling out a bit of extra cash, we’d say go for it anyway. WiFi cards for Laptops are built to last, so it’s best to get one that will provide you with lightning-fast internet and a stable and consistent connection. It’ll save you time and money in the long run!

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Richard is a 27-year-old Tech enthusiast working as a Editor-in-Chief for LookGadgets. He is passionate about new Technology and a die-hard fan of Microsoft Surface.

2 thoughts on “Best Laptop Wi-Fi Cards in 2020”

  1. If you still have working (but slow) wifi, a good first step is often to download the latest driver for your NEW wifi card (while you still have internet access).

    Reply
  2. This is a very informative review.
    I have an Intel ac 7260 in my Asus laptop, Windows 10. It keeps disconnecting.
    Tried all sort of trouble shooting, power management settings, wakeup settings ac/n, 2.4 and 5.8 etc.
    Also, tried downloading and reinstalling the Intel drivers

    Still it keeps disconnecting and always I need to restart the system. Sometimes troubleshooting works.

    Thank You

    Reply

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