USB WiFi vs PCI & The Differences

USB WiFi vs PCI & The Differences

There is an argument to be made for both USB WiFi and PCI wireless cards and both have their own merits. Hardcore gamers prefer PCI, as it offers more stability and better speeds. USB, on the other hand, offers portability and decent speeds out of the newer 3.0 USB offerings. The choice is ultimately yours and depends on your unique requirements.

Our Top WiFi Adapters

Best PCI Wireless Card

So you have decided on the PCI wireless card as your adapter of choice. Now you need to decide which one is the best to purchase. There are a few things you need to consider when making this decision. Although it can seem a little daunting at first, you can get to grips with them quite easily once you understand what it is you need to look out for in a PCI wireless card. We will try to give you some insight as to what you should look out for when deciding which one is the best for your needs.

The first thing you need to consider when deciding on which PCI wireless card you want is its size. These cards will fit into expansion slots and you need a card that will fit your setup. As a general rule of thumb, the card must be smaller than or equal to your available slots. PCI 1 cards will fit into slots that are smaller than they are if the slots are open-ended. The different card sizes are listed below for your reference.

PCI-E 1: 25mm (18 pins)
PCI-E 4: 39mm (39 pins)
PCI-E 8: 56mm (49 pins)
PCI-E 16: 89mm (82 pins)

The next major consideration is what your motherboard can handle. Getting the best PCI card with high speeds will be no good to you if you are throttled by the limitations of your motherboard. This can lead to frustration on your part when you find that your speeds are not what you expected to get.

PCI wireless cards are installed directly onto your motherboard and when they work overtime, as they do when gaming, then they tend to get hot. Having one that comes with a heatsink will improve its performance and help keep both the card and your motherboard cool. A heatsink will ensure that your network remains stable even in hot environments.

You should also consider the PCI wireless cards that offer an external antenna, which will not only enhance your reception but will also offer you greater speeds and more stability. The ASUS 4×4 AC3100 is one such wireless network card and is one of the best on the market in 2022.

Read our review on this great PCI adapter in our list of the best WiFi adapters for gaming. Ultimately, the best PCI card for you will be completely dependent on your needs and the equipment you currently use. We hope that this article helps you to understand more thoroughly what you should be looking for and makes your decision a little easier.

PCI Wireless Adapter

A PCI wireless adapter is a network card that helps your router communicate better with your motherboard. The quality of the communication between these two components is what determines not only the stability of your network but also its speed and reliability. A PCI or Peripheral Component Interconnect Express will be installed directly onto your motherboard using an expansion port.

The size of your available ports will determine which PCI card you should consider purchasing. The speeds you can achieve with a PCI wireless adapter are dependent on the speeds your motherboard can handle. These cards also benefit from a heatsink which keeps them cool during heavy usage such as gaming.

External antennae also help with getting the best performance out of your PCI wireless adapter and some – like the ASUS 4×4 AC3100 – offer external antennae as well as extension cables to ensure you can place them in an area that will offer optimum signal. A lot of gamers prefer these adapters for their stability, reliability, and speed. They usually offer faster speeds and are not prone to interference like their USB counterparts.

Best USB Wireless Adapter

The best USB wireless adapters on the market will offer features that will enhance the stability, reliability, and speed of your wireless network. These adapters are great for those who like to travel due to their small form factor. They are also the best option for people who use multiple PCs or gaming laptops. When considering which USB wireless adapter is best for you, there are a number of factors to consider.

The WiFi standard that your USB adapter supports should be one of these considerations. The 802.11ac standard is the best, and getting a USB adapter that is capable of supporting this standard is preferable – see our review of the top USB wireless adapters for gaming. Beamforming will focus your data stream from your gaming router to your adapter. USB 3.0 will also offer you up to 10x better speeds than USB 2.0.

External antennas are always preferable to internal antennae. Larger and more flexible antennae will increase not only your signal strength but also your stability and speed. The best USB wireless adapter will ultimately come down to personal choice and will depend on your own hardware and requirements.

Wireless adapter for Desktop

Both USB and PCI cards will work well for your desktop, but PCI will ultimately give you greater speeds and a more stable, reliable signal. As such, the right one for you will come down to personal choice. Many people will go for the USB connector for convenience as they are plug-and-play, and PCI cards require you to install them into your PC by attaching them to your motherboard.

If you alternate between your desktop laptop or if you like to travel, then using a USB adapter would likely suit your needs better. If you are a hardcore gamer and only use a desktop PC, then a PCI wireless adapter would be the one you would look at getting.


There will be those who prefer using PCI wireless adapters and those that opt for USB, but ultimately, the best type of wireless adapter will be the one that you are most comfortable with. USB is convenient and easy to use. PCI requires manual installation and although great on desktops, they are not the most convenient if you travel regularly or use more than one PC. Once again, the choice will ultimately be down to your needs adn preferences.

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