Are Wi-Fi Cards Better than USBs? Comparison Between PCIe and USB Wi-Fi Adapter

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Connecting your PC to the internet is easy enough but it’s natural to get confused about choosing the right Wi-Fi adapter. There’s the PCIe Wi-Fi adapter which provides more power, and then there’s the USB Wi-Fi adapter which provides more convenience overpower.

So, are PCIe Wi-Fi cards better than USB Wi-Fi adapters? Yes, it might not be as convenient as USB adapters but it makes up for it with its performance.

Here in this article, we’ll go into more detail about PCIe and USB Wi-Fi adapters and why one is better than the other, so you can make the right decision when buying a Wi-Fi adapter.

Are Wi-Fi Cards Better than USBs

What Are PCIe and USB Wi-Fi Adapters?

Before making a decision, you need to understand these two components first. So, a PCIe Wi-Fi adapter, aka Wi-Fi card, goes into the PCIe slot of the motherboard of your PC. The PCIe slot is also used for GPU. This Wi-Fi card has a Wi-Fi network chip attached to it that allows it to connect to the internet by communication with your Wi-Fi router.

On the other hand, a USB Wi-Fi adapter is an external device that you can connect to your PC through the USB port. It also has a Wi-Fi network chip inside it but it’s much smaller compared to the PCIe Wi-Fi adapter.

What Differences Make PCIe Wi-Fi Card Better than USB Wi-Fi Adapter?

If you’re using both adapters on different PCs under the same network, you might not see that much of a difference but there’s more difference between them than you think. Here are some that you might not have noticed:

FeaturesPCIe Wi-Fi AdapterUSB Wi-Fi Adapter
AppearanceLargeSmall, Medium
Ease of UseDifficult, Non-portableEasy, Portable
LatencyLess LatencyMore Latency

This is the TL: DR version of the key differences. And now we’ll elaborate on these aspects in more detail.

1. Appearance

Compared to the USB adapter, PCIe adapters are quite large. It is also shaped like a card, hence the alternative name Wi-Fi card. USB adapters are smaller and can be in different shapes. Some have antennas attached to them and some are shaped like a thumb only.

2. Ease of Use

As stated before, PCIe adapters go into the PCIe slot of your motherboard. This makes it an internal component that can be hard to install for those without the proper technical proficiency. It is also not a portable component which instantly makes it inconvenient for those with more than one desktop.

However, USB adapters are portable and very easy to use. Just plug it into a USB port and start using the internet.

3. Performance

Now, the PCIe adapter will beat the USB adapter whenever it comes to performance. PCIe is a high-performing adapter that can connect to your Wi-Fi router from the farthest distance the router network can reach and still not drop any bandwidth.

Yes, it is that powerful. But the performance of the USB adapter depends a lot on the distance it is placed from the router. And this can cause issues when using the internet.

4. Latency

PCIe adapter has very low latency and ping issues. But the latency in the USB adapter is high because it depends on the distance from the Wi-Fi router.

5. Price

Because of how powerful PCIe Wi-Fi Cards are, they tend to be more expensive than USB adapters.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Is a USB Wi-Fi adapter good for gaming?

Yes, but not as good as PCIe Wi-Fi cards. USB adapters tend to have more latency and ping issues which can be annoying while gaming online.

Is a Wi-Fi card faster than USB Wi-Fi?

If the USB adapter has a direct line of sight with the Wi-Fi router, then it might match the speed of a PCIe adapter. But even then, most PCIe Wi-Fi adapters are 5-15% faster than a USB adapter.


Having a good internet connection won’t save you if you do not choose the right adapter when building a PC. Both a PCIe Wi-Fi card and USB adapter will be great for you but yes, your wallet is a big factor as well. But now you know which will be better for you in the long run. We hope we were able to provide you with enough knowledge about Wi-Fi cards and USB Wi-Fi adapters. If you need further assistance, please do not hesitate to contact us in the comment section.

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