3 reasons your wireless adapter's performance isn't great

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Judit Llordes
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3 reasons your wireless adapter's performance isn't great

Here are the possible explanations

A wireless adapter (also called a "dongle"), in the form of a USB stick, is a device that provides Wi-Fi functionality to another that does not, such as a PC without a network card.





Dongles are useful and convenient because they can be moved between one device and another, and take up little space. Sometimes, however, you can have problems, in particular the slowness of the wireless that does not prove to be up to the speed of the tariff plan that we have subscribed to.

Why is your Wifi adapter slow? For three reasons:

1) Wireless interference

Wi-Fi devices communicate using two bands: 2.4 GHz, older and slower, but supported by most devices, and 5 GHz, newer and faster but smaller in range, and only supported by devices manufactured in recent years.

While modern wireless dongles tend to support both bands, 5 GHz can only be exploited if the router also broadcasts on the same band. Better, therefore, to have a dual-band router.

The downside of the 2.4 GHz band is that it is extremely narrow. In the United States, for example, there are only 11 channels, and the frequency of each channel tends to overlap with those of neighboring channels. This means that the only channels that don't overlap are 1, 6, and 11.

Overlapping channels are detrimental to communications because wireless data waves can interfere with each other, causing packets to be lost and must be sent again. This process takes time, and causes an obvious slowdown in the transmission speed.

And if you live in an area, or building, with dozens of devices trying to transmit data over Wi-Fi, it's even worse, a 2.4 GHz wireless dongle can't work as it ideally should.


If really the only choice is to use this frequency, at least make sure you use N mode, instead of "legacy" or "mixed". The ideal solution is to switch to 5 GHz (and consequently upgrade the router as well. Fortunately, this band has 23 channels that do not overlap, and many devices still do not support it, which is why interference is minimal.



2) Internal antenna

Adapters are sold with internal and external antenna. The former are the best sellers because they are extremely compact, but the performances are not exceptional: generally those with external antenna would be preferred (if you tolerate the aesthetics).

3) Hardware bottlenecks

Pay attention to the specifications of the adapter: if you find written 600 MBps it is very likely that it will not be able to actually reach that speed. It is more likely, however, that it can deliver 150 MBps on 2.4 GHz and 450 MBps on 5 GHz, for a total of 600 MBps when both bands are used. Be sure to purchase an adapter that supports the connection speed provided by your Internet provider on the bandwidth you intend to use.

Also pay attention to the USB port to which you connect it: the old USB 2.0 ports have a theoretical speed of 480 MBps, limited for various reasons to 320 MBps. If you want to get the maximum speed plug it into a USB 3.0 port, which has a (theoretical) maximum speed of 5 GBps (faster than any fiber connection available today ...).


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