Don’s Picks: Six Wi-Fi adapters that get the job done

Acer Aspire One 722 Wireless Card

Upgrade your wi-fi

They say the number one killer with laptops is heat.  I tend to say it’s humans, since pretty much everything is preventable, but no one wants to feel like they destroyed their laptop, so we’ll go back to saying heat is the killer.  They overheat easily; especially the higher powered ones built for gaming and hardcore computing.  It’s a hazard to your lap and to your internal hardware.  One of the quickest things to die off is your internal Wi-Fi adapter.  These delicate little fellows seem to bite the dust almost as quickly as laptop RAM does.  Your internal components expand and restrict with the amount of heat that builds up inside the tiny space that is in most cases, causing parts to die.  So what do you do when your internal adapter kicks off for good?

Many tech-savvy users are more than willing to take their laptops apart and replace the card.  I’ve done it on mine.  Like many others, my laptop’s card is right under the keyboard, which I also replaced while I was at it.  You gotta multitask, people.  But the thing is, my card was easy to replace.  That’s not the case for a lot of people.  And even when I was ten years into taking my desktop systems apart screw by screw, I still didn’t have the balls to tinker with a laptop.  Too many things to screw up in those little suckers.

Your other option is to use an external adapter.  Many argue that they are faster and can get a better signal because it’s not buried inside your laptop.  While there is a speck of possibility there, especially on older computers, what it really boils down to is that it’s easier to swap out a USB adapter or an ExpressCard (or PCMCIA cards, for you owners of older PCs) than to keep track of all the small parts and screws that make up a laptop.  And if you pinch one of those little ribbon cables, holy crap.  Trust me here.

Speaking from experience, ordering some no-name adapter from Hong Kong can be iffy at best.  There’s a small chance of it working, but a bigger chance that it will be either DOA or the drivers won’t be compatible.  Or even the hardware won’t be compatible.  So here is a list of inexpensive and trustworthy Wi-Fi cards that will get you up and running again so you don’t have to use the family computer to surf porn.  These are in no particular order, just cards that I found to be very good at what they do.  And yes, a few of them are slightly old.  But so is my Volvo, and she hasn’t crapped out on me yet.