Last updated: August 6, 2021

Welcome to our large Wifi stick test 2021. Here we present all the Wifi sticks we have tested in detail. We have compiled detailed background information and added a summary of customer reviews on the Internet. We would like to make your purchase decision easier and help you find the best Wifi stick for you.

You will also find answers to frequently asked questions in our guide. If available, we also offer interesting test videos. Furthermore, you will also find some important information on this page that you should definitely pay attention to if you want to buy a Wifi stick.




Summary

  • A Wifi stick allows you mobile Internet access with your laptop. A stick is good for you if you are on the road a lot or if you don't have the option of plugging in a LAN cable.
  • Wifi sticks are not only suitable for laptops. Dekstop PCs and all kinds of other devices such as smart TVs or other devices can also use a Wifi stick.
  • There are basically three different types of Wifi sticks. Wifi nano USB sticks, conventional Wifi sticks and Wifi adapters with external antenna. All variants are available in a wide variety of designs.

The Best Wifi Stick: Our Picks

Guide: Questions you should ask yourself before buying a Wifi stick

What are the advantages and disadvantages of Wifi sticks compared to Wifi cards?

Not everything speaks in favour of a Wifi stick. If the PC and router are permanently installed, it can make sense to install a Wifi card. An alternative for a Wifi stick is the so-called Wifi card. This is a card that is installed in a PC. Here is a brief explanation of the advantages and disadvantages.

Advantages
  • More flexible solution
  • Does not require a special slot in a device
Disadvantages
  • Can be damaged more easily because it protrudes from the device
  • Without an antenna, usually less range
  • Antenna cannot be replaced

So if you only want to provide a PC with a wifi connection and have to bridge a greater distance to the router, the card is the better solution. However, if you want to connect a laptop or PC easily and don't want to go to great lengths to install it, the stick is the simpler and more convenient solution.

USB 2.0 or USB 3.0?

Most devices now have a USB connection. USB 2.0 has long been the standard and is increasingly being replaced by the new USB 3.0. Both formats are also available for WLAN sticks.

By creating a hotspot for other Internet-capable devices, such as a smartphone, the use of a WLAN stick offers the user a wide range of possible applications. (Photo: 123rf.com / anyaberkut)

If your device has USB 3.0 ports, you should definitely get a Wifi stick with a suitable USB 3.0. In comparison, the new format is up to 10 times faster (compare USB 2.0 480MBit/s; USB 3.0 4.8GBit/s) and can transmit data in both directions simultaneously.

Although you can access the Internet with an old USB 2.0 stick just as well as with a newer one, it is particularly useful to have a faster connection for data-intensive activities such as video streaming or online computer games. If you are unsure whether you have USB 2.0 or USB 3.0 ports, you can easily check.

New USB 3.0 ports always have a blue connector, making them easy to distinguish from older ports. Even if you don't have a USB 3.0 port, but only a USB 2.0 port, you can still use a stick with the new format, as they are also backwards compatible. This means that a USB 3.0 stick will work like a USB 2.0 stick as long as it is plugged into a USB 2.0 port.

2.4 GHz or 5 GHz?

Whether 2.4 GHz or 5 GHz band can make a big difference in the purchase decision, as these are directly related to the performance of the wifi stick. A big problem in confined spaces can be the frequency band on which Wifi adapters transmit.

A distinction is made here between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. For so-called Wifi-N sticks, a frequency band of 2.4 GHz is standard, but can usually also be switched to 5 GHz. The prerequisite is a router that can do this.

The problem with the smaller frequency band is that other signals can interfere with the connection.

Other Wifi networks or Bluetooth devices then cause problems for the home network. With Wifi AC sticks, on the other hand, the 5 GHz frequency band is used as standard. This has the advantage that the wireless devices share their frequencies better and can get in each other's way less.

With the 2.4 GHz band, the range may not be sufficient and you need an additional repeater to amplify the signal transmission throughout the home. This problem can often also be circumvented by using a 5 GHz stick.

Devices with a 2.4 GHz band are usually also much slower. They often only achieve a speed of 150 MBit/s, while other devices also manage well over 300 or 400 Mbit/s. The actual speed can then be checked quite easily via external programmes.

It is best if the selected Wlan stick supports both frequency bands.

Internal or external antenna?

In order for a Wifi stick to connect to a router and thus to the Internet, it needs an antenna. It makes a big difference whether the antenna is inside or outside the housing. Often the antenna is not visible and is located inside the device. These are usually very small and inexpensive antennas, but they are also much weaker.

If the antenna is attached to the outside of the housing, the antenna can pick up the signal much better and thus offers a better connection. These models are usually a little more expensive. In return, however, the antenna can be replaced more easily in order to achieve a greater range.

The following table compares internal and external antennas based on different criteria:

Criterion Internal antenna External antenna
Price The integrated antennas are usually very small and inexpensive Models with external antennas are usually somewhat more expensive.
Range Because the antenna is built into the device, the range is rather limited. An external antenna has the advantage that the range is stronger.
Signal strength The signal is rather weak The signal can be picked up very well by the external antenna.
Interchangeability Internal antennas cannot be replaced An external antenna has the advantage that it is easily replaceable.
Suitability This model is very suitable for laptops This design can be easily damaged and is therefore rather unsuitable for laptops. However, for desktop PCs that do not need to be moved around much, it is ideal.

Which stick is needed for which system?

Not every Wifi stick works with every operating system. You should find out which stick works for which system before buying in order to avoid making a wrong purchase. The easiest way to connect a PC to the Internet is via a LAN cable, which you connect directly to the router or via PowerLine. Often this option is not available. Then you need a wifi adapter.

Most new sticks work at least with Windows 7 or Windows 10, and many devices now also work for Macs. Only with Linux systems is the matter a little more complicated. Often the drivers are not developed specifically for Linux systems, but they can still work under certain circumstances.

Many drivers were also created by users and put on the internet free of charge. However, the drivers are not official software and may contain viruses or other malware. The safest thing to do is to find out before buying whether the desired product will also work for your own system. For Linux, there are sometimes online lists of which drivers work for which systems.

What does a Wifi stick cost?

The price range of Wifi sticks goes from 2 euros to 70 euros, with most models costing between 6 and 20 euros. 2-12 euros: These adapters are mostly Wifi nano USB sticks and usually only manage a performance of 150 Mbps. Most of them are also only set to the 2.4 GHz band by default and do not have such a good range.

There are other designs, such as those with an external antenna. But in this price range, these are no more powerful than the nano-USB models. 12-20 euros: Very good models can be found in this range. A wifi stick with USB 3.0, 600Mbit/s and 5Ghz band is already available for under 20 euros. 20-70 euros: Here you can really find everything.

Most of the items here are from big brands and clearly focus on high-end and stylish quality products. The products are often advertised as working on almost any device. This means that the support for these devices is very extensive and there is a large number of drivers.

The table below summarises the different price classes of wifi sticks:

Price range Functionality/quality
2-12€ Mostly Wlan nano USB sticks low performance of approx. 150 MBit/s 2.4GHz band lower range
12-20€ Very good models available Wlan stick with USB 3.0 600MBit/s, 5GHz band
20-70€ High-quality, stylish brand products compatible with almost every device good support, many available drivers

Decision: What types of wifi sticks are there and which is the right one for you?

Generally speaking, there are three different types:

  • Wifi nano USB stick
  • Conventional Wifi stick
  • Wifi adapter with external antenna

Wifi sticks can have different designs and thus also different weaknesses and strengths. With an antenna or as a very small stick, these differences in design and shape can be very strongly reflected in the performance. Due to the different designs, some sticks are better suited than others for certain areas of application. In the following section, we want to help you find out which wifi stick is best suited to your needs.

What is a wifi nano USB stick and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

These are the smallest wifi adapters. Barely the size of a button, the wifi nano USB stick just fits into the USB port and only offers a small gripping surface to remove the stick again. Although these are also available with a 5 GHz frequency band, they often have a smaller range due to their small design.

Advantages
  • Unobtrusive and small
  • Robust due to small design
Disadvantages
  • Lower speed
  • Lower range
  • Usually no USB 3.0
  • Often difficult to remove

Especially with cheaper models, you will only find USB 2.0 connections. This is usually sufficient for a simple internet connection, but you won't get great performance out of these devices. Wifi nano USB sticks are best suited for laptops and netbooks that do not have their own built-in Wifi adapter and are only used for work.

What is a conventional wifi stick and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

Most of the ones you are familiar with. They look almost like a normal USB stick. They are slightly larger and more elongated than the nano models, but more often have a stronger antenna built in.

Advantages
  • Available with USB 3.0
  • Higher speed and range due to 5 GHz band
  • Larger antenna
Disadvantages
  • Stick sticks out a bit and is less robust
  • Less aesthetic

These devices usually have much better performance than the smaller models and are also more versatile. Such a stick is not only suitable for laptops or netbooks, but also for stationary PCs or other devices that have to bridge a longer distance to the router.

You can get a device that uses the 5 GHz band for little money. In this way, a more stable connection and a longer range can be achieved.

What is a stick with an external antenna and what are its advantages and disadvantages?

When it comes to performance, these models are the top of the range. Like new models of conventional sticks, these mostly transmit on a 5 GHz band. A low-interference connection including a good range is therefore already built in. In addition, many devices also transmit with dual band.

This means that the devices use both the 2.4 GHz and the 5 GHz frequency band. If the modem type also supports this, you have an optimal Wifi signal.

Advantages
  • Large antenna and long range
  • Antenna is replaceable
  • Often dual-band
  • USB 3.0
Disadvantages
  • Sticks out and antennas can break off more easily
  • Less aesthetically pleasing

Although the antenna is not necessarily attractive and clearly sticks out on connected devices, the performance speaks for itself. Wifi sticks with external antennas often cost no more to buy than a conventional stick or a wifi nano-USB stick, but they can do much more. In addition, the antennas can often be replaced. Replacement is not only advisable if the antenna breaks off. If you want a longer range, you can replace the antenna with a larger one and get better performance.

Buying criteria: You can use these factors to compare and evaluate Wifi sticks

So which wifi stick should it be? The different models have different strengths and weaknesses. Ultimately, all model types have their advantage in their area of application. It is therefore helpful to approach the right device on the basis of certain features. These are the following criteria:

  • Range
  • Speed
  • Connection stability
  • Handiness
  • Design
  • Antenna

The following paragraphs explain what the criteria mean and what features you should look for when buying.

Range

The range depends not only on the signal of the router, but also on the performance of the wireless stick to maintain the connection. When it comes to range, it is important to know which frequency band the device uses. In principle, a distinction is made between 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. While older devices usually transmit on 2.4 GHz, most newer devices switch to 5 GHz.

Because there are already many devices that are WIFI-capable and that all use the 2.4 GHz band, interference can occur. If several devices use the same frequency, the range is reduced. The 5 GHz band offers more frequencies and is not yet as widespread. So if you are looking for a device with range, the Wifi stick should definitely be equipped with a 5 GHz frequency band.

A model with an external antenna can also significantly increase the range. The antennas are usually much more powerful and can also be replaced with stronger antennas.

This is not possible with models in which the antenna is installed internally. In addition, the antennas are free-standing and have a better signal transmission due to their design alone, as they are not obstructed by a housing.

Speed

Everyone wants the fastest PC and the fastest Internet connection. But when it comes to connection devices, many are at a loss. Even if you have a 400Mbit/s connection, it's no use if the signal doesn't reach the computer at the same speed. The problem is usually that the type of modem or wifi adapter does not have the necessary speed.

The transmission rate is specified on all wifi adapters. The number is basically given in "Mbit/s", i.e. "megabits per second". One Mbit/s is 100 bits/s, i.e. 100 zeros and ones are exchanged per Mbit. With the Mbit/s specification, the more, the better. So you should check beforehand what your actual needs are.

The speed can also suffer if the wrong frequency range is used. The 5 GHz band is much faster than the 2.4 GHz band. Due to the larger number of frequencies, more data can be sent and received, thus increasing the speed of the stick. When installing the device, you should definitely check which frequency range is being used.

It can happen that despite 5 GHz only the 2.4 GHz band is used by default. To make full use of the potential, you need a Wlan stick with USB 3.0. The connections are marked in blue and can transfer 10 times as much data as the older USB 2.0.

Connection stability

It is annoying when you dial into a wifi network and the connection is constantly interrupted. There are various reasons for this, but they can be avoided by choosing the right product. First of all, you should know if the router is not too far away. If the range of the device is too short, you should get a device with an antenna or with a 5 GHz band (see above).

If the range is too short, there will of course be a drop in the stability of the connection. Sometimes the router is not configured correctly or other devices interfere with the network. Thick walls also obstruct the signal. In this case, the range should be increased in any case. With devices that use the 2.4 GHz band and the 5 GHz band, you can also use the so-called dual band.

This means that the device prefers to work with 5 GHz, but switches to the 2.4 GHz band in case of connection problems. This dual-band use increases stability enormously, as short-term connection problems can be intercepted. As a rule, the user does not notice such a switch between the frequency bands at all.

Handiness

Which design one should choose depends very much on how one uses the PC or laptop. Particularly in terms of manageability, the wrong choice can lead to problems that were not considered beforehand. If you have a stationary PC, you should choose a wifi stick with a detachable external antenna.

Desktop PCs are usually not moved very much and are not always accessible with a LAN cable, and not every house has PowerLine. Wifi adapters are wireless and have the strongest performance with an external antenna due to their design. You should not make any compromises.

These sticks are also often available as tabletop versions that are connected to the computer with a cable. This frees up the antenna and gives it an even stronger signal. The problem with laptops is that such models can be damaged more easily by the antennas and are therefore less recommended.

Conventional wifi sticks are suitable for both desktop PCs and laptops. Especially if your laptop is not carried around much or needs a good range, normal wifi adapters are optimal. It is a good compromise between performance and handiness.

But here, too, you have to be careful not to accidentally damage the stick when carrying the laptop around, as it sticks out a good bit.

Wifi nano USB sticks are the smallest designs. Their performance is often not as good as the other models. What the small sticks lose in performance, however, they make up for in handiness. Laptops are ideally suited for this.

Since range is usually less important for laptops, wifi nano-USB sticks are ideal for this. The sticks are so small that you can simply leave them in your laptop. It is also very unlikely that they will be damaged by being carried around or the like, as they hardly protrude.

Design

Wifi sticks are commodities and often do not need to be beautiful. However, some are more aesthetically pleasing than others. Unfortunately, for really aesthetic wifi sticks, you have to go into the upper price ranges. The models from the big companies are usually very visually appealing.

However, there can also be appealing wifi sticks in the medium price ranges. Unobtrusive are the wifi nano USB sticks. They are usually so small that they are hardly noticeable. They don't spoil the outer appearance of the laptop or PC and still connect you to the internet. It is important to note here that the wifi nano USB sticks are among the weaker models due to their design.

WLAN sticks are not only very handy, but also very practical for travelling. At airports or train stations, unnecessary waiting times can be bridged by sensible work. Public hotspots, which usually only allow very slow speeds, can thus be avoided. (Photo: 123rf.com / anyaberkut)

The conventional sticks are usually not very nice to look at. In the case of large companies, such models usually have a very fashionable design and are kept in discreet colours. However, this does not change the fact that the stick still protrudes quite far from the laptop.

Especially the wifi adapters with external antenna can look quite appealing. Although they also protrude from the device, there is often the option of placing the stick on the table. With a chic design and sometimes luminous LED decorations, an ugly wifi stick becomes a pretty decoration on the desk. However, these models are usually somewhat more expensive.

Ultimately, of course, it depends on what appeals to you.

Antenna

Of course, every Wifi stick has an antenna. Nevertheless, there are differences in how it is installed. Basically, there are two ways to install an antenna in a wireless stick. Either inside or outside.

Inside

The devices are smaller and easier to handle than those with an external antenna. The antenna cannot be exchanged and does not always have the best range. These models are more attractive, especially for laptops, which are mobile anyway.

Outdoor

An outdoor antenna has the advantage that the range is greater and the antennas can be exchanged. Since the antenna is free-standing, the signal is better receivable. In addition, the antenna can be exchanged for a stronger one in case of doubt.

Unfortunately, the design of these models makes them less suitable for laptops. They stick out a little and are therefore at risk of being damaged. However, for desktop PCs that do not have to be moved much, this solution is ideal.

Facts worth knowing about Wifi sticks

How do I install a Wifi stick?

The installation of Wlan sticks has become much easier and nowadays hardly requires a cumbersome installation via a data medium. Most sticks can be installed simply by Plug & Play.

This means that as soon as you plug the wifi stick into the USB port of the computer, the PC detects the stick and automatically installs it with the driver supplied. Often an installation CD is included or you can find the appropriate driver on the manufacturer's website. As soon as the driver is installed, you can connect to the router.

How do I connect a Wifi stick to a router?

Once the Wifi stick is installed, you can easily connect to any available network. When the network is visible, you can simply select the correct wifi network in the network search, enter the password and connect. In 90% of cases it works this way. In the remaining cases, the network is not visible.

You simply have to enter a connection with the wifi name and the corresponding password. Depending on the operating system, this works a little differently. There are plenty of instructions on the internet.

Can I use a Wifi stick as a hotspot?

A wifi stick should not be confused with a mobile internet stick or a surf stick. However, the words are often used synonymously, which is not correct. With the former, the device simply establishes a connection with a router.

With a surfstick, the device is connected to the mobile network. So there are two different procedures. You can distinguish between the two devices simply by the fact that the surfstick needs a sim card to connect. The wifi stick does not need this.

So it makes little sense to make your laptop available as a hotspot or access point if you are already logged into a wifi. The question of how to simulate a hotspot is therefore more important for the surf sticks. The devices themselves cannot necessarily do this by themselves. You can run software on a laptop or PC that creates its own network and thus misuses the surf stick as a router.

Can I connect a Wifi stick to a television?

Many televisions are now Internet-capable and/or have a USB connection. Often people want to be able to play streaming services on the big TV set. In many cases this is possible, but not always. Since Smart TVs, newer televisions can also connect to the Internet. Sometimes, however, there is only a LAN connection and no WIFI connection.

In this case, it may be sufficient to connect a wifi stick and thus connect to the wifi network. It is important to pay attention to the drivers. Not every television can be used with every wireless stick. You should research the manufacturer's specifications.

If the television is not a Smart TV but has USB connections, the device will probably not connect to the Internet even if a wireless stick is connected. In this case, you need a so-called streaming stick. This can then play streaming offers on its own. Most of them are connected via HDMI and can be controlled like a normal external device.

The biggest brands in this case are Google Chromecast and Amazon Kindle FireTV Stick, which are available for around €40.

What do I need to consider for gaming?

If you want to play online computer games, two things are important. Speed and a stable connection. It's no use having the fastest connection but getting kicked out all the time, or having a stable connection but not being able to keep up with the data. You won't get far with a surfstick when gaming.

You need a wifi network and a wifi stick that offers decent performance. For speed, the stick should have a transfer rate of 300 Mbit/s and more. The best way to achieve this is with a Wlan AC stick that uses the 5 GHz band as standard. This also benefits stability.

With WLAN-AC sticks, the range of the signal increases due to the larger frequency band and the signal transmission is less susceptible to interfering signals from other devices. To best keep the connection and range stable, a model with an antenna is recommended here. The antenna increases the range and is not obstructed by interfering objects. You should also pay attention to USB 3.0 connections.

The advantage is not only the significantly higher speed, but also the new full-duplex technology. This means that data can now be sent in both directions simultaneously and no longer alternately, as is the case with the half-duplex technology in USB 2.0 devices. If you have taken all these things into account, you as a gamer have the ideal prerequisites for a fast and stable wifi connection. This can only be surpassed by a direct LAN connection.

Picture source: 123rf.com / 100431549

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