Boost your computer’s wifi signal by over 200 yards using a powerful external wifi antenna. These are the best laptop wifi antennas on the market today.
There’s an excellent chance if you’re reading this, you’re also a digital nomad like me. Wifi is your lifeblood, the pipeline that ensures you can get work done on the road.
You’ve finally found a decent hostel in Thailand, sitting down with a cup of coffee, motivated to actually crank out a few thousand words today. Or upload that latest YouTube video.
That’s when you realize that the wifi connection is barely detectable from where you are.
So if you find yourself in this situation, then what can you do to fix it? Welcome to the wonderful world of wifi antennas!
What Is A WiFi Antenna?
Simply put, a wifi antenna helps boost your laptop’s signal detection range greater than that of your bundled wireless card.
Because there isn’t much space in your laptop for a long antenna if the wireless environment gets too complex due to interference, extra walls or floors, or being too far away, you’re quite likely to have a hard time picking up a good signal.
As a full-time digital nomad who works from his computer around the world, strong wireless internet connections are critical to my lifestyle.
While I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the availability of wifi in many countries, there are definitely times when I wished my laptop’s wifi card was more powerful, with longer range.
Sometimes hostel, hotel, or cafe wifi connections can be weak or spotty depending on how close you are to the source.
Important WiFi Antenna Features
USB TYPE – Unless you have an ancient computer, you should have USB 3.0 ports. These can operate at speeds as high as 5 gigabits per second (or around 640 MB per second). If you’re stuck with USB 2.0, you’re looking at a maximum of 480 megabits per second (or 60 MB per second of data transfer).
SIGNAL TYPE – 802.11ac is fully 5 Ghz and uses beamforming to keep the data stream more direct to the client devices. Older wifi antennas and cards may out at 802.11n which won’t give you the fastest possible data speeds.
ANTENNA DBI – Antennas come in dBi ratings, usually 2dBi or 5dBi for the ones we’ll be looking at. A 5dBi antenna is better at picking up weaker signals (further away) than a 2dBi one. But 2dBi can maintain stronger connections to stronger signals.
How Powerful Are They?
With my Macbook Pro’s internal wifi card I can pick up 8 different signals from a coffee shop in Thailand. But with a wifi antenna booster, I can see 38 networks.
Because the boosted wifi signal is so much stronger, I’m frequently using it even when my internal card sees some of the same connections.
A 20% strong network signal suddenly becomes a 99% strong signal after hooking up my external wifi antenna. Sometimes that extra power can really make a big difference!
Best WiFi Antenna Boosters (2018)
Edimax EW-7833UAC – Small & Powerful
Dimensions: 8 x 5.5 x 1.5 inches
Antennas: 3T3R MIMO (3 transmitter + 3 receiver antennas)
Signals: 802.11ac and 802.11a/b/g/n wireless devices
Operating Systems: Windows 7/8/8.1/10, Mac OS 10.7+ and Linux
The Edimax EW-7833UAC AC1750 is a great combination of features that supports a wide range of platforms. Not only does it have a total of 3 antennas but it also has a single large antenna that can be adjusted 180 degrees.
The internal antennas work as both input and output receiver/transmitters while the main one is a receiver. This gives the Edimax EW-7833UAC AC1750 Dual-Band incredible sensitivity.
Alfa Dual-Band AC1200 – Long Range
Dimensions: 5.4 x 5.6 x 2.4 in
Antennas: 2x 5dBi Dual-Band (2.4 Ghz/5Ghz) Removable Antennas
Signals: 802.11ac and 802.11a/b/g/n wireless devices
Operating Systems: Windows XP, Vista, 7, 8/8.1; Mac 10.5 or Later; & Linux
The Alfa Long Range Dual-Band AC1200 includes two long 5dBi antennas. Just the thing needed to ensure you get a good connection to a distant Wi-Fi router.
The maximum bitrate of 867Mbps using 802.11ac is great for gaming and streaming video. It’s a bit more bulky than others listed here, but super lightweight too.
TP-Link Archer T2UH – Great Value
Dimensions: 8.1 x 5.8 x 1.5 inches
Antennas: Single 2dBi Detachable
Signals: 802.11ac and 802.11a/b/g/n
Operating Systems: Windows (XP/7/8/8.1/10) – Mac OS (10.8~10.12) – Linux Kernal (2.6.18~4.4.6)
The TP-Link Archer T2UH is a bit chunkier than some of the other models, but a solid laptop wifi antenna. The extra weight may even be to the advantage of those who don’t want to easily send their device flying.
And the bundled USB 3.0 cable helps give the device just a bit of extra reach and flexibility in case the placement isn’t quite where you need it for maximum signal gain.
Home Wireless Range Extenders
There’s another class of wifi antennas that are called “home range extenders”. Basically, these plug into a wall outlet in your home, and boost your wireless router’s signal to more areas of the house.
This way, you don’t need to plug anything into your laptop, but instead the signal is pushed into more areas of your home (or into your backyard).
These only work if you have access to your home internet router — so not applicable to digital nomads working from coffee shops.
My favorite is the Netgear AC1200 Range Extender.
Campervan WiFi Booster Antenna
For people who live (and work) in RVs or campervans, and want to be able to connect to the wifi available at RV parks, truck stops, and campgrounds — there’s another option.
A dedicated weather-proof exterior wifi antenna that you attach to your vehicle. These systems are a lot more expensive, but have MUCH longer range too.
One of the best is the Halo Long Range Marine & RV Wi-Fi Extender.
Laptop Antenna Benefits
There are a few situations when having a laptop wifi antenna booster helps greatly. The first is when I’m staying at a hotel, guesthouse, or hostel and the wifi signal doesn’t reach my room.
Maybe there’s only one router and it’s in a public area. Connecting my external wifi antenna allows me to work from the comfort of my room with a powerful signal.
The range seems to be a few hundred yards depending on how many walls/buildings are in between.
The other situation is when I find the perfect cafe to work at (ambiance, coffee, prices, food, comfort), but their wifi connection sucks. However, maybe there is a cafe down the street with a much better connection.
Using my wifi antenna, I can connect to the 2nd cafe’s fast wifi, while working from the cafe I actually prefer.
It may not seem like much, but finding a decent workspace with strong wifi is important for my productivity as a digital nomad working on the road. ★
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I hope you enjoyed my guide on how to improve your laptop’s signal! Hopefully you found it useful. Here are a few more wanderlust-inducing articles that I recommend you read next:
Have you ever wanted a stronger wifi connection? Any questions about these wifi antennas? Let me know in the comments below!