Best Wifi Antenna Boosters: Improve Your Laptop’s Signal!

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Best Wifi Antenna

Best Wifi Antenna Boosters To Improve Signal

Travel Gear

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!

Wifi Antennas for Digital Nomads

Pretending to Work in Mexico

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!

Wifi Antenna Booster

38 Available Networks!

Best WiFi Antenna Boosters (2018)

Edimax EW-7833UAC – Small & Powerful

Weight: 4.2 ounces
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
Price: $33

Edimax Wifi Antenna

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.

PROS
  • Four total antennas
  • LINUX Support
  • Fast Bitrate
CONS
  • Very long body
  • Incompatible with latest Windows OS
Users with the very latest versions of Windows will want to think carefully on whether the Edimax is the right choice for them. If the device drivers aren’t fully supported, then it may cause compatibility issues.

Alfa Dual-Band AC1200 – Long Range

Weight: 1.7 ounces
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
Price: $49
Alpha Wifi Antenna

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.

PROS
  • Extremely lightweight
  • Dual removable antennas
CONS
  • More expensive
  • Larger body
Because the Alpha is so lightweight, it can sometimes fall over if you’re moving cables around. However the two giant antennas really make it powerful.

TP-Link Archer T2UH – Great Value

Weight: 7.2 ounces
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)
Price: $29
TP-Link Wifi Antenna

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.

PROS
  • Reasonable price
  • Great OS compatibility
CONS
  • Slower maximum bitrate
  • Single 2dBi antenna
The single 2dBi antenna means this wifi antenna will remain strong as long as you aren’t super far away from the source.
Home Wifi Antenna Extender

Home WiFi Range Extender

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.

RV Wifi Antenna Boosters

Wifi Antennas for Campervans

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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The best wifi antennas for extending your laptop's wireless range. More at ExpertVagabond.com

Have you ever wanted a stronger wifi connection? Any questions about these wifi antennas? Let me know in the comments below!

66 Comments

  1. Hi thanks for the information. Do you think this amplifier can also be connected to an iPhone or to a GoPro Fusion camera to amplify the signals? Will then need a Lighting or a USB C transition.

  2. I’m so glad to have landed on this article; I also work from my laptop in exotic locales worldwide and have been searching for a WIFI extending solution. You’ve made it easy and I’m going to try this product. Thanks!!

  3. Having used this adaptor for over a year now, I originally loved it, but now I can’t say I recommend it at all. TP-Links support is beyond terrible, if you can get the adaptor working at all (which works maybe 10% of the time) the driver on the last two versions of MacOS doesn’t support the GUI pictured above, it’s some awkward other thing.

    It also doesn’t work through a USB-C -> USB-A adaptor, none of the ones I’ve tried anyway, including apples official one. So getting it to work on modern macs is a no-go.

    I really hate these 3rd party networking companies (netgear, dlink, belkin, tp-link, etc) it feels like nothing I’ve ever bought from them in my whole life ever works properly.

  4. Hi,
    I was wondering if this should work on an Acer Chromebook? I realize that I’ve already asked this question, however after I commented the first time, I noticed that my email address was wrong. This comment has the right email. Thank you!

  5. I read this and ordered on ebay. I use various downloads of appointment setting and they rely on speed and good reception regarding the “crackle” “breaking up on me” etc. So I hope this alleviates this problem there were so many variations and I bought exactly what this article said “TP-Link N300 Wifi Antenna.” and hope it’s not for the MAC and I hope the installation is simple. Thank’s for the hint. Will comment later on result.

    1. This works! I did not put the CD in the computer either! It worked great just taking out of box. Put the ears up. Plug into the laptop and GO! Definitely great. Thanks again!

  6. Hello: I was hoping you could clarify something. When I looked at the TP-Link product in your article, it was described as a USB Wifi adapter, not just an antenna. I already have a USB Wifi adapter, but I have problems using it b/c I cannot get my internal laptop Wifi card to “turn off” so that I can use the external USB Wifi adapter. So I’m looking for just an antenna, not a whole ‘nuther Wifi card. Could you please clarify the function of the device you described? (I’m using LinuxMint 17.) Thanks!!

      1. Quick update on this – it may just be the driver, but the card performs considerably worse than the built in airport card, for me. I can see five access points in my house, but with the TP Link, I can see two. It also does not support 5ghz networks.

        With the beta driver on the website, you also don’t get any wireless utilities so you can’t see signal strength, but I worked out if you use Pacifist and download the older driver, you can extract the .app utility file out of it and use it and it works fine with the newer driver – but they may have neglected to include it so people don’t realise how poorly it performs at the moment.

        Hopefully this improves rapidly soon, but right now, if you run el cap, hold off buying this card.

  7. I have a Windows-Based Acer-Brand laptop that is about 2 years old. It works very well.

    I travel almost once a month and rely on various weak Wi-Fi signals. You indicated that the antenna installed simply on a Windows computer. Is it truly plug-and-play? I won’t need to install anything on my laptop? Just plug in the antenna? I am not a computer whiz.

    Frank

  8. Hey thanks for this product suggestion. I am new following you and your blog. I have a macbook air and just decided to upgrade to El Capitan after holding out a while. Wish I would have paid closer attention to the comments. Does anyone have any new info on using this product with this OS?

  9. hi can not find that in any shops where i live but did find this one TP-Link Archer AC1200 Wireless USB Adapter T4UH would this one work just as well as the one you where talking about

  10. Would the Encore Wireless N300 USB Adapter work? I want this because it provides up to 300Mbps. But I’m not sure if it would work with my MacBook running OS X El Capitan.

  11. Hey Matthew,
    Great article. Moving back to Eastern Europe where I play hockey overseas (Czech/Poland) for a few months & usually struggle with weak wifi signals in places I stay (rooms/hotels).

    1. Know if there may be any restrictions over there, or should it work as is wherever you are located?
    2. Do you still believe this is the best wifi antenna booster for your laptop as of Nov 2015?
    Appreciate the guidance. Thanks!

  12. Hi,

    I got one of these and it works great. The only thing is that I believed I could attach it to the back of my laptop as per your picture. How did you do it?

    Thanks

  13. It works in El capitan for me if I disable System Integrity Protection. But then it seems to cause system crashes when my macbook goes into sleep mode on battery ?

  14. Hi all.
    I just installed 10.11 (El Capitan) on my Macbook Air. Now Wireless Network Utility won’t open… so my antenna doesn’t work. Anyone else have this problem? Better still, a solution?

  15. Hey bud!

    Got this based on your post and thought I’d add to the comments. It appears to me that they have removed all Mac drivers from their official download page. There’s only Linux and Windows there now (your first link). However, the second link you provided does seem to work. It installed fine on Yosemite. Don’t know how/where you got that second link but it was a life save. High five!

  16. Just bought today and installed on a 2009 MacBook Pro with Yosemite 10.10.4. Used the driver “Wlan_11n_USB_MacOS10.8_Driver_UI_2.0.1” worked right away, no problems and way faster than the built in WiFi.
    Thanks for this post, a true lifesaver.
    jack

  17. I just bought mine, any suggestion how to make it work on my yosemite mac? 10.10.4 ? the links here are not working, neither me finding the same driver. Thank you.

  18. I used a different USB to micro-USB cable, it was only $3 on Amazon. The only drawback is that it is not covered by Prime.

  19. Hi Matthew,
    Hi EveryBody,

    okay,

    the TPLink wifi antenna may work great.

    but it is only ONE laptop wifi antenna.

    what about OTHER laptop wifi antennas ???

    i want to read comments about OTHER mobile wifi antennas.

    Please Reply,

    Thanks from Dee

  20. I’d just like to say thanks for writing this article and sharing the tip.My laptop has weak signal at public spots so I will buy this item.

  21. What about linux users?

    Anything for them?

    Preferably plug and play so as to avoid command line installs of drivers.

  22. I have REALTECH RTL8188EE 802.11bgn WiFi adapter that came installed on my HP laptop – the OS is Windows 8.1.

    I’m not very tech savvy and I’m wondering if this device can be used in conjunction with the REALTECH adapter that is on the laptop now or does it replace it.

    Would I need to uninstall REALTECH and install this device along with Yosemite 10.10.3?

    Sorry for being dense. Thanks

  23. Hi Matthew: I purchased the TPLink, but when I try to install the driver the installer does not allow me to do the “standard” nor the “custum” installations… all the checkbox are grey as well as the “install” button.
    I am using Yosemite 10.10.3 and am installing the driver for 10.8 (as suggested). Any idea? ever happened to anybody else?
    Thank you !!

  24. Hi Matthew,

    I was wondering what version of Yosemite you are running? I am currently using a BearExtender product but if I upgrade to Yosemite 10.10.2 or later it will no longer work. Hope your recommendation will replace my BearExtender! Thanks for the great information!

  25. I was really skeptical on this device and honestly didn’t think it would really work at all. BOY was I shocked! I was only getting 1 bar on a excellent day on my laptop. After installing the device I’m getting 4 and sometimes 5 bars! I’ve never been able to look at videos while on my laptop at my current location, I was able to download a movie quickly after installing the device. It was a “breeze” to install and only took 3-4 minutes. If you had doubts before on this device, I promise you this is incredible! I’m “stoked” , can you tell?

  26. And thanks for the tip! Recently I have stayed in hostels where I don’t have Wifi in my room and it’s really hard to work in the common area while people play beer pong!

  27. I live in Costa Rica and use a data card in my computer which gives me internet using cell phone signals. But I live in a remote area and the cell phone reception is weak..any ideas to boost the reception on the data card?

  28. Just be careful about which networks you connect to. I had someone hack into my computer while using a cafe wifi connection over there.

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