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Laptop wifi card vs desktop adapters?

Last response: in Wireless Networking
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November 3, 2011 11:32:21 AM

I didn't know whether this should be in the mobile section or here in networking, so please let me know if this is the wrong place. I'm good with hardware and software, but a complete noob when it comes to networking.

I just upgraded my DD-WRT flashed WRT54GS to a Linksys E2000 (also DD-WRT). I just finished upgrading my HTPC into a dual purpose media center and 24/7 file server and connected it via gigabit ethernet. With wifi, I can stream stuff to my Android phone, laptop, and my PS3 without any hiccups.

I have a desktop downstairs that needs to be connected to the network, and I can't move the router down there to where it's at without losing signal to the rest of the house, or do a long run of Cat6E, since they're at opposite ends of the house. Moving the router in between the two areas is also impossible, since the "in between point" is a staircase. I'd really rather not have to add a dedicated repeater, bridge, or powerline adapter just for this one desktop.

I've tried half a dozen wifi N 300mbps adapters, from PCI, USB, to PCI-e. Rosewill, Asus, Trendnet, I've tried the best rated ones on Newegg and still can't get a decent signal down there. If I get any signal at all, I will routinely lose the connection.

However, my laptop with an Intel mini-PCI-e wifi card (Intel 4965AGN) gets a great signal (80% strength minimum) down there. This indicates that it's not an issue with router transmit power, but with the adapters, right? When I took the laptop apart to replace the hinges, I remember seeing these copper foil stickers behind the LCD screen which I'm assuming were the wifi card's antennas. Is there something special about those antennas, their configuration, the material, or their design, that makes them get a signal where the 2dBi antennas found on the other adapters fail?

Assuming that they are, for whatever reason, better, are there any foreseeable problems in using a mini PCI-e to PCI-e adapter and a wifi card in my desktop, with the antennas attached directly to the case (probably behind the motherboard tray)? Would the steel shell of my case block the signal? I have USB 3.0 ext. HDDs for large files transfers, so speed isn't a priority for this desktop, but a reliable connection is, since this would mostly be for web browsing, light gaming, and media streaming.

Win 7 Ultimate x64
Gigabyte GA-Z68X-UD3H-B3
i5-2500k

Thanks in advance for any help.
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