Choosing networking gear can be a daunting process. Buying the cheapest product in this market segment is often a lousy idea due to quality issues and poor support, but purchasing the most expensive adapter for no specific reason can be equally foolhardy. Too often, we simply choose a particular brand of networking gear at the onset based on a recommendation or a sale, and simply keep purchasing it.
Product testing of Wi-Fi gear has traditionally focused on only one piece of hardware--the wireless router. While that's the central hub of a home network, it is not the only piece of equipment that should be optimized for the best networking experience. Indeed, in our testing, choosing the best wireless AC USB adapter can be equally important to choosing the right router for your application.
The ideal would be for home users to have access to several brands of equipment and to pick the components that work best after testing them. But the practical reality is that most of us buy parts one at a time as we build our networks out, without access to multiple products simultaneously. This leads to the inevitable read-through of user "product reviews" on various retailer websites. While occasionally informative, and often entertaining, it is too often unclear how a particular product really performs when there are evaluations mostly based on a lack of real data, a majority subjective, leaving the average home user at a loss to choose the best gear in an objective fashion. For a review of the technology behind wireless AC USB adapters, check out our recent USB Wi-Fi 101 article.