Be Smart about Your Wi-Fi Choice

Think about it. Today’s cloud-based computing demands more from your Wi-Fi connection than ever before. Yet, when was the last time you thought about the Wi-Fi adapter when purchasing a new Ultrabook™. Don’t assume just because the spec says 802.11n that’s all you need to know. The days of one-size-fits-all Wi-Fi adapters are gone.

What’s Different?

What makes 802.11n Wi-Fi adapters different is the specification’s support of multiple radios and antennas that can transmit/receive multiple data streams. In 802.11n vernacular, these send and receive antenna configurations are noted as 1×1, 1×2, 2×2, or 3×3. More antennas and streams mean faster speeds, less dead zones, fewer dropped connections, and better coverage. Translation: save time, view smoother HD videos, roam more freely with fewer interruptions. A 1×1 802.11n Wi-Fi adapter can only reach a maximum data rate of around 72 Mbps. A 2×2 802.11n adapter can reach a maximum data rate of 300 Mbps. Take it up to 3×3 and the maximum data rate reaches 450 Mbps. To reach these speeds, the AP must support the same number of antennas and streams.

It’s the Throughput

Of course, Wi-Fi networks don’t perform anywhere near these maximum data rates in the real world. Wireless networks are affected by all kinds of things—network overhead, user congestion, distance, obstacles, and interference. The number that really matters is throughput. This is the number that measures real-world performance because it takes into account all those bits eaten up by network overhead and environmental factors. Network overhead alone takes 30% to 50% off the top to maintain dependable operation and security. But network overhead and environmental factors are only part of the story. Wi-Fi networks are shared. The more users sharing a Wi-Fi Hotspot and the more traffic they generate, the slower the speed for all users.

Dual Band

Dual band uses both 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz Wi-Fi frequencies. 5 GHz delivers 5x the capacity of 2.4 GHz with less congestion and interference. Dual band Wi-Fi adapters offer you the flexibility to take advantage of 5 GHz Wi-Fi networks for more capacity to support today’s apps.

Choosing the Right Wi-Fi Adapter

The key things to remember when choosing the Wi-Fi adapter for a new system are:

    Speed – Choose from 1×1, 2×2 or 3×3 streams. More streams mean faster speeds, which save time and enable large bandwidth apps like HD video streaming.
    Coverage – More streams mean better coverage, giving you freedom to roam when accessing home, work, and public hotspots.
    Reliability – More streams mean higher reliability and fewer interruptions from dropped connections.
    Capacity – Dual band uses both 2.4 GHz (802.11bg) and 5 GHz (802.11a). 5GHz delivers 5x capacity of 2.4 GHz for less congestion and interference.

Check out the Intel® Wireless Product Selection Guide to find the right Wi-Fi adapter for the online experience you want.

Which Wi-Fi Adapter is Inside?

When shopping for new Ultrabook, Laptop, Convertible, Entertainment or Professional PC, check under the hood to see what adapter is installed. For Microsoft Windows 8 systems, you can find out how to what Wi-Fi adapter installed in the PC you’re considering here. For Microsoft Windows 7 systems, you can find out how to what Wi-Fi adapter installed in the PC you’re considering here.