Wi-Fi PCI-E card vs. onboard intel?

SpongeBob

The Contraceptive Under the Sea
Joined
Jan 15, 2011
Messages
732
My gut tells me that an actual pci-e card would be better but things have changed and wi-fi is actually quite good now. What would be better my TP-Link Archer T9E AC1900 Dual Band Wireless PCI Express Adapter or a motherboard's built in Intel Wi-Fi 6 AX201 or Intel Wireless-AC 3168 etc.

Thanks!
 

bman212121

[H]ard|Gawd
Joined
Aug 18, 2011
Messages
1,675
So if you were comparing say a 2 x 2 PCI-E card vs a 2 x 2 m.2 formfactor card, they are generally the same. Some of the desktop cards just use the laptop card on a little holder so it can be mounted in a desktop slot. In the past I would definitely say there was slightly higher power output through the desktop cards, but that might not be the case anymore.

That said, your performance is going to be all based upon what the other end has. The benefits of the TP Link or the Wifi-6 can't be realized if your router doesn't support them. So first thing is figuring out what the router has, and if changing cards will make any difference at all.

The most common router configuration is going to be 2x2:2 in 802.11ac spec if it's new. It might not even be AC if it's older. In that case the difference between the TP-Link and the Intel Wifi is moot, and they should perform almost identically. The reason being is the increased speeds for the TP-Link require you to have a 3rd antenna stream on the router side, and the most common configuration won't have that. So for most purposes the card can only get up to an 866mbits link rate. (About ~520mbits half duplex of real world throughput) The Wifi 6 card will be forced into the exact same mode, as it will not be able to make use of the newer technologies in AX, and will fall back to AC speeds.

The only one of the group that is a clear no is the wireless AC 3168. This is a single stream card, so it can only ever support 1 link at around 433mbps. It's unlikely you'll have a case where the other two cards won't outperform it, so you can basically write that one off as a don't use unless you have no other options. If you can get at the card itself for like $20 off ebay you can upgrade it to an AC-9260 and get a dual antenna AC stream card. (In some cases you should also be able to put the AX201 into the same chassis for the same money, but it may or may not be compatible because it is a slightly different connector)
 
Joined
Dec 1, 2011
Messages
887
Well, Intel's WiFi NICs are considered to be among the best, are very well supported on just about any OS (if that's ever a factor to you), and the AX200/201 is their current best. The TP-Link card is apparently using a Broadcom chip, and their stuff is generally fine (i.e., it ain't Realtek).

Possible issue I see with the TP-Link card is the antennas. They come directly off the card, with no provision to get them up and away from the chassis. Not sure what mainboard you're running, but most I've seen do allow you to move the antennas away a bit.
 

SpongeBob

The Contraceptive Under the Sea
Joined
Jan 15, 2011
Messages
732
So if you were comparing say a 2 x 2 PCI-E card vs a 2 x 2 m.2 formfactor card, they are generally the same. Some of the desktop cards just use the laptop card on a little holder so it can be mounted in a desktop slot. In the past I would definitely say there was slightly higher power output through the desktop cards, but that might not be the case anymore.

That said, your performance is going to be all based upon what the other end has. The benefits of the TP Link or the Wifi-6 can't be realized if your router doesn't support them. So first thing is figuring out what the router has, and if changing cards will make any difference at all.

The most common router configuration is going to be 2x2:2 in 802.11ac spec if it's new. It might not even be AC if it's older. In that case the difference between the TP-Link and the Intel Wifi is moot, and they should perform almost identically. The reason being is the increased speeds for the TP-Link require you to have a 3rd antenna stream on the router side, and the most common configuration won't have that. So for most purposes the card can only get up to an 866mbits link rate. (About ~520mbits half duplex of real world throughput) The Wifi 6 card will be forced into the exact same mode, as it will not be able to make use of the newer technologies in AX, and will fall back to AC speeds.

The only one of the group that is a clear no is the wireless AC 3168. This is a single stream card, so it can only ever support 1 link at around 433mbps. It's unlikely you'll have a case where the other two cards won't outperform it, so you can basically write that one off as a don't use unless you have no other options. If you can get at the card itself for like $20 off ebay you can upgrade it to an AC-9260 and get a dual antenna AC stream card. (In some cases you should also be able to put the AX201 into the same chassis for the same money, but it may or may not be compatible because it is a slightly different connector)

Interesting, I though that using a card would be ultimately better having more of a heatsink and such + the extra antenna if comparing card with AC to onboard AC not AC vs. wifi 6.
 
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