Whatever your next laptop may be, it might be thinner and lighter than your current one. The laptops become more portable, but this trend often comes at the price of connections. Oftentimes, it is the network cable input that gets removed. Because it is still quite useful in some situations, we have tested 13 USB 3.0 gigabit adaptors.
Wireless connections are very handy, especially when on the go with a laptop. Sometimes, you just need to have a faster and more reliable connection which can only be provided via a wire. If you have your own work spot or work somewhere for longer periods of time, it is still preferable to connect via a CAT wire. This is becoming impossible as the laptops become thinner and the rather large Ethernet port is one of the first to go. To make it possible, the USB adapters are now available as a ready-to-go solution.
Unfortunately, sometimes even if you do have an Ethernet port, it can have hardware limitations. Some of HP and ASUS laptops, for example, are equipped with only a 100 Mbit-capable NIC. Having such a limited connection speed is not much better than not having any Ethernet port at all in our opinion. A fast Ethernet connection on a laptop in 2017 is pretty sad, especially if you consider that a gigabit chip is not the most expensive part of a laptop. Additionally, the manufacturers sometimes skimp on the laptop hardware by installing a slow 802.11n 150 Mbit wireless adapter, which is another reason why a USB adapter is a good option.
Short and stout
The 13 adapters we have selected, and most of the other models, are not large or heavy. They are somewhat larger than a USB stick and have a small connecting cable which gives you more flexibility in connecting it to the laptop. All of the tested adapters use USB 3.0 technology and should theoretically provide transfer speeds of about 5 Gbit/s. This is plenty, keep in mind that the USB 2.0 adapter speeds only reach 480 Mbit/s. The speeds going via a USB 3.0 connection are certainly much higher than what you can get via even the fastest wireless connection. A high-range WiFi adapter will receive at speeds up to 110 MB/s (866,7 Mbit/s) in theory. In reality, this is often much lower. A wired gigabit connection will give you one-way speeds of 1000 Mbit/s where this is available. Therefore, a gigabit adapter is definitely a good investment for those who move large files back and forth.
It should not be such a big investment either. The cheapest model in this test is the TP-Link UE300 and it costs all of 18 pounds / 20 euros. Most of the adapters are pretty straight forward in looks and function, but some of the manufacturers have thought a bit further and added extra features, which is also noticeable in the price. An example of such extra features is an extra USB port on the Startech USB31000STPB, which is pretty handy since a lot of the laptops also have a limited number of USB ports, and using one for the network connection is a big blow to connectivity options. The most expensive of the tested models is the Startech.com US1GC301AU2R at 64 pounds / 72 euros. It is also the most interesting in this comparison.