USB vs PCI Wireless Adapters

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Carlington
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USB vs PCI Wireless Adapters

Postby Carlington » Wed Nov 25, 2015 10:14 am UTC

Hello all!

I built myself a desktop a little while ago, but in a fit of cost-cutting so that I could spend a little more on the other parts, I decided to eschew a wireless-capable network card (and a CD drive, but that's less relevant right now). That wasn't an issue at the time, because I was living alone, and thus always close enough to the router that I could run an Ethernet cable to get a connection. Since then, I've moved, and have been running an Ethernet cable from my housemates computer, which has a wireless card, and getting a connection that way. Today, I finally cracked and went out to get a USB wireless adapter, and I've just gotten through setting that up. I'm not sure yet whether this will be a long term or interim solution though. I was hoping to get some advice on whether it's worth the extra investment (both money and timewise) to get a PCI wireless card and set it up permanently. I gather that USB adapters are far, far more convenient, but PCI adapters get a stronger and more stable signal at longer ranges. Is that accurate, and is there anything else I ought to take into consideration?
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hotaru
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Re: USB vs PCI Wireless Adapters

Postby hotaru » Wed Nov 25, 2015 9:58 pm UTC

the only real difference between a PCI wireless adapter and a USB wireless adapter is that one uses a PCI slot and the other uses a USB port. there should be no difference in signal reliability or range.* the only reason to favor a PCI adapter is if you have a shortage of USB ports and an empty PCI slot.
* assuming, of course, the same wireless chipset, antenna, and antenna placement.

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AndyG314
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Re: USB vs PCI Wireless Adapters

Postby AndyG314 » Tue Dec 01, 2015 6:35 pm UTC

hotaru wrote:the only real difference between a PCI wireless adapter and a USB wireless adapter is that one uses a PCI slot and the other uses a USB port.


There are some other differences, that may or may not matter.

First there is power, a usb 3.0 port puts out a maximum of 4.5 watts, while the minimum power provided by the pci bus is 10 watts. The biggest difference here is in broadcast power, which is limited by the FCC. If the 4.5 watts is enough to get to the FCC maximum then that's fine, if not, you will get better range out of a pci card.

Secondly pci bus should be able to make better use of DMA and system interrupts, lessening the cpu load for the Ethernet adapter.

A PCI card should be a better choice, all other things being equal.
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hotaru
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Re: USB vs PCI Wireless Adapters

Postby hotaru » Tue Dec 01, 2015 10:37 pm UTC

the FCC limit is well below 1 watt, so the adapter should be able to get plenty of power either way. lower CPU load won't matter either on modern systems, where you almost always have 3 cores sitting idle, just waiting for something to do. if you only have a single CPU core it might matter, but even then, it's probably sitting idle >90% of the time.

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