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I'm experiencing disconnects from my wireless network which my administrator claims is due to a poor wireless card in my laptop (currently a Qualcomm Atheros AR9485WB-EG if relevant). My laptop is approaching 3 years old, so I'm getting a new one, but the main purpose of this new purchase is to improve connectivity.

The problem is that I don't know how to choose a wireless card. There are oddly no guides for this - for example a guide to buying a computer might say "get this, or that if you can afford it" but there's nothing for wireless cards. I don't know how to tell which wireless card is better given two cards - e.g. if "Intel AC 7265 dual-band adapter" is better than the one I have. The wireless card also doesn't seem to be something that's always given in tech specs, and I even saw one manufacturer respond to a customer query about the wireless card with "It will be either a Qualcomm Atheros 802.11b/802.11g/802.11n/802.11ac, or Intel 7265.NGWG.W 802.11ac, 802.11n, 802.11w, StPA, StPS, WMM, WFD, Wi-Fi direct. This is subject to change depending on availability at the time of manufacture." -- what?? (the part I'm most incredulous about italicized)

What guidelines are there to picking a wireless card? How do I tell if one card is superior to another? I'm definitely willing to pay more for a good card here, but I still need to know how to identify them.

Details: budget - no budget (I'm under the impression wifi cards are cheap, too). I haven't bought a laptop yet so I can't give any more details. For recommendations, since I can't tell if one card is better than another, I can only look at other models that satisfy my requirements, which is currently:

  1. Gaming laptop that will be able to play new games for 3+ years, even if not necessarily at highest settings
  2. Prefer 15" screen size, 17" is also OK
  3. No requirements on weight and battery life (as long as it's longer than 2 hours, anyway)
  4. Budgeting about $1250 USD, possibly higher if the specs are right

But all these are secondary to wifi connectivity. Since I can't identify what's a good wifi card yet, I can only look at the other requirements, which I can find guides for. Currently looking at this laptop and this one (Amazon doesn't list the wifi card for this computer, but this is the one for which Acer provided the quote above about wifi cards changing depending on availability).

  • Since the goal of hardwarerecs is to provide recommendations, it's usually better if you can provide requirements (e.g. budget, connector in your laptop, antenna arrangement) and we can give you recommendations based off of that. If you want to know more about what makes a good card good, try somewhere like Superuser. – JMY1000 Jan 3 '18 at 5:28
  • @JMY1000 put in some details but yes, I get the feeling another place might be the right place to ask. – Allure Jan 3 '18 at 7:00
  • I see; I was under the impression you wanted to upgrade the current card in your laptop (which might be quite possible!) If this is an option, would you be interested in that? – JMY1000 Jan 3 '18 at 7:24
  • Probably not - this laptop is nearing 3 years of age so it's about time to replace it. I'm afraid of the laptop failing, plus replacing the wifi card manually would be something I've never done before and might screw up on. Having said that no harm asking - I'll bring it to my local store and ask if they can replace the card (inb4 whitelist ..) – Allure Jan 3 '18 at 10:42
  • The major thing you need to look for is a card that supports 802.11a/b/g/n/ac. Specifically, you're looking for 802.11ac support - that's the latest widely-available standard for WiFi communications, so if you have a card/access point combination that uses it, it'll be faster than a link that only uses 802.11n. – ArtOfCode Jan 3 '18 at 16:16

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