Which USB to Ethernet adapters are best?

Wi-Fi can be incredibly convenient in public places like coffee shops and other storefronts, but wired connections are superior in a few ways. Accessing the web via an Ethernet connection delivers lower latency and significantly better device security than a wireless network. It can also increase overall performance vs. Wi-Fi if you’re working in an area that’s highly congested with other wireless networks.

The top USB to Ethernet adapter is the Uni 5-in-1 USB Hub. It offers consistent connectivity, durable construction and its additional port offerings mean it won’t tie up your last available USB input. 

What to know before you buy a USB to Ethernet adapter

Who needs a USB to Ethernet adapter?

There are a few scenarios where connecting your computer to Ethernet over USB can have a significant impact. If your PC’s internal Wi-Fi radio is out of whack, a USB to Ethernet adapter makes for a quick and reliable fix. Similarly, if you plan on playing competitive online games and you’re either using a laptop or don’t have an Ethernet connector built into your desktop’s motherboard, a USB to Ethernet adapter can decrease latency compared to a Wi-Fi connection.

The most common reason for using Ethernet instead of Wi-Fi, though, is for security purposes. While Wi-Fi is relatively secure for many people’s everyday needs, it’s not perfect and can, in rare cases, introduce potential security hazards, especially in sensitive corporate environments, for example.

What you need for a USB to Ethernet adapter to work

On the computer side, any quality USB to Ethernet adapter or dongle should offer plug-and-play installation. That is to say; you shouldn’t have to do anything but plug it in for it to work perfectly.

In the other direction, the only challenge to using an Ethernet connection is that you’ll need an Ethernet cable that reaches from your router to where you’re sitting (you generally still need both a modem and a router when using a wired Ethernet connection). This is sometimes easier said than done; for example, running Ethernet cables might not be feasible if you rent an apartment and don’t want your floor or baseboards cluttered with wires.

If you’re a homeowner who demands dependable, wired connectivity, though, you’ll understand the importance of having physical cables run to support your home network. In that same vein, any workplace with the kind of security levels that require Ethernet connections will undoubtedly have plenty of available Ethernet cords, even if you, the user, have to supply the adapter.

What to look for in a quality USB to Ethernet adapter

Ethernet adapter speed ratings

One relatively common term, 10/100/1000, describes an Ethernet adapter that can accommodate 10, 100 or 1,000 megabits of bandwidth. Most of the time, 100 megabits is a perfectly fine internet speed for most people and exceeds the speeds that most homes subscribe to. A wired network shines when it can take advantage of lightning-fast local speeds, though. It’s best to stick with Ethernet adapters that are fully rated to the 10/100/1000 standard, not only because they’re fast but also because you can be relatively sure you’re not buying rebranded, unreliable, decades-old hardware.

Durable construction

Assuming you’re getting an adapter to take with you and use with your laptop, make sure to get one that won’t fail once it sees a bit of abuse on the road. If all you need is something simple and small with nothing but an Ethernet jack, you’ll find several quality options from reliable manufacturers made almost entirely from plastic. If you opt for something a little larger or with a lot more functions), consider something with an aluminum body for both durability and heat dissipation concerns.

Additional ports aside from just Ethernet

If you have plenty of leftover ports and don’t need anything but an Ethernet connector, by all means, get something simple and affordable. On the other hand, there are plenty of versatile dongles out there with a variety of additional ports such as USB-A expansion slots, SD and microSD card readers and high-definition video outputs. If you’re willing to invest in a fixed docking station, you can even find some with embedded video processors that let you add additional displays without increasing the strain on your laptop’s hardware.

How much you can expect to spend on a quality USB to Ethernet adapter

The least expensive and simplest models will usually run you just over $10. A full-featured USB dongle costs anywhere from $40-$100, while a laptop docking station that you plug into a wall will be in the $200-$300 range.

What are the best USB to Ethernet adapters to buy?

Top USB to Ethernet adapter

Uni USB C Ethernet Hub

Uni USB C Ethernet Hub

What you need to know: It’s a durable and straightforward option with a Type-C connector and additional ports.

What you’ll love: In addition to a gigabit Ethernet port, it sports three USB-A ports and an HDMI port so you can add network connectivity without taking up what might be your last USB port. It also offers a remarkably durable construction plus a highly resilient braided-nylon cable.

What you should consider: It’s not the absolute most compact option because it includes more than just an Ethernet connection.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Top USB to Ethernet adapter for the money

TP-Link UE300

TP-Link UE300

What you need to know: This one’s as simple and affordable as they get.

What you’ll love: It has a USB plug on one end and an Ethernet jack on the other, without and extra functions or frills. It costs relatively little, especially considering it comes from a highly reliable manufacturer of networking peripherals. It’s also compact and, therefore, pretty durable.

What you should consider: It will occupy one of your USB ports and doesn’t have any passthrough ports. If you need to reclaim one or more USB-A ports, there are some versatile dongles that can help with that.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Worth checking out

Anker PowerExpand+ 7-in-1 USB-C Dongle

Anker PowerExpand+ 7-in-1 USB-C Dongle

What you need to know: This is the versatile dongle you need if you have a wide range of expansion needs.

What you’ll love: It’s not designed specifically as an Ethernet adapter, but if you need a huge variety of ports yet are limited to just one or two USB-C connectors, it can significantly increase productivity. It’s got multiple USB-A ports, standard size and microSD card readers and even 100 watts of power delivery pass through, so you won’t have to sacrifice a single USB port to connect all your various peripherals.

What you should consider: While it’s exceptionally versatile, it’s also considerably more expensive than more simple adapters. 

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Chris Thomas writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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