If you have a desktop a PCI-Express adapter seems like a good choice. You not only don't have to sacrifice a valuable USB port and generally you have a free PCIe X1 slot, but these cards also come with more antennas, which means that higher speeds are possible. Of course this is under the condition that manufacturers are actually capable of realizing this in practice. We tested four of these adapters to find out whether these cards actually offer something extra. Two were sent to us by TP-Link, while ASUS and Startech.com were also available to send us a sample. The difference between the adapters isn't too hard to see. The Startech.com PEX433WAC11 offers two antenna connections and the same goes for the Archer T6E from TP-Link. Its brother, the Archer T9E has three connections and the PCE-AC88 from ASUS even comes with four of them. What's more the latter model is also the only model that allows you to place the antennas in a suitable location using the included stand.
We received the PCE-AC88 from ASUS. Its red cooling profile indicates that the card is meant to be fast and the four antenna connections emphasize this even more. A stand with a 1m-long cable is included, which means that you can place the antenna in a suitable location. It's not very pretty, however this is the best solution for achieving high throughput speeds. This is reflected in the test results, as it is the fastest plug-in card we tested. Nevertheless, the USB adapter from ASUS, the USB-AC68, is faster and cheaper, as the PCE-AC88 has a price tag of 96 pounds.
From Startech.com we received the PEX433WAC11, a PCI-Express plug-in card with two antenna connections. Remarkably enough compared to the competition, the manufacturer has chosen to not install any cooling elements on the WiFi chipset. This means that the card literally, and figuratively, looks less cool. The PEX433WAC11 is by far the worse-performing plug-in card we tested. Furthermore, its price might not be very high at 45 pounds, however it's still higher than the clearly better-performing Archer T6E from TP-Link.
TP-Link sent us two plug-in networking adapters, the Archer T6E and the Archer T9E. The T6E features two antenna connections, however the T9E features no less than three and therefore it's the faster one out of the two. This makes it even more surprising that the T6E requires the full height of a slot, whereas the T9E makes do with less space. If you can choose between the two, you probably won't have to think very long and hard. However, the T6E is not too bad, especially if you compare it to the much slower model from Startech.com. The T6E is also the cheapest card.