Having Wifi is a huge benefit to many gamers, there are many benefits such as portability. So, when a gamer is purchasing a motherboard for their new PC, they will most likely wonder how it will connect to the internet.
When I choose my motherboards, I always make sure that they have WiFi connectivity despite it using up a few PCI-E lanes, this is because it allows me to move my PC about whenever I want, and doesn’t use up any PCI-E slots.
Unfortunately, not all motherboards come with built-in Wi-Fi or Bluetooth connectivity, and you’ll find this is more common with the older generation of motherboards.
The reason a lot of motherboards do not have native Wi-Fi or Bluetooth is that Ethernet was the main choice with a lot of PCs due to its speed, and the nature of PCs is more stationary rather than portable.
What Is Onboard WIFI For Gaming Motherboards?
Onboard or built-in Wi-Fi & Bluetooth means your motherboard comes with a Wi-Fi adapter installed onto the board, this adapter allows you to connect directly to your home connection without an ethernet cable. Also, built in Wi-Fi means you don’t have to purchase a separate Wi-Fi adapter which serves as a benefit.
Your router sends out radio signals you typically see as a wireless access point when looking for a wireless connection. Usually, your router will send out two radio frequencies 2.4GHz, and 5GHz, for your phone, laptop, and your wireless-capable PC to connect to.
The thing with ethernet connection, they transmit their data through a cable which is far more efficient than transferring via Wi-Fi, they can handle speeds up to 10Gbps.
Onboard Wi-Fi can be a really good investment, especially if the motherboard comes with Wi-Fi 6 connectivity. Wi-Fi 6 allows for higher speeds compared to its predecessor, Wi-Fi 5, on paper, Wi-Fi 6 can reach speeds up to 9.6 gbps and Wi-Fi 5 reaches speeds up to 3.5 gbps. Wi-Fi 6 theoretically allows for speeds nearly as fast as ethernet, so this can be a great option for gamers.
Pros Of Onboard Wifi:
- Increased mobility, also it is more convenient than wires
- Improved user experience
- Reduced clutter for gaming rigs, better temperatures
- Ability to access the internet even if ethernet ports are used up
Cons Of Onboard Wifi:
- More expensive compared to purchasing a wifi adapter
- Lower performance compared to ethernet
- Potential interference with other wireless devices
- Could result in lag in competitive gaming scenarios
So Do Gaming Motherboards Have Wifi Built In?
If you’re interested in a motherboard that supports built-in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, then you’ll be glad to know that a lot of motherboards are now implementing this connectivity natively.
However, some cheap and inexpensive motherboards are more likely to not come with this functionality, also we don’t recommend cheap motherboards as they lack safety features such as Dual-BIOS and usually die quicker.
A lot of the high-end gaming motherboards come with built-in Wi-Fi, and they usually come at a premium price, but you can still find affordable options which allow for onboard Wi-Fi. If you’re an AMD user, then the MSI MPG B550 GAMING EDGE WIFI is a great option for you. If you happen to favor Intel, then the MSI MPG Z490 GAMING EDGE WIFI could do the job. Just ensure your processor is compatible with these motherboards before purchase.
Built-in Wi-Fi is also a great option if you’re not looking to use up PCI-E slots for a dedicated Wi-Fi card. This is important as Mini-ITX motherboards don’t come with a lot of PCI-E slots, and these PCI-E slots are usually allocated to more important components such as the graphics card. Also, onboard Wi-Fi uses PCIE lanes natively, so you’ll find that a motherboard with native Wi-Fi is lacking features compared to its non-Wi-Fi counterpart.
How To Tell If Motherboard Has Onboard Wifi?
There are a few ways to determine whether your motherboard has onboard wifi, the best way is to check the motherboard’s specifications, but you can also look for any physical signs such as antennas.
But usually, you can just check the box your motherboard came with, or read the specifications prior to purchasing the motherboard, for example, (“Asus ROG Strix B550-F Gaming WiFi II AMD AM4”) has a clear indication that it has onboard wifi capabilities.
Thankfully, most manufacturers will blatantly advertise whether the motherboard has onboard wifi capabilities or not, this is to avoid any confusion with the customer.
You can look for the physical signs on the motherboard, most motherboards with onboard wifi will come with an antenna which you will have to plug directly into the motherboard. As you can see from the image above, this is what a wifi antenna should resemble, but it will differ depending on the brand and model.
Does The Motherboard Form Factor Matter For Onboard Wifi?
Back in the day, if you wanted an ATX motherboard with native Wi-Fi, then you’d have a hard time finding them, but now that has changed with ATX motherboards implementing it more often, usually with the high-end models.
You’ll also notice that Mini-ITX motherboards come with native Wi-Fi more often, this is due to the lack of upgradability. Larger motherboards have enough expansion slots to implement Wi-Fi whereas Mini-ITX motherboards don’t.
So if you’re going to build a Mini-ITX PC, then you don’t need to worry as much as someone building a full ATX build. Mini-ITX motherboards with native Wi-Fi are actually fairly affordable too, so that’s a huge benefit. This will almost always come at the cost of upgradability, due to less expansion slots.
PCI-E or Wi-Fi cards can be seen as superior to onboard Wi-Fi due to the upgradability it offers. Onboard Wi-Fi cannot be upgraded, so if it happens to malfunction, then you’re going to be stuck with ethernet.
If you have onboard Wi-Fi, and would like to upgrade the Wi-Fi capabilities, then your only option would be to upgrade the entire motherboard which isn’t cost effective. In terms of performance, if they are of the same generation, the performance should be relatively similar.
How Can I Install WiFi Onto My Motherboard?
Even if you don’t have Wi-Fi connection, having it can be a huge benefit as more things are moving towards wireless connectivity. Just having Wi-Fi built in automatically makes your PC capable of moving anywhere in the world without requiring you to connect to ethernet, and portability happens to be extremely important to many people.
A PCIE WiFi card is the easiest way to upgrade your motherboard so it can support wifi connectivity. For gamers, you’ll want a wifi card that supports wifi at a long range, and supports high internet speeds.
So for gamers, the quality of the antenna, the range, and most importantly, the wireless standard that the adapter supports are all important factors. The latest wireless standard is 802.11ax or (WiFi 6), and it supports the highest speeds.
Installing A WiFi Card:
- First, turn off your PC, we’re not going to install the adapter whilst the computer is on.
- Gain access to your motherboard by removing the sidepanel.
- Look for a PCIE x1 slot, it is the shortest slot.
- Remove an expansion cover that corresponds to the PCIE x1 slot.
- Install the WiFi card.
- Locate the drivers for the card.
Pros And Cons Of WiFi Cards
Like always, there are pros and cons to be expected with all things. WiFi cards are great additions to your gaming build, and it can make your life a lot easier, but there are definitely some downsides to be considered before purchasing.
Pros Of WIFI Cards:
- High speed and reliable
- Replaceable if it breaks
- Generally better performance compared to onboard wifi
- Longer range due to antennas
Cons Of WIFI Cards:
- Requires the user to install
- Requires the user to spend additional money
- Occupies a PCIE slot and a PCIE Lane
- Requires additional drivers and software
A WIFI USB adapter is an interface between a computer and a wireless network. Much like a wireless PCIE card, a wifi USB adapter is installed through a USB port.
Some high end WIFI USB adapters will consist of an antenna to increase the range of the wireless adapter. However, gamers are more likely to go for a wireless PCIE card due to the additional stability, performance, and range.
Installing A WiFi adapter:
- Preferably turn the computer off.
- Unpackage your WIFI Adapter.
- Look for a free USB port on your computer.
- Ensure that the WIFI adapter antenna isn’t blocked.
- Download any necessary software.
Pros And Cons Of WiFi Adapters
WiFi adapters are pretty popular, they serve as an easy and cost-effective solution to a lack of wifi capabilities. However, they do have their downsides like all things, they’re typically limited in terms of speed and range, which can be bad for gamers.
Pros Of WIFI Adapters:
- Easy to install
- Don’t use up a PCIE slot
- Doesn’t reduce the upgradability in terms of PCIE components
Cons Of WIFI Adapters:
- Shorter range compared to wireless cards
- More susceptible to physical damage
- Prone to more issues and compatibility problems
- More prone to interference
Wi-Fi Vs Ethernet For Gaming?
Most gamers will prefer to use ethernet over wifi due to the fact that ethernet is often faster, more reliable, and isn’t susceptible to interference.
While it’s still possible to game on WiFi, ethernet is preferred by professional or competitive gamers, this is because you will have better ping whilst connected by ethernet.
Higher ping directly translates into more lag which can severely hinder how well a gamer plays. It can result in slow response times, choppy gameplay, and disconnects. When I play competitive games such as crossfire, high ping usually results in slower switches between weapons which can be quite annoying.
If you’re playing a single-player or non-competitive game, then wondering whether Wi-Fi or Ethernet is better is kind of irrelevant because the effects of latency play no effect on how well you play the game.
However, if you play games such as World Of Warcraft, League Of Legends, and CSGO, then having a stable internet connection is extremely important as it can give you an upper edge in most scenarios.
Yes, all gaming motherboards technically do support WiFi, what really matters is the implementation of the wireless technology. You can either pick a motherboard with onboard wifi, or pick a motherboard with no onboard wifi, and use a wireless adapter, or a wifi card.