Modern computers can share resources remotely with other units, thanks to the internet. Gaming PCs have particularly benefited from the development, as you can interact over high-speed internet for a more immersive gaming experience. However, gamers often ask: “Do motherboards come with WiFi?”
While it might seem a redundant question, it’s crucial to understand if your motherboard comes with built-in WiFi. The WiFi card is a prominent component on the board, and there are custom and third-party options from which you can choose.
Is there a built-in WiFi card on your motherboard? Would you need to upgrade it in the future? This piece highlights some important details about WiFi connections on a motherboard.
The quick answer to whether motherboards come with their WiFi is yes and no. Don’t let that confuse you: only some computers have their motherboards, including a WiFi card. They’re often the higher-end models from brands, and users would have to pay extra for the built-in WiFi. Otherwise, you wouldn’t find a WiFi card on budget and mid-range motherboards. The reason is obvious – cost-saving.
Also, laptops come with WiFi cards because it’s necessary for a mobile computing device. Naturally, laptop motherboards are smaller with less space for expansions. Therefore, the manufacturer permanently includes a WiFi card in it.
However, we wouldn’t expect you to make your purchase decision right away. Read on to take a deeper dive into the topic.
While built-in WiFi on motherboards is debatable, you can almost certainly find an Ethernet port on desktop computer boards. It’s been the standard for the last few decades, and some of the options would provide speeds up to 10Gbps.
Gamers may prefer the faster speed, as even the latest wireless network speeds can only manage a tenth of 10Gbps (2.4Gbps max). However, motherboards with built-in WiFi have advantages in certain situations and use cases.
Some motherboards come with Onboard WiFi as standard. You wouldn’t have to install an extra component to get wireless network connectivity. Although popular with laptop models, it’s common to see onboard WiFi on desktop models as well.
Typically the wireless network card is in place permanently on the board, often at the rear end, together with other I/O connections. Upon closer inspection, you can notice the WiFi antennae peeking out of the circuit board.
Users may want to know if a motherboard has an onboard WiFi to compare it with regular non-WiFi variants. As a rule, manufacturers would charge extra for including a built-in wireless network band into their motherboards.
However, it isn’t so much as a price bump since you can barely notice the increase. Users may only have to pony a few dollars more for the WiFi variant of a motherboard, as is the case with the ASRock A520M model, for example.
While you wouldn’t have to pay extra for a motherboard with Onboard WiFi, you’ll have to make a tradeoff in another crucial section instead. The user will have to sacrifice the chipset lanes on the board.
Generally, all the motherboard’s components utilize the PCI-e lanes on the circuit board, and manufacturers can only fit in so much. Built-in WiFi cards take some of the lane spaces, causing you to miss some features. For instance, in the ASRock A520M/AC motherboard, you’ll have to sacrifice the VGA port for the WiFi module. Thankfully, that shouldn’t be a problem if you prioritize a built-in wireless network card or the added ports.
Here are some advantages of buying a motherboard with Onboard WiFi modules:
- It Provides Adequate Speeds to the Average Consumer: Many people can manage to have a motherboard with onboard WiFi. While it might seem like you can get much faster speeds elsewhere, picking up a board with built-in WiFi might be a more economical option.
Onboard WiFi can reach speeds of up to 2.4Gbps, while wired Ethernet alternatives can attain 10Gbps. Even when the manufacturer would charge you extra for having a WiFi card pre-fitted on the board, it isn’t nearly as much as plopping down money for a 10-Gigabit Ethernet. Also, Onboard WiFi is fast for everyday tasks like browsing and gaming.
- It Makes the Computer More Portable: Motherboards with built-in WiFi cards are generally smaller, with the reduced PCI-e lanes and the absence of a physically massive Ethernet port. They are in use with smartphones and modern laptops, as they can function properly in a more portable computer. It bears mentioning that you’ll likely get a built-in WiFi card on a smaller motherboard unit. An excellent example is the Mini ITX which only has a single PCI-E port. You can find them on smaller desktops.
- Handy for Office Use: You can use the onboard WiFi on a motherboard to connect more seamlessly to an office network when you need to, in a pinch. This advantage becomes apparent when you consider situations where many computers try to access the same router.
Routers provide a limited number of Ethernet ports but can support multiple wireless connections. You can avoid spending more on network switches and use the built-in wireless network card on your motherboard instead.
- Cleaner Workspace: Since you won’t have to worry about wired connections and cables all over the place, your workspace has a neater look.
Some of the disadvantages of getting a motherboard with built-in WiFi cards include:
- Inability to Upgrade: You cannot swap out WiFi cards if they’re soldered to the motherboard from the factory. Instead, you’ll have to buy a new motherboard or a new computer to get the upgrade.
- More Expensive in the Long Term: A built-in WiFi card adds to your motherboard costs over a certain period. That’s because it’s often impossible for you to upgrade them, and you might have to spend more than you had if you bought a motherboard with a PCI-e WiFi extension.
- Doesn’t Reach Ethernet Speeds: Onboard WiFi on motherboards caps out at 2.4Gbps. While that’s plenty fast for everyday use, Ethernet boasts of much faster speeds for advanced use. You can get a 5 gigabit or 10 gigabit Ethernet port for your desktop motherboard. If you must perform heavy network tasks like server hosting, Onboard WiFi would struggle to keep up with the operations.
Many technology consumers have a particular question: “Do motherboards come with WiFi?” The answer is complex, indicating the diversity in computer network technologies.
Many manufacturers don’t bother to include a WiFi card on their motherboards since it drives up the costs, and you can always get a better-wired connection.
However, the article above highlights the other details you need to know about onboard WiFi. Their advantages and limitations are helpful information when you need to buy a new motherboard or PC.
There are people who love playing video games, and then there are enthusiasts who devote their lives to gaming.
Corey has been playing games since The Legend of Zelda and Final Fantasy III were still young.
Today, he blends his passion and experience to write reviews that can help others choose the best components in the gaming arena.