A wireless-N network adapter is a device that allows a computer to connect to a wireless network, specifically a network utilizing wireless-N technology and standards. This simply refers to a specific type of wireless network, which is faster than previous wireless-G network systems and allows a wireless network to transmit data faster. Like any other type of network adapter, this device is typically connected directly to the motherboard through an internal installation or can be an external device that connects through a universal serial bus (USB) port. A wireless-N network adapter is typically backward compatible with older wireless-G network devices, such as routers, but requires a wireless-N enabled router or hub to take advantage of higher speeds.
Network adapters are devices that connect to or are installed inside of a computer and allow the computer to connect to a network. These adapters can be wired and allow a computer to connect through a physical connection, typically an Ethernet cable, or they can be wireless. A wireless network adapter allows a computer to connect to a wireless network, typically through a wireless router or hub. In the past, wireless-B and wireless-G networks were standard, but newer network standards have increased performance and a wireless-N network adapter is typically required to connect to this kind of network.
A wireless-N network represents a marked improvement in wireless technology and allows much greater transfer rates and speeds for wireless networks than previous wireless standards. When a wireless-N network adapter is used to connect to this type of network, multiple bands of radio signals are used simultaneously to transmit data faster. This is referred to as multiple input, multiple output (MIMO) technology and is vital to the increased performance of a wireless-N network adapter and network.
MIMO technology uses multiple radios to receive and transmit data simultaneously, significantly increasing the data transmission rate for a computer using a wireless-N network adapter. The wireless-N standards also allow two channels to be used simultaneously, effectively doubling the already increased transmission rates for systems using wireless-N technology. For a wireless-N network adapter to utilize these improvements, however, it needs to be connected to a network through a hub or router that also includes wireless-N technology.
A wireless-N network adapter can still connect to older systems that use wireless-B or wireless-G standards, since backward compatibility is one aspect of wireless-N standards, but will not be able to utilize MIMO technology or dual channels. This type of adapter will typically be an internal device that is installed inside of a computer tower and connects directly to the motherboard, often with an external antenna connected to the adapter. External wireless-N network adapters can also be used, which typically connect to a computer through a USB port.