We were a bit shocked to find out that Intel released five different wireless card solutions for those with mini PCIe slots in 2013. The cost of those cards range between $14.99 shipped for the basic Intel Wireless-N 7260 up to $29.94 shipped for the flagship Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 card. To offer five 802.11n and 802.11ac cards within a $15 price range is pretty wild as most people can easily afford a $15-$30 wireless card as most really good 802.11ac routers are around $169 to $199 price points.
What card is right for you? If you are building a new system and want to help ‘future proof’ it, then your only choice is to go with an 802.11ac card as that is the latest standard out. The Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160 has a nice price, but it is a single stream card (1×1) so you loose half the speed of the card. The Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 is the card to have if you want the best and it is a dual stream card (2×2) so you get the ability to run at up to 867 Mbps.
Intel then offers three lower cost 802.11n solutions that are differentiated by features as well. At the bottom you have the Intel Wireless-N 7260 that is a single band card that only operates at 2.4GHz. From there you move up to Intel Dual Band Wireless-N 7260 cards that operate at either 2.4GHz or 5GHz, but one has Bluetooth 4.0 and the other does not. The current prices have you paying an extra $5 if you want dual band and then an additional $5 for Bluetooth and another $5 if you want dual band 802.11ac. Please note that we are just talking about Mini PCIe cards and not the m.2 NGFF wireless cards that Intel also offers under other part numbers. If you have a relatively new ultrabook or notebook you should double check what form factor your platform uses before ordering.
|2013 Intel WiFi Card Models||PCIe HMC #||Dual Stream||Speed||Bluetooth 4.0||Cost|
|Intel Wireless-N 7260||7260HMW BN||Yes||300 Mbps||Yes||$14.99|
|Intel Dual Band Wireless-N 7260||7260HMW NB||Yes||300 Mbps||No||$20.94|
|Intel Dual Band Wireless-N 7260||7260HMW AN||Yes||300 Mbps||Yes||$24.99|
|Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 3160||3160HMW||No||433 Mbps||Yes||$23.23|
|Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260||7260HMW||Yes||300/867 Mbps||Yes||$29.94|
Our testing clearly showed that you’ll get 3-4.5x higher upload and download speeds on the Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 card versus the Intel Wireless-N 7260. That difference is significant and if you are a power user that always wants the most performance that you can get we highly recommend going with the Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 card under part number 7260HMW. It only takes a few minutes to install one of these cards and to change out your wireless card driver, so if you want a way to spruce up your wireless system this should be high on the list of things to look at doing.
Legit Bottom Line: The Intel Dual Band Wireless-AC 7260 is the flagship Intel 802.11ac wireless card and it is hard to beat the performance it offers and the affordable sub $30 delivered price tag!