Best WiFi Card for Librem 14 (Packet Loss, Signal Strength, dB)

Does anyone have recommendations on the best WiFi card to put-in the Librem 14?

I recently purchased a Librem 14, and the WiFi card that comes with it is so bad, it’s basically not usable.

My 5-year-old thinkpad (that I’m trying to replace with the Librem) has 0-2% packet loss throughout the day at my desk. The new Librem 14 gets 20-80% packet loss in the same location. Yes, the signal wifi strength is not great, and that’s why I’m asking this question: I need to find a WiFi card that preforms well with poor signal.

Specifically, I’m trying to optimize signal strength and stability.

  • I’m looking for the wifi card that drops the fewest packets on a weak connection
  • I’m looking for the wifi card that doesn’t disconnect on a weak connection
  • I don’t care about non-free drivers (I’m using QubesOS w/ sys-net)
  • I don’t care about bandwidth speed. Stability is more important than throughput.
  • I don’t mind spending extra $$ for a strong wifi connection

I’ve spent some time googling, but I can’t find any wifi card comparison guide on the Internet that compares wifi cards in a quantitative way (eg by connecting them to a laptop and connecting that laptop to a wifi router in a field and measuring the increase in packet loss as the meters between the laptop and router is increased).

Does anyone here have a recommendation on a WiFi card that works well with the Librem 14 running QubesOS that has a very strong signal and very low packet loss?

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Not answering the question but if you live in your own home and you don’t mind spending $$ for a strong connection then … ethernet cabling. :wink:

Also, you may find the 2.4 GHz band works better than the 5 GHz band. Which band are you currently using? (The Librem 14 can do either band I suppose but what about your router / Wireless Access Point? If both ends can do both bands then which band is being used?)

(To illustrate the point, if I select an SSID on the 5 GHz band, I get a signal with power -46 dBm. If I select an SSID on the 2.4 GHz band, I get a signal with power -30 dBm i.e. about 40 times stronger signal. To be clear, I have different SSIDs on the two bands, so I can directly select the band by selecting the SSID. You may or may not have set your network up like that - but you can still choose the band one way or another.)

While you are focused on packet loss, you may want to look at the power of the received signal, which you can get with e.g.

iwlist $interface scanning | grep -E 'ESSID|Signal'

where $interface is replaced by the wireless interface name

or, for a bit of fun, with

nmcli -f in-use,ssid,bssid,freq,signal,bars dev wifi

Pretty much any PCIe M.2 2230 WiFi card should work. Just pay attention that it is not a CNVI type, which we do not support in the L14. But any card that uses PCIe for WiFi (and eventually USB for Bluetooth) should work just fine, given that you also install the appropriate firmware files into your operating system (if it does not come with them already).

If you currently have the Atheros ATH9k in your laptop then yes, it is a kind of known drawback of these that they radio is not the best - take into account that the ATH9k chip is comparably old by today’s standards. BUT we still ship it since this is the only one that does not require a firmware supplied by the operating system at runtime - an issue we discussed in the forum and elsewhere a couple of times.

We also did route UART and SDIO to the M.2 WiFi/BT slot, so even SDIO based cards should work, but we have not tested it yet, YMMV.