Plugable’s $13 USB adapter adds Bluetooth 5.0 to your older PC or build

Enlarge / Plugable’s Bluetooth 5.0 USB adapter in a desktop PC.

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No, industry specs and updates aren’t going to stop arriving. But keeping your computer up to date with the latest wireless standards, like Bluetooth, is still a good step in future-proofing. While it’s not the only product of its kind, the Plugable USB-BT5 USB-A adapter announced today looks like a cheap and simple way to bring Bluetooth 5.0 to your PC.

Bernie Thompson, founder and CTO at the Redmond, Washington-based company told us that the adapter supports link rates of up to 3Mbps. You also get connectivity with up to seven devices and a max distance claim of 131 feet (40 m). Like with any Bluetooth product, max supported distance will vary depending on environmental factors, such as walls and appliances in the area.

Plugable’s adapter works like a Bluetooth radio for the computer’s OS, and the only OSes the dongle supports are Windows 11 and Windows 10. With Microsoft ending support for Windows 7 and 8 next month, the lack of older Windows OSes may not be too surprising.

Still, earlier released rivals have differing compatibility. TP-Link’s UB500 (on sale for $13 as of writing) supports Windows 8.1 and 7 in addition to Windows 11 and 10. Asus’ USB-BT500 ($20 MSRP) doesn’t claim to support Windows 11 but lists Windows 10 and 8.1, more Linux.

While some of Plugable’s previous Bluetooth adapters have supported Linux, Thompson told us that the company has encountered issues with open source projects handling Bluetooth support in Linux that have created “less than ideal experiences.” The adapter might work with Linux, but the OS isn’t officially supported, they noted.

The USB 2.0 accessory is 1.13-ounces and 5.24×3.5× 0.59 inches.
Enlarge / The USB 2.0 accessory is 1.13-ounces and 5.24×3.5× 0.59 inches.

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If you need official Linux support or opt for Asus or TP-Link’s adapters over Plugable’s for any other reason, you probably won’t miss much. Plugable’s Thompson admitted to Ars Technica that the USB-BT5 is “functionally identical” to Asus’ USB-BT500. The TP-Link adapter uses a similar driver package to Plugable’s and, likely, the same chip. Plus, each adapter has a two-year warranty. If you presume you’ll have drastic technical difficulties with your plug-in dongle, though, Thompson claimed that the USB-BT5 adds unique value via “US-based customer support from the engineers who test and bring the adapter to market.”

The other thing that could win you over is price. Plugable’s USB-BT5 Bluetooth 5.0 adapter is currently selling for $13.

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