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What is a Mini Network Card?

G. Wiesen
G. Wiesen

A mini network card is a network card designed to be especially small in size and to more easily fit inside a computer that may already be crowded with other internal devices. These cards are usually cards that allow the computer to connect to wireless networks, such as those created by a wireless router or Wi-Fi hotspot. Much like other network cards, they will usually connect to an internal port on the motherboard of the computer, such as a peripheral component interconnect (PCI) slot. A mini network card will also usually have a smaller backplate, often lacking the antenna that larger wireless network cards typically include.

Available from a number of hardware manufacturers, a mini network card typically allows a computer user to connect to a wireless network. These cards are designed to be smaller in size, since the space on a motherboard can be somewhat limited due to other devices already installed on the board. As other devices, such as video cards, have become larger to allow for greater performance and reliability, the space to install a network card within a computer has decreased. This is why devices such as a mini network card have become more popular.

A wireless router, which is used with a mini network card.
A wireless router, which is used with a mini network card.

These cards are not usually intended for use with a laptop, despite their smaller size. A mini network card may potentially be small enough to install within a laptop, but the layout of the internal hardware of a laptop is still quite different from a desktop computer. While there are also smaller external devices that can be used to connect a computer to a wireless network, a mini network card is usually used by those who wish to install a more permanent network device inside of their computer.

A mini network card connects to the motherboard, usually using a PCI slot or similar port, like any other type of network card. The card simply takes up a significantly smaller amount of space within the computer, and this can be helpful for smaller computers with small motherboards, or for computers with many devices already installed. A mini network card usually does not have an antenna on the backplate of the card, and may not be exposed out of the back of the computer at all. The lack of an antenna can potentially reduce how well the card is able to connect to a wireless network, but this is usually only a concern when connecting to a distant network or to one with a weak signal.

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    • A wireless router, which is used with a mini network card.
      By: Scanrail
      A wireless router, which is used with a mini network card.