Wi-Fi Built-in Vs. Wi-Fi Ready

By Dan Stone

The terms "Built-in Wi-Fi" and "Wi-Fi Ready" are used to describe whether a network-compatible or smart device comes with an installed Wi-Fi adapter or is configured to accept a Wi-Fi adapter that is purchased separately. The terms are most frequently used by smart device manufacturers to describe Smart TV and Blu-ray player wireless compatibility. The industry association in charge of determining Wi-Fi standards, the Wi-Fi Alliance, does not hold a trademark on the terms "Built-in WiFi" and "Wi-Fi Ready." Some manufacturers use the terms "wireless LAN-ready" and "built-in wireless LAN" instead.

Built-in Wi-Fi Devices

Built-in Wi-Fi devices ship with an installed Wi-Fi adapter. The device can connect to your wireless network out of the box. Devices with built-in Wi-Fi may carry the Wi-Fi Alliance's "Wi-Fi" or "Wi-Fi Certified" designations to indicate wireless compatibility instead of using the term "built-in." Devices with built-in Wi-Fi adapters usually end up costing less money than buying an otherwise identical Wi-Fi Ready device and a compatible Wi-Fi adapter.

Wi-Fi Ready Devices

Wi-Fi Ready devices do not ship with an installed wireless adapter: Instead, they feature a USB expansion port for the installation of a separately sold compatible Wi-Fi adapter. Wi-Fi Ready devices include a built-in Ethernet port for wired access to network-based and Internet-based functionality. Wi-Fi Ready devices cost less than the built-in counterparts by omitting the wireless hardware and offer an identical user experience as long as the device is connected by wire to a network router. You may opt to buy a Wi-Fi Ready device to save money if it's going to be located near your router.

Adding Wi-Fi Support

If you buy a Wi-Fi Ready device and later decide you want to add Wi-Fi support, the only thing that's going to hurt is your wallet. You're not going to be able to plug in that $20 USB Wi-Fi adapter you have left over from your old computer because Wi-Fi Ready devices use proprietary adapters that only work within the same brand and for specific models. For example, you'll need a Samsung Wi-Fi dongle to add Wi-Fi to a Wi-Fi Ready Samsung Blu-ray player, or you'll need a Sony Wi-Fi dongle to add Wi-Fi to a Wi-Fi Ready Sony HDTV. According to CNET, proprietary adapters cost several times what similar computer Wi-Fi adapters cost. Installing the adapter is generally straightforward: Just plug it in to the device's USB port.

The Computer Question

The terms "Built-in Wi-Fi" and "Wi-Fi Ready" are not used with recent-model computers, tablets and smartphones. Laptops, tablets and smartphones all come standard with Wi-Fi support: There's no need to designate if the device has it. Desktop computers do not all ship with Wi-Fi support, but the feature can be added with an expansion card or USB adapter. Desktop and laptop computers fit into both the "Built-in" and "Ready" designations because they can ship with built-in Wi-Fi and can add an updated or replacement Wi-Fi adapter.