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Qualcomm NCM865 (vs. Intel BE200): A Versatile Wi-Fi 7 Upgrade for Your Windows 11 Computer

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If you’re looking to upgrade your AMD-based computer, be it a desktop or a laptop, to Wi-Fi 7, the Qualcomm NCM865 chip, currently available via the ready-made MSI HERALD-BE NCM865 PCIe add-on adapter for desktop, is the answer.

To be clear, this Wi-Fi chip also supports Intel-based computers, but in this case, you’re better off with the Intel BE200, which is more readily available for a machine with an E-key M.2 slot.

With that, let’s find out how the new chips expand our Wi-Fi 7 upgrade options.

The Qualcomm NCM865 is for now available only as the MSI Herald BE PCIe adapter card
For now, the Qualcomm NCM865 is available only as the MSI Herald BE PCIe adapter card. Note the white Wi-Fi 7 chip mounted on top.

Qualcomm NCM865-based MSI Herald-BE: A desktop solution that works for laptops, too

As mentioned, the NCM865 Wi-Fi 7 chip, which is based on Qualcomm’s FastConnect 7800 family first announced in mid-2022, is currently unavailable as an E-key M.2 chip. Instead, in the U.S., you can get it via the MSI Herald-BE PCIe add-on card.

This card is basically a generic PCIe adapter housing an NCM865 chip. It is ready to be installed inside a desktop computer with an available PCIe slot. Use it that way or you can remove the chip itself and install it in a machine with an E-key M.2 slot.

Eventually, you’ll likely be able to buy just the chip itself the way you do the Intel BE200, which is generally cheaper than getting the whole PCIe add-on adapter. The point is that if you have a desktop computer, the MSI Herald-BE NCM865 is a no-brainer. But if you have a laptop, it will take some work, and you might have to spend more than necessary.

For now, expensive or not, this Qualcomm NCM865 card is the only Wi-Fi 7 upgrade option for some.

Qualcomm NCM865 vs. Intel BE200 Wi Fi 7 chip
Qualcomm NCM865 vs. Intel BE200: While sharing an identical design for an E-key M.2 slot, the two Wi-Fi 7 chips can be very different in what computers they can be used with.

Qualcomm NCM865 vs. Intel BE200: Hardware specifications

Qualcomm NCM865Intel BE200
AvailabilityThird-party PCIe adapter
(MSI Herald-BE PCIe)
Third-party PCIe adapter,
E-key M.2 chip
Wi-Fi StandardTri-band BE5800
Bluetooth Bluetooth 5.4
Wi-Fi Bands2.4GHz, 5GHz, 6GHz
Channel Width20/40/80/160/320MHz
MLO SupportYes
(Windows 11 24H2)
PlatformIntel and AMD
(out of the box)
Intel,
AMD (hit or miss depending on the BIOS version)
Operating SystemWindows 11Windows 11,
Windows 10 (no 6GHz band)
Hardware specifications: Qualcomm NCM865 vs. Intel BE200
MSI HERALD BE NCM865 Wi Fi 7 PCIe add on adapter on a AMD desktopMSI HERALD BE NCM865 Wi Fi 7 PCIe add on adapter install on an Dell Inspiron 3910 desktop computer
Qualcomm NCM865: The chip works with both AMD and Intel platforms. Here, it’s assembled inside an AMD custom-built machine and an Intel-based Dell Inspiron 3910 desktop.

A non-choosey Wi-Fi 7 add-on hardware upgrade

Unlike the Intel BE200, which, in my experience, only works issue-free on Intel-based computers, the Qualcomm NCM865 supports both Intel and AMD platforms right out of the box. Other than that, physically, it shares other requirements with the Intel BE200 counterpart. Specifically, your computer needs the following:

  • It’s a desktop or laptop computer with an NGFF 2230 M.2 E-key slot explicitly designed for Wi-Fi adapter cards. Or
  • It’s a desktop computer with an available PCIe slot.
  • The computer must run Windows 11. You can upgrade your unsupported machine using this guide.

That said, if your computer currently has Wi-Fi 6 or 6E, chances are you can upgrade it to Wi-Fi 7 using this Qualcomm NCM865.

The upgrade process is exactly the same as that of other Wi-Fi 6/6E/7 cards, including the Intel BE200. Specifically:

  1. Buy the adapter and download the Wi-Fi software driver via this link, and also this Bluetooth driver if you care about this portion of the hardware.
  2. Open your computer’s chassis and install the new Wi-Fi 7 chips using the E-key M.2 slot (if available) or a PCIe slot (desktop-only). In the latter case, optionally connect the included Bluetooth cable to an available USB pinhead to use the card’s built-in Bluetooth support.
  3. Close the computer, turn it on, and install the driver(s). Note that the Qualcomm NCM865’s software driver is currently unavailable via Windows Update and needs to be installed manually, as mentioned in this post.

Mission accomplished!

MSI HERALD BE NCM865 Wi Fi 7 PCIe add on adapterMSI HERALD BE Wi Fi 7 PCIe with the NCM865 chip removed to use on a laptop
The Qualcomm NCM865 Wi-Fi 7 chip is currently available only as part of an MSI Herald-BE PCIe add-on adapter card. However, you can remove it from the adapter and install it on a laptop (right).

Qualcomm NCM865 Wi-Fi 7 Chip's Rating

8.7 out of 10
MSI HERALD BE NCM865 Wi Fi 7 PCIe add on adapter retail box
Performance
8.5 out of 10
Design and Ease of Use
9 out of 10
Value
8.5 out of 10

Pros

Adds Wi-Fi 7 to a computer with up to 320MHz channel width; supports both Intel and AMD platforms

Flexible application via E-key M.2 or PCIe adapter

Backward compatible with Wi-Fi 6E and older broadcasters

Cons

Limited availability; Windows 11 (and later) required

No USB option

The result

In my trial with a few computers, both AMD and Intel machines, the Qualcomm NCM865 proved to be similar to the Intel BE200 in performance. The latter tend to negotiate more often at a higher connection speed, likely because it’s better supported on the broadcasters’ side.

The Qualcomm NCM865 shows true Wi Fi 7 connection
The Qualcomm NCM865—identified as “Qualcomm FastConnect 7800 Wi-Fi 7 High Band Simultaneous (HBS) Network Adapter” within a computer—delivers a true Wi-Fi 7 connection, shown here on an AMD Ryzen 5-based computer.

Both chips will give you a real Wi-Fi 7 experience, though neither’s current software driver supports Wi-Fi 7’s MLO. That generally needs to wait until Windows 11 24H2 is available. Still, they are plenty fast, with sustained real-world Wi-Fi rates often in high Gig+ and even multi-Gigabit realms.

Unsure which to pick between the two? Again, the Qualcomm NCM865 is the only option for an AMD machine. Otherwise, the Intel BE200 is much more readily available and hence potentially more affordable with faster shipping.

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11 thoughts on “Qualcomm NCM865 (vs. Intel BE200): A Versatile Wi-Fi 7 Upgrade for Your Windows 11 Computer”

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  1. Hi, did you somehow manage to get Bluetooth to workon Win11? I bought the same MSI card and put the M.2 chip in my Elitebook 845 G10. Wifi7 works great. BT is also displayed but I can’t get a connection (mouse, keyboard, nothing…). I would be happy if you could tell us about your experiences. Thanks in advance

    Reply
      • Yes and no, you probably need updated Microsoft bluetooth drivers but it only worked for me when I installed the Qualcom drivers (I missed to download driver when I loaded the WiFi drivers) … {…}

        Reply
          • I just spent some time on this myself. The posted driver is for Intel. The one needed is: Qualcomm Bluetooth Driver 3.0.0.909 for Windows 11. Mine was showing as generic which didn’t work at all.

          • You’re correct Charles. Thanks! I updated the link withe right software. I didn’t test the Bluetooth part of the chip, by the way.

  2. Lol when I asked you if you intended to test this and you refused. But I guess the temptation is too strong to resist! 😉

    Reply
  3. Awesome review, really glad you covered this. I just ordered these a few weeks ago on Amazon after searching forever. I’m expecting them early April. Can’t wait to see what MLO does with these. Keep up the good work!

    Reply

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