Wired Or Wireless: Which Is Better Between Wi-Fi And Ethernet?

by Sachin

Indeed, smartphones and IoT devices don’t need cables to connect to the internet. The presence of Wi-Fi, however, didn’t end the existence of Ethernet. Desktop computers, printers, and other gadgets continue to rely on Ethernet since its inception more than 40 years ago. 

The battle between wireless and wired connectivity should be fun and exciting. Most of life’s day-to-day tasks involve being online, including work, communication, research, and entertainment. 

Accordingly, learn more about Wi-Fi and Ethernet, their main points of comparison, and the answer to the question posed. 

Defining The Terms 

  • Wi-Fi refers to the wireless networking technology that offers high-speed internet through radio frequency. Wi-Fi Alliance has trademarked the term to certify the interoperability of wireless computer networking devices that are based on IEEE 802.11x and designated as Wi-Fi Certified™. 

Setting the Parameters

This comparison is centered on four criteria.

Speed

A hallmark feature and the reason for Ethernet’s long-standing popularity is speed. It is faster than Wi-Fi, although improvements made to the latter have somehow bridged the gap.

  • The maximum data transmission speed of the wired Ethernet connection depends on the category (Cat) of the cables, which also dictates the bandwidth frequency range for the speed indicated. Cat5e is the most commonly used and can support up to 1 Gigabit Ethernet, while Cat6a can allow up to 10 Gigabit data transmission.
  • Meanwhile, Wi-Fi has actual and theoretical speeds per standard. For example, 802.11n has a theoretical speed of 600 Mbps and an actual speed of 100 Mbps. Gigabit Wi-Fi or 802.11ac has up to 1,300 Mbps as its theoretical speed and 200 Mbps as its actual speed.

How to Geek highlights the importance of local speed or the file-transfer rate between computers. The blog notes that the transfer through Ethernet is faster than on Wi-Fi. Plus, Ethernet cables deliver this speed consistently.

Latency

It refers to the delay in the transfer of data usually felt when playing online games that require a quick reaction. As far as online gaming is concerned, Ethernet provides a more stable connection than Wi-Fi. 

  • The physical Ethernet cable serves as the direct link to the internet with minimal to no disruption to the connection.
  • The stability of the Wi-Fi connection can be affected by physical obstructions like walls and interference from other Wi-Fi networks and other electronic devices.

To be fair, Wi-Fi can support other online activities like streaming music or videos, surfing, and scrolling through social media feeds. Experts predict that the promising opportunity brought by fiber optics connection and 5G will eliminate latency in these online activities in the future.

Signal Quality 

As noted above, the Wi-Fi signal can be subject to interference that can cause lag and lowered speed. The signal is not an inherent problem with Ethernet, which is often the next resort when a laptop can’t connect to the Wi-Fi network.

Some of the solutions to this signal problem include, but are not limited to, the following:

  • Place your device closer to the Wi-Fi router.
  • Move away from devices that emit an electromagnetic signal and cause radio frequency interference, like microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices, cordless telephones. 
  • Configure your Wi-Fi router such that it uses a channel with the least interference. 

Convenience 

Wi-Fi takes the upper hand here as devices that are Wi-Fi certified can connect to the internet by scanning networks and entering the password for the said network.

This convenience can’t be said with Ethernet, which is incompatible with smartphones (no Ethernet port) and can be messy with the wires. But for desktop computers, VoIP phones, and gaming consoles that need not be moved, wired is the way to go.  

Key Takeaways On Wi-Fi Versus Ethernet

  • Speed and reliability undoubtedly go to Ethernet, with its low latency and consistent signal, thanks to its hardware.
  • Convenience goes to Wi-Fi, which is indispensable for the growing number of wireless devices in the home.  

Between the two, Ethernet emerges as a better, more dependable option. It remains ideal, however, to have both options, wired and wireless connections at home or in the office for the best of both worlds. 

Still, you have to ensure that all wired devices enjoy the same fast and reliable internet connection. You need an Ethernet switch for this purpose, creating a network of devices. Plus, the switch expands on the router’s limited Ethernet ports so that more gadgets can directly connect to the internet. 

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