The evolution of Internet has triggered a massive increase of home networks which rely on wired or wireless technology. If you are still having a hard time trying to figure out which is which and what they do, let’s start by explaining how they work.
The wired technology refers to a local area network (LAN) that uses Ethernet cables in order to connect computers either through a switch, a modem/router or a hub. Nowadays most broadband routers come equipped with multiple Ethernet ports enabling users to connect multiple devices in the same time.
The wireless technology, known as Wi-Fi, enables users to connect to the Internet via a wireless router. Although wireless Internet is a convenient way to go online using various devices (laptops, tablets, smartphones, Ipods, gaming consoles, cameras,etc.), it is not the fastest way to connect. If you have a high speed plan, chances are you Wi-Fi connection won’t be able to keep up.
Each wireless device connects to your network through a wireless network adapter. Some are faster than others. So let’s assume you have a 500 Mbps plan. Your tablet’s wireless network adapter might reach 30Mbps, while your laptop might get 75Mbps. That does not come close to the full 500 Mbps. In addition, wireless interference, wireless standards and many other factors may influence your Wi-Fi performance.
In order to enjoy maximum high speeds you need to go wired. An Ethernet cable connection is basically faster and more reliable than the Wi-Fi, allowing you to reach a higher speed. Though it will be wise to keep in mind that Ethernet cables and wired network adapters have their limitations too. Thus please ensure that you are using a cable that is rated for high speeds. Also check with your device manufacturer to see what speeds it can handle.
Ethernet or Wi-Fi - Main differences
Ethernet offers without no doubt a higher speed and reliability, but it comes with a major limitation: the user is confined to his desk or in close proximity to his modem or router. As for the Wi-Fi, it may be a bit slower but give us an ultimate gift: mobility.
Both of these connections present certain advantages and disadvantages, which we will tackle one by one. Factors like interference, protocol standards, medium type / standards, latency are those that make the difference between the two.
What makes us choose one over the other?
I believe it is a personal choice. Some users prefer having a high speed, while others enjoy moving freely, using many gadgets wirelessly. Or maybe some consumers just love being up to day with the latest technology.
A wireless connection is subjected to more interferences. Other devices using the Wi-Fi spectrum, the neighbours’ network, certain objects, or even walls in the way may all cause problems. In some areas the signal will be stronger, while in some other rooms it can be weaker.
For those passionated by the online gaming, the wired Ethernet connection offers a lower latency. It saves them the frustration of going through the irritating lags (“pings”) by providing the quickest as possible reaction, which is crucial while playing online games. Connection quality means more than raw bandwidth. As for the Internet users who are just streaming Netflix or YouTube, they won’t care about the difference in latency. They will probably not be bothered at all by the delay caused when signals travel back and forth between a Wi-Fi device and their wireless router.
Over the last few years we witnessed how Wi-Fi got much faster than it used to be. All this was possible thanks to the new standards like 802.11ac and 802.11n, which offer maximum speeds of 866.7 Mb/s and 150 Mb/s, respectively.
There are standards for a wired Ethernet cable as well. An Ethernet connection can theoretically offer up to 10 Gb/s, if you have a Cat-6 cable. The exact maximum speed of your Ethernet cable relies on the type of Ethernet cable used. However, even the Cat-5e cable in common use supports for up to 1 Gb/s.
Another concern that should be addressed is security. Disregarding the type of connection (Wi-Fi or Ethernet) one should always keep in mind that a secured network is required. A Wi-Fi connection can be secured by using a WPA2-PSK modem. It reduces your chances of having intruders trying to connect to your Wi-Fi connection.
The wired Ethernet network presents the advantage that people would be able to connect only by plugging a device into your router. In most cases of a secure business network, both wired and wireless connections are used. Certain routers have specific features which allow users to isolate the wireless network from the wired one.
Pros and Cons
One of the main advantages of using Wi-Fi is portability. You can take it anywhere where the Wi-Fi reaches. It offers convenience. You do not have to sit and be near your modem or router. As long as you are within the maximum range, you are fine.
The download speed is pretty good. You will not notice a difference while web browsing and not performing an intensive task like video editing or something similar. Wi-Fi does fluctuate - over a long distance you may note slower speeds. In some rare cases the connection might even drop off.
The upload speed is important only if you are uploading files on YouTube or other media sites. It will fluctuate depending on your Internet service provider (ISP), on what type of package you are paying for. The higher the speed offered by the ISP, the better Wi-Fi connection.
The Ethernet cable provides a reliable high speed connection that will not fluctuate with the speed. When performing a broadband speed test online you will notice that overall it is not that big of difference in between the two, maybe 1 or 1.5 mbps. Though it does make up for the reliability. For those who wish to download or upload large files it is advised to do it with the Ethernet.