If you were born in the 2000s you have no idea how life was back in the days when Wi-Fi was not a widely available option and before everyone had a smartphone. All of us had a cable called an ‘Ethernet cable’ running from our modems to our computers and the household shared internet time on that same machine. You will never understand the struggles of siblings keeping a schedule of each other’s time spent over the computer and the never-ending fights that followed, which only resulted in nobody being allowed to use the computer for the day.
Wi-Fi has brought such convenience in our lives that we cannot imagine going back to the cabled computers again. It usually works great for gaming, streaming, and everything else. However, there can be times when it just does not. There are several reasons for that happening but that is a discussion for another day. Like I was saying, if you were born after the Wi-Fi was introduced in our lives you may be under the presumption that wires do not exist anymore, but they do.
You must have heard the saying that goes something like, “Old is gold.” Well so are Ethernet cables and internet service providers (ISPs) understand their worth. It does not matter if you have subscribed to one of the Spectrum bundles, Optimum bundles, Cox bundles, or any other provider’s bundles for that matter, you’ll always be provided with an Ethernet cable along with your modem and router. This is because there are still several reasons to use these cables on devices that are still compatible with them.
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Let’s do a quick comparison of both Ethernet and Wi-Fi to see why and when you should use one or the other for gaming, streaming, etc.
Speed and Stability
In the game of speed and stability, Ethernet wins every time. A Wi-Fi network uses radio signals that can be affected by obstructions like walls and doors leading to slow or no connection at all. However, an Ethernet has no such issues. Once plugged-in you will receive a stable speed for as long as you are connected.
The latency or ping is also lower on a wired connection leading to a much smoother streaming and gaming experience. Ethernet adapters also offer more bandwidth than a Wi-Fi network, therefore making them great for larger data transfers.
Even though Ethernet networks are also prone to network congestion but they do not end up being as unstable as a Wi-Fi network.
Of course, when it comes to flexibility there is no match to our trusty Wi-Fi routers. As long as we are in range, we can have a connection with all our portable devices. It is perfect for smart home devices as well.
Ethernet, on the other hand, is a fixed connection. It would not make sense dragging a cable from one room to another switching the connection between devices. Therefore, it would only be useful with fixed devices.
Theoretically speaking, Ethernet connections are more secure than Wi-Fi networks. It is said that since Wi-Fi uses radio signals it is easier to intercept them than a hard-wired connection. However, practically speaking, it doesn’t matter if your connection is wired or wireless, once online you are prone to cyber-attacks so in both cases it is important to keep router software and firewall updated and passwords secure. On top of this, it is also important to have anti-virus software installed in all your devices and connect them through a VPN (Virtual Private Network).
When to Use Wi-Fi or Ethernet?
Wi-Fi is great and there is no doubt about it. Our lives have changed for the better due to this invention. However, as discussed above it is prone to obstructions causing deteriorated or lost signals as well as higher latency and slower speeds than Ethernet. Even though it is good enough for most of our online activities, but when it comes to heavy downloads/ uploads, online gaming, and streaming, it can often let us down.
The benefits of Ethernet can often be overlooked by the majority of internet users due to the inconvenience associated with the wires, but serious online gamers will swear by it for a seamless gaming experience. The internet speed is usually higher, ping is always lower, and when you have hit the start button you’re obviously not going anywhere. So what more could you ask for, huh?
However, these days it is not possible to wire all your devices because many manufacturers have stopped creating Ethernet ports in their devices as a cost-cutting measure. So for such devices, you do not really have a choice, but for the ones you do, try using an Ethernet cable to see the difference.
Both Wi-Fi and Ethernet have their pros and cons. In my opinion, it is ideal to have a combination of both to have an optimal internet experience.
Ethernet can be used for all your compatible fixed devices – gaming console, smart TV, computer, or your streaming device. This will ensure stability by minimizing dropouts in connection to these devices providing you the necessary peace of mind when competing online with your friends in a game of Counter-Strike or binge-watching your favorite show.
On the other hand, Wi-Fi can help you keep all your portable devices like your smartphones, laptops, and tablets connected to the internet offering you convenience and ease without overloading the network and facing downtime as a result.
It will be a win-win situation for all.