Ethernet Vs Wi-Fi – Which One is Better for You?

Networking is one of the most difficult areas of IT. Whether from a standpoint of a programmer or that of a consumer, networking has always been the boogeyman. Just sharing a file between two computers with the same operating system can be an issue, let alone different systems.

For most consumer applications, wifi is a great solution, yet when things require stability and no latency, ethernet seems like the better option. When it comes to industrial, professional or even small business use cases, ethernet is the preferred type of connection.

Since networking has such a mystery status, the following is an explanation of the ethernet vs wifi dilemma, as well as suggestions on which might be more suited to specific use cases.

WiFi Vs Ethernet – Understanding the Technology

While it seems like it would be an easy choice, stability with ethernet and ease of use with WiFi, it is not that simple. In some offices, ethernet cables would have to be very long and take a lot of space, while in others, concrete walls and interference might make the WiFi unstable, leading to a connection loss.

It is important to understand the two technologies to get an idea of which one would benefit you the most.

Ethernet – Fast, Reliable but Sometimes a Nuisance

Ethernet has been around since 1973, seeing first commercial uses in 1983, when it was standardized. It is a series of wired computer networking technologies which is mostly used in Local Area Networks and Wide Area Networks (LAN and WAN).

Ethernet is capable of having amazing speeds, up to 400 gigabits, which is a lot faster than what WiFi currently has on offer. Granted, WiFi 5 and 6 have improved WiFi speed and stability, but nowhere near the maximum level of ethernet. Ethernet thus wins in the WiFi vs ethernet speed battle.

Ethernet, while reliable and fast, also suffers when it comes to practicality. Ethernet cables have to be used and the longer the cable is, the higher the quality it must be, to prevent data loss. Like most cabled methods, its weakness lies in possible damage to the cable as well as the connector.

WiFi – Ease of Use, Practicality but With a Price

WiFi comes from the WiFi Alliance, and has been here since 1997. It is used for LAN and internet access, and has had several generations since its inception. The current WiFi generation is WiFi 6, or 802.11ax-2021, an improvement of the regular WiFi 6 standard.

WiFi or wireless fidelity, allows devices to wirelessly communicate with one another and/or to connect to the internet. WiFi is practical, easy to implement and it should cover an office or apartment easily.

However, WiFi runs into problems when it is supposed to be used in public places, where there is lots of interference from the sheer number of connected wireless devices. In larger offices or homes, signal loss might be an issue, which is why one would need to increase their Wifi speed or improve the range.

Ethernet Vs WiFi Gaming – Which One to Pick?

Gaming is specific when it comes to internet usage. Not all games use the same amount of bandwidth, so not a lot of data is transmitted. Some games, like turn-based strategy games, require little to no bandwidth, where even a weak WiFi connection would suffice. Since all data would be sent after a player ends their turn, a persistent and stable connection is not obligatory, but only desirable.

However, for most other games like MOBAs, for example League of Legends, or a battle royale like Apex Legends, a stable and persistent connection to the servers is mandatory. If there is any packet loss, the experience turns to a stuttering mess, which makes the games borderline unplayable.

WiFi could be problematic with games that require a stable connection with no packet loss. In this case, ethernet is a clear winner. For those who have to use WiFi, there are affordable routers which have WiFi 6. Newer routers are better and can handle multiple connections, all of them stable.

Typically, one would want an ethernet connection for online games which require stability, but a good WiFi connection could work. In the WiFi vs ethernet gaming battle, ethernet takes another win.

WiFi Vs Ethernet for Streaming – Stability First

Streaming is a bandwidth intensive activity which requires both upload speed and download speed. Uploading files over WiFi will never be as stable compared to ethernet. Typically, all streaming is done through an ethernet connection.

There are two types of streaming, where one downloads data, like music or Netflix, and streaming to platforms like Twitch or YouTube, where one uploads data. In both cases, ethernet does a better job. Streaming over WiFi is possible, but it will most likely be stuttery or have problems if it is done from a place with lots of interference.

Powerline Ethernet – A Different Kind of Wired

There is a possibility of a third option, but it is only possible near outlets. The powerline ethernet vs WiFi dilemma is new and mostly misunderstood.

Powerline ethernet uses two devices to connect computers which are distant from the router. One device plugs into an outlet near the router, and has an ethernet connection to it. The second device connects to an outlet near the computer, and has an ethernet cable connected to the computer.

The devices transform signals from the router/modem into the HomePlug specification, which is transferred through the power line to the other device, which then retransforms the signal back to an 802.11 standard.

This way of communication is great because it uses already existing electrical wiring and eliminates the need for long ethernet cables. It is a more stable connection than WiFi and better suited for both streaming and gaming.

Ethernet for Stability, WiFi for Practicality

Both ethernet and WiFi have their places in networking. Ethernet is better suited for connections which require stability and no packet loss, such as professional and industrial applications, as well as gaming and streaming.

WiFi is great when practicality and ease of use is preferred, for any consumer activity which does not require a perfect connection. Powerline ethernet is an in-between solution, but only usable with electric outlets.

About The Author

Milan Zagorac

Milan has always been interested in writing and technology, but managed to pick up a love for music, literature and sports along the way. Essentially a jack of all trades, his interest in all things tech as well as love for the written word, keeps him well occupied.

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