Wifi and Ethernet are often mentioned in the same breath. If you are a gamer you probably hear a lot of complaints about Wi-Fi and a lot of people singing the praises of wired connections. But why? Is ethernet faster than wifi? I’m going to cover that topic below so you don’t have to keep depending on the internet provider for your information. If, while reading this, you find yourself interested in getting a new ethernet cable, try some of these!
Is Ethernet Faster Than Wifi?
Is ethernet faster than wifi? Yes and no. An ethernet connection is capable of supporting data speeds much faster than wireless ethernet is, but it doesn’t inherently transfer data any faster than Wi-Fi does.
The fastest ethernet speed available is 10 gigabits per second (Gbps) whereas the fastest ethernet router can broadcast at 1 Gbps. So, at speeds under 1 Gbps they are equally as fast, but any higher and a wired connection will be faster. If we throw "What is fiber internet?" into the mix, it gets even more interesting.
What is Ethernet?
I’ve thrown the name “ethernet” around a lot, but what is ethernet and how does ethernet work? Ethernet is really just a name for a Local Area Network (LAN) and it is commonly used to refer to the cables used to connect your device to your network.
A LAN is just a term for a small network of devices all connected together. This could include a single computer, or several linked together in your home. If you are asking yourself “how to use ethernet?” it is very simple. Just connect your device to your modem using an ethernet cable and you are ready to go.
Ethernet has been the standard for internet connectivity for a long time and as our internet technology has evolved, so too have the cables we use for it. You will most commonly see Cat 5 cables which can support speeds of up to about 100 Mbps. For anything faster than that you’ll need Cat 5e, 6, 7, or 8.
What is WiFi?
Wi-Fi is another way to connect to a network but without the need for wires or cables. Through the use of an ethernet router, you can broadcast a signal that anything that can pick up the signal can use to connect to your network. Most computers do not come with wireless capabilities, so you'll have to pick up an ethernet wifi adapter for them.
For a long time, I thought that Wi-Fi was an acronym, and I know many others did too. It turns out, Wi-Fi doesn’t mean anything, it is just the brand name for this kind of wireless networking. The name was created by the Wi-Fi Alliance, which is an organization that owns the term “Wi-Fi Certified” and only allows its use on products that can pass certain tests. Essentially, Wi-Fi is just a marketing term used for wireless internet connections.
Ethernet vs. WiFi
When considering the benefits of one type of connection over another there are a lot of factors to consider. All of this information should be prefaced by saying that both connection types are valid and can get the job done in most situations. The only major reason to choose one over the other is if your network operates with a speed faster than 1 Gbps. If that is the case, you should use a wired ethernet connection because Wi-Fi is incapable of supporting speeds faster than that.
Otherwise, whether you should go with one or the other depends on what device you are using and what that device’s purpose is. You should consider one connection type over the other for each device. One connection option is not better than the other for all devices.
Tablets, phones, and laptops are often better used with Wi-Fi because it is convenient to have a wireless connection with mobile devices. If you are a gamer then your console or PC should probably use a wired connection because it is more stable.
As far as speed is concerned, one option isn’t strictly better than the other. A lot of people will tell you that ethernet is faster, but they are mistaking a higher top-speed for the actual speed of the connection. What determines the speed of your internet is not just your connection type, but also what speed you are paying your ISP for.
Your equipment can limit your speed if it isn't capable of supporting the data speed you are being provided, but if both types of connections can support the speed you are getting then neither is better than the other.
Before I knew that your equipment could limit your speed I would often call my ISP and complain. So, don’t make my mistake, if you are having speed issues then the first thing you should do is make sure your equipment is working and is capable of handling the speed your ISP is delivering.
Ethernet is more reliable than Wi-Fi. Due to the nature of how data is transferred across each of these connection types, ethernet is just better. Wi-Fi transmits data via radio waves which is why it is wireless, but unfortunately, radio waves can be interfered with in several ways and there are few ways to protect from this. That means Wi-Fi is more susceptible to data loss, lag, and connectivity issues.
A wired connection can be protected, and often is so that the data isn't interfered with and therefore is unlikely to be interrupted or disrupted. This also has the added benefit of giving each device their own connection which means bandwidth won't be limited between them.
Ethernet wins here, hands down. Unfortunately, Wi-Fi just can’t compete when it comes to having a stable and reliable connection.
I spent over a decade using exclusively Wi-Fi for my internet connections and had to deal with bandwidth-hogging, connection issues, and lag on a daily basis. Switching to ethernet eliminated all of those issues and I've never gone back.
This is another case of ethernet being superior to Wi-Fi. Having your signal broadcast for any device to connect to gives Wi-Fi unparalleled convenience and is especially useful for keeping your network area neat and tidy, but it also leaves room for unwanted devices to connect and interact with your network, sometimes with malicious intent.
A wired connection doesn’t leave room for any strange passerby to connect to your network and only devices you approve of can make a connection. This means that ethernet is much more secure than Wi-Fi.
One of the major problems with Wi-Fi is that it can be affected by so many variables that it can be difficult to get an optimal connection going. If anything is having an effect on your Wi-Fi connection then you will likely see lots of problems occurring like slow speeds, input-lag or connection issues with gaming, buffering when streaming movies, the list goes on.
Ethernet doesn’t have this issue. As long as the cable you are using isn’t too long and nothing is damaged, your connection will be consistent and should match the speed provided by your ISP as long as you are using the right kind of cable.
The only thing that can interfere with a wired ethernet connection is damage to the equipment or the cable itself. Otherwise, data can and will transfer with no interruption, very little lag, and without fear of losing any data.
Wi-Fi, on the other hand, can be interfered with by just about everything. Microwaves, blue-tooth transmitters, walls, elevation, just about anything you can think of will have an effect on your wireless connection and this will often result in interrupted service and data loss.
Which Connection to Choose?
When considering wifi vs ethernet, you have to know how fast your internet is. Up to a certain threshold of speed, either one is as good as the other. If your internet isn’t faster than 1 Gbps then you have to look to other factors to decide which one is right for you.
A wired ethernet connection is inherently more stable and reliable than a Wi-Fi connection, but a Wi-Fi connection is extremely convenient, especially for mobile devices like phones, tablets, or laptops.
You have to decide what you value more, performance or convenience. If you are more concerned about reliability and security then ethernet is the way to go. If you prefer to be able to move about your house with your device and a little lag doesn’t bother you then Wi-Fi will suit you better.