Wi-Fi is ubiquitous at this point, but that doesn’t mean you should just use it by default. That’s why you should skip Wi-Fi and switch to Ethernet whenever possible.
Wi-Fi is a compromise
First, lest you think we’re against Wi-Fi, let’s assure you that we think Wi-Fi is awesome. A network freed from physical constraints can do all kinds of useful and interesting things.
From laptop use in the backyard to wireless security cameras and, of course, hanging out on your smartphone via high-speed internet, it’s all possible with Wi-Fi in every inch of your home. marvelous. A blazingly fast modern router paired with a new smartphone is truly a “the future is now” moment.
However, Wi-Fi is ultimately a compromise. It’s a compromise based on accepting that we have to give up some performance to not be physically tied to the wall by cables. To give a real-world example that predates Wi-Fi, radio stations are the exact same compromise.
The radio lets you listen to music anywhere. However, you won’t get the same fidelity as listening to an album with hardwired speakers at home. The same goes for streaming services. The bitrate of a Netflix stream is a fraction of the bitrate you would get from a Blu-ray player fed into your TV via an HDMI cable.
Like these things, when we use Wi-Fi, we make tradeoffs. Wi-Fi is not as fast as Ethernet. It has higher latency. Too many devices connected to Wi-Fi can cause congestion and connection problems.
It doesn’t matter. We make these compromises because it’s convenient. If we could only use connected devices like tablets and smartphones, we could plug them in and things would look very different. But we shouldn’t compromise where we don’t need to – that’s where Ethernet comes in.
Ethernet is great (but often overlooked)
If you’re a computer geek of a certain age, you can remember the days of Ethernet in terms of networking. Without Wi-Fi, if you want one computer to communicate with another computer in your home or office, you need a physical cable to connect them both.
However, the advent of Wi-Fi in the late 1990s and increasing adoption throughout the 2000s finally brought Ethernet back into the annals of history (at least for the average home).
As a result, there are a lot of people who don’t think about Ethernet at all. They add stuff to their Wi-Fi network by default and never even consider using an ethernet cable.
For example, a neighbor asked me for help with their smart TV problem. question? The TV couldn’t maintain a stable connection, and the streaming connection would drop frequently, leaving them staring at the “Netflix encountered an error” message.
When I popped in to help them, I noticed that their cable modem/Wi-Fi router combo unit was just below the TV in the entertainment center. I took a short spare ethernet cable from the studio, connected the TV directly to the router, and their streaming experience went from working sometimes to perfect all the time.
The biggest takeaway from that particular experience wasn’t that Ethernet saved the day (which I expected), but that my neighbors simply didn’t think about anything other than Wi-Fi to connect their TVs to the internet. It’s a shame because when you get the chance to use Ethernet, it’s a huge upgrade over Wi-Fi.
I am writing this article while using a PC connected to my home network via an ethernet cable. Thanks to ethernet, I have the exact same latency and bandwidth as a modem – but I enjoy it on a workstation that’s been on the other side of the house and moved two floors away from where the fiber optic connection came into my house. basement.
Using Ethernet over Wi-Fi at home has many advantages, including:
- Ultra Low Latency: Wi-Fi is never as sensitive as electrical impulses sent through wires. Low latency is ideal whether you’re gaming on PC or console.
- speed: Even the best Wi-Fi routers still can’t reach their maximum theoretical speeds, but it’s easy to max out an Ethernet connection.
- Stablize: Unless you damage cables or hardware, the Ethernet connection is rock solid.
- No authentication: You don’t need ethernet credentials. Just plug the device into the network.
Finally, this is an advantage that Ethernet does not have, but is an advantage when using Ethernet and Wi-Fi in a mixed environment. Taking high-demand devices off your Wi-Fi network (like your PC or Smart TV) and putting them on Ethernet can do wonders for taking the load off your Wi-Fi router. Maybe you don’t need a new Wi-Fi router at all – maybe you just need to put your most demanding projects on Ethernet.
Considering how cheap ethernet cables are, if you can afford to connect devices to them, there’s no reason not to.
The device you should connect to the ethernet
If, like our neighbors, you haven’t considered using both Ethernet and Wi-Fi for your home network at all, you may need some advice on where to start.
Many homes—whether apartments or residences—have the Internet coming into the home’s living room, because that’s where various telecommunication points, such as cable connections, enter the home.
If you’re in this situation and your network device is on your TV, you obviously have a first stop. Grab a pack of Ethernet patch cables and connect everything in the media center that supports it.
In the case of my media center, this would include smart TVs, game consoles like Xbox, PlayStation, and Nintendo Switch, as well as streaming boxes like Apple TV and Roku. Check the ethernet ports on all devices below the TV. Don’t have an ethernet port on your smart TV? Here’s how to add one. If you need more ports, unmanaged network switches are inexpensive.
Home offices have a similar situation. If you have a bunch of devices in the same room as your modem and router, like your PC, network laser printer, or any other office equipment with an ethernet port, don’t use Wi-Fi — just plug it in.
Even if your home doesn’t have an ethernet connection, you can still get around this and take advantage of wired speeds. You can run a long ethernet cable from one room to another, or even use powerline ethernet to route data signals through your home’s wires.
Powerline Ethernet has improved a lot over the years. You can hook up a basement router to a bedroom gaming setup with gigabit speeds for under $50. It’s not exactly about having your entire house hooked up with Cat6, but you won’t have to fish any cables or patch any drywall.
But no matter what you do, switching devices will not only take the load off your Wi-Fi system, it will also improve that device’s connection to your local network and the Internet.