Wired vs. Wireless: What’s Best For PC Gaming?

wired ethernet connection vs wireless wifi connection

Are you deciding whether you should go wired(Ethernet) or wireless(Wi-Fi) with your gaming PC? Or are you just curious about wired vs. wireless connection methods?

Everyone should know about wireless connection, or the word Wi-Fi because almost every smart device uses it to connect to the internet. And most people should know about wired Ethernet connection but there’s probably some that don’t know what it is.

So for those that don’t know about Ethernet here is my brief and simple description: A Ethernet connection is basically where you have wired Ethernet cable from the router to the PC computer, or other stationary console devices, which allows faster and more stable internet connectivity than wireless connection.


The Pros and Cons For Each Connection Methods

Both wired and wireless connections have advantages and disadvantages that you should consider before deciding on one.

Here are some pros and cons for both connection methods so that you can get an idea of what you get and lose with each one.

Wired Ethernet Connection

PROS
  • Fast speed
  • No connection interference
  • Great performance
  • Reliable connection
  • Easy setup
  • Inexpensive
CONS
  • Cable
  • Not convenient when router is far away

Wireless Wi-Fi Connection

PROS
  • Good speed
  • Good performance
  • No cables/wires
  • Very convenient
  • Connection anywhere within router radius
CONS
  • Can get expensive for best connection
  • Possible connection interference
  • Not always reliable
  • Setup can be difficult at first

With the pros and cons for both wired and wireless connections you should also consider the location of your desktop PC and the location of your router.

The location of these two things will most likely help you determine which network connection method you go with.

For more convenience you can go with a wireless Wi-Fi connections. But if you are more into performance and optimal experience you can go with a wired Ethernet connection.


Wired or wireless: which one should you go for?

Well the answer really depends on your situation. If your router is not reachable with a Ethernet cable, then your best bet would be a wireless connection.

However, if your router is relatively close, then I highly recommend going with wired Ethernet option. This way you’ll get the best performance and connectivity.

One important thing that you should consider while picking wired or wireless network connection method is how much you’re willing to spend.

Ethernet cables are very inexpensive compared to wireless methods which is why it’s an excellent choice for people on a low budget. You can buy 50ft Ethernet cables for less than $10-15 dollars. So even if your router is far away, you can still route cables to your network router.

Wireless methods on the other hand will cost a bit more money because your desktop will require a wireless adapter in order to connect to the router. There are cheap USB wireless adapters in the market but you can’t really compare them to Ethernet’s performance, reliability, and connectivity.

So if you’re low on budget or want to save money, you should consider going with wired Ethernet connection. You can just use an Ethernet cable you already have or buy a new one since they’re rather inexpensive compared to wireless adapters.


Speed / Latency / Interference

Wireless Wi-Fi connection is obviously going to be way more convenient than wired Ethernet connection. But when it comes to speed, latency, and interference, the Ethernet is the best for PC computers.

One thing you need to know before we get into the speed, latency, and interference is how the wireless Wi-Fi works. Wi-Fi uses a unique radio wave to connect the PC’s wireless adapter with the network router. And since the data and signals are transmitted through the air, it’s not always reliable and prone to technical errors.

Ethernet on the other hand is literally a cable so data transference is much more reliable and super fast.

Speed

*Note: Mbps = Megabits per second / Gbps = Gigabits per second*

Theoretically, when it comes to speed, Ethernet is just plain faster than Wi-Fi connection. Ethernet cables like Cat5e can reach speeds up to 1Gbps and Cat6 up to 10Gbps. On the other hand, Wi-Fi standards like 802.11n can top out at 600Mbps and 802.11ac at 1.3Gbps.

However, the listed speeds are just theoretical and you probably won’t be able to reach these speeds in real world home applications. The reason being is that there are many things that can bottleneck the speed; main one being the internet bandwidth connection you have.

Majority of the people will have internet bandwidth speeds between 5Mbps to 100Mbps and that is nowhere near the max speed of what either Ethernet or Wi-Fi connections offers. And even if you happen to have the best internet package your still unlikely to achieve the max speed of Cat6 or 802.11ac.

You can try the internet speed test by Ookla to find out what kind of internet bandwidth speed you are getting with your current setup. If you can I recommend that you try the test while on Wi-Fi connection then with Ethernet connection to see if there are any improvements or differences.

internet speed test results

Latency

When it comes to determining the speed of an internet connection you’ll need to consider both bandwidth and latency. Bandwidth is the total amount of network data that can get transferred, and latency, also know as ping, is the total amount of time it takes for network data to transfer from one source point to another. The goal with latency is to have it as low as possible for the best network performance.

The most simple way to understand the difference between bandwidth and latency is to picture a water pipe. The bandwidth will represent the diameter of the pipe (wider the diameter of the pipe the more water(data) you can send), and the latency will represent the length of the pipe from one end to another. A key thing to remember is that no matter how wide the pipe is, it’s still going to need to travel the distance from one end of the pipe to another – which is latency.

How latency works in real world scenario is when you connect to the internet for online gaming, website browsing, downloading, or etc, your computer communicates with the host server by sending and receiving network data packets. The amount of time it takes for your computer to communicate with the host server is latency. So ideally, you’ll want the lowest latency as possible for the best network experience.

If you require fast response and reaction times during online games, you’re going to want to go with a simple wired Ethernet connection. This way you’ll have the most optimal online gaming experience. Now for Netflix and web browsing, you won’t to need to worry too much about latency. Generally, Ethernet connection will have less latency compared to Wi-Fi connection.

the difference between bandwidth and latency

Interference

When you connect with wireless Wi-Fi, you’re more likely to experience interference than wired Ethernet. There are more interference with wireless Wi-Fi because Wi-Fi transmits and receives network data packets through the air, unlike Ethernet which is wired and directly connected.

There are many things that can interfere with your wireless Wi-Fi network. Interference can come from other wireless devices and electronics, neighbors’ wireless networks, and objects that block the Wi-Fi signal.

If there is some kind of interference with your wireless connection then there will definitely be high latency. And high latency means slower performance and delay response times. Your goal should be to limit the interference as much as possible so that you can experience better network performance and connectivity.

One way to limit interference is to just go with wired connection. Ethernet cables doesn’t experience the same interference as Wi-Fi and it’s rare to experience signal degradation with Ethernet.


Wired Ethernet Cables

Ethernet cables in different color

If you’re someone who hates network interference, lag, and slow response times while online gaming – go with wired Ethernet connection. Going the Ethernet route will truly give you the best performance out of your network connection. Plus, you’ll save yourself some money by going with Ethernet.

When you’re looking into Ethernet cables, try to get the latest Ethernet cables in the market because newer improved ones will be backwards compatible and give you some future proof down the road. The category of Ethernet cables you should consider are cat6, cat6e, and cat7 (latest one).

Before you go out and buy an Ethernet cable, go and measure the distance between your router and PC so you know how many feet of cable you require. Preferably, if you can get the router in the same room as the PC then you’ll save yourself a lot of time and headache.


Wireless Wi-Fi Options

The convenience of Wi-Fi is not only for smartphones, electronic devices, or laptops; you can still use it’s convenience on stationary PC. Now, you probably won’t get the same performance as with Ethernet cables but you’ll have convenience on your side.

Main benefit with Wi-Fi is that you can move your desktop PC around without the need of running Ethernet cables. This means that it’s a good option if you plan on taking your PC to your friends house or something.

If wireless Wi-Fi connection is what you want for your PC, you have couple options to choose from. You can choose to buy one of the three – a USB wireless adapter, a wireless PCI-E adapter, or a motherboard that includes a wireless adapter.


Bad Wireless Performance? A Newer Router Might Help

better router options

If you happen to get constant and random wireless signal loss, and slow video streaming and website loading time, then it might be time to look into getting a newer router that can handle the network demand.

There are many benefits to a newer router, you can see improvements to performance, wireless range, security, and more. You should consider a router that supports dual-bands or tri-band if you have multiple wired and wireless devices connected to your network.


Conclusion

For desktop PCs, I highly recommend going with wired Ethernet connection, especially if you’re an online gamer. The benefits and performance of Ethernet truly outweighs Wi-Fi’s convenience.

If the router is far away from the PC, you can still make Ethernet connection work by moving your router to the same room as your PC. But if you decide to move your router, make sure that the router works in the that room. Most cases, you can just ask your internet service provider how you can move the router to a different room and they’ll help you out.

Feel free to leave any comments, concerns, questions below! Thanks

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