Tech – for Everyone

Tech Tips and Tricks & Advice – written in plain English.

Which Is Better, Ethernet Or Wireless?

This networking question was submitted by a reader recently, and I think it may be of interest to “everyone”.

Q: Paul, I am hoping for some guidance. I will soon be moving, and will have to set up a new network. I have three computers, a laser jet printer and a photo printer. My old network was wired and homenetworking worked well, but I have heard that the new wireless is faster.

Which is better these days, wired or wireless?

A: I hate ambiguous answers, but in this situation I really must answer, “that depends”. And I must also say that it really isn’t a case of one being “better” than the other.
In my experience, a “blended” network (both wired and wireless) is the most common.

Consideration #1: Mega-bits-per-second:
1) Wire “speed” is typically either 10/100, or 1,000(Gigabit).
2) Wireless “speed” is either 54 (g) or 270 (n).
… and your Internet is coming into your home at.. 1.5? 3? 6 Mbps?
(My point here is that, as far as sharing your Internet is concerned, even a very old 10 Mbps network is “fast” enough.)

Consideration #2: Stringing cable:
Most newer homes are built with Ethernet wiring, and so your network is already there (to a large degree), but for older homes a very real concern — should you choose to go Gigabit wired — is WirelessHomeNetwork where will the wires go? How will you get them upstairs?

This is not an insurmountable issue (and, you could hire a professional) but it may be that wireless is the best for you.

General advice:
* Networking gear defaults to the speed of the slowest component.
What that means is, let’s say you go and buy a brand-new Wireless -N router (technically, a “WAP”) that runs at 270 Mbps, and the adaptor on your 2 year-old laptop is a “G”, your connection will be at 54 Mbps.
And if the port on your Desktop is Gigabit, and your cable is Cat 5e or better (Gigabit capable), but there’s no Gigabit port on your router.. your LAN is running at 100 Mbps.

The trick is to make sure everything ‘matches’. For instance, in the first example (laptop), buying a Wireless-N PCMCIA card, or USB dongle, will now give you the 270 you bought the fast router for. And for the Gigabit example, a new router that has Gigabit ports will make things ‘match’ and give you a Gigabit LAN.

Last bit of advice: Buy the fastest gear you can afford. You may not get full advantage of it today, but it won’t be a bottleneck tomorrow.

Today’s free link: In today’s article I mentioned that there are alternatives to drilling holes in your wall/floor/ceiling, and one method is EoP (Ethernet over Power lines). This uses the electrical wires already in your home to send your 1’s and 0’s from device to device. Fellow Tech Blogger Bill Mullins has an informative article on this topic here, http://billmullins.wordpress.com/2008/06/16/easy-computer-networking-use-your-electric-wiring/

Copyright 2007-8 © Tech Paul. All rights reserved. post to jaanix

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November 16, 2008 - Posted by | advice, computers, gadgets, hardware, how to, Internet, networking, PC, performance, routers, routers and WAPs, tech | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

10 Comments »

  1. […] a great article on setting up a network read “Which is Better Ethernet or Wireless” by TechPaul. Possibly related posts: (automatically generated)Easy Computer Networking – Use […]

    Pingback by Wi-Fi Alternative? - Powerline Networking! « Bill Mullins’ Weblog - Tech Thoughts | November 16, 2008 | Reply

  2. TechPaul,

    You are dead on with the advice, “Buy the fastest gear you can afford. You may not get full advantage of it today, but it won’t be a bottleneck tomorrow.”

    Have to wonder, where is the “wall” when it comes to “how fast is fast”? Today I say “Wow, this is fast” and then tomorrow something else comes out and I say “Wow, that was slow”…

    Rick

    Comment by Rick | November 16, 2008 | Reply

  3. Rick–
    As a full-fledged, capital “G” Geek, I can tell you that there simply is no such thing as “fast enough” in my dictionary.. but you do underscore an undeniable fact: today’s Fastest is tomorrow’s Slow.

    People generally don’t like to hear this (because it means spending money) but if your piece of tech gear is older than 5 years, it IS obsolete.

    Comment by techpaul | November 16, 2008 | Reply

  4. I have a new D-Link and I love it!

    Comment by Angelina I | November 16, 2008 | Reply

  5. Angelina–
    I am a Linksys man myself, but I have used (with no complaints at all) D-Link, Netgear, and some “generic” models too.

    If you use ‘mobile’ devices at all, or are intending to “stream” video wirelessly, the new “N” routers are well worth the upgrade.

    Glad you’re enjoying your new gear.

    Comment by techpaul | November 16, 2008 | Reply

  6. Another consideration (not mentioned in your article but possibly the “pivotal” point in your deliberation) is the amount of traffic you intend to accommodate on your wireless network. If you’ve got several devices simultaneously vying for bandwidth, even at “N” transfer rates, you’re going to experience compromises in data transfer rates… whereas an ethernet “bypass,” opting to hard-connect via Cat5–especially for your slower/older devices) will provide the best solution for optimizing your wireless LAN’s throughput… in lieu of upgrading your hardware to the latest model.

    Comment by geoff | February 21, 2012 | Reply

    • geoff,
      Wayyyyyyy back in 2008, when I wrote this piece, there was not quite the proliferation of wireless devices (more specifically, wireless devices in the home) as there is now in 2012.. (I think, back then, everyone had Blackberry’s..) and I guess I did not feel the need to emphasize your point. Different world today.

      But you’re right, they way wireless works, the more devices you can hard wire, and the less that use pure wi fi, the better each device will do.

      (But, also, at the current price of Wireless N 300Mbps units, I do not want to sound like I am not encouraging hardware upgrades either.)(And the trend is – it seems to me – away from cables utterly.. it’s been a while since my last true cable pull..)

      Comment by techpaul | February 21, 2012 | Reply

  7. My router/wireless was just upgraded to about 100,000 mbps..however, it seems the google tv device i use in the livign room, running off the wifi signal, is slower…am I doing something wrong? do I need a bridge? Thanks!

    Comment by Todd Boatwright | December 3, 2014 | Reply

  8. Please disgregard mbps number I just posted…Its 100-130 mpbs…not 100,000 LOL

    Comment by Todd Boatwright | December 3, 2014 | Reply

    • Todd Boatwright,
      I don’t know how far your living room GoogleTV is from the router/WAP, or how many walls are in between.. or what device Make/Model you ‘upgraded’ to.. or how many other wireless devices you have on your net..

      But 100 Mbps is not much of an upgrade these days (it’s the oldest “Wireless N” speed), and is really the minimum you’d want for streaming video. (If your GTV box is receiving 100Mbps, it should play video)(keyword=”should”)
      Perhaps an extender (or ‘bridge’) would be in order, or simply upgrading your router/WAP to N300 or better, might be a better choice, I cannot tell you from here. But I can tell you Wireless N300 routers can be found for $20. And, also, that for media streaming, I prefer to spend a bit more for a dual-band AC router.

      Comment by techpaul | December 3, 2014 | Reply


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