Ethernet vs Wifi for Gaming, Streaming and Everything Else

If you’ve ever read anything about the online gaming industry, then you’ll know one thing – it’s a cardinal sin to use a wireless connection. Although WiFi connection has improved greatly over the years, it’s still looked down upon by many as they’re reminded of the time in 2012 that they lost their connection causing them to lose (no, I’m not still bitter about it..).

But with consoles like the Nintendo Switch making the console intentionally for wireless play – you can’t even connect the docked Switch to an ethernet cable without an adapter – it seems like WiFi might be becoming the more popular option. Brands like Alienware and MSI are releasing laptops with increase connectivity, too. But, is there really a dramatic difference between an ethernet connection and a WiFi connection, or has tech advanced enough that the connection times are relatively similar now? Well, here’s some of the things that we’ll have to consider.

Ethernet vs Wifi for Gaming, Streaming and Everything Else

Is you’re trying to decide between ethernet or Wifi, then it’s a fairly easy decision to make. The fact of the matter is that although WiFi connection has improved, it’s still preferable to use an ethernet cable. This is especially true for gaming and desktop use, as a wired connection will give you more reliability and less lag as a result. However, many people play over a Wifi connection with no issies, so don’t worry if you don’t have the choice.

Why is ethernet better?

The main issue for WiFi is completely down to one thing – the atmosphere surrounding it. Although in the past WiFi connections could only reach 50 mb/s, nowadays the potential WiFi speed is so good that the connection is as good as ethernet – however, this isn’t actually the reality. Whilst WiFi can maintain speeds an fast as an ethernet connection, this isn’t often the case due to the interference between the router and your device.

You’ll notice this even now, just by walking around your home. The difference in the quality of signal can be quite dramatic even as you’re walking around your house and distancing yourself from your router, which is understandable as the distance and potential objects in between interfere with the radio waves.

Another key thing to think about when you’re considering the battle between ethernet and WiFi is the privacy issue. With an ethernet cable, you don’t need to worry about your data being compromised as a connection can only be made by the device that you’re using. However, with a WiFi connection you essentially have an open network, which makes your device much more susceptible to hackers. Depending on the type of wifi connection that you’re using, you’ll get varying degrees of security.

As well as the security of your data and the possible interruptions in your connection, another thing to consider is the latency. You’ve probably heard gamers talk about ‘lagging’, which refers to a delay between your actions – e.g. your controller, mouse or keyboard – and the resulting effect. This is another thing that makes an ethernet connection a better choice than using WiFi. Ethernet cables are pretty cheap too, so there’s no reason not to pick one up.

So, when is WiFi a good choice?

Hey, I’m not a WiFi hater by any means, and it’s an amazing part of new technology. WiFi has it’s place in society, primarily due to it’s convenience and ease of use. You can easily connect to WiFi no matter where you are, which makes it great for it’s simplicity. If you imagine having to connect your mobile phone through a wire every time you go to a restaurant, this sums up the importance of WiFi very easily.

However, bear in mind that a wireless connection will always have a worse connection than a wired ethernet connection. You’ll get lower latency when using ethernet.

What about for streaming?

The only time that you’re really going to be bothered about a Wifi connection is when you’re gaming, and you need as low latency as you can possibly get. For streaming, Wifi connection should work perfectly well, and it’s much less of an issue.

Best Ethernet Cables

MATEIN Cat 7 Ethernet Cable

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Cat7 Ethernet Cable, 50 Ft Network Cable for Xbox PS4, High Speed Flat Internet Cord with Clips Rj45 Snagless Connector Fast Computer LAN Wire for Gaming,Ethernet Switch, Modem, Router, Coupler, Black
  • High Speed&Flexible: MATEIN CAT7 network cable Transmit data at speeds up to 10,000 Mbps (or to 10 Gigabit per second); High bandwidth of up to 600 MHz, supports high-speed data transfer for online gaming and online high definition video streaming, server applications, cloud computing, video surveillance
  • Compatibility: Cat 7 Network Cable is compatible with Cat6/Cat5/Cat5e ethernet cable. Provide universal connectivity for Xbox One, Xbox 360, Switches, Routers Modems, PS3, PS4, Computer, Laptop, Printers, Network Printers, Network Attached Storage Device, ADSL, NAS, VoIP phones and more
  • Flat Design&Free Clips: Can't even feel or see the cable run under a rug or carpet. Easier to line up against the wall. Flexible, Thin, Unnoticeable but Hardy. Save space if you don't need the entire length. Also bundled with 20 Cable Clips for free

A lot of people will tell you that a Cat 7 is overkill for gaming, and it probably is. Generally, you’ll only need a category 6 cable to get a decent quality of gaming without interruption. But, some people want peace of mind and you get that with a cat 7 – they transmit data 10x faster than a cat 6 cable, so they might prove to be a better option. If you want a truly flawless connection, then it’s worth looking at a model like this one.

Another reason why I like this design in comparison to some others is that the cable is designed to be flat. This means that it’s very easy to thread it under or over door frames without any obstruction, and leaves the cable less exposed to damage. The one drawback of using an ethernet cable is that fact that it’s a physical wire, which can be a little annoying. So, it makes sense to opt for something that can be easily concealed.

If you want the cheapest possible Cat 7 ethernet cable, then this is probably going to be your best choice. It has an awesome connection at a cheap price.

DanYee Nylon Braided Cat 7 Cable

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Cat 7 Ethernet Cable, DanYee Nylon Braided 10ft CAT7 High Speed Professional Gold Plated Plug STP Wires CAT 7 RJ45 Ethernet Cable 3ft 10ft 16ft 26ft 33ft 50ft 66ft 100ft (Black 10ft)
  • Danyee Cat 7 Lan Cable support bandwidth up to 600MHz & transmitting data at speeds of up to 10Gbps ,connect to LAN/WAN segments and networking gear at maximum speeds
  • Special surface braided nylon made the cable stronger and elegant ,what's more,it is dirty-proof too.
  • RJ45 UNIVERSAL CONNECTOR -- RJ45 connectors offer universal connectivity to computers and network components, such as Wi-Fi router, modem, printer, XBox, PS2, PS3, PS4 and switch box.

If you’re not planning to attach the cable to the wall in some way and you just need a short connection, then it’s worth looking at getting something cheaper and smaller. This Nylon braided ethernet cable would make an awesome choice for those looking for something cheap and easy to use.

Nylon braided cables are a great way to ensure that you’re not going to damage the cable itself. Often with cheaply made cables or even regular cables, they can become easily damaged and frayed. This is just from general wear and tear, and it will happen to the majority of cables over a long period of time. However, if you opt for a Nylon braided cable, then you’re less likely to experience any sort of fraying or damage. So, going for this DanYee Nylon braided ethernet might be a good idea if you’re looking for something that’s going to last you a good while.

Amazon Basics Cat 6 Cable

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If you’re trying to find the cheapest ethernet cable available, then you can consider looking at getting an Amazon Basics cable. Generally, whilst they might lack a little in quality, they do provide a really good low cost option that’s still decent enough to get the job done.

As I’ve already mentioned, you only generally need a Cat 6 ethernet cable for gaming, and a Cat 7 is usually unnecessary. This one will still transmit data at speeds of up to 1000 mbps, which is definitely fast enough for pretty much any gaming system out there. The cable itself is fairly basic and it’s only 5 foot long, so bear this in mind before you purchase.

As with pretty much all Amazon Basics stuff, you get a limited 1 year warranty. But when it’s this kind of cheap price, that’s all you can really expect. If you want the cheapest option out there, this is definitely the top choice.

MediaBridge Ethernet Cable

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Mediabridge Ethernet Cable (15 Feet) - Supports Cat6/5e/5, 550MHz, 10Gbps - RJ45 Cord (Part# 31-399-15X )
  • CAT6 / CAT5e: Supports both Cat6 and Cat5e applications. The RJ45 connector used for this cable fits perfectly in both Cat6 and Cat5e ports.
  • CAPABILITY: Mediabridge Cat 6 cables can support up to 10 Gigabits per second (10 times the bandwidth of Cat5e cables). Meets or exceeds Category 6 performance in compliance with the TIA/EIA 568B.2 standard. Backwards compatible with any existing Fast Ethernet and Gigabit Ethernet.
  • CERTIFIED: This Mediabridge Cat6 Ethernet cable with CM Grade PVC Jacket is UL Listed, complies with TIA/EIA 568B.2 and adheres to ISO/IEC 11801. APPLICATIONS: High bandwidth of up to 550 MHz guarantees high-speed data transfer for server applications, cloud computing, video surveillance and online high definition video streaming.

If you have the need for a longer ethernet cable that you can use for gaming, then it’s worth looking at this one made by MediaBridge.

This one is 15 feet long, making it 3x the length of the cheap Amazon Basics option. This comes in handy if you want to run it under your carpet across the room. It also supports both Cat 5e and Cat 6, which might prove useful if you want to use it for network connections later down the line. If you’re wondering what the difference is, cat 6 are 10x the bandwidth of Cat 5e (and Cat 7 are 10x the bandwidth of Cat 6!).

MediaBridge are pretty well known as a brand for making some of the best options for tech stuff when you’re on a budget, with this ethernet cable being a good example of that.

What to Consider Before Buying an Ethernet Cable

Do you need an ethernet cable for gaming?

You most definitely do not need an internet cable for gaming. However, for serious gaming, an ethernet cable is currently a necessity to ensure that you have a solid connection. So, if you want the best gaming experience, then you’ll definitely want to invest in an ethernet cable to use whilst you’re gaming.

Will an ethernet cable make my internet faster?

An ethernet cable doesn’t work by making your internet faster. Instead, it works generally by reducing the amount of interference between your console and your internet. If you’re using a wireless connection, then this interference can make a big difference in your gameplay, and can cause your game to glitch.

Are ethernet cables all the same?

Another common question about ethernet cables is whether they’re all the same. And the simple answer is really that no, they’re not. Ethernet cables are generally quite different to each other, mainly due to their limitations. Although the design of an ethernet cable will pretty much stay the same, each category of cable will have a different capability on it’s ability to transmit data, which is where the real difference comes in.

Do ethernet cables make it slower for those using Wifi?

A pretty common misconception is that if you use an ethernet cable for your gaming, then it’s going to slow the wifi in the house down for everyone else. This definitely isn’t the case, as your router will have the same bandwidth to share, whether this be via ethernet cable or via Wifi. So, your gaming may slow down the Wifi for others, but no more than if you was also using the Wifi. Check out Lifewire if you want to understand a little more on how ethernet cables work.

Conclusion

So whilst WiFi is great, for the best connection you’re still going to have to opt for an ethernet connection. For gamers, an ethernet cable is pretty much an essential if you’re taking things seriously. However, if you’re a little more relaxed about it, then a WiFi connection will prove to be perfectly fine for gaming as well.

For everything else, a Wifi connection is perfectly fine to use as your main connection at home. Of course, you’ll get people that say WiFi is bad because it can apparently cause cancer, but there’s little research to support such theories. So in conclusion, if you want a great connection opt for WiFi, if you need a perfect connection then an ethernet is the better choice.

Last update on 2020-10-29 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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