There was a time when it was entirely normal to have to plug in your computer to get an internet connection—but Wi-Fi was a game-changer when it first went mainstream in the early aughts. The benefits of Wi-Fi are obvious: It lets you access the internet wherever you are in your house, not to mention allowing you to use mobile devices without the need for data plans.
But the fact is Wi-Fi connections are inferior to Ethernet in several ways.
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Why Ethernet is better
For starters, an Ethernet connection is just much faster. Depending on the type of cable you’ve got, you could theoretically reach a maximum speed of 10 Gbps (that’s on a Cat6a cable). Using an Ethernet cable ensures a more consistent internet speed when compared with a Wi-Fi connection.
If you’re big on streaming or gaming, using an Ethernet cable could give you a boost in terms of speed, which means less buffering and lag.
However, the speed of your internet connection is significantly impacted by how powerful your router is. If your router isn’t built for maximum internet speeds, using Ethernet might not help as much.
Compared with a wired connection, Wi-Fi signals tend to receive a lot more interference, whether from objects or walls blocking the physical path to devices or from hardware issues. Dropped connections are much more common.
From a security standpoint, using an Ethernet cable makes your connection much more secure. To attack a device over an Ethernet connection, a hacker is going to need to gain access to its cable and router, whereas someone can much more easily intercept Wi-Fi traffic as it’s transmitted through the air.
But we still use Wi-Fi, and it’s improving
That said, a Wi-Fi connection makes it easier to go mobile and is often sufficient for daily browsing on your laptop, social media networking, and usually even video calls. It’s also necessary for “internet of things” devices like smart lights and fridges. Plus, let’s face it, with many of us working from home nowadays, we like to be able to sit in different spots throughout the day and not be tethered to a cable.
In recent years, Wi-Fi speeds have improved tremendously. The next generation of Wi-Fi—dubbed Wi-Fi 7—is expected to be launched in 2024 and is meant to reach an astounding 30 Gbps.
When to use Ethernet
It makes sense to use an Ethernet connection if your computer setup is stationary—for example if you use a desktop. You can also plug an Ethernet cable into your laptop every once in a while, such as if your internet connection often drops during video calls.
If you want to be as secure as possible when going online, Ethernet is the way to go. However, if you’re using Wi-Fi—and most of us do, especially on mobile devices—it’s worth keeping your connection secure with a VPN.
Do you use Ethernet? Let us know why in the comments below.