Take the 2-minute tour ×
Super User is a question and answer site for computer enthusiasts and power users. It's 100% free, no registration required.

I have the option of hooking up my machines to the internet either wirelessly or via ethernet cable (wired). I'm curious as to which is faster; the approximate wireless signal strength (average) is about 60%. Would my internet be faster if I used ethernet, resulting in a stronger connection?

share|improve this question
    
Well my Rogers basic service seems slow especially when i play pacman. It is a good test for me since in slow situations pacman stops and stutters and in the end is too frustrating to even play. When i switch over to wireless, all my pacman worries disappear. I can play the game easily which seems to counter previous advice on this site. I'm not an expert so i cannot even guess why it is working this way. –  user209673 Mar 22 '13 at 21:13
add comment

5 Answers

up vote 36 down vote accepted

Typical 802.11g Wireless has a theoretical maximum of 54Mbps. Typical wired 10/100 Ethernet has a theoretical maximum of 100 Mbps. So in theory wired is faster.

However, these speeds are only on your local network. Most high-speed internet connections range from 1Mbps to 25 Mbps. Even on faster internet connections you're only approaching 1/2 of the full throughput of your wireless system.

In practice, its not likely you will see much of a difference unless you are transferring very large amounts of data across your local network.

I typically make the wired/wireless decision based on the usage of the machine. If it is a desktop that will never move, wired is the way to go. If its a laptop that will be mobile, the convenience of wireless by far out weighs any difference in transmission speed.

share|improve this answer
12  
Latency will be lower on the wired network IMO, so the wired connection might seem faster e.g. for online gaming even though the bandwidth is the same. –  akid Apr 29 '10 at 17:10
add comment

Not only a faster connection, but it would also be more reliable, permitted there is minimal EMI, NEXT/FEXT. Wireless also has more overhead for error checking and correction. Throughput is typically less than 50% of the advertised speed due to this. Your connection is probably not fast enough that the medium will make a difference for internet access, but for transferring files in the LAN and such it will be beneficial. Go for wired.

share|improve this answer
add comment

Wired will almost always be faster because you are hard wired and the connection is solid. For internet browsing though, you will not be able to tell a difference for the most part as wireless connections will support most home internet connections just fine.

If you are doing lots of streaming and file transfers, you might want to consider wired connections when you can.

Now this is highly dependent on area and where your wireless network is setup, but consider how many other wireless networks are in the area (apartments, etc). I had one network that had so much latency and interference from other networks/devices (Over 30+ networks in range) that file transfer speeds and connections were barely 30k/sec (yes, that is correct) even after different configurations, channels, and sitting 5 ft from the AP. This was with strong signals to the AP also. This is a location dependent type of problem, but just be aware of it.

I try to setup wired whenever possible, but wireless is very handy and works pretty good in many cases. It all depends on what you do and where you are setting it up to determine your strengths and limitations.

If you are gaming or even lots of streaming and need minimal latency, try to setup hard wired. If you are just surfing the web, 99% of the time you will not experience faster or slower internet service between wired and wireless connections.

share|improve this answer
    
@Troggy: OK makes sense...one thing that I'm a little confused by, is the term "latency". what does this term mean in networking, can you clarify/define? Thanks! –  studiohack Apr 29 '10 at 18:47
1  
@studiohack: latency is the time between making a request and getting a response as opposed to throughput (or bandwidth) which is data per second. Latency is also refereed to as ping time. –  KeithB Apr 29 '10 at 19:49
add comment

Another option (which you didn't mention but would fall under the wired category) would be powerline adapters to expand your wired or wireless distance (if you have a large house and poor wireless performance on the outter edges).

They plug into your normal power outlet in the house, and you don't need to run / drill / cut to get wired connectivity. These days there are a wide variety of options you could opt for.

Always a good option IF you don't want to be hassled with putting in cable and running wires. Just need to make sure that your running on one circuit.

share|improve this answer
add comment

I usually do this at my house, I connect my desktop and laptop both through the wired network and it really helps transfer files across computers faster. The internet speed is a bit faster but nothing extreme.

It really depends on your internet connection and even some routers. Some push a high speed across the house and some start dropping the speed drastically as the signal goes.

A good test would be to check the rate at which files transfer over wired vs wireless and how fast you download a typical file from the internet. Wireless of course gives you more freedom around the house.

share|improve this answer
add comment

protected by slhck Apr 12 '13 at 14:51

Thank you for your interest in this question. Because it has attracted low-quality answers, posting an answer now requires 10 reputation on this site.

Would you like to answer one of these unanswered questions instead?

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.