Which is faster: Wi-Fi or Ethernet?

There are two main ways to connect your device to the Internet: Wi-Fi and Ethernet. While Wi-Fi is more convenient to connect to from a distance and share with other people, how does it compare to Ethernet in terms of speed?

WiFi vs Ethernet

Circuit board-internet-icon-line-connection

Image Credit: natanaelginting / freepik.com

Measuring the speed of your internet connection is arbitrary. Internet speed generally means upload and download speeds. But the speed and quality of your internet connection depends on a variety of factors.

1. WiFi vs. Ethernet: Speed

It is safe to say that Ethernet is faster than Wi-Fi. Instead of scattering your Internet signal over a large area wirelessly, Ethernet improves bandwidth usage by focusing it directly over a cable. It isolates the signal from external elements that can interfere with the flow of data.

The connection speed depends mainly on the capacity and quality of the Ethernet cable you are using, and the internet bandwidth that is coming from your ISP. While some Ethernet cables have transfer rates of 1,000 Mbps and more, others are much slower. In some cases, a 5GHz Wi-Fi network may be much faster than an Ethernet connection.

2. Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet: Signal Quality

It should come as no surprise to learn that Ethernet provides a faster internet connection than Wi-Fi – or any wireless method for that matter. This is because with a physical wire connecting you over the Internet, data flow is less likely to be interrupted by the barriers in your environments. It also ensures a safe and reliable path for your signals so they don’t get lost or deteriorated along the way.

3. Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet: Latency

Internet latency – often referred to as a ping – is the time it takes for Internet traffic to travel from your device to the Internet and back. While the small levels of latency are barely noticeable, they can make a difference in the online gaming world.

If low latency is of paramount importance to you, then Ethernet is the best option.

4. Wifi vs. Ethernet: power consumption

The difference in power consumption may vary depending on several factors such as bandwidth, coverage area, and number of connected devices. But in general, Ethernet consumers have less power than Wi-Fi connections.

With Wi-Fi, the signal is constantly broadcasting in your vicinity, even if no one is using it. And depending on your router, the signal can cover a large area for no real reason. But if you’re looking to cut costs overall, a wireless router that connects multiple devices to the Internet is much cheaper than having to buy a separate Ethernet cable for each device you use.

5. WiFi vs. Ethernet: Security

Security is an important aspect when it comes to choosing the type of connection. In this case, Wi-Fi is not as secure as Ethernet.

With Ethernet, only your internet connection can be accessed physically. So, while encrypting your connection is still very important, physically securing the source of your internet connection keeps it safe from unauthorized access.

On the other hand, Wi-Fi transmits your data in the air. And while most Wi-Fi connections are encrypted, they can still be intercepted and accessed by a specific hacker.

One is not better than the other

Picture showing wifi online and offline

It’s safe to say that both Wi-Fi and Ethernet have uses where they shine best. On paper, it might appear that Ethernet has the upper hand on almost all fronts. It’s fast, secure, energy efficient, low latency, and gives you the internet you pay for.

Still a big part of using the internet is convenience, and you can’t connect your smartphone, tablet, or smart home devices to an Ethernet without making a mess of wires. But by knowing the pros and cons of both communication methods, you will be able to make the right decision every time.


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