Wired vs. Wi-Fi Internet: Which Is Better?

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Last Updated: Dec 7, 2022 | Published: Oct 6, 2022

When it comes to accessing the internet, there are two ways you can do it: with a wired or wireless (Wi-Fi) connection. Most home networks use a combination of both, but each connection has its own advantages and is better suited for different uses. In this guide, we’ll go over how you can get the most out of each connection based on your online activities.

Wired Internet

Person holding ethernet cable
Connecting your device to a modem via an Ethernet cable can help speed up and stabilize your internet connection.

Wired Ethernet connections are faster than Wi-Fi — there’s no way around it. In theory, an Ethernet connection is good for up to 10 Gbps of bandwidth if you use a suitable Ethernet cable. The most commonly used cable, the Cat5e, supports up to 1 Gbps — faster than 802.11ac Wi-Fi and more consistent.

Not every device on your network will have an Ethernet port, but desktop PCs, gaming consoles, and some laptops will. With a wired connection, however, you’re at the mercy of your modem’s location. If your modem is in a closet or another room, it isn’t convenient or feasible to connect your devices to it.

Video Calls and Meetings

The bandwidth needs of something like a Zoom meeting are minimal — only 10 Mbps to 25 Mbps download speeds and 3 Mbps upload speeds. Just like streaming Netflix, however, Zoom call quality relies much more on the stability of your connection. Whenever stability is the priority, a wired connection is better than a wireless one.

If an Ethernet connection is out of the question, minimize interference between your router and the device you’re video conferencing on. Make sure there are no walls or large pieces of furniture between your device and the router.

Online Gaming

You’d think gaming would require top-of-the-line internet speeds, but you’d be mistaken. Download speeds of 3 Mbps and 1 to 2 Mbps upload speeds are all you need. Connection stability again plays the greatest role in a seamless online gaming experience.

Whenever connection stability is a critical factor, a wired Ethernet connection is the best option. If you can’t plug your gaming console or PC into an Ethernet port, take the standard precautions to minimize Wi-Fi interference: keep your router away from walls and keep obstructions out of the way of your gaming rig.

Downloading and Sharing Files

Modern video games take upward of 50 GB of data and 4K video can take between 20 and 22 GB of data per hour. If you find yourself downloading large files or large quantities of files, a wired connection will let you tap into all your network’s available speeds. Cat6e cables can support up to 10 Gbps, meaning the massive files that are a hallmark of the high-definition digital age become less intimidating.

You can download anything you need over Wi-Fi, but why wait when you don’t have to?

Download pop-up displaying green progress bar
Spend less time waiting for large files to download by using an Ethernet connection.

Wireless Internet

Wi-Fi is good enough for most day-to-day uses since modern network standards like 802.11ac offer up to 866.7 Mbps of bandwidth. The older 802.11n supports only up to 150 Mbps, but that’s still plenty of bandwidth for most day-to-day internet users.

The freedom that Wi-Fi affords internet users is its biggest strength. Not being tethered to a modem means you can browse in every room of your house without running Ethernet cables throughout.

Wi-Fi’s fatal flaw is its inconsistency. Your signal strength depends on how close you are to your router, and you may find your internet speeds slowing down if walls or furniture are in the way of the signal.


You need only about 5 Mbps of download speed to stream Netflix (count on needing as much as 25 Mbps if you demand 4K video quality), so even 802.11n Wi-Fi is up to the task. For streaming, it isn’t a question of network speed so much as network stability: an unstable connection leads to choppy, grainy video quality.

Person holding cell phone while it is buffering
Tired of buffering? Plug into an Ethernet port or move closer to your router!

Using an Ethernet cable to connect whatever device you stream on to your network is the best way to ensure maximum connection stability. The most common devices used to stream, however — phones, tablets, and smart TVs — don’t have Ethernet ports to plug into. Minimize interference between your router and streaming device to optimize your video quality.

Social Media

Most social media users post and interact with content using their mobile devices, and smartphones don’t have Ethernet ports. Social media use has such minuscule network requirements, though, that Wi-Fi can keep up with the load.

Wi-Fi may be the victor by default, but it’s still the victor. Nobody wants to bring a hard-wired desktop into the bathroom to scroll through memes on the toilet, and posting selfies from wherever you happen to be is much more convenient than being confined to one space for all your social media usage.