The ability to just click a button and connect to WiFi on almost any modern device is hard to pass up. On the other hand, ethernet is still around after years of WiFi so surely it has its advantages. The truth is that both options have ups and downs. Your priorities as a user will be the ultimate deciding factor for determining which is better.

Wired Connections - Ethernet

Ethernet is older and better tested than WiFi, maintaining a number of benefits. Physical connections are faster and provide greater reliability, control, and security.

  • A signal with a cable to guide it will always be faster than the wireless equivalent, making tasks like file sharing quicker.
  • Ethernet signals are much less prone to becoming unstable and/or dropping.
  • It is easier to control who is connected to a network, ensuring a network will not be bogged down by too many users.
  • Wired networks cannot be seen by anyone with a wireless device, making hacking much harder.

Being older may make ethernet more of a tamed animal, but its age does show with a few disadvantages.

  • All machines must be physically connected to the same wired network to communicate.
  • Connections will be limited by the length of the cables being used.
  • Cables tangle and can be tricky to manage.
  • Some devices (cell phones, tablets, etc.) do not have ethernet ports as an option.
    • This can be a benefit for business owners if employees are more likely to use their phones for social media or other distractions than work.

Ethernet is commonly used for stationary machines like desktop computers at home or in an office. It is also better for activities that use a lot of data, like video streaming services or playing video games online. Ethernet cables are still in development and many on the market today are already overkill for at-home or basic business use. If your main concern is quality over convenience, ethernet is the way to go.

Wireless Connections - WiFi

WiFi is newer than ethernet, but today almost every modern machine with Internet functionality is built for it. Wireless connections have plenty of obvious benefits when it comes to everyday use.

  • No wires are required to connect devices to WiFi.
  • Connected devices are not limited by the distance of a physical cable.
  • Wireless networks are user-friendly and designed for easy set-up.
  • WiFi enables Internet connections on devices too small to have an ethernet port.

While WiFi networks are very convenient, they are also home to a host of problems not present when using ethernet.

  • Security is a major concern for wireless networks.
    • Anyone can connect to an improperly secured network. Individuals doing this could do anything from mooching off the free Internet to spreading viruses to other networked machines.
    • If a personal device is connected to a private network, such as in a business office, any viruses or other malware on their devices could spread to other machines on the network.
    • Some individuals will set up open WiFi networks in public areas, such as coffee shops or fast food restaurants, to bait people and steal information from any devices that connect.
  • Wireless connections are not as fast as wired connections, making data-heavy tasks like file sharing slower.
  • The more people who connect to a network, the slower it is likely to run for everyone.
  • Wireless network signals will get weaker the further a device gets from the WiFi source.

The main advantage of WiFi can be summed up in a single word: convenience. Calling WiFi “bad” would be a bit of an overstatement and it is certainly a necessity for mobile devices. The main reason to use WiFi is when a device moves around a lot or you just do not want to run a cable to it. If mobility is not a major concern and there are other pressing factors like speed and security, WiFi may not be the way to go.