WiFi or Network Cable : What is Better to Play

Most of the time we have the possibility to connect our computer or console to play through WiFi or network cable. Which is better?

Playing online video games in optimal conditions goes far beyond connecting the console or the computer to the Internet. To enjoy multiplayer games without suffering the dreaded lag you have to use the optimal connection system, depending on our possibilities and priorities.

Most of the routers, computers and consoles offer us the option to connect through WiFi or cable. It is up to us to choose. If you are fond of video games, the question is inevitable. What is better to play, WiFi or cable?

The answer may seem obvious: the cable, a direct connection without interference, will always give better results. But in much of the settings, the WiFi also keeps the type and most players will not notice differences. For that reason, we are going to take a look at the factors that influence when playing online optimally, so that we can decide if we are going to play online through WiFi or cable.

Ping, lag, and other technicalities

When we hire an Internet connection we value above all the data download speed, that is, the download. In fact it is the value that always appears in advertisements. Connection to 20, 100 or 300 Mbps. At the time of playing, or of activities that also require uploading data to the Internet, such as sharing a video or making a video conference, the upload speed is also important . The cheapest connections are asymmetric, that is, the download speed is different from the upload speed . For example, for most basic rates, a 100 Mbps connection means 100 Mbps downlink and 10 Mbps uplink.

If you play a lot online it is convenient to hire a symmetric rate (same upload and download speed) so that the game is not cut if several people use the Internet at the same time.

Although a comfortable upload speed is recommended, the fact is that multiplayer games do not require sending too much data . Other values are more important, such as the ping and lag or latency.

A ping is actually a tool used to measure the response time between a local post and one or more IP addresses. In colloquial terms, especially in video games, the ping tells us latency or lag, that is, the time between sending a request from the computer or the console to the game server or another player playing with us in a connection direct, and this one answers us.

The ping is measured in milliseconds and the lower the value, the better. It gives us clues about the delay we will suffer from when we shoot an enemy player, for example, until that player is shot. Or, on the contrary, when another player attacks us, the time we will take to see that action. The higher the lag or latency, the more uncoordinated will be the actions among the players. You notice a delay between your actions, and when you see them on the screen. Most servers eject players who have a high ping or lag.T hat is why these values usually appear next to the name of the player in the waiting rooms, so we know if we are going to be able to play well or not. A lag larger than 200 ms is already considered problematic when it comes to playing well online, especially in action games.

How to lower the ping

The ping is directly associated with the connection. First, with the network, you are connected to. If you connect via WiFi and the connection is not stable because you are away from the router or there are interferences that create ups and downs in the signal, the ping suffers, increasing the delay during the online game.

Luckily it is possible to reduce the lag in the online game without changing the connection. In the case of using WiFi, you should get as close to the router and eliminate obstacles between the router and the PC or console: doors, decorative objects such as cupboards or vases, mirrors, etc.

It is also important that you are not doing other things with the connection while playing online. If another person is using the Internet or downloading data at the same time, the ping and latency will increase. Reserve the house connection for you alone.

The ping also depends on the global network that connects all the players. There are things that you can not control, such as the saturation of your Internet provider, the saturation of the game server, etc.

Most titles have several game servers. The closer you are, the smaller the ping will be. Therefore, if you can choose, connect to the nearest local service (usually there is a server for each country or continent).

WiFi or Cable?

These concepts that we have reviewed have given us the first clues when choosing the type of connection. WiFi or network cable, which is better to play?

There are times when you can not choose. For example, if the computer or console is too far away from the router and you do not want to pull cable all over the house. But in many cases, you have the option of connecting via WiFi or network cable (a direct connection by LAN cable between the router and the computer or console). Which one to use?

If the PC or the console is close to the router, the choice is clear: the cable ensures maximum connection speed and will not suffer the interference of WiFi. If using a LAN cable requires an expense or a small work, then you have to think it through.

Some tests

Each Internet connection is different. That’s why the most direct way to check performance is to test ourselves.

In our case we made a test with the PS4 Pro console connected by both cable and WiFi to an asymmetric 50 Mb fiber optic connection  (50 Mbps downlink and 5 Mbps uplink), in the most equal conditions possible: we have put the console next to the router. Despite this, the differences have been remarkable.

Here we can see the connection test of the PS4 Pro using the LAN cable with direct connection between the console and the Wireless N router:

As you can see, the cable ensures maximum download speed in a stable manner, and even exceeds the 50 Mb contracted. The upload speed is also close to the maximum, although it does not reach the 5 Mbps hired.

On the contrary, if we connect the console via WiFi , despite placing it just 30 centimeters from the generic Movistar router, the download speed drops by almost 20% . Only the rise is maintained:

If we perform the same test with a computer, this time moving more than ten meters away from the router, we obtain a similar trend. Connecting by cable, we reach the maximum speed offered by the contracted fiber, even above:

When connecting the low speed WiFi , although luckily the upload speed and Ping are maintained:

Although these tests show us that WiFi loses speed depending on distance, it is important to know that when playing the transmission speed is not very important, because only small packets of data are transmitted, however, continuously. That’s why the key value is having a low ping . In this test the ping is maintained because they are tests of unified access to the data, but in the online game where data transmission is not constant, the ping becomes unstable in a WiFi connection, depending on the interference or connected users , which can produce cuts and delays.

Alternative hardware

If you still use ADSL, play a lot online, download many games or movies in streaming, and several people use the Internet at the same time while you are playing, it is highly recommended to connect by cable.

It is as simple as measuring the distance from the computer or console to the router and buying the LAN cable of that length, keeping in mind that you will want to hide it through the baseboards, behind the cabinets, etc. In many cases, it is not possible to pull the cable because you can not hide it correctly, or you do not want to do work. In that case, the best solution is to use PLC or Powerline connectors, that is, to transmit the Internet through the electricity network. It is as simple as putting a PLC connector in a socket next to the router, connecting both by cable, putting another PLC in another socket anywhere in the house, connecting to it by cable the computer or the console, and thus you will have created a physical network through the electrical network, without the need to install new wiring. With this system, you do not lose speed or suffer the interference of WiFi.

If you decide to buy a PLC connector, keep in mind that it should work faster than your connection . That is, if you have fiber at 300 Mb, do not buy a PLC of 200 Mb because you will only reach that speed.

Despite all this evidence, do you resist leaving the comfort of WiFi? In that case, if you play on a PC or an Xbox One S or PS4 Pro console, you can choose to change the operator’s router via a dual-band Wireless AC router . These new routers can transmit and send data at the same time with different connections, reinforce the WiFi signal in the direction where you are connected, and have two bands to separate the phones, tablets and other devices from the computer for gaming or the console.

Of course, devices that connect to the advanced 5 GHz channel must be compatible with Wireless AC. The new Xbox One S and PS4 Pro are, but the previous models are not.

If you are a gamer who spends many hours playing online, the investment is worth it.