Ethernet vs WiFi Gaming

It’s a common question for online gamers: should you tether your computer to an Ethernet cable or stick with WiFi? Let's look at the ins and outs of cutting the cord and staying plugged in while you're competing in tournaments and gaming.

WiFi gaming versus using Ethernet

No one wants a laggy online experience when knee-deep in a tournament or mission. If you're playing first person shooter or action games, half a second of latency (the time data takes to go to and from your gaming device and online server) is the last thing you need. When your rival has a 20 millisecond advantage, you’re getting blasted away unfairly. Prefer role playing games (RPG)? Latency tends not to be an issue when you're raiding and pillaging homesteads. But gamers, is plugging an Ethernet cable into your gaming computer the best fix?

Pros of WiFi gaming

The main advantage of WiFi gaming is freedom. Whether you’re in the bedroom or your living room, away from your router point, it may not be convenient to run an Ethernet cable to your computer or console. Also, with so many devices and screens in our lives these days, who has room for extra cabling?

Cons of WiFi gaming

If you have strong and stable broadband then a WiFi connection will be good enough for your gaming needs, most times. But there are potential drawbacks. For starters, you might have connection interference in your house and this can lead to lag or a slower response times in game. Also, you might find concrete walls or metal door frames can lead to slow or stop-start wireless connection. This is something to talk to your internet service provider about.

Pros of Ethernet-connected gaming

If you are able to grab yourself a direct, wired Ethernet connection to your router, then you’ll avoid wireless interference and have high-level security. Over a long period of gaming, a wired-up connection will help you avoid connectivity problems and will (in most homes) offer you a more reliable gaming experience; especially in fast-moving shooter and action games. If you are a heavy downloader of films or large music files, a wired set-up will give you a more significant leg-up.

Cons of Ethernet-connected gaming

Unsightly cables. It's sometimes tricky to get Ethernet cabling the right length to connect from your router position to your console or PC. And it could be a unnecessary faff, running cables throughout your home, because an Ethernet connection is mainly used to fix the rarer problems in gaming.

Which is the best WiFi for gaming?

WiFi from a broadband service that is fast and reliable, is best. At Virgin Media, all our gamer broadband speeds come with unlimited downloads and no traffic management, so you just need to worry about keeping an eye on the prize.

Specifically, our M500 broadband package is ideal if waiting around bores you. With 516Mbps average download speed, you'll race through big game updates and patches. You might also consider Gig1 Fibre Broadband to handle your downloads, simultaneous video calls, working from home and more. If you pick up one of our broadband packages for gamers, you’ll be in position to compete in your online games, with a fast and stable connection.

Take a closer look at Virgin Media broadband for gamers.

How to reduce latency on WiFi or Ethernet

Latency is the enemy of the pin-sharp gamer, delaying the time data takes to be sent from your sword (or computer) to the your online game server. How do we solve this and reduce disappointing results?

Latency (or high ping) on WiFi connections

Gameplay latency, let’s call it lag, can cause stuttering, freezing and perhaps even crash your game. There are a couple of things to check. Firstly, look at your location within your house. It can make a real difference to your WiFi connection. Make sure that you are close enough to the router to get a strong signal and also ensure nothing's blocking your router or interfering with signal – a wall, cupboard or large electronic equipment like a TV could lower your ping and put you off your game.

Do you have sufficient bandwidth? While less important than your connection and network efficiency, you need enough bandwidth to game. Internet service providers (ISPs) publish bandwidth measurements, but you don’t often find latency information because it's so difficult to declare consistent values for different setups and geographic regions. The figure to keep in mind is 1Mpbs. That’s what is considered okay for most online gaming.

Run a speed test to check bandwidth

To figure out if you are getting enough broadband speed, you should run a quick test to assess the rapidity (download and upload) of your service. Any test worth its salt will also give you a reading for Ping rates (see our guide for a refresher on Ping). Consider your results: is your speed as fast as your service provider promised? And can they help you optimise your broadband?

Related articles

Useful links