The Tech-pert: Speed Up Your Internet Connection in One Step
What if I told you you could boost your Internet connection speed by up to 30 percent, without the need for any special software, services, or gear?
You can, and I've got proof. See, a couple weeks ago, a UK-based research firm found that wired connections to broadband routers
are about 30 percent faster than Wi-Fi connections.
In other words, if you plug your computer directly into your router instead of relying on Wi-Fi, you get a major speed boost. You've heard of cutting the cord? This is all about embracing the cord.
I'll admit I had my doubts about this. After all, my desktop uses a Wi-Fi card to connect to my router (even though the latter sits just ten feet away
), and I've never thought my Internet connection was particularly slow.
Thus, I decided to run my own speed tests. According to the free speed-checker at Speedtest.net
, my desktop managed an average download speed of 14.02 megabits per second (Mbps) over Wi-Fi -- a fine score by all accounts.
Then I disabled Wi-Fi, connected an Ethernet cable to my PC and router, and ran the test again. The result: 18.58 Mbps, an improvement of about 32 percent. Wow! (By the way, upload speeds stayed consistent at around 0.95 Mbps. That's a limitation of my service provider, not my connection
Your mileage may vary, of course, depending on your ISP, router, and other factors. But in my mind there's little question that Ethernet beats Wi-Fi as handily as rock beats scissors.
So, should you opt for Ethernet in your house? I'd say yes, definitely, as long as it's practical to do so. If your computer resides near your router, it's a simple (and inexpensive
) matter to run an Ethernet cable between the two.
However, if you have walls and/or floors separating your computer(s) from your router, now you're talking about a bit of time and expense. How-to site Instructables has a great tutorial on wiring your house with Ethernet cable
Is it worth it? If Mbps speeds are already in the double digits, does that speed boost have any real-world meaning? For basic tasks like Web browsing, the answer is no: The study found that browsing times were the same across wired and wireless connections.
What's more, there's much to be said for the joys of mobility. Do you really want to have to unplug an Ethernet cable from your laptop every time you leave your desk, then plug it back in when you return? The convenience of Wi-Fi might just outweigh its slower performance.
But if you routinely download a lot of large files, copy a lot of data between PCs, or stream video from services like Hulu and Netflix, I definitely recommend "embracing the cord." After all, you're paying big bucks for that broadband Internet service -- you might as well get your money's worth.
Self-proclaimed cheapskate Rick Broida has been a technology writer for
over 20 years. He has authored over a dozen books, including, most recently,
"How to Do Everything: Palm Pre." Currently he writes the Cheapskate blog.