When it comes to the debate of WiFi vs Ethernet for online gaming, you'll probably already have a pretty strong incline as to what we're going to say in this guide. Yes, simply put, an internet connection via a wired Ethernet cable (in other words, LAN, which stands for Local Area Connection) is always going to be the most ideal internet setup as an avid or serious gamer.
But the question remains; is Ethernet really that much better than wireless for gaming in this day and age? Let's discuss objectively (as always), so that you can make the right choice for your particular gaming network setup.
WiFi technology has indeed come a long way, with many reiterations and improvements over the years, and the truth is that if you have a good internet connection, you invest in a good-quality router, and you set things up in your home/gaming lair correctly - you likely will not see much of a difference compared to a standard wired Ethernet cable connection in terms of overall speed.
However, getting to the point of a flawless wireless setup isn't always easy let alone possible for some people. You may not be able to afford the best router, your home may have a ton of interference, and you may live in an area with a less than desirable internet connection for whatever reason.
Plus, speed isn't really the issue at play here when you want to compare WiFi vs Ethernet for the best online gaming experience. What's more important is the stability of your connection and network interference from things like doors/wall/objects and other devices. That's why when you ask any seasoned gamer whether to use WiFi or Ethernet for online gaming they'll matter-of-factly mutter something along the lines of wired winning hands-down.
But like I said, that doesn't mean that wireless can't be as good, as fast, or even as reliable/stable, however that's IF and only IF you manage to get a great wireless setup with the best equipment and are lucky enough to avoid interference. Even with a very good WiFi router and overall setup, I would still very much favor a wired setup for online gaming, because there's just no way that wireless is going to match an Ethernet cable stability-wise 100% of the time.
Maybe in say 5-10 years wireless will be as stable as wired, but for now, even though wireless CAN be great and is completely recommended for other uses, when it comes to avid gamers, aspiring eSports pros, or gaming streamers who want (or should I say NEED) the absolute fastest, reliable online connection with minimal interference and latency/lag you'll want to do everything you can to plug in with a good old Ethernet cable (no matter how long it has to be to reach your gaming desktop; you can buy really long Ethernet cables if you need).
Even minute interference or a little extra latency on a wireless network can get in the way of flawless online play and could mean the difference between fun and frustration or winning and losing. In competitive, fast-paced games every millisecond adds up.
If you're going to ignore this advice and game online with WiFi anyway, which may not let you down if you're simply a casual gamer, make sure to pick a good router and place it as close to your gaming PC as possible. Also, you'll want to get a recent 5GHz WiFi router, and ideally one that can also prioritize your online gaming sessions over other internet traffic.
So what's best for gaming? Ethernet vs WiFi? The answer is clear, at least for the foreseeable future. This line from good-old PC Gamer pretty much sums it up:
"You would have to pry a diehard gamers wired connection from the grasp of their cold, dead hand. Capiche?"
But what about the latest WiFi 6 (AX) standard. Wifi 6 can deliver higher speeds and better reliability compared to previous Wi-Fi standards such as WiFi 5, but it is still generally not as fast or reliable as an Ethernet connection. The wired connection of Ethernet still cannot be beat, and provides a more stable and consistent connection with lower latency and fewer potential interference issues compared to any wireless connection, no matter which standard it is. Ethernet typically has faster maximum speeds compared to WiFi 6 devices anyway.
VPN software is quite important in this day and age and will improve the security and privacy of your PC when online. There are also benefits to using VPNs for gaming.
There's lots of VPNs out there but the ones I recommend most to gamers is ExpressVPN (special link that gets you 3 months off. they also offer a free trial here) and NordVPN which are both highly rated gaming VPNs because they're the fastest and most secure.
Indie game dev currently working on my first public release after years of hobby projects, a story-driven VR FPS built with Unreal Engine (to be announced soon here for anyone into VR FPS's). Also likes writing about tech, which also helps fund development of the game.
My favs of all time are OOT, Perfect Dark, MGS1, MGS2, GE007, DKC2, THPS3, HL1, and HL2, with the most recent addition to my list of immortals being the VR masterpiece Alyx. If you want help with a new build feel free to ask on the main PC builds guide. If you found the site extra helpful and wish to support the work I do here, sharing an article with a friend helps a lot and is much appreciated. - Julz