Last Updated Mar 14, 2011 11:33 AM EDT
You're paying for broadband Internet service, but if all the computers in your office use Wi-Fi to access it, you're not getting your money's worth.
That's one takeaway of a new study from UK research firm Epitiro, which found that wired connections to broadband routers were roughly 30 percent faster than Wi-Fi connections.
I'll admit I was a bit skeptical of this, so I ran a quick speed test of my own. My desktop typically connects to my network via 802.11n Wi-Fi, and according to a performance scan at Speedtest.net, it manages an average download speed of 14.02 megabits per second (Mbps) -- not too shabby.
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. Holy crap. (For the record, upload speeds stayed consistent at around 0.95 Mbps.)
This begs the question: Should you ditch Wi-Fi in favor of Ethernet? I'd say yes, absolutely, even it means spending a little time and money laying cable.
On the other hand, when you're talking about Mbps speeds that are already in the double digits, does that speed boost have any real-world meaning? For 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 "slow" performance.
Your mileage may vary, of course, depending on your ISP, router, and other factors. But if you routinely download a lot of large files or copy a lot of data between PCs, you should at the very least consider replacing the cord you so eagerly cut when Wi-Fi came along. You're paying for that broadband -- you might as well get your money's worth.
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