Listen, I get it.
People take their gaming pretty seriously.
When it comes to online gaming, players look for every advantage they can get over their competition. As a result, every piece of their gaming experience gets evaluated very closely.
From graphics cards and RAM to keyboards and mice, no stone is left unturned.
The least of which is a player’s internet connection.
Not only is a player’s internet speed of vital importance to gaming experience (and performance), but how they connect to the internet is important as well.
On this front, it comes down to one question: is it better to connect to the internet with an ethernet cable or over WiFi when gaming?
When it comes to online gaming, you should use an ethernet cable to connect to the internet instead of WiFi. Not only will an ethernet cable provide you with a more reliable connection to the internet, but you will also experience less delay (also known as lag) while playing.
In this post, I’ll detail why you should use an ethernet cable for your online gaming. I’ll also talk about what types of ethernet cables you should consider for your internet connection.
Why an ethernet cable is better than WiFi for gaming
As I mentioned above, there are several advantages to using an ethernet cable for online gaming instead of WiFi.
Let’s take a look at the two major advantages that ethernet cables provide when it comes to gaming.
Ethernet cables experience less delay
Ethernet cables provide less delay than a wireless connection. That’s because you’re essentially connecting your device directly to the internet with a wired connection.
So what does this mean, exactly?
Let’s say you have a gaming console that you want to provide with an internet connection.
To do this, you need to plug one end of the ethernet cable into the gaming console. The other end gets plugged into your router.
Now let’s look at what your router is connected to. Your router will be connected to your modem with another ethernet cable (unless you have a modem router combo).
Taking it one step further, your modem will be connected to your internet service provider (ISP) with another cable. This cable won’t be an ethernet cable, but it’ll still provide a wired connection to your provider.
If we zoom out on this picture, your gaming console is connected to your ISP with all wired connections.
Now let’s see what it looks like if you connect your gaming console to the internet with a wireless connection:
Although the two diagrams above may look similar, the way you connect your gaming system to the internet can make a big difference.
The reason for this difference has to do with the speed of data when transferring it over a cable versus through the air.
Data transmission in wired and wireless connections
When you send data over the air in a wireless internet connection, a lot more is happening between your device and the internet.
I’ll try not to bore you with the technical details here.
When using a wireless connection, your data needs to be translated into a different format (from digital to analog) before it can be sent to your gaming system.
This is done by your router.
Once the data arrives at your gaming system, it needs to be translated back into a format that your device can understand (digital).
This same translation happens when your system needs to send data to the internet. For example, when you move your joystick during gaming, there’ll be a few millisecond delay before you see a response on your screen.
These milliseconds of delay are caused by the translation activities that happen when sending data in a wireless internet connection.
This isn’t a lot of time, but every millisecond counts if you take your online gaming seriously.
Conversely, no data translation is needed when sending data over a wired connection.
To put it another way, any time spent translating data and sending it through the air over WiFi is time saved by a wired connection.
That’s why data will travel to and from your gaming system with less delay over a wire instead of through the air. Each time data is sent wirelessly to your console, you have to wait for the data translation to happen.
That’s where ethernet cables provide a distinct advantage.
Ethernet cables provide a more reliable connection
Another major benefit of using ethernet cables to connect to the internet is that these connections are very reliable.
Simply put, when you directly connect devices, there’s less that can go wrong with the connection. Sure, you can have an ethernet cable go bad, but that won’t be a common occurrence if you take care of your cables.
In a wireless connection on the other hand, there’s a lot more that can go wrong.
Depending upon how far your console or gaming PC is from your router, it may experience a poor internet signal. This can lead to disruption in your internet connection.
It can also be an issue if you have multiple devices trying to wirelessly communicate with your router at the same time. Your router can get overwhelmed and your system’s connection to the router can get dropped.
Lastly, if you’re not careful, your wireless signal can get interfered with or blocked. This also depends upon where your gaming system and router are in relation to each other. To give a few examples, common household materials like metal and concrete are known to disrupt wireless signals in your home.
These are all things you don’t have to worry about with a wired connection. As long as your gaming system and router remain connected with an ethernet cable, you’ll have a strong signal.
When you’re gaming online, the last thing you want is your internet connection to get disrupted. The bottom line is that there are a lot more ways this can happen with a wireless connection.
Do yourself a favor and connect your gaming console with an ethernet cable.
Is using an ethernet connection faster than Wifi?
I know what you’re thinking.
I just talked about the benefits of using ethernet cables instead of Wifi, but I didn’t say anything about the speed of the connections.
There’s actually a good reason for that.
That’s because both ethernet cables and Wifi connections should provide you with the speed you need to game effectively.
Let’s take a closer look.
Internet speed required for online gaming
When it comes to online gaming, you might be surprised to hear that you don’t need a blazing fast internet connection.
In fact, most sites say that you only need about 5 megabits per second (Mbps) of internet speed to game online.
So what does this mean for you?
It means that as long as your internet connection is faster than 5 Mbps, speed won’t be an issue for you when gaming. In other words, whether you’re connecting to the internet with an ethernet cable or a WiFi connection, as long as the connection (and internet plan) can support a speed of 5 Mbps, speed won’t be a factor when you’re gaming.
This situation is like a motorized scooter on a road.
Let’s say you have a motorized scooter with a top speed of 5 MPH. With this scooter, you’ll be able to drive it on any road with a speed limit greater than 5 MPH without having to slow down.
With that said, whether the speed limit is 50 MPH or 100 MPH, the speed you’re traveling will never be faster than 5 MPH. A faster speed limit won’t make your scooter any faster than it’s designed to go.
So as long as the speed limit is greater than 5 MPH, you’ll be able to scoot along at full throttle without having to slow down.
In this example, the motorized scooter represents the speed needed for you to game online without any issues (5 Mbps). The speed limit is the maximum speed provided by your internet connection method.
As long as your method of connecting to the internet provides faster than 5 Mbps of speed, you’ll be able to game at top speed without restriction.
The point of this story is: the maximum speed supported by a WiFi or ethernet connection to the internet doesn’t really matter. The connection just needs to provide a connection of more than 5 Mbps.
It’s safe to say that any modern WiFi or ethernet cable connection will support speeds faster than 5 Mbps. In order for this to happen, your internet connection will need to support speeds greater than 5 Mbps as well.
Most minimum internet plans today support speeds of at least 25 Mbps, so you should be with most internet plans.
Maximum supported speed is not a factor
In the end, it’s not really a question of which method of connecting to the internet supports a faster maximum speed. Both connection methods provide adequate speed for gaming. What’s really important is which method provides you with the necessary data faster.
As I mentioned above, ethernet cables do that because there’s less delay when sending and receiving data.
For those interested, I ran an experiment with Wifi and ethernet connections to see for myself. It was this experiment that confirmed for me that both connections will provide adequate speed for gaming.
All you need to do is make sure you have a suitable internet plan and you’re using modern internet equipment.
Which ethernet cable is best for gaming?
Using an ethernet cable to connect to the internet is the way to go when gaming online.
But the question is, what ethernet cable do you need?
There are multiple categories of ethernet cables to choose from. Each category of cable will support a different maximum speed.
So should you just buy the cables that support the fastest maximum speed?
As we discovered in the previous section, the maximum supported speed of the cable doesn’t really matter. It just needs to be fast enough to support your internet plan and the speed required for gaming.
This is the biggest issue I’ve seen with other sites that recommend ethernet cables for gaming. Many of them will suggest that category 8 cables are the best for gaming because they support the fastest maximum speeds.
This is overkill for just about anyone. Unless of course you run a datacenter out of your house.
From my perspective, your best move here will be to get an ethernet cable that’ll support your internet needs for the foreseeable future. After all, if you don’t get the right ethernet cable, it can limit your internet speed.
A conservative approach here is to buy category 6 cables. These cables support speeds up to 10 gigabits per second (10 Gbps). This’ll be more than enough for any current internet plan you may have.
Another benefit of buying cat 6 cables is that they’ll allow you to upgrade your internet plan in the future without having to worry about your ethernet cables not being able to support your internet plan.
With that said, if you have a slower internet plan and don’t plan on upgrading any time soon, category 5e cables will work just fine.
Is a cat 7 cable good for gaming?
You may have noticed that I didn’t suggest using category 7 cables for gaming.
There’s actually a good reason for this.
To make a long story short, it’s because they provide the same performance as category 6 cables. There’s no benefit to using them instead of cat 6 cables.
You may find that cat 7 cables cost more, however.
There’s a lot going on with category 7 cables, so I won’t get into all the specifics here.
Essentially what you need to know is that cat 7 cables:
- Provide the same performance specifications as cat 6 cables
- Aren’t recognized by the same standards group (ANSI/TIA) that all other cables are recognized by
- Were originally designed to use a different connector than all other categories of cables
- Haven’t been widely adopted due to their lack of backwards compatibility
What’s interesting is if you look for cat 7 cables online, they’re much harder to find than other common cable categories.
The ones you find (like these), however, will have the same connectors (RJ45) as all the other categories of cables. Once it was obvious that category 7 cables weren’t going to be widely adopted, they started being sold with these connectors so people will buy them.
Just be aware that these cables will perform exactly the same as category 6 cables.
If you were thinking about buying a category 7 cable, buy a cat 6 cable instead.
Do you lose gaming speed with a longer ethernet cable?
Ok so you’ve decided to pick up cat 5e or cat 6 ethernet cables.
The next common question here is how the length of the cable affects your gaming performance.
You’ll be happy to hear the length of the cable probably won’t matter. It’ll only affect your gaming performance if your cable is extremely long.
How long am I talking, exactly?
If you refer to the graphic above, you’ll be in good shape as long as your cables aren’t longer than 328 feet. If an ethernet cable is over 328 feet, your connection will get disrupted and you won’t get good performance out of it.
Outside of an office building, I don’t think I’ve seen an ethernet cable that comes even close to that length.
So the bottom line is: pick up the length of cable that makes your home setup most convenient. Your gaming performance won’t suffer if it’s a longer cable.
Now you know the value of using ethernet cables when gaming online. If you have any questions about this material, please drop a comment below.
If this was useful information for you, check out some other posts I’ve written about similar topics:
Are Ethernet Cables Backwards Compatible?
Do the Colors of Ethernet Cables Matter?
What Does Cat Mean for Ethernet Cables?
Is a LAN Cable an Ethernet Cable?