In today's world, everyone has a wireless device. If its not a smart phone, tablet or computer, its a TV or a Bluray player. Wi-Fi has a few draw backs to the hardwired connection, but of course it can be an easier and cheaper solution to wiring your house with Ethernet. If your not sure if you should shell out the money for cable or wireless adapters or want to know more about Wi-Fi, this guide is for you.
Wi-Fi is made up of a few parts
1. Type of Wi-Fi – There are many types of Wi-Fi or 802.11, as its more technically referred to. Wireless G (802.11g) or Wireless N (802.11n) are the two most popular types in homes today. There are older standards like A and B, but something you won't mostly likely have in your house anymore. In the 'wireless evolution' you have B>G>N, each a direct successor, respectively. The good thing is they are backward compatible to their predecessors. N is the best and most solid standard out there right now, what most devices are being made with and great for the home. There is a newer standard being establish which is Wireless AC, but we don't need to worry about that now.
2. Range – Each type of wireless has different ranges they are capable of, in general estimates you can figure a Wireless G connection has about a 300-500 foot range, line of sight. Wireless N has 1000-1500 foot range, line of sight. These ranges are more theoretical, because if most real world applications there is going to be a lot of interference. You will see more on that in a moment.
3. Speed – Wireless G has an optimal speed of 54Mbps, Wireless N has an optimal speed of 150Mbps. These speeds will fluctuate and drop as you get farther away from the router, or as you get more interference.
4. Interference – Most look for the one thing that causes interference when they have a spotty connection, when really it's usually a culmination of many small things. Neighbors wireless signals bleeding into your house, microwaves, walls, some wireless devices/accessories (home phones, keyboard, mouse, etc). Walls tend to be one of the biggest killers of signal, shaving a good 50-200 feet off your signal range, for each wall. The short the range capability, the lower quality connection you'll have, resulting is slower speeds or dropped connections.
5. Consistency – It is a key factor for wireless connection to have a consistent connection. If you have 85% signal connection, that is consistent, you'll have a better experience than the person who has a signal that fluctuates between 75% to 95%. Have you ever seen that buffer wheel on a video you've been watching for a couple of minutes? Or seen the quality of the video drop in the middle of watching it? That's consistency issues.
Consistency is the most important aspect of wireless, and something a wired connection will never have a problem with. Wired connections are 100% consistent, there is no interference on a wired connection. Also the range a wire could be run, will not usually be a factor in a home or even an office environment.
So now that you're an expert in wireless connections, what is the better choice for you? Considering most devices out there now come with wireless built in, its the easiest and cheapest solution. Just about every Internet service provider (ISP) will give a wireless router as well. So the answer could look easy, but remember that interference you read about? More specifically how you can get interference from wireless signal from neighbors? Well that's one of the things that make it more difficult.
If your live in an apartment, townhouse or condo, and in more rare cases a house, it can be frustrating. Since your ISP is giving everyone a wireless router, they are going to interfere with each other. Sometimes changing the channel in the router settings, or adding range extenders to brute force your signal out of interference, can work but can be expensive. Running wire can be difficult, or expensive if you hire someone, so the decision seems even more difficult.
The answer is fairly simple, its just not the short and easy fix everyone wants.
We know now that wired connections are better, but if running wire is not something you are willing to do, or can do, and you don't want to pay someone to do it for you, then that's not an option.
For wireless, play with it, find where your good signal goes from good to okay, and from okay to unusable. Rearrange a room to have the desk closer, if it helps, get your router in a central location of the house. If spending money is really out of the question for a range extender, then you've one choice left, learn to live with the best that you can get, because no amount of complaints to your ISP, or rebooting your computer and router will fix consistency issues.