Let's cut to the chase: Wired network connections will always be faster, more secure and more reliable than wireless.
If you want top speeds in your home or business, you'll want to save room in your remodeling budget for running gigabit Ethernet network cables (CAT5e – or better yet, CAT6) to every room in your home. Ethernet is the only connection standard where the real-world speeds are very close to, or even match, the lofty theoretical speeds.
Of course, wired networking has several drawbacks. Wires are a pain to install, they're unsightly – and it's just not fun to be tethered. And, of course, not every device is even compatible with wired Ethernet. For your tablet and phone, your streaming stick and even many newer printers, you will have to use Wi-Fi. But that's when you may find yourself poking along at slower speeds than you'd like. Also, even once you've upgraded to the best Wi-Fi solution (run network cables everywhere in your home) your online experience might not change much.
So what gives? Why the slowdown? You need to be aware of the huge gap among these three different attributes: real-world speed, ceiling speed, and the advertised speed. There's also the broadband speed that you need to be aware of.
WiFi uses radio waves to transfer data. Wi-Fi devices share the same airspace not only with each other but other appliances as well. That means the speed of a Wi-Fi connection is subject to the Wi-Fi environment it's operating in. That's why your wireless speeds can flatline when you (or a neighbor in a nearby apartment) fires up the microwave.
Here are the main factors that adversely affect Wi-Fi speed:
Distance: The farther out, the slower the connection gets.
Signal loss (only applied to home mesh Wi-Fi systems): When an extender unit has to use the same band to both receive and rebroadcast signal at the same time, it will lose 50 percent of the original speed.
Obstacles: Walls and large objects will block the signals and shorten the Wi-Fi range.
Interference: The more devices of the same radio frequencies being used in the same area, the slower they get.
Compatibility: When devices of different Wi-Fi speed tiers, standards and manufacturers are used together, oftentimes they must adhere to a lower speed standard in order for all to function together properly.
This is why the real-world speed of a Wi-Fi connection is always significantly lower than the ceiling speed of the Wi-Fi standard being used. In my experience, at best, the actual sustained speed of a Wi-Fi connection is between a third and a half of its ceiling speed.
Now it's obvious that you will never get the Wi-Fi speed that you think you pay for. But the good news is that even those "slower" real-world speeds, Wi-Fi is often more than two to ten times faster than you need on many residential internet connections.
This is because fast residential broadband connections generally range from 20Mbps to 150Mbps for download and 2Mbps to 20Mbps for upload. And this means, no matter how slow your Wi-Fi is, as long as it's faster than 150Mbps, which almost all Wi-Fi connections are, it's already fast enough to deliver your full internet speed. And this means that getting even the most expensive router won't necessarily improve your online experience if you have a slow internet connection. The only time a top Wi-Fi route would help is when you have ultrafast internet, such as fiber optic, with a top speed of up to 1Gbps.
But don't worry - most of the time you don't need super fast internet. Netflix, for example, recommends 5Mbps for HD video streaming and 25Mbps for Ultra HD 4K streaming. On top of that, a fast router also helps with local activities, such as wireless backups or data sharing.
Here are some tips on how to get the fastest home network. Again, these only apply to the local network and in most case won't help with your internet connection.
Run network cables when possible: We have actually run CAT6 cables running to every room in a house, with all of them converging in a single room where the internet comes into the house. This one-time, time-consuming investment pays off big in the long run since it allows all stationary devices (servers, network media streamer, game consoles and so on) to connect via wired Gigabit connections, giving them the fastest network speed possible.
Use extra access points (or routers running in access point mode): Using access points connected to the main router via Ethernet cables is the best way to extend your Wi-Fi network while maintaining the best Wi-Fi speed. You can name the access point's Wi-Fi network the same as that of the main router (with the same password and other settings) if you want devices to move from one network to another automatically. If you've run network cables, giving each room a superfast wired connection, adding access points is easy.
Get a router and access point of the just-right standard: If you have many Wi-Fi clients being used at a time, a tri-band router will do, since you can have multiple devices connected to each of its bands without adversely affecting performance too much. While it doesn't hurt to get a router with a higher ceiling speed that won't result in faster Wi-Fi speeds. Routers with a ceiling speed faster than 1,300Mbps might be appealing thanks to new features (such as extra network ports, security and so on), but their Wi-Fi speeds are only for future-proof purposes.
Get a Wi-Fi system that uses a third dedicated band for backhaul: In a Wi-Fi system – a product that has more than one hardware unit working in tandem to extend your Wi-Fi coverage – backhaul is the connection that links hardware units together. If the system uses a dedicated band for this, signal loss (see above) will be minimized or eliminated.