Home Office / Gaming Room Project – Part 2. Latency and speed. Ethernet always wins.

I’m probably talking to a fairly small subset of people here, but if you have an ultra-fast broadband connection this is for you.

With rapid 5G home broadband and better fibre connections becoming available we all want the best internet speeds possible. Speedy Virgin Media or Virgin Media Business connections are already capable of delivering up to 500Mbps, but you’re going to be a bit disappointed if you’re only getting a fraction of that or if it feels really “laggy”.


Problem is, over your WiFi right now, that’s just what you might be getting.


Speed

At home I’ve got the Virgin Business Voom 1 product. I’m not a business, but Virgin said it was cool so I ended up with the “up to 350Mbps” option.  It’s priced up at £32 per month if you’re interested and – as mentioned before – I’ve ditched the phone line rental and reduced the cost overall. I’m happy with it because I don’t really need a home phone or a big TV package.

Wiring up the RJ45 port

In theory then, if I’m getting up to 350Mbps, I want to use all of that. For “serious” downloading, gaming or file transfer stuff, an Ethernet connection in the Gaming Room is essential.

Don’t ask me why (I won’t tell them if you don’t), but a quick speed test on my little Chromebook (above) just got me this result…

Now, if you’ve got an FTTC (Fibre To The Cabinet) connection, you might be getting 30-70 Mbps, something like that. It’s still fast, but if you do a speed test you could be surprised at how different the result is to that headline figure you signed up to.

Head to Speedtest.net or Fast.com right now. Do a speed test and see if it’s near your promised speed. There’s lots said about how accurate these two sites may or may not be, but they’ll give you a general idea as to whether you’re near the figure that your ISP promised you.

 

Latency and lag

Not getting the speed you expect? Well, that’s problem number one. The other issue is latency. If you’re a gamer and you regularly fire up an Xbox or PS4, you might find yourself cursing those high ping times. The “lag” or “stutter” that gamers hate in Fortnite and other online games. It’s annoying, but there’s an easy fix.

Most of the time, you’ll be using WiFi. It’s convenient and easy. No cables. No fuss.

In theory the throughput on WiFi should match or exceed the ultra-fast internet connections that people are now enjoying.

However, in reality it doesn’t.

Here at Coolsmartphone we’re always keen to see smartphones with “dual band” WiFi. Those two bands are 2.4GHz and 5GHz. Let me tell you why.


2.4GHz WiFi

The 2.4GHz band has been around for ages and has been through a number of improvements during that time. However, you can find yourself connected to a standard or “version” of 2.4GHz which doesn’t give the expected speeds.

As an example, let’s imagine you’re sitting at home and you’re paying for one of the following “Fibre” connections…

You’d expect up to 67Mbps, but if you’re connected to the 2.4GHz 802.11g standard, you’ll never get that, as you can see from the chart below..

Yes, there’s new standards now and higher speeds, but you have to also consider how many other devices are using your WiFi, how far away you are from your router and how much interference there is. There’s also walls and other obstacles messing with the signal, making it weaker and reducing your speed.

 

5GHz WiFi

Let’s go 5GHz! Faster speeds, right? Well yes, absolutely. It’s also on a less crowded spectrum. Everyone in your street is probably on 2.4GHz but 5GHz (as I type) is not as prolific.

The 5GHz WiFi delivery is done on (obviously) a higher frequency, so it doesn’t quite have the range. If you’re in an ideal position it’ll be really quick, but you might find that you lose connection quicker than a 2.4GHz WiFi hotspot.

 

Ethernet

Ethernet though? That can hit 10 Gb/s. That’s properly quick. Not only that, but you’re not on a crowded WiFi connection which is being shared with phones, TV boxes, internet radios and other random gadgets in your house.

As an example, let’s do a “ping”. This tests the reaction time of your connection. Basically how fast you get a response back after you’ve sent out a request.

If I do a “ping” on a wired Ethenet connection, I’ll get a trip time of around 1ms (millisecond) to my router. That’s good. No lag. No latency.

However, if I crank up a ping tool on my phone and I do the same on my WiFi connection (which is reporting a 144Mbps link to my router), I get this rather different response…

The test, performed with “Ping” on Android, has a higher time to do that trip to the router and back. This is just local. This is just in my house and I’m getting between 13.7ms and 374ms on WiFi instead of 1ms or 2ms on Ethernet.

 

To sum up…

The short version? If you want the absolute best speed and the lowest latency, go Ethernet. Go wired.

 

The task!

As this is a “Gaming Room”, we’ve decided that the PS4 simply must be connected to an Ethernet connection.  So, from my Virgin router I’ve laid a long Ethernet cable, under the floorboards (I’ll spare you the photos of the room with no floor) and into the wall.

In Part 1 of this Feature I detailed the various ports and wall fixtures I’m using, so here’s that Ethernet cable going in. I’ve filmed the resulting speed test etc..

More on the next stage in the coming days. If you missed the previous part of this, click below..

 

 

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