All this week, Observer columnist Langston Wertz Jr. will write about popular technology rivalries and trying to determine which is best for you. The week continues today today with a look at wired or wireless networking.
Monday: PS3 vs. Xbox 360
Tuesday: Macs vs. PC
Wednesday: DSL vs. cable internet
So you’ve got multiple computers and everyone in the family wants to get on the Internet at the same time. You need a network. But what kind?
Wireless Advantage: Portability. With the advent of Wireless-N routers, you get much faster speeds than ever before (provided your computer is new enough to have an N card built in or you’ve purchased an outboard card). Securing your network is pretty easy, and the measures should be enough to thwart any normal user from trying to access your network. And with wireless, you can get Internet access from anywhere in your home, or even in your backyard.
Wired Network Advantage: Security, security, security. And speed. Wireless networks sometimes work great, and sometimes just don’t. And if you don’t secure your network, your next-door neighbor could be downloading something using your account that you might not approve of. But wired systems can be expensive (hiring someone to run wire in your attic and crawlspace and walls), or a serious DIY job. Still, once you’re plugged in via the Ethernet cable, speeds can be blazing-fast.
Knockout Blow: Either system has its cost. Buying a new N router and new cards can set you back several hundred dollars. Wiring a system is expensive, too. But products like Netgear’s Powerline HD Plus Ethernet Adapter Kit make setting up a cheap wireless network easy. Simply plug one into an AC outlet near your router and the other near the device you wish to network and voila! – it’s connected. You can set up the device in the front or back yard, in the office or kitchen. I got speeds as fast as those I would normally get directly off my router, speeds faster than any wireless-N get-up I’ve tested.
Winner: This one’s a draw. If I were building a new home, I’d have it wired – but I’d still have a wireless router for ease of use. If I had an existing home with, say, a Wireless-G router, I’d keep it and add a Powerline adapter for places where I needed dedicated, faster connections (like a home office, or a satellite box that downloads movies). The Powerline is one of the best consumer gadgets of the past five years.
Friday: Satellite vs. cable.