Side view of female in flannel shirt lounging at home with digital tablet by Rafa Fernandez from Noun Project (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Side view of female in flannel shirt lounging at home with digital tablet by Rafa Fernandez from Noun Project (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

By Shawn B

Years ago I used to religiously read tech articles and watch tech videos on CNET.  It’s been a while since I’ve truly stopped to take in any of their editorial content, until recently, and having stopped by – it gave me a stark reminder of why I stopped being a fan in the first place.  It started with their shift from providing useful content to just providing glamorized content.  They did a website and app refresh that was reminiscent of an old print news paper.  In addition to that, they started overloading their web pages with ads.  The article I found today brought all those abhorrences back together in a bundle truly to be hated.  

Today I clicked an article, and the first thing I got hit with was an ad – full screen, no controls, no countdown, no lube – just full screen ad. I was mildly annoyed, but I pressed on.  Second reminder was the darned ad played, then app froze, which meant I had to close out and reopen only to be faced but  – you guessed it – the same repulsive ad.    Again, I pressed on, but what I got to was even more egregious.  The article I thought was gonna be awesome turned out to be one of the most uninformed I’ve read on their platform. Wi-Fi vs. Ethernet: Here’s What I found When I Tested Them At My Home – by Hallie Seltzer.  

Now, having read through her bio and the article, I slightly understand why it was so bad – it’s because she’s not a tech person at all.  In fact, by her very own words “Before joining CNET, I had no idea of the differences between Ethernet and Wi-Fi or which was better.” Nevertheless, being a network guy myself, some things were just irksome.  

First of all, let’s all agree that Ethernet and Wi-Fi are not some competing standards or technology – both are components functioning on the first two levels of the OSI Model.  But, to keep it simple, they’re both conduits for networks and the Internet.   I honestly don’t know why she was so puzzled that connectivity via Ethernet was notably faster (or less laggy) than here Wi-Fi connection.  Another misinformed presumption she made was that you have to be near your equipment (router) to use Ethernet.  This is, in fact, not true.  Regular twisted pair has a typical range of about 100 meters (328 feet), so not sure how ‘near’ is near for her.  Additionally, with some of today’s modern mesh networks, you can backhaul wirelessly to remote access points and connect via ethernet through them – provided they are appropriately equipped. 

Next, in her pros/cons listing, she had affordability as a benefit for Wi-Fi vs cost as a drawback for Ethernet.  How? It’s the same internet piping through both? I suppose she meant if you had to wire up your whole home vs just grabbing a “whole home” router. Sure, in that case it may seem more expensive at first, but I believe Ethernet is cheaper in the long term.  Reason?   Most ISPs will provide you with a “whole home” router – typically built in to their modem, but then they charge you 5 to $20 per month in perpetuity.  That’s 60 to $250 per year – FOREVER.  But even worse than that is the well-known fact that those “whole home” routers are often gravely inefficient (which is why she was so surprised that her Ethernet was faster than her Wi-Fi. In her case, her Ethernet was more than three times faster).  You lose a lot of fidelity over Wi-FI, which translates directly to slower speeds.  You can easily, and more often than not, be limited by placement of that router – subject to dead zones.  Normally, this wouldn’t be such a bad thing, but it does cost people to buy more than they need – i.e. – they order faster internet just to make up the difference.  She could have been paying for a 100Mbps connection if her house was wired vs 400Mbps with wireless. Now, multiply that by … FOREVER.  I’d much rather just wire my house.

Now, let’s talk about “Wi-Fi can handle a lot more devices than regular Ethernet cables can.” This just makes no sense at all. Ultimately, they both can handle as many devices as your network is designed to handle.  Wi-Fi is not somehow gonna transport more than your network can handle.  I suspect she meant you are limited by the number of Ethernet ports you have installed on your network. 

I suppose, after reading through, this was written for the unlearned/common user, but it’s still grossly written, and their editors could have done a better job of aligning her opinions more closely with fact.  Bad CNET, bad!

Leave a Reply