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PC Tip of the Month

Traveling? Bring an Ethernet Cable

July 2014 – by Per Christensson

Wi-Fi is now so common, it has almost completely replaced Ethernet. Almost. As popular as wireless connections are, they will never replace wired connections completely. A wired connection has security and reliability that a wireless connection cannot match.

I've found this to be especially true in several of the hotels I've stayed at while traveling. Many hotel rooms still include Ethernet ports where you can plug in your laptop to access the hotel's network. In most cases, you can bypass the network authentication and connect directly to the Internet. You don't have to worry about finding the right network or getting a strong signal.

Instead, a wired connection gives you direct access to the hotel's main switch, which ensures the fastest possible connection. In some cases, you may even connect to a separate router, which means you don't have to share the bandwidth with hundreds of other users connected via Wi-Fi.

In the past few months, I have tested wireless and wired connections in Sweden and Japan and have averaged much faster speeds via Ethernet compared to Wi-Fi. In some cases, the Ethernet connection is only slightly faster, while in others situations, Ethernet is several times as fast. The wired transfer rates are always more consistent than the wireless ones. Everyone once in awhile, the Wi-Fi connection is so flaky I can't even connect to it. That's when an Ethernet cable really saves the day.

While you'll still need to use Wi-Fi or cellular data to go online with your smartphone or tablet, an Ethernet connection is the best way to access the Internet with your laptop. If Internet access is important when you're traveling, make sure to pack an Ethernet cable with your laptop. It just might be the most important accessory you bring on your trip.

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