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How big is the difference between 802.11 WiFi vs a 10/100/1000 ethernet via USB 3.0 adapter vs Gigabit ethernet via a USB-C (thunderbolt) adapter

post #1 of 3
Thread Starter 
Thanks in advance for the help. Unfortunately, I can't test these things my self.
post #2 of 3
You don't need to be able to test, just need to take a bit of time and search each technology.

802.11 wifi has a few different standards

the main ones at the moment are b, g, and n (with ac starting to be more popular in a private setting)
The 802.11b standard has a maximum raw data rate of 11 Mbit/s
802.11g - It operates at a maximum physical layer bit rate of 54 Mbit/s
802.11n - It operates at a maximum net data rate from 54 Mbit/s to 600 Mbit/s.
802.11ac - yielding a data rate of up to 433.3 Mbit/s per spatial stream, 1300 Mbit/s total

All forms of Wifi are subject to packet loss and collisions etc so you won't see the theoretical maximum transfer rate. The newer standards are better at handling these errors but they are still present.
Also distance and amount of material between you and the signal obviously plays a role in signal degradation.

I think most people will agree that you use wifi when you need to (no other option) or if speed is not an issue (ie, to your tablet or phone where even slow wifi speeds still exceed the internet speed anyway, and you probably aren't transferring lots of big files constantly between these devices and other devices on the network)

Then you are asking about 10mbit/ 100mbit and 1000mbit (gbit) ethernet over usb3.0 adapter vs gigabit on thunderbolt adapter.
I'd say you can pretty much expect full speeds on the gigabit links through usb3.0 and thunderbolt, as both technologies support more than gigabit bandwidth and any additional latency they add will probably be not noticeable.

Comparing gigabit through thunderbolt adapter with 10mbit and 100mbit ethernet, whether into a NIC or into a usb3.0 adapter, is pointless because it will definitely be faster.

And of course no matter what you have setup, the slowest speed connection in a communication will dictate the overall speed. So if you have your main computer with all the files that you are trying to access connected on a 10mbit link, no matter what speed everything else is, when you try to access files on that computer, you'll only ever see 10mbit.
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post #3 of 3
in my opinion, to the average person the main difference will be distance.

thunderbolt & USB are meant for shorter distances, 5-10 feet as they don't use twisted pairs of copper to make the signal travel further.

wifi will travel farther and the main benefit here is that it's wireless for obvious reasons. most implementations right now are half duplex though some full duplex implementations are coming to market. so data can travel only in one direction at a time. (half duplex is like a walkey talkey where only one side of the connection can talk at a time).

ethernet has different standards and different physical media, the most common being copper twisted pairs i.e. cat5, cat5e and cat6. essentially you'll want cat5 for 100mbps cat5e to guarantee 1000mbps and cat6 to guarantee 10gbps. (there are also shielded variants in case you are running cables past any electrical or magnetic fields, i.e. a conduit or fluorescent light in the ceiling.

however, keep in mind, "ethernet" encompasses a number of different types of wires or "media" as you can see here:

"The Ethernet physical layer evolved over a considerable time span and encompasses coaxial, twisted pair and fiber-optic physical media interfaces, with speeds from 10 Mbit/s to 100 Gbit/s."

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ethernet#Varieties_of_Ethernet
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Overclock.net › Forums › Components › Network Hardware ›  How big is the difference between 802.11 WiFi vs a 10/100/1000 ethernet via USB 3.0 adapter vs Gigabit ethernet via a USB-C (thunderbolt) adapter