Networking for Video Games

A look at the benefits of a wired and wireless network for video games.

Woman playing video games
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The age of the Internet has brought through some of the most important innovations in terms of convenience of accessing information, transferring information around the world, and more importantly, being able to 'head shot' someone from the other side of the globe (in games of course). It has created entirely new genres of games, programs, and services. The speeds we access this information has also skyrocketed.

From the age of the hardware modems of 56kbps to the new era of broadband offering speeds of over 3 Mbps (and more) at affordable costs that make it available to the home user (1 Mbps is approx. 1000 kilobytes per second). But people have still, and for the most part, been wired down by their internet connections. This is where the wireless revolution is has come into play.

Recently I purchased a home wireless router using the new IEEE 802.11g standard in an attempt to try and find a solution to have the flexibility of moving my networked electronics around my home. Of course, I jumped at the chance to try out a Wireless Broadband Adapter for the Xbox, and I have been using one for over a year now. So how does wireless stack up against a wired setup? Here are the pros and cons of each set-up.

The Wired Network Approach

Alright, I know there are quite a number of readers who have this kind of setup at home.

I used to be on of them. This is the traditional setup for any network that exists and all networks contain at least in some part a wired portion contained within. But is this really a practical solution for a home user? Let’s see some of the Pros and Cons of this type of setup.

The Pros to a Wired Network

  • Cost
    Although it can be somewhat expensive wiring the entire house, it is still the most inexpensive solution in terms of networking, which makes it very appealing.
  • Reliability
    If everything is connected correctly in terms of wiring, you should hardly ever run into a problem on the cabling end.
  • Speed
    Although wireless has made a great improvement from the 802.11b standard to 802.11g, it still cannot match the speeds that are now being introduced by new advancements in cabling technology. With speeds now hitting around 10 gigabits per second with category 6 cabling, wireless cannot keep up at the moment.

The Cons to a Wired Network

  • Setup
    Let’s face it, not everyone is a network professional and if you try to setup up a network at home and have no clue at what you're doing, you're going to run into problems.
  • Lack of mobility/flexibility
    By far one of the biggest cons of the wired setup. The need to have a cable to access the internet everywhere in the house can cause problems and wiring nightmares.
  • Wiring messes
    I don’t know about most people but I already have enough wires running behind my computer and my entertainment system and anyway I could reduce it would be welcomed. And if you want to connect something without a nearby network jack, running a long cable to your Xbox or PC is not the most appealing thing for guests to see.

Now that you've seen the pros and cons of a wired network, we'll detail a wireless network on the next page.

The Wireless Network Approach

Wireless has been around for a considerable amount of time in comparison to how long the Internet’s been around. However, it has only been a valid option for home users in the past several years. The wireless movement in North America has just begun and promises a great deal, but is it truly the best options for us? Maybe some of these Pros and Cons might shed some light on the subject.

The Pros to a "Wireless" Network

  • Mobility
    By far the biggest advantage. Being able to access the internet from any location inside and out side the home is a huge advantage.
  • Setup
    Even those without a great deal of networking experience can set a wireless network. Just plug the wireless router or base station into the modem and wireless PC or console can connect to the internet with little or no effort.
  • Lack of mess
    Without any wires it provides the tidiest solution of all the networking possibilities.

The Cons to a "Wireless" Network

  • Speed
    It still cannot compare to the speeds that are available to the wired networks, but it is getting closer every day.
  • Reliability
    Wireless networks are still more susceptible to inference than their wired counterparts. While I have been fortunate in having a good strong connection, I have still experienced the odd disconnect from time to time. However, it is important to note that in my experience, your router selection and configuration plays a big part in this.
  • Cost
    The biggest drawback of the wireless solution. It is still fairly expensive to go wireless but costs have been gradually decreasing.

For the average home user the wired network is the favored network set-up, simple and cost effective. But more and more home users need to be able to move their laptops around to places where network cables cannot run.

While this is ideal for a business network, the home environment is completely different and needs to be less restricted.

The wireless solution offers mobility but at a cost of reliability and expense. So which of the two is the better choice? That’s for the you to decide. For myself however, I am going to enjoy using my wireless Xbox and Xbox 360 adapter in my home.

Networking Resources

For more resources on computer networking and the benefits of a wired network versus a wireless network, see our Networking Guide's site.

  • Wireless / Networking
    Visit the Computer Networking site here at About.com for more information on networking solutions.