Streaming: should you choose an Ethernet connection?

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You’ve just purchased a new 4K UHD Smart TV and a network media player. You will finally be able to enjoy your TV programs using Replay and streaming services like Netflix and Prime Video, but you’ll also be able to watch your movies and series stored on a NAS and shared over the local network. But before enjoying all of these features, you need to connect your UHD 4K TV and network media player to the local network and to the internet. The question then arises of which type of connection to use to connect to the internet router. Should you opt for a WiFi connection or an Ethernet connection using a network cable? What steps should you follow in both cases? What are the advantages and disadvantages of these two options?

Ethernet connection (RJ45 cable)

On the Panasonic TX-55GZ2000 OLED television, the Ethernet port is situated at the back, underneath the TV antenna ports.

A network connection via Ethernet cable, also called a LAN connection, consists in connecting the 4K television or network media player’s network port to one of the RJ45 ports on the internet box or router.

https://dfxqtqxztmxwe.cloudfront.net/images/dynamic/Cables_informatiques/articles/SVD_Pro/SVDPCJ6SZNA5/SVD-Pro-Cat-6-double-blindage-noir-0-50-m-_P_700.jpg
The double-shielded SVD Pro Cat 6 network cable supports a maximum bandwidth of 1Gbps.

Advantages

  • Plug-and-play (no calibration, no passwords to enter).
  • A more stable connection (very little or no interference).
  • Little or no bandwidth reduction over longer distances.
  • Higher bandwidth, no latency: connection speeds can reach 1Gbps over the local network if category 6 or higher cables are used. However, the speed of the internet connection depends on the rate offered by the internet provider.

Disadvantages

  • You have to run a cable from the TV (and/or network media player) to the internet box (or router) if you live in an old building.

An Ethernet multi-port adapter (network switch) may be necessary to connect several devices that are in the same place (TV, network media player, game consoles…).

Set up

If you live in a recent house or apartment building (after 2011), the main living area (living room) and bedrooms are probably fitted with one or several RJ45 network ports.

Recent houses and apartments generally have one or several RJ45 ports in each room, beside the mains sockets. In older buildings it is possible to install adapted wall sockets yourself.

These ports lead to a communication box generally situated in the room or in the equipment room where the switchboard is located. All you have to do is connect this communication box to the internet router with a network cable so that all of the rooms equipped with RJ45 ports are connected.

In an older building without a network connection, you have two options:

  • You can install the internet box close to the TV or the A/V stand that holds all of your connected electronics.
  • If the internet box is located in a different room, you will have to run at least one cable from the latter to your devices (or use a pair of powerline adapters). This cable can then be connected to a network switch that is connected to the TV, game consoles and network media player.

In either setup, once the network cables are connected to the router and various devices, the latter can immediately access the local network and the internet. 

WiFi connection

The vast majority of 4K Ultra HD TVs and network media players are WiFi enabled. Simply go into their settings menu to automatically detect available WiFi networks, then connect to them by entering the password.

With most 4K UHD TVs (here the LG OLED65E9), the user is prompted to choose the WiFi network connection when setting up the TV.

Advantages

  • The TV and network media player can be installed in any room the WiFi connection can reach.
  • There are no cables.

Disadvantages

  • The WiFi signal weakens the further away you get from the internet box, which consequently reduces the stability and strength of the connection (theoretical maximum range indoors: 30m). It is therefore necessary to invest in one or several WiFi repeaters.
  • The radio waves used for WiFi are sensitive to interference caused by devices using or generating radio waves on the same frequency range (neighbors’ WiFi networks, microwave ovens, Bluetooth devices…).

Set up

There are two different ways to connect a device to a WiFi network:

Connection with a password

In the “network” menu of the device you want to connect, select the local network you wish to use and enter the password to access it.

WPS connection

The WPS feature (WiFi Protected Setup) allows you to quickly and easily establish a secure and encrypted connection (WPA) between an internet box or router and a compatible WiFi device. In the WiFi menu of the device you want to connect, activate the WPS connection mode then press the WPS button on the internet router. The device then searches for the local WiFi network and automatically connects to it.

Most internet boxes and WiFi routers have a WPS button like the one shown here on the Netgear XR500-100EUS router.

PLC connection

If you don’t want to or can’t set up a wired Ethernet connection over long distances, you can use PLC (Power-line communication) technology. This technology uses the home’s electrical cable network to extend the local network and easily access the internet from any room in the home. PLC can be used as an alternative or in addition to Ethernet and WiFi networks.

Very simple to use (no password is required), PLC is also more secure than WiFi as the data does not leave the home’s electrical network, whereas WiFi radio waves can pass through walls and reach several dozen meters outside the home.

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A pair of powerline adapters like the Netgear PLP2000 pack is enough to connect a 4K Ultra HD TV to the internet router using the electrical network.

Advantages

  • Shorter network cables.
  • More secure than WiFi.
  • Integrated error correction protocol.
  • Bandwidth suitable for 4K streaming (with powerline adapters offering a theoretical rate of 1Gbps or more).

Disadvantages

  • The ping (important parameter in online gaming) is increased more or less significantly.
  • Sensitive to the quality of the electrical network: with an obsolete electrical network, the bandwidth can be somewhat reduced and malfunctions can occur.
  • Reduction of the bandwidth with distance (a theoretical maximum range of approximately 100-150m).

Set up

A first PLC powerline adapter is connected to the internet router using a network cable then plugged into a mains power outlet. A second adapter is connected to a computer, 4K UHD TV or network media player with a network cable. A minimum of two powerline adapters is required to create a PLC network, to which you can then add additional adapters when necessary. The adapter connected to the internet router uses the electrical cable network to communicate with the other PLC adapters that are plugged into mains power outlets throughout the home.

Detail of the functions of a Netgear powerline adapter.

Conclusion: what type of connection should you choose?

The most straightforward guideline is to use an Ethernet cable connection or, failing that, a PLC connection for all sedentary devices: 4K Ultra HD TVs, network media players, video game consoles, PCs… WiFi connections should be reserved for mobile devices and wireless objects without an RJ45 connector. 

A wired connection maximizes the performance of even the most demanding devices that require a strong and stable connection. In doing so, it also lightens the load on the wireless WiFi network.

PLC connections are almost as efficient as Ethernet, provided that the electrical network is up to date and that there aren’t too many devices connected via this method, as the entire bandwidth must be shared between each of the connected powerline adapters.

Tip: prioritize traffic with QoS

QoS (Quality of Service) technology manages data traffic more or less accurately by customizing the bandwidth assigned to each connected device. On some routers, this feature also lets you prioritize certain apps, to prevent an update that is downloading on one of the home computers from interfering with Netflix streaming on the living room’s 4K UHD TV, for example.

The majority of QoS compatible routers have a settings menu that is relatively simple and intuitive to use. It can be accessed via the web interface on a computer connected to the network, or by using the smartphone app provided by the router manufacturer. With a few clicks, you can determine the bandwidth you wish to allocate to each device, whether they are connected via Ethernet or WiFi. Some powerline adapters also have a QoS function.

https://dfxqtqxztmxwe.cloudfront.net/images/article/netgear/NETGXR500/xr500-100eus_5c66a996a1d5f_1200.jpg
The Duma OS management interface for Netgear’s routers makes it easy to manage QoS and set bandwidth limits for the various connected devices.

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Traductrice et rédactrice avec des goûts très éclectiques en matière de musique et de cinéma. Lorsque je ne suis pas au travail, vous pouvez me retrouver en train de regarder “Lost in Translation” de Sofia Coppola pour la centième fois, ou d’écouter un disque de David Bowie, Kate Bush, Joy Division ou Daft Punk sur ma platine Rega Planar 1. Étant d’origine britannique, je suis également adepte de séries à l’humour absurde comme Monty Python’s Flying Circus et The Mighty Boosh !

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi there,
    just a remark on QoS, if it comes to Ethernet, QoS will NOT prioritise your music / streaming IP-packages by default. The goal of QoS is to ensure streaming data will be delivered in case of congestion. Meaning QoS comes only in effect if you saturate your line by 100% and no bit before.
    So if you want to prioritise your streaming packages in favour of other IP based services, being delivered at the same point in time, you need different technology.
    Cheers an IT guy

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