How to Connect an Ethernet Cable to a Laptop With a USB Adapter
Ethernet is fast. Lots of bandwidth, low latency, reliable. It doesn't ride the struggle bus the same way wifi does with walls being all solid and competing wireless signals and what have you. On basically every computer I've ever used it seems like ethernet is faster than wifi. Ethernet is kind of awesome. Or, at the very least, it's nice to have. But really thin and lightweight laptops are pretty great, too. The compromise between the two? Ethernet adapters.
I like the Cable Matters USB-A 3.0 Gigabit Ethernet Adapter. This little guy is able to get about the same kind of network performance I'd expect out of a desktop with built in gigabit ethernet. Cable Matters also makes a USB-C 3.1 Adapter. (This page has two affiliate links . As an Amazon Associate I earn from qualifying purchases.)
Both of the Cable Matters adapters should be compatible out of the box with current versions of Chrome, Linux, Mac, and Windows, without needing to hunt down drivers. This is something that's pretty important to me. I really don't like tracking down drivers.
Turn off Wifi, Plug into Ethernet
After plugging the adapter in and connecting it to an ethernet cable, systems like Ubuntu, Chrome, Mac, and Windows should connect automatically. Make sure the other end of the ethernet cable is plugged into a router, or a network switch, connected to a router, connected to a modem (the modem and router might be the same device).
Most systems will probably prioritize ethernet over wifi by default. Also, it's usually possible to edit network connection priority. I usually just turn wifi off when connected to ethernet.
Because USB is awesome. And because pretty much all laptops have USB. Even laptops with one port. That one port is probably a USB port. Compatibility is a good thing, right?
Also, USB is pretty good at being backwards compatible. So a USB 3.0 device will typically work, in my experience, with a USB 2.0 computer.
There are of course other ways to add ethernet to a computer. If we're talking about desktops there's PCI-E network cards.
How Much Better is Latency over Ethernet Vs Wifi?
A lot. It's a lot. I just tested the latency of ethernet Vs wifi on my router at home. I'm surprised by how much less latency there is with a wired connection Vs wireless. I figured it'd be something like maybe double. Right? Yeah. No. Pinging the router, sitting right next to it, I got ethernet: 1.078 ms and wifi: 10.729 ms. That's about one tenth as much latency. That's a lot less latency.
Ok. Surely for a remote server the difference should be negligible, because the limiting factor would be the internet connection. Nope. Pinging eastmanreference.com, a remote server, same router, I got ethernet: 15.265 ms and wifi: 36.642 ms. There's a lot less of a difference here, but still ethernet is the clear winner with about half as much latency.
These are all averages of just three pings each, and there's a lot of variables here (Re: not very scientific, I didn't even tell you what kind of router I have).
So yeah, if latency is really important, you know, for eking out every last milisecond of speed from a connection (gaming) I'd say go with a wired connection.