Roku players have always been a formidable contender for the best streaming device title. But how can you get the most out of these devices - through WiFi or an Ethernet connection?
With an interface unparalleled by almost no other device and a well-curated list of streaming services and content, Roku is indeed striding adamantly to the paramount of the streaming throne.
But then again, some Roku devices (namely the Ultra and the TV series) have graced us with the choice of WiFi or a wired connection. And so, we come to the question of 'does Ethernet provide faster speeds than WiFi?'
Roku is considerably slower with Ethernet when compared to WiFi. A maximum of ~100 Mbps is all you can get out of the wired alternative. Meanwhile, WiFi connections support speeds of about 150+ Mbps. However, WiFi connections are susceptible to interference and proximity-based issues.
With that said, let us discuss in detail the many mysteries surrounding this topic.
Wired Connections on Roku
Before getting into the thick of things, do get your head around the fact that Roku devices serve a singular purpose - wireless streaming.
Think of the Ethernet port as an afterthought.
And this may well be the reason that most Roku devices available as of now do not feature an Ethernet port.
But for the few devices that house an Ethernet port, as mentioned earlier, they do have some limitations.
As of present, here are the many Roku devices that house an Ethernet port:
- Roku ULTRA (4800)
- Roku ULTRA LT
- Roku TVs (TCL, Hisense, etc.)
The best device from the Roku lineup to feature the best Ethernet capabilities is the Roku ULTRA (4800).
And from henceforth, all the comparisons and references made in this article will solely be based on this product.
Before talking about the actual speeds you get via the Ethernet port, let's look at the speed requirements for streaming on Roku.
|SD (Standard Definition - <720p)||1.5 - 3 Mbps|
|HD (High Definition - 720p)||7-10 Mbps|
|Full HD (1080p)||10 - 15 Mbps|
*The speeds mentioned above have been aggregated after comparing the speed requirements for several streaming platforms (Netflix, Roku channel, Hulu, etc.).
As evident from the table, the speed requirements for most streaming platforms cap off between 25-30 Mbps.
Roku may have laid this very notion as their founding reason for inhibiting the Ethernet speed on their devices.
Unlike most of its comparators, namely Shield TV and Fire TVs, Roku doesn't feature a gigabit port.
What you get with Roku devices is a single Ethernet port with a maximum data transfer speed of 100 Mbps.
After taking into consideration TCP/IP packet overhead and environmental interferences, expect the transfer speeds to be in the ballpark of about 85-95 Mbps.
These speeds may well suffice the intended use case of Roku devices, which is streaming.
But why should one choose the Ethernet ports over the much better WiFi medium as their go-to network choice?
Apart from the few devices that house an Ethernet port, some Roku devices can support Ethernet connections even if they don't feature a dedicated port.
The Roku Streaming Stick 4K+, Roku Express (base and 4K), and the Roku Smart Streambar can host Ethernet connections via a USB to Ethernet dongle.
Also, you can employ a similar contraption with devices that house an Ethernet port when the Ethernet port seems to not work on Roku.
Ethernet vs WiFi: Which is Better on Roku?
Now that you know the limitations of Ethernet connections on Roku and what it brings to the table, let's discuss why you should side with the wired alternative over the wireless mode.
Apart from limitations with speed, Ethernet is certainly the better option to side with than WiFi. Better signal reception and minimal interference stand witness to this statement.
Roku devices feature AC 2x2 WiFi cards capable of hosting both the 2.4 GHz and the 5GHz network bands. They also offer significant transfer speeds compared to Ethernet connections.
Under optimal conditions, you can expect speeds of about 180 - 190 Mbps over WiFi. Compared to wired connections, the transfer speeds are significantly better on a wireless connection.
But that's a hypothetical assumption, and on a practical scale, after environmental losses and traffic compensations, the speeds can vary drastically over WiFi.
And that's precisely why Ethernet connections are better than wireless connections - the losses are minimal.
Wired connections are virtually unperturbed by external interferences. The unitary confined mode of communication may be the prime reason for such a perfect transmission.
For wireless connections, you've to factor in the effects of external interference, traffic overload, and proximity-induced issues.
All of these factors contribute to an even more menacing fact, slower download speeds on Roku.
But one significant advantage of using WiFi over Ethernet is its flexibility. You can connect to a WiFi network from anywhere within the effective range of the Router.
With Ethernet, however, the matter of cable management comes into play. The whole setup process is also a bit tedious.
But that's a given with Ethernet connections. And most Ethernet users neglect the sheer amount of work involved in cable routing when they consider the end results.
With that said, here's a brief comparison table that shows the many differences and aspects of the two modes of connections concerning Roku:
|Speed||85 - 95 Mbps||> 150 Mbps|
|Reliability||Extremely Reliable||Falters under Load|
|Setup||Needs physical wiring||Simple|
|Accessibility||Not very flexible||Flexible|
And so, even if WiFi connections outperform wired connections in terms of transfer speeds, Ethernet connections fare a lot better than the wired alternative in many other aspects on Roku.
When you factor in the security and the unfaltering data transfer alone, you get a much better, unwavering internet access with the Ethernet.
Also, setting up an Ethernet connection is a breeze on your Roku device. Here's how to set up an Ethernet connection on your Roku device.
How to Set Up Ethernet on Roku
Once you have wired in the CAT cable all the way from your Router/Modem to your Roku device, you have essentially taken care of the hard part.
Unlike wireless connections on Roku, you don't have to deal with finding the correct bandwidth or entering the password when connecting through Ethernet.
After connecting the cable to your Roku device, follow these steps on the Roku interface to set up the Ethernet connection:
1. From the Home screen, scroll and open the Settings Tab.
2. Navigate to the Network tab.
3. Select the 'Set up Network' option.
4. Click on the Wired Connection tile.
Roku will now scan for an Ethernet connection. Once it detects the connection, Roku will automatically set up the Ethernet and enable communication.
You can also check the transfer speeds via the Ethernet connection right on the Roku device itself. Follow these steps to do so:
1. From the Settings menu, open the Network tab.
2. Click on the Check Connection tile.
Doing so will make Roku run a speed test on your network. Once done, you will get an accurate account of the transfer speed, signal strength, and other info about the connection.
Roku has always deemed its products as - reliable, user-friendly - streaming devices that can cater to all your entertainment needs anytime, all time!
Now with 4K supported models in their arsenal, Roku has ventured into the world of Ultra HD, providing sprawling 4K content at minimal data caps.
When comparing a wired connection and its wireless alternative, the upper hand always seems to go with Ethernet due to its reliability and resistance to interference.
But with Roku devices, Ethernet connections are evidently slower compared to WiFi connections.
Especially, if you consider that a WiFi connection is mandatory for Smart Home integration platforms like Homekit, and if you want to avoid issues with Homekit on Roku.
Nonetheless, Ethernet still reigns as the preferred mode of communication due to the other benefits they bring to the table.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
Is Streaming better with an Ethernet cable?
Compared to the wireless methods of connectivity, streaming over the Ethernet will get you a smooth and stable transmission for the most part. Unlike Wifi, Ethernet connections aren't susceptible to extraneous interference or losses, making them incredibly reliable and smooth.
How can I make my Roku faster?
Here are some of the tips to facilitate even faster communication over the Ethernet on Roku:
- Use superior Ethernet cables: CAT 5e or CAT 6 cables enable a much faster and more resilient transmission compared to its antecedents.
- Update Roku: Updating your Roku to its most current version will make your system even faster than before. Also, it helps steer away malicious bugs and errors.
- Power cycle Router/Modem: If you're getting slower than expected speeds over the Ethernet, better power cycle the Router/Modem as a fix. Unplug the cables and connect them back after a few seconds.
Does ethernet cable affect WiFi speed?
Connecting an Ethernet cable to your Roku device will not affect the WiFi speed or signal strength. Although, you can only use one mode of the network connection at a time.