STACK‘s go-to guide of when to hold on to wires and when to fold into wireless.
Admit it. You’ve felt it. That enticing pull towards the wireless side of the Force. After all, the allure of a wire-free existence is strong, particularly when stacked next to the trip-and-snag-hazard realities of wired gizmos.
But unlike an umbilical cord, the answer isn’t always as simple as cutting free. There is absolutely a time to stay wired. But for the addicted cord cutters, the good news is there are plenty of opportunities to go wireless.
Wired local networking still reigns supreme, but Wi-Fi technology has, mercifully, improved a lot over the years. The newer your desktop or laptop, the better the chance you’ll have access to faster standards and frequencies.
Contrary to popular belief, you can opt for 5GHz frequency over 2.4GHz, but only if your gaming PC is close to the router. The higher frequency is faster over shorter distances. Test downloads and in-game latency across frequencies to find the fastest option.
Those little lowercase letters after that 802.11 Wi-Fi designation number – b, a, g, n, ac – may have at-a-glance meanings as blurry as a post-flashbang eye test, but that specific ordering is from older to newer. And, yes, newer is faster.
The big catch is, your Wi-Fi signal will only be as strong as your router. Your ISP-provided router or modem/router likely errs on the side of serviceable rather than online-gaming optimal.
Ultimately, though, your best online gaming experience is a wired one. Ethernet, particularly of the gigabit variety, is still the best way to game. Wired networks offer lower latency (read: less lag) and more stable internet connectivity. This, in turn, gives you a better chance of tasting victory.
Bear in mind that four Ethernet ports are standard on routers, so choose your wired devices wisely. If you want more ports, invest in a gigabit switch, like the Netgear Nighthawk S8000, which is built with gaming and streaming in mind. If you want even more ports, you wire-loving monster, you can have a fully Ethernet abode with a D-Link 24-Port Gigabit Desktop Switch.
If you absolutely, positively have to Wi-Fi, it’s worth investing in a fully armed and operational gaming router. Depending on your brand allegiance, the Linksys WRT32X AC3200 and Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming XR500 AC2600 are both solid options built with high-end online gaming in mind.
When it comes to controlling games, you can shift to a fully wireless config, if that’s your thing. This includes keyboard, mouse and controller. For all of these control categories, wireless used to equate to input lag. The thing is, these days, that input lag is so small – we’re talking milliseconds – that it’s unnoticeable with the right gear.
For wireless gaming keyboards, you still want to add ‘mechanical’ to that list of adjectives. Wireless membrane keyboards are more common, but switching from a wired mechanical keyboard to a wireless membrane option is a noticeable downgrade. Thankfully, the Corsair Gaming K63 and Logitech G613 gaming keyboards have your mechanical needs covered.
For mice, there are even more options these days. What used to be the biggest first-person-shooter faux pas is now par for the conquering course. The main disadvantages of contemporary wireless gaming mice are slightly extra weight (which isn’t a negative if you prefer the feel of heavier mice) and a modicum of diligence is required in terms of remembering to recharge.
That said, the Razer Mamba Wireless Mouse is a comparative lightweight option. Alternatively, the recently released SteelSeries Rival 650 is both high-performance and ergonomic, plus you can add extra optional internal weights for a personalised movement feel.
Finally, wireless controllers are a no-brainer for those who prefer joystick gaming over keyboard/mouse combos. If your PC is packing Bluetooth, you can opt to buy (or recycle) your preference of PlayStation DualShock 4 or Xbox One Wireless Controller, in a range of colours to sate your palate. The trick with the Xbox One controllers is you’ll need the Xbox Wireless Adapter for Windows 10.
If you want to take your controller gaming to the next level, the Xbox Elite Wireless Controller is a configurable treat for higher-end gamers. The interchangeable paddles free your right thumb for anything up to exclusive thumbstick use, and flipping on the hair triggers decreases actuation time on the triggers for faster input.
The sound of wireless
Of all of the wireless peripheral options, wireless headphones have been around the longest. Translation: there are a lot of great options to choose from. The biggest considerations are twofold: comfort and competitiveness. For comfort, Plantronics is king. In wireless headset terms, the Plantronics RIG 800HD is a great price for a fully featured sound companion.
The bottom line is that outside of maxed-out networking potential and higher-refresh-rate displays, wire-cutters can comfortably shift every other gameplay-impacting PC peripheral to a wireless option without any major detractors.