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Wi-Fi has come a long way since the days of 802.11b. It used to be the purist’s fa­vorite sneer­ing tar­get, both for its sorely lack­ing speed and the fact that any­one op­er­at­ing a mi­crowave within three miles would essen­tially ren­der the 2.4GHz band un­us­able. Mi­crowaves still throw out in­ter­fer­ence, but 5GHz means that’s not quite true any­more. That said, lower-end Wi-Fi does have its is­sues, par­tic­u­larly when there’s a lot of com­pet­ing sig­nal around. Find­ing a free chan­nel in a built-up area can be tough, and fight­ing with me­tal and con­crete struc­tures is still a prob­lem. Elec­tro­mag­netic fields, too, are a big is­sue for Wi-Fi sig­nals: If you’ve ever no­ticed a dip in sig­nal qual­ity over the hol­i­days, you can prob­a­bly blame those flash­ing fes­tive lights.

Mesh, given its mul­ti­ple points of con­tact, does help to al­le­vi­ate many of the prob­lems of Wi-Fi re­li­a­bil­ity. If one node is get­ting ham­mered, the sec­ond (if it’s in range) should be able to back it up—but if you’re re­ly­ing on a wire­less back­haul, your prob­lem could sim­ply be made worse. Eth­er­net? Once it’s wired in, it’s work­ing—as long as no­body plugs in any­thing stupid. If sta­bil­ity is your con­cern, stick to the wires.

Win­ner: Eth­er­net

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