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Wired vs. Wireless Desktop Connectivity

A Completely Wireless Desktop?

Wireless technologies such as 802.11, also known as Wi-Fi, provide the convenience of connecting to Internet accessible networks for web browsing and file sharing without the need for cabling. In a Wi-Fi environment, users have the freedom to move around while remaining connected. The popularity and success of this technology has many users seeking similar wireless solutions for other types of desktop connectivity. Although the concept of a complete wireless solution for each desktop connection sounds feasible, there are a few things that may not work to the expectation of some users. In this guide we compare the differences between wirelesses versus wired technology as it relates to desktop applications.

Wired Communication

In wired connections, signals are sent from mice, keyboards and other peripherals using electrical impulses transported over a series of conductive wires. Information is sent at fast speeds with consistent reliability. Although the signal transmission appears instantaneous, there is a slight delay from the time it leaves the device until it is received by the computer. This delay is so short in duration that it is often unnoticed when moving a mouse or pressing a key. During transport, the signal is susceptible to interference from other electrical sources such as nearby power cabling, florescent light ballasts, and electric motors. To reduce the risk of interference, wires are protected by a magnetic foil, spiral or braided shield. The type of shielding used in a cable depends on the amount of protection desired. The more shielding that is used in constructing a cable, the higher the cable will cost and the less flexible the actual cable will be. Although cabling is a reliable and high bandwidth method of connectivity, it is not without limitations. Installing a cable for every desktop connection can clutter a workspace and leave a messy appearance. Cabling can also restrict a user's movement when using mobile devices such as laptop and tablet computers.

Wireless Communication

In wireless connections, signals are sent and received by radio waves carried through the air. Similar to wired connections, the signal is not received instantaneously, and some delay is present. Wireless communications offer the benefit of increased mobility and flexible device placement. Workspace clutter is also reduced, improving aesthetics and trip hazards.

Similar to cabling, wireless technology is not without limitations. Since radio waves do not have a precise path between devices, the amount of delay can be noticeable with certain desktop connections. For example, video signals require a lot of information to be sent at a high rate of speed, so that any movement of the cursor or press of a key is displayed for the user with no noticeable delay. If video information arrives late, the user may have difficulty navigating since the cursor position is not well synchronized with the user's movements. Further, when too much of the information is lost, a video image may be too distorted to interrupt. Wireless technologies will often use an error correction method called "buffering" that stores the incoming information and waits until all data is present before outputting to a device. This method of error connection is great for slide show and video applications; however, the delay is too significant for most desktop purposes.

Since a wireless connection travels through the air, no method of shielding is possible, making signals susceptible to interference from other RF devices and power sources. Wireless technologies do not completely remove the need for cabling. For example, not all types of devices have built in wireless capabilities and as a result, require a transmitter and receiver adapter kit. Since device manufactures do not place connectors in a universal location, wireless devices may be too difficult to install with a direct connection. Therefore, a small section of cable is still required to allow flexible placement of the wireless transmitter or receiver.

This white paper is for informational purposes only and is subject to change without notice. C2G makes no guarantees, either expressed or implied, concerning the accuracy, completeness or reliability of the information found in this document.