Wired or Wireless – That is the Question

HARDWARE
Wired or Wireless – That is the Question

Wires, wires everywhere you look. Is that the current shape of your rig? Headphone or keyboard cable getting in the way? Mouse cord making the cursor move randomly? Cables are a pain in the …. desk, right? But luckily there is an alternative, wireless solution that’s usually equally good from the functional point of view, but makes the desk a lot cleaner. However, before you “cut the wire”, have a look at few things you’ll need to know to avoid making an error in your judgement. I’m going to split the article into segments, each devoted to the most commonly used peripheral devices listed below:

  • Gamepad
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Headphones and Speakers

In general, wireless peripherals are more expensive than wired ones, so that’s the main drawback. You can’t have it all, right? But ok, let’s dig deeper in the topic, shall we?

Gamepad

Why did I go with gamepads first? Because this is the easiest one in terms of explaining the tech and suggesting choices. My first personal experience was with the Xbox360 controller.

I was anxious about its wireless performance (with that big receiver for PC), but in reality it was almost the same as when it’s plugged directly into a USB port. Maybe the lag was slightly higher, but it was barely noticeable, and only in beat’em ups or racing games. But consider this: you’ll have more comfort. Even though there is one obvious drawback, battery life, a charge should last about 20 hours, so it’s not really that bad.

With the next generation of controllers (for Xbox One) Microsoft did their best, and in my opinion the difference between the wired and wireless one is almost imperceptible. So, in this case you get:

  • Comfort
  • The same performance
  • Fewer cables

So why would you choose a wired gamepad? Well, the only argument against a wireless solution is that you need to change the batteries from time to time. Summing it up – gamepad? Only wireless, I don’t see a way back.

Mouse

With this type of peripheral, the situation can get a little more tricky. Professional gamers (especially FPS/RTS players) usually choose wired solutions, but that’s changing over time. With new wireless products based on solutions like Logitech G Powerplay or Corsair Qi® you can forget about the charging part. Although this might sound encouraging, these solutions are very expensive (you also need to buy a special mouse pad, usually even more expensive than the mouse itself). So wired solutions can be the way to go if you don’t want to be forced to change or recharge batteries, especially while doing something important. In terms of gameplay, wired mice tend to have a higher DPI (Dots Per Inch) than wireless mice, which makes them more sensitive.

Let’s have a closer look at some basics facts about wireless mice. There are two types of connection: Bluetooth or Radio Frequency. The first type requires a BT controller in your PC, whereas R/F ones come with USB dongles. You’ll lose one port, but the range is usually better than with Bluetooth options.

 

These solutions are a good option for non-professional gamers, as they are usually just as good as wired ones. They’re very convenient and mostly worth the price premium. Just look for the ones which can be powered by AA/AAA batteries or a rechargeable battery.
I personally own a Logitech G903, and I like it more than its wired predecessor, the G502 model. I wouldn’t switch back now.

Keyboard

In my previous article I’ve stated that mechanical keyboards are the way to go. Unfortunately, there are no really good ones with wireless connectivity, at least not these available in EU. Maybe it’ll change in time. So, in this section my opinion is quite clear and simple – only wired ones, but….

If comfort is what you’re looking for and, for example, you want to be able to type something while sitting in your couch (with the PC connected to a big-screen TV), I say why not? Also, if you’re not a hardcore typist or gamer, wireless can be the way to go as well, because this way you will avoid cable clutter. Apart from that, wired keyboards are said to register key presses more quickly than wireless ones. In some cases, wireless keyboards might even not register all key presses that you make. You must also remember the battery life factor, and consider the technical data or other users’ reviews when choosing a wireless keyboard.

Headphones and Speakers

Most headphones and speakers available on the market are wired. If you’re an audiophile, or at least a discerning user, you don’t need to bother with a wireless option in 99% of cases. That being said, it can be a good idea for travel or as a backup solution. So let’s lay down the details of the wireless approach.

Wireless headphones and speakers usually offer Bluetooth connectivity, as it has become the standard in wireless audio in recent years. If you compare devices from the same price segment, a wired solution will offer better quality in most cases. Bluetooth communication reduces the quality a little (even the 4.2 version), and you can’t avoid the standard’s limits, so that’s one thing to keep in mind.

Still, wireless headphones and speakers are good enough for anyone who isn’t an audiophile. They’re particularly good for travelers. The only thing to keep in mind is the battery life in headphones. As for my approach, I really like my Corsair HS70 for daily use (like  gaming), but I prefer my wired Somic V2 headphones for listening to music. So in fact you can say that I use a little bit of both.

Conclusion

It’s always appreciated when you can reduce clutter around the workspace. Going wireless with input devices like gamepads, mice, or headphones can be really helpful in achieving this goal. Still, there are some drawbacks to consider:

  • When playing highly technical games, there is the risk of lag and signal loss if you use a wireless device versus a wired device. If split-second decisions are important to you, you might want to go wired.
  • If you game with a wireless device, you need to keep in mind battery life and connectivity. Batteries in wireless peripherals might die in the middle of a gaming session, leaving you with no way to control what is happening.

But on the flipside, you can also say that:

  • Wires tend to get tangled, broken, or frayed, and can catch on other items in the setup when you’re gaming, which could be detrimental to gameplay

I’m going to conclude with a summary of my personal choices:

  • Gamepads – wireless all the way, I see no real advantage in a wired solution;
  • Mice – my (high-end) wireless mouse is doing great, and I wouldn’t go back to a wired one;
  • Keyboard – no real choice. If I want a mechanical keyboard, no good wireless options are available;
  • Headphones and speakers – wireless for daily use, but if I want something more (like listening to music more… consciously?), then definitely wired.

Summing it up – if you can afford the extra cost and are an average/semi-pro home user, you can safely buy the wireless versions of these peripherals. Wired gadgets still have some advantages, but the convenience of a wireless device is well worth the price premium. After all, it’s mainly the aesthetics and comfort of use that matter, right?

Krzysztof Hukałowicz
Krzysztof Hukałowicz
Hardware passionate and reviewer from Poland, PCMR follower. A fan of racing games (especially Forza series) and NBA.

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