Chicago & Seattle Apartment: Wired vs. Wireless

I’ve lived in a variety of apartments & condos over the past few years.  With each move, I have to figure out how to set up the local network, computers, Xbox, etc.  Some folks might find this annoying, but I absolutely love it!  It’s a fun challenge, especially figuring it out when space is tight.  Additionally, I’m a proud cord cutter so the major goal is always to use all of my content on the TV sans a cable subscription. 


This apartment was a 600 sq. ft. one bedroom.  Without an extra bedroom used as an office, everything had to fit in the living room.  I wanted to connect the Xbox 360 and desktop computer all while avoiding the need to run a cable through the middle of the room (tripping hazard, ugly aesthetic).  The computer was easy since it sat near the router, but the Xbox posed a problem.  It is an older version that doesn’t have wireless built in and I didn’t want to buy a $100 wireless adapter.  I bought a super cheap 100 ft Ethernet cable from Monoprice and running that around the wall: 


With this setup, I could play video games, watch Netflix/HBO and stream movies/TV shows hosted on my desktop to the TV using Vuze on the Xbox (that’s a mouthful!). 

I built a really nice desktop PC a few years ago and have switched most of my gaming away from the Xbox.  Almost all games are on the PC, the performance and graphics are much better, and I can use my Xbox controllers as well.  Like many, I enjoy playing from the couch though, something inherently harder to do with a PC.  I was able to accomplish this using Steam’s Big Picture mode though:

Admittedly, you have to watch the Vine a few times to really understand the setup, but here’s how it worked: the desktop computer runs the game and Big Picture mode wirelessly pushes the video to a laptop of mine also running Steam, connected to the TV via HDMI.  It’s hacky but it worked. 


My current apartment is a 2 bedroom, close to 900 sq. ft.  It’s great having more space, but I could tell that going with a wired network approach was going to be very difficult, if not impossible.  The distance from the TV in the living room to the 2nd bedroom where the desktop computer/router is located was too far.  I decided to try a wireless approach. Fortunately this worked out well! 

I began by investing in a better quality wireless router, the Asus RT-N66U.  It runs well and provides a wide coverage signal.  We sold our TV stand before moving and wanted to keep our living room entertainment setup as simple and clean as possible.  If there was a way to avoid buying another TV stand, that was ideal.  Fortunately, our new place has a fireplace, with just enough room on top to fit the TV.  Yes, I considered mounting the TV, but the extra cost/effort wouldn’t really gain anything.   

I decided to ditch the Xbox since there was nowhere to put it anyways.  In order to stream media, I use a Google Chromecast.  It can be a bit buggy here and there but otherwise works well and the video is of high quality.  Typically, I’ll use my iPad Mini to browse for something to watch then cast it to the TV.  It’s a perfect remote control!  There are a million other services you can cast to, such as Spotify, Youtube, sports, etc.  For local movies and TV shows, I use Plex.  I absolutely love it - it has a great interface and is easy to use.  For PC gaming, I just ordered a Steam Link, Valve’s new streaming device.  It can stream your games from the PC to the TV either via Ethernet or Wifi.  Going the Wifi route isn’t that bad, actually.  It’s much more comfortable and fun gaming from the couch! 

Besides the need to tidy up the cables a bit, I’m very happy with our new setup.   

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