Nothing is more rage-inducing than lagging at the worst possible time. So what is a good internet speed for gaming? After all, isn’t having a good, fast internet connection the key to successful online gaming?
Oddly enough, the answer is both simple and not-so-simple. Kind of like driving, what is a good internet speed for online gaming may not always be about top speeds.
What Is a Good Internet Speed for Gaming?
If you are an online gamer, you already know the answer to this question. The simple answer is: as fast as you can get. Of course, as with most things, the longer answer is a little bit more complicated.
So how fast is your internet, anyway?
So, what is a good internet speed for gaming? First, we need to talk about what internet speed is.
There are two parts to internet speed: download and upload speed. These speeds are labeled in Megabits per second (Mbps.) Download speeds determine how fast you can receive data from a server. Upload speeds determine how quickly you can send data to a server.
The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) defines minimum transmission speeds for the broadband internet as 25 Mbps down and 3 Mbps up. You can check both your upload and download speeds at this handy website.
Does speed really matter?
Before you shell out a ton of cash to your internet provider for the highest speeds available, consider this: While internet speed is essential, it’s not the only piece of the puzzle to playing online games.
Think about your internet speed as the speed limit on the highway. Just because you are driving on a road with an 80 miles-per-hour speed limit doesn’t mean you are always going to be going that speed. In real life, you will almost always have to contend with traffic. It’s the same with the internet.
While your overall download speed (speed limit) will determine the upper-speed limit, what you want to check is your latency. Latency is the measure of how fast your data travels from your computer (or console) to the server, measured in milliseconds. To test your latency, you can perform a test called a ping test.
In a ping test, your computer sends out a little bit of data to a server and then measures how much time it takes to come back. Your ping is almost like a golf score: the lower your ping, the better your connection.
Having a lightning-fast internet connection with non-existent ping is every gamer’s dream. But all that speed and quick response mean nothing if your connection is going down every ten minutes.
Consider the Variables
To determine what is a good internet speed for gaming, you need to take into consideration a couple of different things.
What are you playing
Games that require fast reaction times, like first-person shooters and other so-called “twitch” games, need the fastest internet connection with the lowest ping possible for accuracy. In competitive shooters like "Apex" or "Fortnite," a few milliseconds can mean the difference between a win or loss.
Massive Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games (MMORPG) also require fast internet and low pings. Faster internet speeds on MMORPGs allow your computer to receive data about the world around you faster, and a low ping enables you to respond as you need to.
Similarly, the higher the resolution on the game graphics, the more you will benefit from a high internet speed. For example, you will notice slower speeds more on a game like "Call of Duty" than you will on "Minecraft."
What platform are you playing on
Gamers inevitably fall into one of two categories: PC or console gamers. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, as far as platforms are concerned.
PC gamers have a far more extensive selection of online games to choose from than console gamers. Additionally, PC gamers can further tweak their systems to take advantage of the new settings.
However, consoles are purpose-built for gaming and need no further optimization to take full advantage of its internet connection.
Wired vs. Wireless
Just about everything is connected to the internet these days, up to and including your doorbell, lamp, and refrigerator. Most appliances in a smart home are connected to the home internet connection via Wi-Fi. And why not? It’s convenient and easy to set up.
While most PCs and game consoles allow you to connect via wireless, you may want to think twice about using it for gaming. Convenient internet connectivity comes at a price, namely with spotty and sometimes dropped connections. Furthermore, depending on your router and network card, you may not be getting the maximum amount of download speed via wireless. This is not at all what you want while you’re the next to the last person standing in PUBG.
Whenever possible, gamers should use wired connections when playing online games. Is it an eyesore? Maybe. But ask any serious gamer, and they’ll agree that a stable internet connection is totally worth a dangling cord here or there.
Optimize Your Speed
Now that you understand more about what is a good internet speed for gaming and the variables behind that speed, you need to optimize your internet connection to get the best ping times around.
The foundation you start with is critical. Keep in mind that you cannot make a slow connection faster. You need to start with the fastest speed you can get. From there, optimize what you have.
So what is a good internet speed for gaming? In a perfect world, choose the top-tier broadband package at the best-rated internet provider in your area. When in doubt, go with fiber optic internet, as fiber is faster and more reliable than copper-based or wireless networks.
This may be a bit of overkill, but when you’re looking to make that Team Kill with Reaper on "Overwatch," no sacrifice is too high!
Reduce your load
PC gamers, We’ve got some good news for you: there are a couple of things you can do to help optimize your internet speed for gaming.
First, think of a gaming PC like a race car. The best race cars are single-purpose machines, built just for racing the track. To make the absolute most of your gaming PC and internet connection, optimize Windows to be just a gaming machine by removing any extraneous features and programs you do not need.
Of course, not everyone has the luxury of having a PC that is built just for gaming. If you need to use your PC for other things aside from gaming, be sure to maintain your computer.
Use an antivirus to keep your PC running virus and malware free. Choose an antivirus that has a gaming mode, which lets you run the antivirus without affecting your PC’s performance. Also, run your defragmentation software and clear your cache regularly to help maintain your disks and manage your storage drive space.
If you’re a super dedicated gamer and relatively tech-savvy, you can try optimizing your router. This is something best left to gamers who are comfortable messing with technology. If you try this, first look up how to do a factory reset on your router. Alternatively, have a tech-savvy friendly on hand to help you fix things if you’ve messed it up!
When possible, invest in a gaming Wif-Fi router. These routers are great because they come with Quality of Service (QoS) built in. QoS on a gaming Wi-Fi router helps you configure settings that optimize gaming traffic for the best network quality. Think of it as a traffic cop in your router, specifically for gaming traffic.
Manage home traffic
There is a good and bad time for online gaming. This is where what is a good internet speed for gaming is not as important as managing your overall latency.
If you commute to work daily, there’s a good chance that there is a peak time for rush hour traffic. Depending on your schedule, it may be avoidable, but it may not be.
At home, you may find that there is a period after dinner when your game is lagging -- badly. With the entire household home, everyone is online playing games, doing homework, or watching videos. It’s no wonder the internet is slow! Your home network is as jam-packed with data as the highway at rush hour.
Like rush hour, if you are lucky, you may be able to avoid this by gaming either earlier or later in the evening, when your home network is less busy.
Unfortunately, if you are not able to change the time you game, you may just be stuck with a less-than-ideal ping for the duration of your gaming session.
Strengthen your connections
If you absolutely must use wireless internet on your gaming PC or console, you need to make the best of it.
Try to place your gaming PC or console as close to the wireless router as possible. The further away your gaming machine is from the router, the higher chance you'll experience a dropped connection.
Place your Wi-Fi router in a central area, with no significant obstacles. If you have a large home, consider investing in a mesh Wi-Fi system that will improve and strengthen the wireless network stability throughout your home.
Time to Press Start
Finding what is a good internet speed for gaming is less about top speed and more about managing traffic and latency. Since all broadband internet in the United States is 25 Mbps or faster, your basic internet connection can get you online to game.
Got any tips to share about improving internet speed or stability when gaming? Sound off in the comments below!