Hardcore Gamer? How Your Internet Speed Could Be Effecting You

    More people are playing video games online than ever before. Among the most common questions asked by new gamers is how much speed do I need and how do I maximize what I have.

    Internet Speeds Explained

    Conversations about gaming and internet speeds will often include the term megabits per second, which is abbreviated Mbps. The FCC defines broadband as at least 25 Mbps. The average internet user will consider 50-100 Mbps to be a good connection, and speeds far beyond that are becoming increasingly prevalent in the U.S. You may also encounter the terms gigabits per second and terabits per second, and 1 Gbps equals 1,000 Mbps while 1 Tbps equals 1,000 Gbps. Notice the lowercase “b” in these abbreviations, which means bit. If you see the abbreviation with a capital “B”, it means bytes.

    When discussing internet speeds, you must consider both the download speed and the upload speed. Fiber networks typically provide a symmetrical connection. In other words, if you have a 1 Gbps symmetrical connection, your download speed is 1 Gbps, and your upload speed is 1 Gbps. This is typically not the case when it comes to cable, fixed wireless, satellite internet, and so forth. Among cable plans, the average download speed is about 200 Mbps but the upload speed only about 20 Mbps.

    The All-Important Latency

    There is another factor to your internet connection that can have a much greater effect on your online gaming experiences than download and upload speeds. Gamers often refer to it as lag. The technical term is latency. When you ping a server, latency is the amount of time—usually measured in milliseconds—that it took to receive a response from that server. You may also encounter the term jitter. Jitter measures multiple ping tests and provides the variance. Low variance indicates a stable and reliable connection. High variance indicates a volatile connection that could affect online gaming.

    The lower your latency and the more stable it is the better. It is generally agreed that 50ms or less is fine for the average gamer, but professional gamers can benefit from 20ms or less. A latency as high as 100ms is generally regarded as acceptable. A latency higher than 100ms will usually provide a poor experience. You may be shooting at an opponent only to find that he has already moved!

    How Much Speed Do You Need to Game?

    The good news is that you do not need a lot of speed to game. In fact, 3 Mbps is often good enough, and it is not common for a game publisher or platform, such as Xbox or PlayStation, to recommend more than 10 Mbps. Although games look better than ever, the game does not need to transfer all that information. It only needs send data like player position and receive data like world state. Bottom line is that if you have a broadband internet plan, you have plenty of speed to game.

    Does the Type of Game Matter?

    First- and third-person shooters are among the most popular online games. They are also the most demanding. These are the games where you can benefit most from a 20ms or better latency. As for speed, broadband is fine, but we would recommend at least 50 Mbps for some breathing room. MMOs, role-playing games, real-time strategy games and so forth are all far less demanding.

    Other Factors That Can Affect Internet Speed

    A common issue that can affect online game is local network congestion. This is why it is often recommended to have a gaming mode in which all apps that may use the internet or PC resources are turned off. Simultaneous use is a potential problem as well. Your broadband connection may be more than enough to play Apex Legends, but if your roommate is binging Witcher on Netflix, then your experience may suffer. We recommend at least 50 Mbps per use in the household to be safe and 100 Mbps per person if you want to have the freedom of using whichever devices you like.

    Use an Ethernet Connection If Possible

    Most cable internet providers in the U.S. provide a latency of less than 25ms, which is quite good. But it is important to note that you can introduce additional latency. A Wi-Fi adapter will almost certainly introduce lag and can reduce a good connection to acceptable and an acceptable one to poor. That is why it is highly recommended that you connect to the internet via a physical cable if possible.

    Or At Least Invest in a High-End Wireless Adapter

    If connecting via an Ethernet cable is not an option, then it is important to invest in a high-quality wireless adapter. The adapters found in most laptops along with the typically USB adapters that are relatively inexpensive are fine for surfing the web. But when gaming online, they can introduce lag, will limit your speed potential and can experience issues with caching and the like.

    Invest in Your Router As Well

    A good router is well worth the investment for online gamers whether you connect via Ethernet or wireless. Most routers marketed for the home crowd are simply not up to snuff. A high-end router may cost $100-$200 but will improve your experience and can last for many years. We also recommend power cycling your router each month and updating to the latest firmware version.

    What About Data Caps?

    Fortnite can use as much as 100 Mbps per hour. Most games will use less. Data caps in the U.S. are not common when it comes to fiber, cable and DSL. But there are notable exceptions, such as AT&T and Cox, or your may be connecting through your cellular plan. In that case, you will want to track your usage. Some providers, such as Xfinity, will charge you an overage fee. Others will throttle you. Throttling may not affect your gaming depending on the extent but could affect other aspects of your household.

    Final Thoughts

    Most internet connections in the U.S. deliver plenty of speed to game, and game developers continue working to minimize the requirements because they want to reach as many games as possible. Latency is king when it comes to gaming. Invest in good equipment and take the time to optimize your system to keep it as low as possibly, and if the latency of your current connection is inadequate, we would strongly recommend moving to a different company if you have that option.

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