How to Get the Best Internet for Gaming
Our experts have researched internet service for years, and they’ve got the answers to all your gaming internet questions.
What is a good internet speed for gaming?
We recommend at least 100 Mbps download speeds for online gaming. But good internet speed isn’t necessarily the only thing you’ll need for a smooth gaming session.
Read on to learn how internet speed, latency, jitter, packet loss, and internet connectivity affect your video game experience. Or, if you prefer to skip all the technical jargon, head over to our review of the best internet providers for gaming.
Conventional wisdom might lead you to believe slow internet speeds are the cause of all your gaming problems. In reality, the only time gaming requires something faster than your average broadband internet (25–50 Mbps) is when you’re downloading a new game or update.
Even a fast-paced video game like Apex Legends requires only a 512 Kbps internet connection. But at the same time, internet speeds still matter if you’re not the only one who needs the internet.
Think about download speeds like a birthday cake: splitting a 50 Mbps internet connection between two people means you both get a generous share, but when your household has five or ten people taking video calls or watching movies, your slice of cake will be split and split until it’s a pile of crumbs.
We’d suggest at least a 50 Mbps internet connection if you’re getting internet for yourself. For larger households and families, upgrade to plans with a minimum download speed of at least 150 Mbps. With faster download speeds, your home internet can easily support more Zoom calls or Netflix sessions without running into performance issues.
But even if you have a fast internet plan, it’s no guarantee that you’ll have a smooth gaming experience. Latency, jitter, and packet loss are equally important factors to consider for online gaming.
Your internet plan’s upload speed isn’t incredibly important for online gaming. Most online games need upload speeds of only 1 Mbps to properly run.
But if you’re regularly streaming games on Twitch or coordinating strategy on a Discord server with friends, you’ll get your money’s worth from a plan with fast upload speeds. In either case, we’d recommend an internet plan with a minimum upload speed of 5–10 Mbps.
Boring definition: Latency measures round-trip time (RTT), or how long it takes for a packet (bundle of information) to get from your device to the internet network, then back to your device. A program called ping can measure your latency, which is usually expressed in microseconds (ms).
Make sense? No?
Well, let’s break down the jargon. Hold onto your ergonomic gaming chair—it’s analogy time:
- You’re playing ping-pong with a friend.
- Your ping-pong ball is a packet, holding the data of that no-scope headshot you just took in Fortnite.
- The time it takes for your ball to get from you to your friend and back to you is latency.
Ping rate vs. latency vs. download speed
Latency, which is measured using ping rate, is different from download speed. The former measures the time it takes data to travel back and forth, while the latter measures how much data your internet can download at once.
Think of a 100 Mbps download speed as your friend serving back a wave of 100 ping-pong balls at once, instead of just the one with the results of your headshot. Super cool, but not vital to your Fortnite performance.
Ideally, your RTT latency will be as close to 0 ms as possible. Any speed under 100 ms is okay, and under 40 ms is excellent. Too long, and your opponent will have escaped unscathed before the network can process your perfect headshot.
Best ping rates for gaming
|Ping rate||Gaming experience|
|1–40 ms||Excellent and lag-free|
|40–100 ms||Decent, but there’ll be some lag|
|100+ ms||Poor with significant lag|
To bring your latency down, try to get as close to your Wi-Fi router as possible for a strong wireless signal. If your gaming PC or console is close enough to your router, we’d recommend hooking up the device with an Ethernet cable. Ethernet cables offer the strongest internet connection by eliminating wireless latency issues.
Jitter is how much your latency varies over time. This little change in tempo can make a big difference in your gameplay. You might experience it as visible choppiness or merely a feeling that your rhythm’s been thrown off.
Imagine you’re playing ping-pong with your friend again. They hit that ball/packet back at you, and suddenly, it disappears.
No worries, they’ve got a magic copy of it, and they hit that at you instead.
Packet loss is like that. Sometimes information bundles get lost or deleted on the way back to your computer, usually due to network congestion, spotty Wi-Fi, or outdated software.
Sometimes the network sends the packet again, like it does if a picture doesn’t load right in your browser. But for real-time video or audio, that doesn’t do any good. The information would come out of chronological order, making your video or audio even more confusing.
Instead, you’ll have a moment of frozen or glitchy video and audio.
In short, packet loss is the enemy of Discord voice chats everywhere. Any packet loss over 2% can cause enormous problems for call quality. As with latency and jitter, you can reduce packet loss issues by upgrading your router or using an Ethernet cable to connect to the internet.
How to get the best internet performance for gaming
If your Fortnite or Call of Duty sessions are getting brought down by constant packet loss, jitter, and high ping rates, you can solve most of these problems with a little network troubleshooting.
Switch to an Ethernet cable
Home Wi-Fi is handy, but everything from other devices to the number of walls between your PC and router can affect your wireless connection.
If your gaming PC is near your router (or you don’t mind running cabling through the house), use an Ethernet cable to get the best internet connection for gaming. Ethernet cables offer consistent internet performance since they use a wired connection that isn’t affected by wireless interference.
Configure your Wi-Fi router’s settings (or buy a new one)
Wi-Fi routers typically have Quality of Service (QoS) features that help them direct network traffic.
Exact QoS features vary by router (check your manual for full instructions), but generally, you’ll want QoS settings that prioritize gaming in order to reduce lag. If you’re playing on a gaming console, you’ll also want to configure your NAT settings.
If you’re a hardcore gamer and still running into network problems, you could also upgrade to a gaming Wi-Fi router. While they aren’t cheap, gaming routers have gaming-specific QoS features that let you further tweak your network performance.
Connect to the fastest server
During online matches, most games will automatically connect you to the closest server near you. But if you’re playing a game with manual matchmaking, make sure you’re connecting to a server with a latency of under 100 ms.
Update your hardware and reboot your router
Routine driver and firmware updates help ensure that hardware like your router or Wi-Fi receiver are working as fast as possible and that they’re up-to-date. Weekly router restarts also keep your wireless network in peak condition.
If you’re unsure about where to start with your router troubleshooting, check out our guide to modem and router lights. With our guide, you’ll understand whether your wireless antennas or Ethernet devices are working correctly.
The right internet connection is essential for a top-notch online gaming experience. Now that you know how internet bandwidth, latency, and jitter affect your experience, check out our recommendations for the best internet providers for gaming.