So, if you’re noticing longer than usual lag or even the dreaded packet loss, it's time to talk internet speed.
Before you decide, here’s a handy guide to getting the home internet speed you need for gaming.
Learn the lingo.
When we talk about internet speed for gaming, we’re actually talking about a few different factors that can cause annoying disruptions in a game. And while it’s tempting to blame "slow internet" for all of our gaming woes, there are a few factors that could affect gaming speed. Here are some important terms1 to understand:
- Bandwidth. This is the minimum and maximum amount of data that can be transferred within a network at the same time. Bandwidth is measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
- Lag. This term refers to that annoying delay or slowed response time between a game’s server and you—the game player.
- Latency. Think of latency as the "back and forth" of transmitting a game from your device to your internet network, then back to your device again. Latency measures how fast that bundle of information (or packet) makes the journey. The back and forth should occur quickly enough to seem instantaneous. Unfortunately, that isn’t always the case.
- Ping. Latency is measured using ping rate. Ping is not the same as download speed. Download speed measures the amount of data an internet connection can handle. Ping measures the speed at which that data is translated in milliseconds.
- Rubber banding. This is the term that describes those jerky motions in multiplayer games when an object seems to jump from one point on the screen to another too quickly or slowly. It is an effect of high latency.
- Packet loss. As mentioned above, packets are bundles of data being transmitted through a network. Sometimes, packets are dropped before they can reach the server. Packet loss of more than two percent can affect the flow of gaming.
What is the best internet speed for gaming?
There's not a once-size-fits-all answer. Depending on the type of games you like to play. First, it is important to understand the difference between download speeds and upload speeds.
Download speed refers to how quickly data is being pulled from your server. This number is typically the most important, since most of our internet activity—such as loading web pages and streaming video—relies on the speed at which we can download data. Upload speed is the rate at which information from computers or gaming consoles is sent back to the server. Upload speeds affect the information passing from the controller or keyboard to the game. Of course, not all games are created equally. If you’re playing games offline, for example, as opposed playing a multiplayer game online, internet speeds are not an issue.
And though online gaming devices don’t necessarily need higher upload or download speeds than any other device, like a smart TV or laptop, performance also depends on how many devices your network is supporting. Unless your gaming platform is the only connected device in the house while you’re playing, chances are, you’re going to need a bit more internet speed than the recommended minimum download speed
In other words, a gamer living alone will have entirely different needs than huge families.
Internet speed for gaming by platform
Here’s a quick list of the download and upload speeds you’ll need to make the most of some common gaming systems, devices, and platforms. While a download speed of 10 Mbps will likely be enough for most gaming platforms5, since some use more bandwidth than others and fluctuations in bandwidth are fairly common:
- Nintendo Switch and Xbox. Both require a minimum download speed of 3 Mbps and an upload speed of 1 Mbps5,6.
- PlayStation 4. While Sony only recommends 2 Mbps7 download speeds for the PlayStation 4 most users will want faster access to game libraries and quick response times in multiplayer games.
- PlayStation Plus. The way you play also matters. For example, if you want to stream games from the PlayStation Plus to your PC on demand, it requires 5 Mbps8 minimum download speeds, slightly higher than the others.
What else can you do to make sure games don’t get interrupted?
If you notice lag or a few jitters in your game, there are a few ways to try and speed things up:
- Take a speed test. There are various websites that can check your internet speed if you think it’s performing a bit more slowly than it should be.
- Disconnect other devices. As mentioned previously, having too many devices sucking up bandwidth can cause delays. Stop any other downloads or streaming and make sure there are no in-game downloads happening in the background of your game. Those can slow download speeds.
- Get wired. While ethernet cables are expensive, messy, and seriously limit where you can put your gaming setup, if all else fails, plugging an ethernet cable directly into your router may be one of your last options.
Investing in the internet speed you need for gaming is about more than just having the bare minimum download and upload speeds. Assessing your household’s bandwidth usage on a device-by-device basis and checking your equipment, not to mention making sure you’re getting the download speeds you’re paying for are all important pieces to solving the "slow internet" puzzle.
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Other sources used: https://www.fcc.gov/consumers/guides/household-broadband-guide