You can have a super fast gaming PC with an RTX 3080 graphics card onboard and other speedy components. And yet, if you have a slow connection, your online gaming capabilities will be severely limited. So much so that a person using a slower PC, but a faster connection, will be able to react better to your movements, and will beat you almost every time. This also applies to game consoles. Your opponent can use the same equipment, but your gameplay will be based on – well – frustration and salty comments if you have an insufficient connection.
Of course, we could point out the obvious and advice you to get a faster internet connection or choose the best ISP available in your area, however, assuming you’ve already maximized what you can afford or can get in your household, there are a few things you can try that can improve your existing connection. Let’s begin!
Ping & bandwidth: How fast is your internet?
Before making any changes, let’s start by checking the quality of your connection and find out what ping you can expect in games. Ping is a simple way to measure how fast your internet connection can send data packets to a given IP address and receive a response.
This has a direct impact on online games, which you may interpret as latency. For example, if your ping is 350 ms, it means you can see in-game events 350 ms after the time they actually happened. To play online games comfortably, you need the lowest ping possible. However this will also depend on the type of game you’re playing.
Some titles will be unplayable with a ping over 200 ms, and some with over 50. As for gameplay itself, each additional 50 ms is noticeable and worsens the comfort of playing. Also, bear in mind that ping is not universal.
You have to ping a specific location and that measure will be good for a particular server response. You can use GameServerPing to test your connection against a given server for a specific game. A fast ping means a more responsive connection, especially in video games, where timing is everything.
As you can see on the image above, my internet connection can probably play with low latency on European servers and even try to play on US servers as well. Japan and Australia are out of the question, though. But this is why AAA online games have multiple server locations and you should play on the closest possible geos.
Different and recommended ping ranges:
Less than 20ms – Great: Optimal value for gaming. You will not experience any lag during the game. If something is running slowly, it certainly won’t be your connection fault.
20ms – 50ms – Good: Popular range for gaming. Still a sufficient value, although the most demanding players definitely prefer not to exceed 20 ms.
50ms – 100ms – Fair: This range can be considered as “average.” You may experience lag, and in some games you may find that your opponent has a clear advantage over you.
100ms – 300ms – Poor: Gameplay is still possible, but there will be lag. It is annoying (and potentially deadly) for you and possibly for your opponents.
More than 300ms – Unplayable: This kind of connection is unsuitable for smooth online gaming.
In addition to ping, the speed of your internet connection is a key factor. Super fast broadband is not required for online gaming, but you should have at least 30 Mbps at your disposal (download). Now, suppose several people are sharing the same connection when you are playing games: your sister has a video call, and your parents are watching a movie on Netflix. These activities will significantly strain the bandwidth available. If this sounds familiar, you should probably opt for a 100 Mbps or faster connection. Of course, the more, the better.
To check how fast your connection is, take a simple test. We recommend using SpeedTest or Fast.com. Those are among the most popular tools of its kind, though you might as well try SpeedOf.me and SpeedSmart.net.
SpeedTest.net automatically suggests connecting to a nearby server, meaning your ping should be very low in that scenario. But what if you are playing against someone from a different continent? Personally, I like to play Dark Souls 3 on PS4 Pro and connect with players from Japan practically every day (and I’m from Poland!). With such distances, a higher ping is a given.
Here are some of my tests results from SpeedTest.net:
|Ping: 8 ms|
Download: 260 Mbps
Upload: 101 Mbps
|Ping: 7 ms|
Download: 945 Mbps
Upload: 104 Mbps
|Berlin, Germany||Ping: 32 ms|
Download: 174 Mbps
Upload: 75 Mbps
|Ping: 27 ms|
Download: 400 Mbps
Upload: 80 Mbps
|St. John’s, Canada||Ping: 148 ms|
Download: 89 Mbps
Upload: 74 Mbps
|Ping: 146 ms|
Download: 130 Mbps
Upload: 76 Mbps
|Hokkaido, Japan||Ping: 281 ms|
Download: 75 Mbps
Upload: 68 Mbps
|Ping: 277 ms|
Download: 84 Mbps
Upload: 69 Mbps
#1: Use an Ethernet cable
It’s always a good idea to choose an Ethernet connection over Wi-Fi if available. No matter how good your connection and router are, a wired connection will always provide more consistent speeds and lower latency. However, you will need to connect your PC or console with an Ethernet cable to the router or local network, sacrificing the convenience of a wireless connection.
Make sure you’re using gigabit Ethernet ports that can handle speeds of up to 1,000 Mbps and up-to-date cables that support high speeds (Cat 5e or Cat 6).
If your router is too far from your computer or console and you can’t connect with an Ethernet cable, there are various ways you can extend your network. Powerline adapters can be hit or miss, but are not inherently bad. Wi-Fi extenders are a big no. Mesh networking is a more modern solution and mesh networking equipment has gotten better and more affordable in the last couple of years. The idea is that you can only connect wirelessly to your router, make sure your Wi-Fi signal is as strong as possible.