A bad internet connection can completely ruin a good gaming session. However, your internet speed isn’t necessarily as important as you might think to your overall gaming experience.
What is important though, is that you keep your latency down and your jitter to a minimum. Want to know more about what a good internet speed for gaming is? Then please read on!
Ok, Explain What Bandwidth, Ping (Latency) And Jitter Means
Bandwidth and latency are the two main factors that will affect your gaming exprerience. Both are important and both will affect your set up in different ways. Here is a quick look at what each means.
Bandwidth is the amount of data that can be sent and received on your network. Having enough bandwidth is important because if you don’t have enough you will be unable to play your games. Luckily, in this day and age, most of us DO have enough bandwidth to play games
Bandwidth is usually measured by the amount of data (in bits) that can be sent (or recieved) per second. For example, if your ISP provides you with 24Mbps then that means you can receive up to 24 megabits per second on your network.
It is also worth noting the difference between upload speed and download speed. Download speed is the amount of data that can be downloaded to your network, while upload speed relates to the amount that can uploaded away from your network. Usually, your download speed will be higher than your upload speed.
For a real-time test to see the actual amount of bandwidth available on your internet connection, visit Speed Test. We'll cover this in more detail later...
Latency is different to bandwidth, in that it refers to the amount of time a data packet takes to get from the point where it is sent to the point where it is received and back again.
A lot of things affect the amount of latency you experience, including the overall quality of your internet connection, where you are located in relation to the game servers, and how busy your network is.
Keeping the latency low is especially important in gaming (as well as voice/video calls and potentially streaming) because when you play games, especially sports games/shoot-em-ups, you require the action to happen as soon as you press the button, or pull the trigger. If there is a lot of latency, even just a fraction of a second of delay (more than 100-150ms) , it will have a big effect on your gaming experience.
High latency isn't that important for normal activities, like web browsing, downloading or checking emails.
Jitter (Ping Spikes)
Jitter simply refers to frequent changes in latency. In essence, the more that data packets within a conversation arrive at different times from one another, the higher the jitter.
So, let's say your pings vary from 30ms, to 119ms, to 40 ms, to 164ms...and so on. This is an indication that jitter is high, because there are occasional or consistent spikes.
While you will always experience some latency, if you are regularly experiencing high jitter it means that the amount of latency you are experiencing changes frequently.
Although jitter can be an indication of congestion on your WAN (internet circuit), it is more often a result of a poor connection between you and the gaming server - often as a result of your ISP. Check with your ISP to see if there is an issue.
When you run a jitter test, like from DSL Reports (see image above), you'll be hoping to see "A" or "A+" results. Also, check the +PDV column. This refers to the Packet Delay Variation....jitter in this case. The lower the better!
Is Bandwidth Not Important Then?
Ok, so we're switching back to bandwidth again...we're not purposefully trying to confuse you...honest!
Bandwidth is very important when it comes to gaming. If you have a very low bandwidth connection (under 3Mbps) playing games online will likely not be a great experience. Low bandwidth also increases latency!
However, the amount of bandwidth required to play games isn’t actually that much. As previously mentioned, aim for 3Mbps downstream and at least 1Mbps upstream. Assuming you have an average (or even below average) amount of bandwidth you shouldn’t really have a problem playing games unless there is a significant amount of activity (multiple people streaming HD content) on your network.
Assuming you have enough bandwidth, it will be much more beneficial to reduce the amount of latency and jitter on you network if you want to improve your gaming experience.
What Can I Do To Make Online Gaming Experience Better?
If you are having issues there are a few things you can do. First up, you just test the speed of your internet connection to see where the problem lies. To do this, you can go to a website like speedtest.net and run their test.
Here you will be able to see your upspeed, downspeed, as well as the ping speeds on your network. This will tell you whether or not the problem is in your available bandwidth or your latency.
You can also run the in-depth ping/jitter test on DSL Reports?.
This will give you a good baseline to work with. Then you can try the following, and test again after each change you make:
Don't Use Wi-Fi!
If you have a high ping time (over 150m/s would result in noticeable lag), then one of the easiest things you can do is simply move to a wired connection. Doing this will remove give you the fastest possible ping time on your network.
If you want/need to use a wired connection, then moving your router/computer to somewhere that gives you a better connection could be one idea. Here are some things extra things to look out for on a gaming router:
If your router supports it, you should also look at implementing Quality of Service:
QoS (Quality of Service) is a feature that can be used to dedicate bandwidth to certain programs, types of data, or devices. This helps because you can prioritize gaming traffic, or traffic coming from the computer you use for gaming.
If you don't have QoS, and don;t live alone, you should consdier a router upgrade to one that does support QoS....or if your router supports DD-WRT firmware, you could go that way.
Also, make sure your router has a...
A Fast Processor
Having a faster processor means that IP packets will be processed and routed quicker than if you had a slower processor. This should result in lower latency and a better gaming experience.
If you have an older router, you'll have an older CPU. Consider upgrading to a new router.
Conclusion: So, What Is A Good Internet Speed Then?
Well, we've went through this in the article, but for an easy read, here's some bullet-points to quickly recap the necessities:
- You should aim for an internet connection of at least 3Mbps down / 1Mbps up
- Try to keep latency under 100ms
- Keep jitter to a minimum
If you aren't getting the results above, make sure you: implement QoS on your router, to prioritize your gaming traffic.
- Switch to Ethernet (if you haven't already)
- Implement QoS on your router, to prioritize your gaming traffic.
- If these fail, check with your ISP to see if there are issues
And you're probably better going for an AC router, even if you cable for your gaming. The AC routers tend to have faster CPUs and have more features...