What do I need to consider when looking for gaming broadband?
Download speed: Although fast download speeds are not crucial for actually playing games online, it is extremely helpful for downloading the games themselves, as well as patches, mods and other large files.
Upload speed: If you’re planning on hosting online games or streaming games footage, a rapid upload rate is important.
Download limits: Some broadband deals have a monthly data limit, which may be a problem for big game downloads. Unlimited packages mean you never have to worry about it.
Latency: Latency (or ping rate) is the delay in transmitting a packet of data and receiving a response, measured in milliseconds (ms). High latency results in lag, which can badly impact online gaming, especially shooters and other games where quick reactions are essential.
Jitter: This is the fluctuation in latency speeds. If the connection is unable to maintain a consistent latency, this jitter can result in choppy and unstable online play
Packet loss: Information can be lost as it’s sent over the internet. This occurs all the time and is corrected by software protocols, but it can be noticeable on activities such as online gaming and VOIP which rely on rapid real time transmissions.
What is the best broadband connection for gaming?
Fibre optic broadband is the best connection for gaming. It provides fast download and upload speeds at affordable prices, with sufficient bandwidth to cope with multiple users. And there’s a wide choice of packages and providers, often with free gifts and special offers.
Which provider offers the best fibre broadband for gaming?
There is no one fibre optic broadband provider which stands out as the best for gaming. You will need to consider the features and speeds offered by each ISP and choose the most suitable package for your requirements. The best place to start is by entering your postcode into our comparison table to display deals in your area. Then use the filters to narrow down the choices.
Our home broadband survey can also help guide your decision by highlighting the strengths and weaknesses of the most popular providers.
Can I use ADSL broadband for gaming on the internet?
ADSL broadband is perfectly sufficient for gaming. The slower speeds mean that downloads will take longer, and it is not suited to streaming HD video or hosting more than a few players for online games. But ADSL is very cheap, there are lots of providers and deals, and it is available to most homes.
Will cheap broadband be fine for gaming?
Broadband does not need to be expensive to be used for gaming. Provided the speed and other features are suitable, you can save money with a cheap broadband deal.
The one area you don’t want to skimp on is download limits. Unlimited broadband is best because game downloads are often very large, and even a single new release could bust through a monthly limit in a few hours.
What download speed do I need for gaming?
Superfast broadband is not necessary to play online. Most games are not data-intensive during play so a minimum speed of 1-2Mb would be sufficient.
But gamers will still want to get the fastest speed possible. Many games are now only available through online stores, and the downloads can be very large. If you don’t want to be waiting ages to play the latest release a fibre broadband connection of at least 38Mb (or 100Mb with Virgin Media) is a worthwhile investment.
Also consider that if the connection is shared with housemates or family, or you have other devices and applications using the internet at the same time, then the extra bandwidth will allow you to play without interruption.
Which provider has the best download speed?
The very fastest broadband in the UK right now uses Fibre To The Home technology to offer speeds up to 1 gigabit. It’s overkill for gaming and everything else, but nice if you can get it...though only a small number of homes have this option.
The fastest provider with a nationwide presence is Virgin Media. This network is available to more than 60% of UK residents, and offers speeds of 100Mb, 200Mb or 300Mb.
If Virgin Media is not available you will need to select a provider using the BT Openreach network (ADSL or fibre delivered over a telephone line). Minimum and top speeds are slower than Virgin, but coverage is better. The fastest Openreach network ISPs in our latest home broadband survey were Vodafone, BT and Plusnet.
What upload speed do I need for gaming?
Upload speed may be largely irrelevant or absolutely crucial, depending on what kind of games you play and what else you’re doing with the broadband.
Single and multiplayer gaming: If you’re interested in simply playing games, upload speed is a fairly minor concern. It has no bearing on single player titles, and for online gaming an ADSL broadband service with upload speed up to 512Kb or 1Mb can comfortably handle the small amount of data sent during play. If you’ve chosen fibre broadband for quick downloads, the faster upload speed it provides will be more than sufficient.
Hosting games: Hosting online matches is a more demanding use of the upstream connection, though how much it matters varies with the type of game and number of clients. ADSL broadband can manage a handful of players in an online shooter, or a larger group if a game is not reliant on very low latency. For bigger crowds in fast-paced games, fibre optic broadband is recommended.
Game streaming: Got dreams of becoming a Twitch.tv star? Broadcasting 720p resolution video will need a minimum of 1.8-2.5Mb, and for 1080p the starting point is 3-3.5Mb. Streaming on ADSL is possible, but video quality will be heavily compromised. And if you’re trying to play online at the same time, remember to leave enough upload bandwidth for the game as well.
For further help with this topic, read our guide to uploading.
Which provider has the best upload speed?
Not every package offers this top speed though. The cheapest deals may have an upload rate under 10Mb, and it may be necessary to pay for a higher end package to receive the fastest possible upload speed.
But those are the advertised rates...how do the providers perform in practice? Based on the results of 20,000 speed tests carried out during 2016, the fastest ISPs for uploading are Plusnet (average 7.14Mb), Vodafone (7.01Mb), Virgin (5.61Mb), BT (5.06) and EE (5Mb).
(These are the results for the mainstream providers used by the vast majority of the UK. Gigabit FTTH ISPs such as Hyperoptic were much quicker, but their network coverage is tiny in comparison).
What is a good latency for gaming?
Opinions vary, but as a rough guide a “ping” of less than 50ms is excellent, 50-100ms is good, 100-150 is okay, and 150-200 can be acceptable. At 200ms the lag can become very apparent. Many online gaming servers enforce a maximum ping rate and will kick high-ping players to maintain a consistent experience for the majority.
Which providers offer the lowest latency for gaming?
There is very little difference between ISPs when it comes to latency. The latest Ofcom home broadband study reported that ADSL broadband from BT, EE, KCOM, Plusnet, Sky and TalkTalk all had an average latency under 40ms. Fibre optic services were even quicker.
But latency is affected by a wide variety of factors beyond your own broadband connection. To get the best performance use the in-game server browser tools to select the best performing server for you. It is standard for gaming server browsers to display ping times (or at least a traffic light system) so players can identify the quickest connections. If that’s not available, choose the closest server to your location to minimise ping times.
Which broadband provider has the lowest packet loss?
For packet loss statistics we can again turn to the Ofcom home broadband report.
Sky, Plusnet, BT and EE had some of the lowest rates of packet loss, but the differences were so small it’s not worth considering when comparing providers. There was no ISP which stood out as being particularly bad in this regard. For ADSL broadband, all ISPs tested experienced no more than 0.4% packet loss on average, and most fibre connections recorded under 0.2% loss on average.
Packet loss will increase at peak times, but even then the Ofcom stats suggest this should still not get in the way of your gaming.
Will traffic shaping be important for gaming?
Traffic shaping, or traffic management, is used to restrict the speed of certain activities to prevent a minority of users slowing down the network for everyone.
Many ISPs no longer use traffic shaping. Where it is in effect the most common victim is file sharing. A notable exception is Virgin Media, where some packages have a daily upload limit during peak hours. Merely playing a game is not enough to trigger it, but streaming video could exceed the cap. It can be avoided by signing up for the totally unrestricted Virgin Media VIVID 200 Gamer package.
To find out more about traffic management read our in-depth guide.
Which providers have traffic shaping policies?
Only a few of the most popular ISPs currently use traffic shaping, and many gamers will not find these policies burdensome.
Virgin Media traffic management, as explained above, is only applied to uploads. Plusnet has a traffic prioritisation system, but online gaming is classed as a high priority. EE also uses traffic management to slow down file sharing but it only applies to a small minority of broadband users on non-LLU exchanges. Many other providers, including Sky. BT and TalkTalk, are truly unlimited with no traffic shaping in place.
How quickly will my chosen broadband package download a game?
This table shows the time to download various games using different types of broadband connections. Don’t be disappointed if your downloads take longer; this assumes that the transfer occurs at the maximum possible rate of the connection, which is rarely the case.
Virgin Media 100Mbps
|Call of Duty MW3 (16GB)||125 mins||56 mins||21 mins|
|FIFA 2016 (30GB)||235 mins||105 mins||40 mins|
|Battlefield 1 (50GB)||392 mins||175 mins||66 mins|
Can I use a 4G mobile broadband dongle for gaming?
4G mobile broadband is fast enough for online gaming, but that doesn’t mean it’s suitable for regular play.
The catch with using mobile broadband for gaming is the low data limit of many packages. Online play doesn’t use much data, but could still eat through the very small caps of some mobile deals. And game downloads would make short work of the monthly usage limit of even the most expensive mobile data plan.
Avoid big downloads, and 4G can be used for gaming instead of home internet for a short period of time. But in the long term it’s no replacement for an unlimited fixed line connection.
What is the best router for gaming?
PC Gamer suggests the following routers are top picks for gamers:
Best mid-range: D-Link DIR-885L/R
Best budget: Asus RT-AC68P
Best high-end: Asus RT-AC5300
When buying a new router, ensure it supports the latest 802.11ac Wi-Fi standard and gigabit ethernet. A good gaming router will also offer Quality of Service (QoS) settings to give gaming traffic priority. And when you’ve selected a model, do some online research to find out if it suffers from “bufferbloat”, a phenomenon which can cause high latency and jitter.
Should I use a Wi-Fi or wired connection?
If you’re concerned about the very fastest speeds and lowest latency, a wired network connection is best. Wi-Fi is convenient but it is susceptible to interference and could result in increased jitter.
Is there a best Wi-Fi channel for my router?
The best Wi-Fi channel is the quietest. Wi-Fi networks sharing the same channel can cause interference and slow the connection.
Your router’s “auto” channel option will attempt to select the best channel, but it’s not always perfect. If you would like to set it manually, it is helpful to use a smartphone Wi-Fi tool (such as Wi-Fi Analyzer for Android or Wi-Fi Explorer for iPhone) to quickly identify which channels are free.
How do I make my internet faster for gaming online?
Upgrade your broadband: The biggest boost will come from switching to a faster deal. Enter your postcode into the comparison table to find out what broadband is available in your area. Even if you’re already on fibre there may be a quicker service.
Use gigabit wired networking: Connect to the router with an ethernet cable. For the best speeds, use a gigabit router and network adapter.
Close down unnecessary apps and hardware: Other devices and software using the connection will slow downloads and introduce lag and jitter. Give yourself an edge by closing unnecessary drains on the broadband while you’re gaming.