If your internet is slower than your reaction time, gaming on any platform can be next to impossible. Choose the right balance of download speed, upload speed, stability, and ping for the perfect gaming experience that won’t leave you in the lurch.
Get the Right Speed for Online Gaming
Nobody wants to be the team’s weakest link. The newest platform or the fastest gaming PC won’t help if your internet connection is bottlenecking your ability to compete. Fast-paced online gaming requires a good internet connection with a few key features.
This platform-by-platform guide to internet speed will help you choose the right connection for your gaming needs.
4 Internet Principles for Gaming
Your internet speed depends on many factors, and speed varies dramatically between different types of internet service and different local providers. These basic principles will help you choose the right internet service plan—regardless of your connection type.
- Download Speed: All online games send data from the game’s servers to your computer. The rate that you can download this data is measured in megabits per second (Mbps). This rate applies to just about any web-related activity, including streaming, voice chat, and the installation of new games. The more Mbps your connection has, the faster your connection downloads the data you need to play.
- Upload Speed: In an online game, your computer is constantly uploading data back to the game’s servers to sync up your actions with your teammates. If you plan on streaming or using voice/video chat, you’ll need a higher upload speed to compensate for your increased data use. Your upload speed and download speed together are known as your bandwidth.
- Stability: Your connection stability simply refers to how long your internet connection is active and ready to transmit data. Poor stability might lead you to disconnect from the server at a critical moment in a game. Some internet types are more sensitive to this than others. For example, cable is more susceptible to slowing during high-traffic times than fiber is.
- Ping: Your internet connection’s ping rate refers to the time it takes to get a response after you input a command. It’s measured in milliseconds and critically important for gamers. The time it takes to send and receive a ping is often referred to as latency, but most gamers call it lag. The faster your ping rate, the less lag you’ll experience. It doesn’t matter how fast or slow your upload and download speeds are—poor latency will always result in a poor online gaming experience.
Best Internet Speeds for Gaming Consoles and PCs
Different platforms have different internet connection requirements. Some systems are more forgiving of your connection speed than others. Make sure your connection speed meets the minimum speed requirements of your favorite platform by performing an online speed test, an alternative test can be found here.
Min. Recommended Download Speed: 3 Mbps
Nintendo recommends a high-speed internet service like cable, DSL, or a fiber-optic connection. The lower bandwidth and higher ping of cellular and satellite connections may be too slow. At minimum, Nintendo recommends a download rate of at least 3 Mbps.
The Nintendo Switch is the most portable gaming platform on this list. It works with a wireless connection or a wired connection using a LAN adapter. The online gaming experience on a Nintendo Switch usually refers to multiplayer games like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, although the console has numerous single-player games with web downloads and special online-only content that would also benefit from a strong connection. And with fast-paced titles like Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, you’ll want the lowest latency you can get.
Xbox One X
Min. Recommended Download Speed: 3 Mbps
The Xbox One X is a midgeneration update to the Xbox One platform, and it brings significant performance upgrades to the powerhouse platform. With 4K visuals and a few stunning high-definition titles like Halo and Gears of War, the Xbox One might be the most powerful console on the market.
When it comes to online games, all that power and visual quality is only as good as your connection speed, which makes the Xbox One X a speed-hungry platform. Microsoft recommends a minimum download speed of 3 Mbps, a minimum upload speed of 0.5 Mbps, and a ping of less than 150 ms. For HD video streaming on services like Netflix, a higher download speed of 3.5 Mbps is required.
PlayStation 4 Pro
Min. Recommended Download Speed: 3–25 Mbps
PlayStation’s premier console, the PlayStation 4 Pro, is the most popular console and features the longest list of exclusive titles. It’s the online gaming standard on the console market for a reason—the PS4 was the first major platform to offer 4K gaming, but that puts a serious pull on your internet connection.
The PS4 Pro’s manual simply states that a broadband connection (about 25 Mbps) is required for online gaming. But the PlayStation 4 offers very similar hardware specs to the Xbox One, so a latency minimum of 150 ms is still a good standard to go by. You’ll want higher bandwidth if you plan on streaming HD video services though.
Min. Recommended Download Speed: 3–6 Mbps (varies by game)
The PC is the oldest platform with online gaming, and it’s still a tried-and-true option for multiplayer games (especially MMOs). PC gamers have an almost cult-like dedication to maximizing the performance of their custom gaming rigs, but even the best graphics card on the market won’t help your internet speed.
For online multiplayer titles, a PC gamer needs a fast router and a wired connection to minimize latency. The most demanding online titles can take full advantage of a lightning-fast 200 Mbps connection, but any connection that is on par with the console systems on this list should cover your PC gaming needs as well.
PC gamers should also consider a wired internet connection and a wired keyboard and mouse to further reduce lag—any wireless connection can potentially introduce a slight delay on your ping.
Game Streaming Services
Min. Recommended Download Speed: 10–50 Mbps
These platforms all utilize a hardware console, but the future of online gaming may not utilize any physical interface. Cloud gaming platforms, like the recently announced Google Stadia, promise to bring the convenience of video streaming services like Netflix to the gaming world.
Cloud gaming will push internet connections even further than consoles and PCs since the gaming experience is based entirely in the cloud. Parsec, a cloud-based gaming service, recommends a connection speed of 10–50 Mbps (depending on your hosting preferences) and a private connection without other bandwidth users on your network.
Stay on Your Game
Don’t let latency and stability issues throw off your game. A faster internet connection is a simple and effective upgrade to any gamer’s arsenal. With a better connection, your next ranked match, raid, or RPG quest will come down to skill and skill alone.
Written by Max Roman Dilthey