Gamers the world over share a common concern, how to find the best internet for gaming.
Finding a perfect combination of price, upload speed, download speed and quality of service from an internet service provider is a challenging online game of its own.
In this guide, I'm going to walk you through the different factors to consider before purchasing an Internet package optimized for gaming.
From there I'll share our top picks for internet service providers who offer the best combination of consistent high-speed internet and value.
Finally, we'll discuss best practices for making the most of your internet service.
The Best Internet for Gaming - In This Guide
ISP Speed vs Quality
Ideally, for online games, you want a fast connection with no lag time, ping or disconnections. Playing your favorite online game actually requires a quality connection over sheer speed. The days of the slow dial-up internet are thankfully behind us, but you can still maximize the quality of your connection for gaming by choosing a top-tier ISP.
Wireless Router vs Ethernet Cable
How is the internet delivered to your gaming console or computer? For PC gaming, an ethernet connection is better. Simply put, an ethernet cable from your router to gaming device eliminates lag. Sending the signal through the airwaves opens it up to instances of input lag. Upload speed, as well as download speed for gaming, is enhanced with a wire connection to your router. The refresh rate of your internet is better too.
If ethernet is not an option, there are still several wireless routers that provide strong high-speed internet at a consistent quality.
Fiber Optics is Better Than Phone Based Service
For the best gaming experience, the infrastructure of internet connection makes a difference. Ideally, you connect over a fiber optics network, which is superior to phone or cable modem based internet access. Fiber optic internet delivers practically instantaneous service. Access to fiber optic internet depends on if a provider in your area offers it. You are in luck if you live in Rhode Island, with 97.9% fiber optic internet available.
Related: Find the best internet providers in your area with our handy ZIP code checker tool.
Avoid Multiple Service Packages
It may look like a good deal to buy an internet, TV and phone bundle from one provider. But bundled services coming in on one cable can make it hard to enjoy your favorite online role-playing game or multiplayer game. Online lag-time and ping will increase, and your gaming experience suffers.
You can still purchase internet service from companies like Google Fiber, Verizon FiOS, and Comcast without buying their entire service bundle. For example, you could use Verizon FiOS for the internet, but another provider for a cell phone plan.
Gamers can download software to boost their internet performance. Speedconnect internet accelerator claims to optimize your network connection and speeds up online experience with Windows based systems. Boost, from Razer Cortex, is specifically designed to optimize the experience the online gamers.
Performance-boosting programs can be tricky. They may push your system beyond its limits, or plant malware in your hard drive. Before you buy, take the time to read user reviews before installing software to enhance internet performance. Keep your system secure with antivirus software to stop problems in their tracks.
Whichever provider you use for online access, you can examine factors slowing down your web connection or video game. Shut down any software not in use such as internet browsers or streaming media. If other people in your house are in gameplay mode too or streaming over the same wireless connection, it will hurt performance for both of you.
It's a matter of traffic management. When you are the only person using a wireless connection, your gaming experience improves.
Some games demand a lot of power from your computer or video game console. Try lowering the visual or sound settings in the game. Less information will send to the server, and its data packet can bounce back and forth quicker.
Pay attention to simple tech etiquette for your wireless router, dual-band router or cable modem. Savvy gamers position the router away from clutter and metal objects. Keep it away from concrete or brick walls as well.
This is important with a wireless router in particular, as opposed to an ethernet cable. You want the wireless signal to have a clear path to your gaming console, gaming desktop or gaming laptop computer.
Read More: Hate slow Internet? So do we! Here's how to speed it up.
Our Top Picks for Internet Service for Gaming
Here's the short list of factors in a quality web connection that gamers can compare. Our breakdown of the best internet service providers for gamers takes these factors into consideration.
- Packet Loss refers to chunks of data that fail to travel from a server to you and back again.
- Latency, or lag, is the time a data packet takes to reach you, then travel back to the server.
- Jitter is a measure of how much your latency changes from test to test. They lower the change, the better.
Here are ISP providers who deliver reliability as well as high speeds with the above factors in mind.
Comcast gets solid ratings for low latency and jitter, as well as for good download and upload speeds over its fiber optic internet network. Other ISP companies are rated higher, but Comcast is available in 40 states, according to broadbandmap.gov, making it the default top-dog in many markets. Many of the other top rated providers serve only their regional markets.
Verizon FiOS is an internet service provider delivering both speed and consistent quality for online gamers. Verizon FiOS brings the internet to customers over fiber optic technology, and claim their upload speeds equal download speeds. Internet service plans start at $54.99 per month, delivering speeds of 50 Mbps. Faster speeds are available at higher rates. You must check if the service is available in your region.
The search engine and internet giant entered the internet service provider business with a super-fast fiber optic service. Google Fiber gets high marks for providing a superior gaming experience. Their network router, the Network+ Box, is referred to as the gigabyte router. The service is offered in limited markets and looks to be slated for slow expansion.
MetroCast Lightning Fast Internet Speeds
MetroCast delivers the consistent quality that gamers need. As with Verizon FiOS, they offer different tiers of service at different prices, with speeds from 1.5 Mbps to 150 Mbps. Gamers can consider the 50 Mbps service their broadband connection sweet spot with MetroCast. The service is available in Maine, Maryland, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania and Virginia.
EPB Fiber Optics
This Chatanooga, Tennessee IPS outscores Verizon FiOS in an honest comparison of latency and jitter. In internet speed and quality for gamers, they are as good as it gets. When subjected to a speed test, EPB is the best, according to speedtest.net. However, this ISP only services Tennessee residents.
High-speed internet is important, but online gamers also require a stable, consistent connection to the web.
Is Satellite Internet Good for Gaming?
Those who live in rural areas may not have access to high-speed internet infrastructure. Their best option for internet service capable of supporting gaming is satellite internet (VSAT). Satellite works well with some types of games, but not all. The culprit is latency, the time for data packets to travel from your satellite dish to the satellite in space and back.
A turn-based game relying on strategy which does not require quick actions is ideal for a satellite-based internet. Online poker or online casino games are also good. Certain online role-playing games are also perfect for this type of internet service.
Games demanding rapid actions and split-second decision making, such as first-person shooter games, are difficult to play with a satellite connection due to lag time. Players can be left waiting for their moves to catch up with them.
Read More: You can see our top picks for satellite Internet providers here.
Best Practices for Optimizing Your Internet for Gaming
Here are some quick tips you do right now to improve your internet speeds for gaming.
- Choose an internet service provider with fiber optics infrastructure.
- Analyze service providers for packet loss, latency, and jitter.
- Use an ethernet cable whenever possible.
- Avoid bundled services, such as the internet, phone, and TV on one cable.
- Choose a computer or gaming console with a solid-state drive.
- Position your router away from brick, concrete or metal objects.
Related: You can test how fast your Internet speed is here.
Online gaming is an exciting, fun way to spend time with friends. For a more in-depth analysis of the Internet service providers discussed above (and even those we didn't!) you can review our buyers guide to Internet providers.
For a side-by-side comparison of Internet providers, go here.