All you need to know about broadband for playing online games
Whether you’re a PlayStation fanatic or Xbox ‘til you die, you’ll know how infuriating it is when your broadband connection is getting in the way of a killer high score. If you’re a hard-core gamer, your average broadband deal just isn’t going to cut it when there’s virtual glory at stake.
Read on to find out more about broadband for gamers and which packages will suit your gaming habits best
The type of broadband you have should always be relative to what you use the internet for. Playing games online is usually pretty heavy duty stuff when it comes to data. A standard package for someone just looking to surf the web and watch the odd episode of Game of Thrones won't be able to handle the weight of you and your pals going for it on FIFA every night.
Providers like Virgin and Sky have gotten wise to the need for an all-out internet package, so luckily there are a few dedicated broadband deals for gamers out there. Before you jump in head-first, there are a few things to consider to make sure you choose the right package.
When it comes to finding an internet package to see you through those marathon multiplayer sessions, it's not just a case of choosing the fastest connection available. Although speed is important, it isn't the be all and end all.
The most important factor to a smooth online gaming experience is consistency. A reliable connection that's not super-fast is better than a speedy connection that drops out right in the middle of a mission.
Keep an eye out for providers with a low number of daily disturbances, Ofcom's independent research found that Plusnet, BT and Virgin were among the suppliers with the least disruptions. Make use of our handy broadband comparison tool to take a closer look at what's on offer in your area.
All sorts of things can affect your WiFi's performance – microwaves for instance have been known to interfere with wireless signals. Although these interruptions are usually minor, if you're pernickety about a seamless gaming experience you might want to consider trying a wired connection to guarantee less interference.
It may sound old-fashioned, but most broadband providers give you the capability of a wired connection using an Ethernet cable. Wireless has long been the preferred choice as it's more convenient for general internet use. However, an avid gamer like yourself could benefit from going static instead.
If your Ethernet cable isn't long enough to reach your console, you could try buying a wireless extender to give your signal an extra boost. These handy devices plug into your power socket and work by rebroadcasting the pre-existing signals to improve their reach.
Just reading about these irksome issues will probably annoy you. If you want that smooth, faultless gameplay you see in game trailers, you need to look at choosing a broadband package which reduces these four key disruptors:
This is a techy term for lag – also known as the bane of our lives. You know, when your ferocious button pressing takes a few seconds to actually do anything? A few seconds isn’t a big deal to your average internet user, but any gamer will tell you, it’s the difference between life or death on the virtual battlefield.
Measured in milliseconds, latency is the amount of time it takes for the data you’re inputting to reach the screen. This is largely down to broadband speed, luckily you can find out the latency on most broadband packages. You ideally want anything under 50milliseconds, but something between 100-50 milliseconds shouldn’t be too noticeable.
Also known as stutter, jitter is the rate at which latency corrects itself. A high jitter rate would mean that your latency varies quite a bit, this is obviously not ideal for gamers.
Essentially it’s an indicator of how stable your connection is, for a consistent experience you’ll want a low jitter rate of 20 milliseconds or less.
During busy periods, broadband providers chop and change which applications are allowed to use up the most of their data. This ensures that everyone gets a similar level of service even during peak times.
For the best results, you should choose a broadband provider that prioritises gaming apps over streaming or email traffic. Plusnet, for example, offer a monthly add-on service which ensures that all gaming traffic automatically filters into their priority queue.
Possibly the most infuriating of them all, packet loss is exactly what it sounds like. During peak times, your gaming data can get lost on its way to or from servers. Yes, your hard-earned killstreak can get lost in the ether if your packet loss percentage is even 0.6%.
Packet loss often comes as a threesome with jitter and latency. If you’ve got a lot of jitter and lagging, chances are that your packet loss rate won’t be great either. Keep all your precious scores by choosing a package with 0.20% or less.
Xbox One players will be accustomed to the "constantly connected" nature of the console. If your broadband connection isn't strong enough, this could pose a problem since it uses the internet at all times, even when it's not being used. You might find that other devices using the internet for things like streaming might run a little slower as a result.
In fact, Microsoft themselves recommend a broadband speed of at least 1.5Mbps as a bare minimum. However, if you're planning on downloading extra content for your games, Skyping teammates or using the snap screen function to run multiple applications, you should aim for 17Mbps for the smoothest possible connection.
The PlayStation 4 requires a decent connection with a download speed of over 5Mbps to make the most of its features. With awesome extras like PlayStation Now, where you can stream games from the internet, or the PS4 Share function, which allows you to share your game with PSN friends who don't yet own it, your upload speed needs to be over 2Mbps ideally.
Not unlike the Xbox One, PlayStation users often use their console as a television with the PlayStation TV function. A wired connection will ensure you get the best possible experience, but moving your console closer to your router should do the trick if this isn't an option.
Computer gamers are somewhat of a dying breed these days. Luckily for you, if you're a PC or Mac gamer you can look forward to having the most stable connection of all. Since you can reap the benefits of a wired connection, you haven't got to worry about WiFi interference.
It's important to take note of your upload and download speeds since these form the basis of how well you're able to give and receive gaming data. For the best results you may be better off investing in a fibre-optic broadband deal which will make quick work of all those Steam downloads.
Most packages have a standard upload speed of 1Mbps, which isn't great, so be sure to check with your provider as this isn't usually very well advertised.
Many PC and Mac gamers use broadcasting services like Twitch and Steam to share their gaming experience with others, if this sounds like something you'd be interested in you'll need an upload speed of around 3-4Mbps for high definition.
Whether it's a Nintendo 3DS or a Sony PlayStation Vita you're tapping away on, the freedom of gaming on the move means you never have to miss out on important missions again.
Luckily for your data allowance, portable consoles tend to rely a lot less on downloading. Since you're going to be on the go with your handheld device, mobile broadband will be right up your street, with upload speeds of 1.6Mbps on 3G and 12.4Mbps for 4G.
Unfortunately mobile gamers do tend to draw the short straw with latency and packet loss due to the unstable connection. Your best bet is to go with 4G as it has lower latency rates, or if you don't mind limiting your gameplay to certain areas, you could opt to only use WiFi.