The absolute minimum internet speed as recommended by Xbox and Playstation is 3Mbps download and between 0.5 and 1Mbps upload, and many PC games recommend a similar minimum.
However a broadband speed this low is very likely to result in a poor gaming experience.
The reason for this is that even if you’re the only person in your home using the internet, there are likely other devices in the home that are also connected, downloading updates, running cloud backups, and so on.
If you have any other people in your home these speed issues are virtually guaranteed to occur very frequently, as they binge watch streaming content, and upload or download files.
So let’s look at what you need to think about when it comes to having an awesome online gaming experience.
What is important?
There are a whole range of things to look at when it comes to the speed of your connection. You can always use our broadband speedtest to check what these are looking like on your current connection.
The “speed” of an internet connection is the first thing many people think about when they think online gaming. This is typically going to be the download speed that is referred to.
You ideally want as much download speed as you can get as this is usually going to be the majority of the data transferred during a game.
Another key reason for this is that the other devices and users in your home will no doubt be downloading files and updates and streaming content while you are playing your game, and if you are using a higher speed connection you have plenty of headroom to allow all these simultaneous uploads and downloads to be happening without impacting each other.
If you are on a slow connection what can happen is if another person in your house starts downloading several large files, the available bandwidth can become swamped and be unable to keep up with consistently communicating with your game server, resulting in rubber banding, jittery movement, and likely a loss in the game!
We also need to make sure our broadband connection has adequate upload bandwidth to make sure our games can also send data to the game server quickly. If either upload or download bandwidth reaches capacity then we’re going to have a bad time. (No one needs to get immediately fragged within seconds of the game starting!)
One of the other most crucial things is your “Ping”. This is the number of milliseconds it takes for a tiny piece of data to get from your device to the remote server and back again.
Because of this, unlike with connection speeds, you want your Ping to be as low as possible.
The reason this is vital in gaming is that if your ping is too high, this right away puts you at a disadvantage against the other players in the game, as essentially they can react more quickly than you to what is happening in game. Not a big deal if you’re playing a relaxed exploration game, but in an MMO, FPS, RTS, MOBA etc, quick reaction times are essential to a chance at victory!
This is another aspect of your internet connection which is less widely understood than connection speeds (or ping for that matter).
Jitter can be caused by many factors, but it essentially results in the data being transmitted back and forth at unpredictable rates. You’ve probably seen this before during a video call when the video suddenly glitches out and resumes as normal.
In video games you don’t want anything about your data transfer to be unpredictable, however that is caused.
It is most noticiable in fast twitch style FPS games.
Jitter is most common on WiFi connections, particularly where you have a large number of devices connected at once. It is also much more common on ADSL/VDSL connections than on Fibre due to the signal/noise issues on copper lines. High speed fibre once again takes the win.
Having the fastest internet connection in New Zealand might give you sweet bragging rights for your gaming mates, but it’s no use to you for gaming or anything else if you’re constantly having outages.
These could be caused by your internet provider, your network issues, the wiring in your home, infrastructure companies, roadworks digging in the wrong place - you name it.
Fibre connections have far better uptime and stability compared to ADSL and VDSL.
It’s also worth noting that Wired ethernet connection to your PC or console is going to be more reliable than WiFi in almost all cases.
PC vs XBOX vs Playstation vs the others?
So we have covered the important stuff when it comes to gaming and your broadband connection.
But does this differ whether you’re playing on PC (via Steam, Origin etc) or Xbox or Playstation?
While there are a few differences in terms of the potential for other applications to be running in the background on PC and so on, the core important factors of download/upload speed, ping, jitter, and uptime remain the same.
Wired vs WiFi
If it is possible in your home definitely go with a wired ethernet connection from your router to your PC or console.
This will give you the best possible speeds, and help minimise jitter. You’ll also rule out the possibility of WiFi signal strength or WiFi channel congestion issues at the same time.
Online gaming vs digital downloads
What we’ve been discussing has largely been focused on the scenario of playing a game - but of course one of the other important aspects of using your broadband connection for gaming is that for PC and Console players we now download the vast majority of our games.
Digital delivery via Xbox, Playstation, Nintendo or Steam/Origin/Epic etc on PC has exploded in recent years - it’s just so convenient!
So once again having a fast internet connection (like a Fibre Max at up to 950Mbps for example!) means that your games are going to download MUCH faster than they otherwise would if you were scraping by with a slow old ADSL connection.
It’s worth noting that if you’re on a beast of a Fibre connection that can reach up to 950Mbps, often the download speeds end up being limited by what the console’s content delivery network is able to provide.
You’ll see this especially on a new game release where they are just getting absolutely slammed, as millions of players around the world (and many thousands from NZ) are all trying to download the game on the same day.
But either way, most of the time having an awesomely fast Fibre connection will mean that your connection is no longer the limiting factor, and you’ll see most game downloads come flying down in no time at all, even if those speeds jump around a bit.