5 Things to Consider While Choosing a Gaming Router
It’s happened to every gamer. You’re in a multiplayer game either racking up the player kills, setting up the final KO, or getting your army ready for a decisive battle. Then it happens—you lag out. You may have gone ahead and searched things like: “Why is my Internet cutting out while I’m gaming?” or “how to fix lag during gaming”.
The exact causes may vary, but if it’s been a few years since you’ve upgraded your home wireless router, that could be a good place to start looking. What follows in this guide will help you choose the best wireless router for gaming.
1. Reviewing Your Current Setup
Before getting into the specifics of what needs to change in your current networking setup, we’ve assumed the following have been tested or covered on your end:
Restarting or power cycling. Unplugging the power cable from the wall socket and router + modem, then waiting for at least a minute.
Testing your network connection by way of wired connection (Ethernet cable to the back of your router), so as to see whether your PC’s WiFi card is faulty.
Moving your setup to another part of your home, closer to your router, to see if your current setup is in a WiFi dead zone.
Following Microsoft’s recommended troubleshooting tips.
Now, the worst case scenario comes when you’ve contacted your service provider, scheduled an appointment, and even after they’ve set you up with new equipment—the problem still persists. If this is you, it may be time to consider upgrading your networking gear, specifically your wireless router.
Depending on your service plan, the router provided by your ISP may not be enough to handle your gaming workload—let alone when that bandwidth you need is competing with anyone else using the Internet in your house.
Fret not, for not all routers are created equal, and a gaming router may be just what you need to ultimately elevate your gaming experience.
2. The WiFi Standard
If you’ve been researching routers, you’ve probably come across a specification that starts with 802.11—most likely 802.11ac. This collection of numbers and letters is known as a WiFi standard. Thankfully, moving forward the naming of these standards have been simplified. For example, 802.11ac is WiFi 5.
Like any technological advancement, WiFi standards improve with each new iteration. Though WiFi 5 wireless gaming routers have greatly filled the market, the latest WiFi 6 (802.11ax) routers are beginning to take hold. If you’re looking to ensure top-notch wireless gaming connections, purchasing a WiFi 6 wireless router is your best bet.
WiFi 6 boasts up to a 40 percent in higher throughput. This means more data can be transferred per packet. Like their name implies, network packets are pieces of data sent through the Internet, whether it’s a video, email or live gaming-connection data.
3. Wireless Frequencies
Every router sends out wireless WiFi signals—but how? Similar to a walkie-talkie, wireless network data is transmitted via radio waves. On one end, your computer is a walkie-talkie thanks to its wireless adapter.
From there, your router interacts with your system and sends your wireless requests to the Internet via wired connection (either to your modem by way of Ethernet or directly to the Internet via coaxial cable).
These wireless signals are usually sent out via antenna and are done so at a higher frequency than common radio signals. Whereas AM and FM radio stations work within kHz and MHz frequencies respectively, today’s routers fire off at 2.4GHz and 5GHz. This higher frequency allows more data to be moved through the air. And, following each new WiFi standard, these bands have been continuously optimized for more efficient data transfer.
4. Dual-Band vs. Tri-Band
When a router utilizes both 2.4GHz and 5GHz wireless frequencies, it is known as a dual-band router. The 2.4GHz band is best at serving devices from long distances, but even on the best of routers can only hit up to 1,000Mbps or 1Gbps.
Meanwhile, the 5GHz band is more effective at shorter ranges and can hit speeds well above 1Gbps. Raising the bar for 5GHz efficiency, tri-band routers add an additional 5GHz band to the mix. Doing this reduces signal noise and interference while also improving the ability for your wireless network to provide good speeds to more devices.
With tri-band routing, some companies are claiming 4Gbps and beyond as the new standard. Remember, you still need to have a top-tier speed plan from your ISP to properly utilize these features.
Also, the advertised number is the collective speed of the three bands altogether. For example, an AC3200’s 3,200Mbps (3.2Gbps) callout results from the 2.4GHz band hitting 450Mbps and two 5GHz bands hitting 1,300Mbps each.
5. QoS: Quality of Service
Every good gaming router uses Quality of Service (QoS) to fend off the following unwanted symptoms:
Packet loss: When the data you have requested gets lost in the mix and fails to reach you and/or the Internet. In gaming, you’ll get automatically booted from a server for this. Side note: the amount of packets that a router can move at once is known as network throughput.
Jitter: Quick and unruly real-time signal displacement caused by electromagnetic interference from crossed signals. Measured in milliseconds, this effect is most noticeable in live video calls.
High latency: Latency is the overall measurement of network-data transfers from the Internet to you—and vice versa. Low latency is ideal because it means less delays in this process. High latency means things are taking much longer to process.
So, how does QoS work? First, this feature identifies the applications currently using your network’s resources. Each source of traffic is categorized by which ones benefit most from managing packet loss, jitter and high latency.
From there, QoS sets a policy so your router will dish out preferential management to the applications that need it—namely, gaming.
The main idea behind QoS is based on the fact that activities like real-time, competitive gaming require more resource management than IoT (Internet of Things) devices such as smart thermostats or always-on devices like home surveillance.
So whenever you are choosing your gaming router, make sure that you consider these five things. Checking your current setup first, the WiFi standard, wireless frequencies, dual-band vs tri-band, and QoS. After you consider these options choosing a gaming router will be so much easier!