Online play is awesome. Teaming up with friends who can be physically located anywhere in the world is great. Engaging with hundreds of other people in a virtual world is fantastic. Having this fun disrupted by network lag, connection latency, and random disconnections is very uncool.
While an internet connection is often subject to the whims of your internet provider, there is still a lot you can do with your local router and network configuration to optimize your gaming experience. starting at the top.
Use a capable router
Many home internet providers provide a combo modem and router that you may use for your home network and Wi-Fi. Some of these ISP-supplied routers offer the type of control and software adjustments described. below, but many don’t. With that in mind, if you aren’t already using your own router to manage your home network, you might want to do so.
A router is a type of computer. Like any other computer, a router has processing and memory hardware that handles all inbound and outbound connections. The more devices you have connected to your router, the more robust your router must be to effectively manage the network. You will need to consider each device that connects directly to the router through wired or wireless connections, such as computers, laptops, cellphones, tablets, smart TVs, game consoles, smart doorbells, digital assistants, smart thermostats, Wi light. -Fi bulbs, and so on. A single router will struggle to keep up with so many connected devices, which will have noticeable impacts on speed and connectivity.
The physical specifications are very similar to those of a PC. You will need to look for routers with more processing power and more RAM. These specifications may be difficult to locate for some router models, but there is marketing jargon that can help you identify higher quality hardware, such as MU-MIMO, Wi-Fi 6, or “AX” support, and the Multi-gigabit port LAN or WAN. Our guide to the best mesh Wi-Fi routers can also help guide you if you’re looking to ditch your ISP’s network equipment.
Wired vs Wireless
In most cases, a wired connection is the way to go for speed and reliability, and that’s especially important when it comes to gaming. Wireless is still great and super convenient, but it has some weaknesses that a direct wired connection to the router doesn’t. That said, playing over Wi-Fi is not out of the question. Both types of connection have their advantages and limitations that will influence what is best for your needs.
Typically, a wired connection between a router and other devices is through an Ethernet or network cable. Without going too deep into cable designs and specifications, you’ll probably want a CAT5e, CAT6, or CAT6a cable with RJ45 plugs for your wired network cables. CAT5e, CAT6 and CAT6a cables are certified to support up to 1 GB of connections for a maximum length of 100 meters (approximately 328 feet). CAT6 and CAT6a cables support up to 10 GB of connections for about half that distance, at about 55 meters. If your wires need to be longer, you may need additional hardware to boost the signal along the way or accommodate the potential drop in speed.
In an ideal world, your home is hardwired with high capacity cables and RJ45 Ethernet jacks throughout the house. For most new and old homes, however, this is not the case. A more typical scenario is that your desktop computer is close enough to where your router or modem is located that you can plug them in behind a desk or under a table without running the cord across the floor. The additional devices will then tend to be wireless to avoid the mess of running cables around the house.
Wireless network connectivity has come a very long way in a relatively short period of time. Modern wireless standards already support more than gigabit throughput with 802.11ac and 802.11ax reaching 3.5 Gbps and 9.6 Gbps, respectively. For comparison, the global average internet speed is, according to Speedtest, around 107 Mbps, which means that the 802.11ac connection can theoretically handle more than 30 times that capacity. If you are using a wireless router that only supports 802.11 A, B, G, or N, you might need to upgrade.
It can be difficult to wire devices in multiple rooms, due to all the walls between them. Wireless connections also deal with wall related issues. A wireless router must fight interference from physical objects and other Wi-Fi signals, as well as from physics. As a general rule of thumb, the further away you are from your wireless router, the poorer your connection will be and you will want your router to be placed as centrally as possible in your home.
If you are setting up a wireless network in a large space with many rooms, you may want to consider mesh networking solutions, such as Netgear Orbi Home Wi-Fi System.
Wireless settings to change
You can make things even better by diving into your router’s advanced settings and making a few changes.
Switching your router to a less congested Wi-Fi band can help reduce slowdowns. Consider using the 5 GHz connection band instead of the typical 2.4 GHz band (as long as your device is close enough to the router). You can also configure your Wi-Fi connection to use an unusual wireless channel for your location to reduce interference. This, however, requires the help of third-party software that scans your network. This guide can help you.
How to change your channel and bandwidth settings varies by router manufacturer, which is true of every tip here, but you can either try visiting 192.168.1.1 in your web browser or check out the support pages. from your manufacturer. Here are a few for Asus, TP-Link, Netgear, and Linksys.
Additionally, if your router supports MU-MIMO, it is worth making sure it is active to reduce the chance of the network overloading the network with wireless traffic. Multi-User MIMO allows your router to communicate with multiple connected devices simultaneously, rather than with each device in turn. Turning it on (if supported) not only speeds up your Wi-Fi speed, but also allows you to connect more devices to your network.
Our early-tech MU-MIMO explainer goes much further if you want to learn more. If you’re not, turn it on!
QoS (Quality of service)
QoS, or Quality of Service, is the terminology used to describe what is effectively a traffic controller for your network. Basically all data transferred through your network is handled in “packets”, which are groups of information that are uploaded and uploaded to / from devices on your network. Different devices and software will use different amounts, sizes, and frequencies of data packets for whatever they need to do.
Watching your favorite Twitch channel in high quality tends to require a continuous stream of large packets to the device you’re watching on. Gaming, on the other hand, tends to be more sporadic with smaller packets coming and going from the device you’re playing on. If your network supports both, it will need to direct all of those packets to and from the right place. The QoS settings will allow you to tell the router how to do this and what takes priority.
If gaming is your top priority, many routers provide different types of QoS control settings, allowing you to prioritize a specific device on the network (like your gaming PC) and prioritize what it can detect such as certain types of data packets (like your games). By setting your gaming PC and its games to a higher priority than other data packets, the router will then try to ensure that your gaming data is handled properly and drop packets of other types if the network is congested. by too much traffic at once.
However, not all router settings are the same. You may find QoS options hidden or described as something else. You may need to dig into the advanced options or search for something titled “Media Prioritization” in order to get the QoS options (as shown above).
In addition, some routers offer “guest networks,” which are typically a lower priority network connection that guests can connect to and use your Internet connection, but their data packets may take precedence over your other devices if the traffic continues. becomes too important. .
UPnP, ports and firewalls
Generally speaking, adjusting more granular options is not as common a problem as it used to be. With games simplifying their connection needs and better communication between routers and devices, the idea of port forwarding or directly managing port connections for your network is less relevant. Most home routers come with a setting called Universal Plug and Play (UPnP) active, which allows your devices to coordinate with the router on this stuff.
However, some of you may need to change your managed network settings and open some ports for your games, especially if UPnP is not an option. This is rare though, and you shouldn’t follow these steps unless you’re having specific connectivity issues with your games.
Ports are part of what is called the “transport layer” in the Open Systems Interconnection (OSI) network communication model, and you may have seen them described as TCP or UDP connections. If an IP address is like a mailing address for a device on a network, port numbers are like street names or numbers to tell your router where that traffic should go and where it will come from. For example, secure web traffic from a site starting with HTTPS: // will arrive on port 443. Some games provide information about the ports they are using, and if you’re looking for the best performance, you could make sure these ports are open on your network.
It should be noted that open ports on a network can be considered a security risk. One of the easiest ways to secure your network is to block unused ports with your firewall. So if you set rules to keep a specific port open, you are potentially keeping a hole in that firewall open and you may find yourself in the middle of the endless battle between convenience and security.
Again: don’t mess with these settings unless you have to. Yes, opening ports and tinkering with UPnP was a frustrating necessity in the early days of online gaming, but those days are over in the vast majority of modern home networks.
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