Your Internet speed can make or break your competitive edge when it comes to online gaming.
Between all the available multiplayer options – from PC and next-gen consoles to more casual gaming on the Nintendo Switch or your cell phone – you may be left wondering exactly how much Internet you need. Read on to answer your questions about lag, livestreaming and what kind of Internet speed you need.
What Internet Speed Do I Need for Gaming?
Before we dig into Internet speed, let’s talk about the elements of good Internet.
Download speed – how fast your connection can receive data, measured in Mbps; can impact how quickly you can download the latest game or game update
Upload speed – how fast your connection can send data, measured in Mbps; can impact the ability to broadcast your gameplay on services like Twitch
Latency – the response time between your computer and the server you’re connecting to, measured in milliseconds as “ping”; can impact online, multiplayer gaming
Lag – noticeably delayed Internet response time caused by high latency, low server processing power, low bandwidth or packet loss.
How Many Mbps Do I Need for Gaming?
Most modern, multiplayer, online games need only a small amount of your available Internet speed while playing the game. While the FCC states a minimum download speed of 3 to 6 Mbps download speed and 1 Mbps upload is adequate for gaming, these numbers are based on one device running one activity at a time. If multiple devices are connected to your home WiFi network while you’re gaming or if you stream music while you play, minimum Internet speeds can lead to lag that creates a frustrating gaming experience.
So, whether you’re a casual gamer, MMO raid master or a competitive FPS pro, choosing the right Internet plan for your household can help maintain a consistent and stable connection for online gaming. Spectrum Internet been ranked the #1 destination for gamers and offers plans with speeds up to 300 Mbps, up to 500 Mbps and up to 1 Gig.
You also need to account for the quality of your connection, not just the speed. While casual gamers can play with moderate lag, with a ping of around 50 ms, competitive gamers want their ping less than 20 ms to keep their response time high. The fiber-rich Spectrum network keeps your connection stable and consistent with 99.9% Internet reliability to keep you gaming without lag and interruption.
What Download Speed Do I Need for Gaming?
Whatever way you game – whether you’re a PC devotee or a console lifer – most online games only take a small amount of your available Internet speed (3 to 6 Mbps, according to the FCC). However, there are three notable exceptions: cloud gaming, real-time rendering games and livestreaming games, which can require from 5 to 50 Mbps to play.
When playing most modern games, you only receive a small amount of data from other players. Since the bulk of current game files are stored on your computer or console, it’s much easier to transmit the simple click data and let your game system do the heavy lifting.
While 3 Mbps is a good starting point, limited download speed can affect gaming with large groups of players. If you’re visiting a friend’s island in Animal Crossing, 3 Mbps is plenty. If you’re playing PVP or PVE battlegrounds with a high number of players, you’ll need a bit more dedicated download speed to handle the higher amount of incoming data.
When download speed really matters is on game release and patch days. With more games moving to digital platforms like Steam and the Epic Game Store and next-gen consoles offering disc-free versions with the PS5 Digital Edition or the Xbox One S All Digital, your download speed is the last barrier between you and the hottest release. A faster download speed such as Spectrum's gigabit service, Spectrum Internet Gig, can cut down an all-night wait to a few-minute download. If you’re an early adopter who needs to be logged in from launch, consider faster download speeds for that first-in-line feeling.
How Many Mbps Do I Need for Cloud Gaming?
Unlike most online gaming, cloud gaming services can use 5 to 20 Mbps at minimum depending on the device or console you’re using. If you’re considering a subscription cloud gaming service like PlayStation Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming, a faster download speed, such as 50 to 100 Mbps (or higher) is beneficial for playing in HD and downloading large game files without significant slow-down.
What Upload Speed Do I Need for Gaming?
While gaming, you’re consistently using your upload speed, but the good news is that you’re only using about 1 Mbps at any given time. This is the same for PCs and consoles. Since most modern games host the game files on your local computer or console, you’re only sending out a small amount of data at a time.
Some other apps like chat and voice clients may add another 1-2 Mbps to your upload speed use, but, unless you’re streaming your gameplay and video through a live video platform, that’s about all you’ll need for a reliable, consistent connection.
What Speed Do I Need for Streaming Games?
Whether you’re a competitive gamer making your way up the rankings or you’ve got the hottest takes on your Discord server, it’s time to share your gaming journey.
Because streaming involves sending video from your computer, you need anywhere from 3 to 9 Mbps of available upload speed depending on the quality and frame rate of the video and the platform hosting it. And with plenty of platforms to choose from, it’s tough to make an informed choice.
To help make it easier, here are the minimum upload speed requirements for livestreaming on the most popular platforms:
720p / 30 fps
720p / 60 fps
1080p / 30 fps
1080p / 60 fps
All that’s left is to pick out your virtual background, turn on your ring light and start streaming.
Do I Need Different Speeds for Different Consoles?
Gaming with the latest hardware means an increased demand on your Internet connection. If you’re sticking to older games or last-gen consoles, your current Internet speed may be enough. But if you’re planning on upgrading your gaming PC or picking up a PS5 or Series X, you may need to boost your speed.
While you consider a hardware update, keep these other gaming advances in mind:
Large file size: Downloading Triple-A games and patches can slow to a crawl on low download speeds. When downloading very large gaming files, the more speed the better. 200 Mbps or higher is recommended.
Cloud gaming: New services like PlayStation Now and Xbox Cloud Gaming require, at a bare minimum, 5 to 20 Mbps depending on your device
HD streaming: A slow, glitchy livestream can tank your cred. Livestreaming quality is all about having the right upload speed to ensure your followers don’t miss a frame of gameplay. For the best HD livestreaming experience, a minimum upload speed 10 Mbps is recommended.
High-bandwidth games: 4K and live-rendering games like Microsoft Flight Simulator can push your graphics card – and your bandwidth – to the limit. The “ideal” Internet speed for the average 4K video stream, according to Microsoft is 50 Mbps, and even faster connections provide better experiences.
Whether you’re an early adopter or casual gamer, games and gaming tech advance every year. Make sure that your Internet speed is enough to keep up.
Why Internet Speeds Matter for Gaming
With everything considered, no matter the game or your game system, low latency – a low ping rate – when paired with a high download speed will let you download games quickly and play with less lag. If that’s too brief, here are some key takeaways from the article:
The best gaming internet is measured first by its quality. Low latency wins over high speed alone.
Gaming uses 3 Mbps download speed and 1 Mbps upload speed on average.
While downloading games, you’ll want at least 50 Mbps dedicated for quick downloads
Ping of around 50 ms is good for casual gaming, but you want less than 20 ms to play competitively.
Ready to start streaming? You’ll need at least 4 Mbps of dedicated upload speed – 3 Mbps for the stream and 1 Mbps for the game.
Ready to test your current connection? Check your PC or gaming system’s upload and download speeds, by visiting the Spectrum Speed Test in a browser window. First, test your speed over a WiFi connection and then retest it with a direct Ethernet connection (if possible) to see the difference.
While you might only need 3 Mbps for a basic gaming experience, speeds of at least 50 Mbps should be enough to accommodate the rest of your home’s internet needs while you play. Spectrum customers can expect minimum Internet speeds of 300 Mbps and up to 1 Gig. Check to see whether blazing-fast Spectrum Internet is available in your area today.
Make the right choice with Spectrum Internet®, delivering speed and reliability you can count on. Shop our best deals now.