There are few things more frustrating for an online gamer than a poor connection. While you might have an internet service provider (ISP) you love and pay for top speeds, you might still run into spotty connectivity and slow pings—which can mean in-game life or death. If you’re struggling with gaming performance, you might look at the hardware responsible for your connection.
Here are eight factors that can help you choose the best gaming router and optimize the performance of your device.
1. Speed Limits
It’s no secret that online gaming requires a stable, high-speed connection. This is the first place you should look when trying to optimize your gaming performance.
While your router might have promising specs on the box, you shouldn’t automatically blame your router if it doesn’t live up to those exact standards. Various factors directly influence the router’s performance. If you rent your home or apartment, your landlord might have limits on the speed you have access to. Your ISP simply might not support the speed you’re looking for. Or you might use a subpar wireless standard.
2. Connect via ethernet
Choosing a wired connection over a wireless one is the easiest way to ensure a stable connection. Carefully consider where you position your gaming gear set up in your home so that you can connect to the internet directly via a wired connection.
Make sure when you plug in your computer or console, you’re using a gigabit ethernet port, which can handle speeds of up to 1000 MBPS if your connection allows it. Most gaming routers will have multiple ethernet ports, including gigabit connections.
Depending on where your modem and router are in your house or apartment, this may not be possible. You can find some longer cords and adapters that will extend your wired service range, but sometimes it’s just easier to optimize your WiFi.
3. Wireless and multi-band standards
The WiFi standard is one of the most important things to look out for when shopping for a gaming router. When shopping for a router, you’ll see a value that likely begins with AC or AX. These values refer to the WiFi standard on that router. WiFi 6, or AX, is the most current and advanced WiFi standard. AC, or WiFi 5, will still perform well for gaming.
Be sure to understand the bands that the router supports. Most modern gaming routers are dual-band and will support both a 5GHz and 2.4GHz band. 2.4GHz is well suited to light browsing for work and in smaller spaces. In larger houses that use streaming services and online gaming, you’ll need that larger band capacity. Look for dual-band or tri-band gaming routers.
Quality of Service, or QoS, balances the incoming and outgoing bandwidth for every device connected to a WiFi network. This feature prioritizes data packets for specific connected devices and services. It comes in handy when you have multiple users on the network all doing network-intensive activities.
Obviously, if you’re trying to connect to an online game and you have someone streaming a movie in 4K in the next room, you risk both having slower connections. When you enable QoS, you can effectively configure your router to prioritize gaming apps in favor of all other connections.
MU-MIMO stands for Multi-User, Multiple Input, Multiple Output. MU-MIMO sets up multiple individual networks with each device rather than connecting all devices to one large network. This allows a larger number of devices to communicate with a router without reducing connection speed to each device. By leveraging MU-MIMO capabilities, the connection becomes more reliable for every member of your family.
6. Processing power
Gaming routers need to be powerful computers in their own right so they can support your PC or console’s connection. There are two major factors that determine processing power: CPU and RAM.
CPU refers to your processor chip: look for i7, i9, and Ryzen 9 and AMD processors that can handle a larger number of connections. RAM refers to working memory. For gaming, your router should have a minimum of 256GB of RAM. More powerful devices with more RAM will help lower ping in games even further.
7. Choose the right product
When it comes down to it, there are only so many things you can do to optimize a router that isn’t designed for gaming. If your router isn’t cutting it, it’s time to shop for a new router designed with gaming in mind.
Gaming routers are built to be more powerful than most consumer routers. These gaming devices are also the best routers for fast WiFi, which is also helpful if you’re a multi-device household, watch a lot of movies and TV work from home with cloud systems and VPNs, or simply don’t want to have to think about whether your internet is performing as expected.
8. Maintain your router
To keep your speeds up and make sure you’re maintaining peak performance, you need to do regular maintenance. Schedule regular reboots through the router’s firmware or by simply setting a reminder to unplug the device and plug it back in. Speaking of firmware, make sure that you keep your router up to date and install updates regularly.
Maintenance isn’t just about the device itself. Environmental factors can cause overheating and impact your router’s performance, too. Make sure that the area around the device is clear, cool, and dust-free, and regularly run a clean, dry cloth over any exhaust vents and fans to keep dust off the router.
As you look to optimize your connection speed and gaming performance, keep in mind that your router is just one factor. Also, look at your computer’s RAM and processor, your graphics card, and your ISP’s capacity. With the right setup, you’ll be back in the game as quickly as possible.
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