How Many Mbps Do I Need for Gaming? A Guide to the Optimal Gaming Connection
Updated: June 08,2022
If you’ve ever played a Counter-Strike match on a dial-up connection, you know what pain is. We’ve come a long way from those days, but internet speed is still king when it comes to online gaming. To be clear, a lightning-fast fiber Internet connection won’t suddenly turn a newbie into an elite player. It will, however, help them experience the game from the perspective of an active and helpful participant rather than a spectator carried by their teammates. “Alright, but exactly how many Mbps do I need for gaming?” you might ask. Let’s find out!
Internet Vocabulary Basics
Before discussing the optimal internet speed for casual and competitive gaming in more detail, let’s first explain the basic terms you need to be familiar with. What is bandwidth, and how do upload and download speeds affect gaming? What does lag mean? How about ping rate or latency? Rubber banding? Packet loss? There are many buzzwords out there, so let’s demystify them first.
This aspect of your internet connection is fairly simple: Bandwidth crucially affects how fast your Internet is for gaming and other tasks. Simply put, bandwidth represents the maximum amount of data you can upload and download at a given time. It is typically calculated in Mbps or megabits per second, which tells you how much data you can transfer in, obviously, one second. Another essential thing to realize is that megabits are not the same as megabytes. One megabyte is, in fact, eight megabits, which means that you need an 8 Mbps connection to have a one-megabyte-per-second transfer rate.
Download and Upload Speeds
The best Internet speed for online gaming will depend on the kind of games you play: For example, so-called twitch shooters require higher connection speeds than casual games where split-second reaction times aren’t crucial. Both upload and download speed factor in here, and they’re equally important.
While a high download speed will help load new maps and assets quicker, the upload speed will ultimately determine how quickly the game registers your actions as a player. Download speeds affect how quickly data from a server will be transmitted to your machine, while upload speeds account for the opposite transfer direction.
Lag, Latency, and Ping
Lag represents the delay between an action happening on the server and the player’s computer. A good latency for gaming is crucial precisely because you want to avoid lag at all costs. Latency is effectively the measure of how quickly your device sends data to your game’s server and receives a response. On the other hand, ping accounts just for the first part of that trip.
Both latency and game ping are measured in milliseconds, and the smaller either is, the smoother your gaming experience will be. For example, if your ping is 20, it will take 20 milliseconds for your character to shoot in-game after you press the fire button on your mouse or controller. In general, ping lower than 40 is fantastic, around 100 is relatively average, and beyond 200, you will start experiencing noticeable lag.
Rubber Banding and Packet Loss
The best internet speed for gaming and streaming is one that ensures low latency. A poor internet connection can cause all sorts of strange in-game behavior, which will negatively affect both your experience and that of the people playing with or against you. For example, if you’ve ever seen someone’s character seemingly teleport around the map in a jerky fashion, you should know that’s called rubber-banding, a glitch that occurs due to high latency.
Simply put, the server connection is not quick or stable enough to update a player’s movements or actions in real-time, so delays make it appear as if they are phasing in and out of existence.
Great internet speeds for gaming aren’t all you need, though: Ensuring low network congestion is crucial, too; otherwise, you risk packet losses. This occurs when packets of data are dropped before reaching a server. Packet loss is typically represented as a percentage, and losing more than 1 or 2% of your data can cause several problems, such as rubber-banding.
Internet Speed - How Much is Enough?
Now that we’ve covered the essentials, let’s talk about internet connection speed. Much like work, not all gaming requires lightning-fast optical internet. A good Wi-Fi router will do the job; to be fair, in Ethernet vs. Wi-Fi gaming, those with a wired connection typically have a better and more stable experience.
Good internet speeds for gaming require a lot of things to go right: You need a solid router (if it has to be a wireless router, make sure to get the best), but that’s just the start. How far away you are from a server geographically speaking also affects your connection; other interfering factors - e.g., a firewall - also need to be taken care of. The game resolution also plays a part in this equation, especially if you’re streaming internet games.
With that in mind, whether you can achieve good internet speeds for gaming depends on your device, as well. PCs and next-gen consoles will typically have higher connection speed requirements; for less demanding consoles, such as the Nintendo Switch, your download speed can be a little lower without impacting the gaming experience too much.
The table below covers all major gaming systems, but bear in mind that these are simply recommended ballpark values based on a mix of reviewer experience and data from Microsoft, Nintendo, and Sony. Ultimately the answer to the question “How many Mbps do I need for gaming?” will change based on your hardware and personal preferences. You can run a Switch, Xbox, PS5, or PS4 speed test quickly from the network settings of the respective console. You can also make use of Ookla’s Speedtest to check your download and upload speeds.
|PC||3-5 Mbps||1+ Mbps||<150 ms|
|Xbox X & S||3-5 Mbps||1+ Mbps||<150 ms|
|Xbox One||3 Mbps||0.5+ Mbps||<150 ms|
|Sony PlayStation 5||3-5 Mbps||1+ Mbps||<150 ms|
|Sony PlayStation 4||3 Mbps||0.5+ Mbps||<150 ms|
|Nintendo Switch||3 Mbps||0.5+ Mbps||<150 ms|
|PC||30+ Mbps||5+ Mbps||<40 ms|
|Xbox X & S||30+ Mbps||5+ Mbps||<40 ms|
|Xbox One||20+ Mbps||4+ Mbps||<50 ms|
|Sony PlayStation 5||30+ Mbps||5+ Mbps||<40 ms|
|Sony PlayStation 4||16+ Mbps||4+ Mbps||<50 ms|
|Nintendo Switch||15+ Mbps||4+ Mbps||<50 ms|
How to Boost Your Internet Speed
Now that you have an idea about which internet speed is good for gaming, it’s time to check how your setup compares. Does your Xbox One have slow download speeds? Is your PS4 wired internet connection slow? For high-speed gaming, you would be well-served by DSL and cable internet, but if you can afford and have access to optical/fiber internet, it’s the fastest and most stable connection type available.
Other than outright buying a faster internet package, one thing to remember is that a wired/ethernet connection will pretty much always be a better option compared to Wi-Fi routers. You’ll also need to check how many people are sharing the same connection and whether connection sharing is active on your network. Internet speeds needed for gaming can also be achieved by making sure you turn off any unnecessary bandwidth-sucking applications and devices, updating your network drivers, and connecting to nearby game servers whenever possible.
If you’re using cable internet, you can also increase speed by avoiding peak hours, when the network is under the greatest traffic strain. This will be less of a problem if you have a fast internet plan and is of no concern at all for optical internet users.
Frequently Asked Questions
Yes, absolutely. If you are the only person using the connection in the house, it may even be overkill, depending on what sort of gaming you do. Connecting to remote game servers on the other end of the globe will introduce high ping and lag pretty much on any type of connection, but for playing on servers closest to your location, 300 Mbps should be more than enough for a stable and fast experience.
Typically, yes. It depends on what sort of job you are doing, however. For bandwidth-intensive tasks such as 4K video streaming, it will do the job, but you might want to upgrade. For primarily text-based tasks such as SEO content writing, you’ll be okay even with a slower speed. A decent gaming internet speed has to be much higher compared to the speed you’ll need to run video conferencing tools without any hitches, though.
This is a common mistake: GigaBYTES (GB) and gigaBITS per second (Gbps) are not the same. The former is a measure of storage space, while the latter refers to internet speed. The underlying principle regarding MB/GB conversion still holds true with Mbps and Gbps, though. In other words, one gigabyte is 1,000 megabytes, and one gigabit per second equals 1,000 megabits per second.
Typically one to two, depending on what you plan to be doing on the internet. If you’re wondering: “How many Mbps do I need for gaming?” the answer is sure to surpass 25 Mbps. Then again, streaming 4K videos or playing games via distant servers will be substantially more taxing on your internet connection than firing up a Facebook game or two. Still, it’s never a good idea to split your connection between too many devices.
Fiber-optics. It’s got lower gaming latency than cable, DSL, or satellite internet and won’t slow down during peak hours. It’s not as readily available as the other choices, however, and can be very expensive.
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With a degree in humanities and a knack for the history of tech, Jovan was always interested in how technology shapes both us as human beings and our social landscapes. When he isn't binging on news and trying to predict the latest tech fads, you may find him trapped within the covers of a generic 80s cyberpunk thriller.