It has happened to every player. You are in a multiplayer game, either racking up player kills, setting up the final KO, or preparing your army for a decisive battle. Then it happens: you fall behind. You may have gone ahead and searched for things like: "Why does my internet drop while gaming?" or "how to fix lag during gameplay".
The exact causes can vary, but if it's been a few years since you upgraded your home wireless router, that might be a good place to start looking. What follows in this guide will help you choose the best wireless gaming router.
wireless gaming router
Review your current setup
Before we get into the details of what you need to change in your current network configuration, we've assumed that the following have been tested or covered on your end:
Reboot or power cycle. Unplug the power cable from the wall outlet and the router + modem, then wait at least one minute.
Test your network connection via a wired connection (Ethernet cable to the back of your router), to see if your PC's WiFi card is faulty.
Move your setup to another part of your home, closer to your router, to see if your current setup is in a WiFi dead zone.
By following the troubleshooting tips recommended by Microsoft.
Now, the worst case scenario is when you contact your service provider, make an appointment, and even after they set you up with new equipment, the problem still persists. If this is you, it may be time to consider upgrading your networking equipment, 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 competes with anyone else using the Internet in your home. Don't worry, as not all routers are created equal, and a gaming router may be just what you need to enhance your gaming experience.
What is a wireless gaming router?
What sets a gaming router apart from a standard one is its ability to prioritize network traffic and distribute bandwidth. A standard router that an ISP hands out to its customers usually has a generalized configuration that allocates bandwidth. Routers first serve devices requesting data packets (ie loading a website or playing a video). It's basically "first come, first served." But it's also based on which device is closest to the 5 GHz effective range, followed by 2.4 GHz band devices.
Gaming routers use the same basics, but come with advanced features built in that know how to effectively prioritize your gaming network traffic. How well a router can prioritize such traffic depends on how much it is willing to spend. Investing more in a dedicated gaming router can pay off in improving performance and functionality.
Essential Features for Wireless Gaming Routers
Keep an eye out for these features that make a difference for routers designed specifically to support gaming.
The Wi-Fi 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. Fortunately, moving forward with the naming of these standards has been simplified. For example, 802.11ac is Wi-Fi 5.
Like any technological advance, WiFi standards improve with each new iteration. Although WiFi 5 wireless gaming routers have hugely filled the market, the latest WiFi 6 (802.11ax) routers are starting to establish themselves. If you're looking to secure top-notch gaming wireless connections, your best bet is to buy a WiFi 6 wireless router.
WiFi 6 boasts up to 40 percent higher throughput. This means more data can be transferred per packet. As the name implies, network packets are data sent over the Internet, be it video, email, or live game connection data.
All routers send WiFi signals wirelessly, but how? Similar to a walkie-talkie, wireless network data is transmitted via radio waves. At one extreme, your computer is a walkie-talkie thanks to its wireless adapter. From there, your router interfaces with your system and sends your wireless requests to the Internet over a wired connection (either to your modem over Ethernet or directly to the Internet over coaxial cable).
These wireless signals are usually sent through the antenna and are made at a higher frequency than ordinary radio signals. While AM and FM radio stations operate within the kHz and MHz frequencies respectively, today's routers shoot out at 2.4GHz and 5GHz. This higher frequency allows more data to move through the air. And, following each new WiFi standard, these bands have been continually optimized for more efficient data transfer.
Double Band vs. Triple Band
When a router uses 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz wireless frequencies, it is known as a dual-band router. The 2.4GHz band is best for serving devices over long distances, but even on the best routers it can only go up to 1,000Mbps or 1Gbps. Meanwhile, the 5 GHz band is more effective at shorter ranges and can reach speeds well in excess of 1 Gbps. Raising the bar for 5GHz efficiency, tri-band routers add an additional 5GHz band to the mix. Doing this reduces noise and signal interference while improving your wireless network's ability to provide good speeds to more devices.
With tri-band routing, some carriers are claiming 4 Gbps and higher as the new standard. Remember, you still need to have a top-tier speed plan from your ISP to properly use these features. Also, the number advertised is the collective speed of all three risers in total. For example, a 3,200Mbps (3.2Gbps) AC3200 call results from one 2.4GHz band reaching 450Mbps and two 5GHz bands reaching 1,300Mbps each.
All good gaming routers use Quality of Service (QoS) to defend against the following unwanted symptoms:
Packet Loss – When the data you've requested gets lost in the mix and doesn't make it to you or the Internet. In games, it will automatically boot from a server for this.
Side note: The number of packets a router can move at one time is known as network throughput.
Jitter: Fast and unruly real-time signal drift caused by electromagnetic interference from cross signals. Measured in milliseconds, this effect is most noticeable on live video calls.
High latency – Latency is the general measure of network data transfers from the Internet to you, and back. Low latency is ideal because it means fewer 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 that are currently using your network resources. Each traffic source is classified according to which ones benefit the most from managing packet loss, jitter, and high latency. From there, QoS sets a policy for your router to distribute preferential handling to applications that need it, namely games.
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 like smart thermostats or always-on devices like home surveillance. home.
Note: As you research wireless gaming routers, you can see that many of them come with their own processors. But wait, why does a router need a processor? Every computing device needs a central processing unit to carry out its functions. In the case of routers, their built-in features like QoS and MU-MIMO are better performed by higher-level processors.
Representing "Multi User-Multiple Input, Multiple Output", the MU-MIMO feature on certain routers is absolutely key for home networks that have many devices. The "MIMO" part of this feature was first implemented to increase the number of antennas on routers and access points. Along with augmentation, MIMO improved each antenna's ability to transmit and receive data from connecting networks.
The 802.11 standard (now WiFi only) initially implemented a "first come, first serve" way of serving network data. MU-MIMO was made to better optimize this feature. Instead of having to wait in line for your turn, MU-MIMO equally divides bandwidth into "streams." As a bonus, this process also creates better security since MU-MIMO needs to encrypt the data before sending it on each stream. This data is encrypted in such a way that only the desired stream can decrypt the stream.
For MU-MIMO to work properly, please note the following:
Devices next to each other will use the same sequence. To prevent this, you will need to move a device to another area.
MU-MIMO generally works best for download activities like gaming. Charging activities, such as uploading and streaming videos, work better with more antennas.
WiFi 5 (802.11ac) MU-MIMO only works for the 5GHz bands. WiFi 6 (ax) is compatible with 2.4 and 5GHz.
Not all routers support MU-MIMO - be sure to check the specs of any gaming router you're looking at.
A faster (and more expensive) network plan makes MU-MIMO work better, so don't expect this feature to improve an already slow wireless speed.
Note: Certain WiFi 6 routers may also use a feature called Orthogonal Frequency Division Multiple Access (OFDMA). OFDMA divides bandwidth into "resource units" and is most effective with small packet deliveries, such as smart home device connections.
Today's best gaming routers
The following routers offer a number of features that are perfect for those who want to game over a wireless connection. Many of them also have a futuristic design that will fit right in with a typical gamer aesthetic.
The star of Netgear's flagship series, the Nighthawk AX11000 router is one of the leaders paving the way for the new WiFi 6 standard. This wireless gaming router also boasts a range that can cover the largest homes.
Tri-band (2.4GHz + 5GHz + 5GHz)
Maximum combined wireless speed of 10.8 Gbps (2.4 GHz up to 1.2 Gbps and both 5 GHz up to 4.8 Gbps)
12 Wi-Fi streams
1.8 GHz quad-core processor
Can handle up to 24 clients
8 antennas to extend indoors and outdoors
Nighthawk mobile app to run speed tests and pause/start network
The D-Link DIR-890L/R sits at the top of the industry as one of the best 802.11ac (WiFi 5) routers. This wireless gaming router uses Smart Connect (QoS) technology to connect one of its three bands to the right devices that need it.
Tri-band (2.4GHz + 5GHz + 5GHz)
3200 Gbps combined wireless speed (up to 600 Mbps for 2.4 GHz and up to 1300 Mbps for each 5 GHz)
1GHz dual core processor
Advanced QoS traffic prioritization
AC SmartBeam feature tracks connected devices for improved distribution
Remote access / management from smartphone / tablet
ASUS ROG Rapture GT-AX11000 is a standout contender in this new WiFi 6 market. With "triple-level gaming acceleration," this router maximizes the connection between your network and the game server.
Tri-band (2.4GHz + Dual 5GHz)
Maximum combined wireless speed of 10.7 Gbps (2.4 GHz up to 1.148 Mbps and both 5 GHz up to 4.804 Mbps)
1.8GHz quad-core CPU
Built-in network security
Works well with other ROG devices (motherboards, desktop PCs, and laptops) via Game First V network acceleration software
MU-MIMO and advanced QoS
Although many hardcore gamers will balk at the idea of gaming over anything outside of a wired connection, today's best wireless gaming routers have the tools you need to stay on track. The routers featured in this article are currently at the top in terms of performance and price. Each manufacturer makes lower-tier versions of these products that can, in most cases, meet your basic gaming needs. Just be sure to check your ISP service plan details, the information you learned here, and the detailed specifications of any router you're looking at.