Nearly 250 million Americans play video games regularly. The vast majority of these utilize the internet to stream their favorites via their handheld devices, consoles, or computers. During the coronavirus lockdowns, gamers logged in for more than 14 hours every week. And, they relied on their internet for smooth and reliable gameplay.
If you find yourself now searching for the best broadband, you’re in luck. You have more options than ever. Here, we take a look at the top seven ISPs that make gaming a seamless user experience.
High Speed Internet
✔ 100% Fiber
✔ Competitive Prices
High Speed Internet
✔ In 46 States
✔ Solid Prices
High Speed Internet
✔ Competitive Rates
✔ Available Anywhere
High Speed Internet
✔ Rural Availability
✔ Satalite Intenret
High Speed Internet
✔ Can Include TV
✔ Higher Prices
* Based on each company’s highest-tier package. Speeds and availability are subject to change.
What Is Broadband and how does it affect my gaming?
Broadband is a general term for any internet connection of at least 25 Mbps download speeds. This allows for lightning-fast data transmission and, perhaps most importantly, does not bog down phone lines or require a manual reconnect each time you want to play. To be considered true broadband, upload speed must also meet or exceed 3 Mbps.
ISP Factors That Affect Online Gaming Quality
Video game quality is affected by many different things. Game developers focus on in-game content, such as graphics and audio. They worked to fix bugs and glitches for an excellent gaming experience. But, no matter how much they work on the code, if you don’t have internet that can keep up, you’ll experience lag, which is where your game stops, pauses, and buffers. This is frustrating and the last thing you want when you’re trying to enjoy a break from reality.
On your end, your download speed, upload speed, and latency dictate how well gaming works.
- Download Speed for gamers. For the best gaming experience, you need to download at a speed of at least 25 Mbps, so a minimum of a broadband connection. Download speed refers to the amount of data in megabits each second that can stream into your home. In terms of gaming, a faster speed means better gameplay.
- Upload Speed for gamers. Upload speed is how quickly you can send information from your device to your gaming server. When you are playing games that are already loaded onto your computer, upload speed doesn’t matter. But when you are streaming live, the minimum is 3 Mbps.
- Latency for gamers. Latency is the amount of time it takes for your actions to register on your gaming server. If you’re playing any kind of game that requires quick movements, pay close attention to your ISP’s average latency.
Gaming Internet Speeds by Provider
|Provider||Download Speeds||Upload Speeds||Latency|
|1st Xfinity||Up to 2000 Mbps||Up to 2000 Mbps||13 ms|
|2 Spectrum||Up to 940 Mbps||Up to 35 Mbps||9.32 ms|
|3 AT&T||Up to 945 Mbps||Up to 868 Mbps||12.3 ms|
|4 Cox||Up to 940 Mbps||30.4 Mbps||17 ms|
|5 CenturyLink||Up to 940 Mbps||Up to 890 Mbps||(up to)150 ms|
|6 Dish Network||Varies||Varies||Up to 612 ms|
|7 DirectTV||Up to 1.5 Mbps||Varies||Up to 612 ms|
Reviews of the Best Internet Providers for Gamers
1. Xfinity (Comcast) for Gamers
Xfinity is known for having some of the fastest speeds on the market today, with top-tier plans coming in at mind-boggling two-gig speeds. Keep in mind, however, that to get this level of service, you’re going to pay. Xfinity offers different pricing depending on which region you are in, but two-gig speeds may come in at $200 per month or more. Unless you are a professional gamer, a 200 Mbps package might be a better bet. One small downside: data caps. Xfinity limits your monthly data to 1.2 TB. You can get unlimited, but it costs extra. If you only have one or two people streaming games, you probably won’t touch 1.2 TB, as it would take approximately 100 hours of online gameplay each month to even come close.
The biggest perks of Xfinity are widespread availability, fast internet speeds, and excellent in-home Wi-Fi coverage.
2. Spectrum (Charter) for Gamers
If you like simplicity, you can’t beat Spectrum. With just three plans available, you really can’t go wrong. Spectrum’s internet service starts at 200 Mbps, which is more than enough to stream most games. Pricing starts at around $50 per month, and Spectrum offers a free modem and, perhaps most importantly, for families with multiple people online all day, no data caps. Something else cool with Spectrum (and Xfinity, too) is the availability of Wi-Fi hotspots. While the free Wi-Fi won’t match your home speeds, it does mean you can play some games on your phone or laptop on the go.
Why choose Spectrum? Its 940 Mbps Internet Gig Package is enough to support four or more simultaneous gamers.
3. AT&T for Gamers
AT&T has the most options available for internet service out of all of the providers and has a vast reach in rural areas. For gaming, the only three options that really matter are 100, 300, and gig-speeds, which are powered by AT&T’s fiber network. AT&T is a well-known company and employs more than 230,000 people, by far the biggest corporation on the list. This means that there is likely always a team of technicians available should the service experience an outage. As a gamer, you’ll also want to consider this so that you don’t find yourself stuck at home with nothing to do during a storm.
AT&T is Comcast’s (Xfinity) number one competitor, so if you are choosing between the two, you’ll likely get a great price as each throws out a lowball in hopes of gaining your business.
4. Cox for Gamers
Cox is another well-known ISP and, like Xfinity and Spectrum, offers gig speeds. Cox’s latency is a bit more pronounced, with some tests averaging around 17 ms. Cox has five internet levels to choose from, with its 25 Mbps Starter Internet service priced at around $30 per month with a one-your contract. If you don’t want to sign a contract, you can still get prepaid internet for around $50 per month. Cox also offers Essential 50 Mbps, Preferred 150 Mbps, and Ultimate 500 Mbps Internet packages.
A plus side of Cox is that it boasts more than 600 service areas across 19 states.
5. CenturyLink for Gamers
CenturyLink is a relatively little-known but strong power player in the world of gaming internet services. As a broadband provider, it seems that CenturyLink’s MO is to offer high-speed internet to a select number of cities in the states it services, which currently numbers 36. Both gig and 100 Mbps speeds are available, and pricing starts at around $50 per month. The company also uses cable and fiber, meaning you have options no matter your budget. The biggest downside of this ISP is high latency, of up to 150 ms. However, with up to 890 Mbps upload speeds, latency may not be that much of a problem with many games.
If you live in one of CenturyLink’s service areas, you may even have access, phone, and internet bundles.
6. Dish Network for Gamers
Dish Network’s availability and service offerings are a bit confusing. In many cases, the company doesn’t provide its own internet but works with a network of partners, including CenturyLink. However, Dish is a great option for satellite internet (and TV) in rural areas. A huge caveat here is that if you live in an area where only DishNet, Dish Network’s satellite internet, is available, you won’t be able to stream fast-action games because of high latency. If you have to go with satellite internet, DishNet does offer some unlimited plans and is virtually the only option in very remote areas.
DishNet won’t work for everyone, but if you can snag service through a broadband partner, then your gaming woes will be over.
7. DirectTV for Gamers
DirectTV is another satellite internet provider and another “last-resort” option for gamers. Slow speeds and high prices may be a turn off to those with other options. Satellite internet works by transmitting data from the point of origin (the server you’re trying to reach) to a satellite in space to your computer. It takes time to get back and forth. Further, satellites can’t handle the amount of data a fiber — or even dial-up — connection can.
DirectTV is owned by AT&T, so you can at least get a bundle with your television and mobile services, which is a plus, even if you can’t stream shooter and racing games.
Internet for Gamers FAQ
How can I improve latency issues?
Latency issues can be caused by different factors other than issues on the provider’s end. If you suspect your lag is caused by delayed input, start by running a ping test. You could also try plugging your gaming PC directly into an ethernet cable. If neither of these renders any results, close out of all open programs. You should also make sure that your computer is set to update when you will not be online.
What factors affect the speed to my computer or gaming device?
Even if you have a “gig speed” connection, you may not see speeds that fast from your devices. There are many things that affect speed, such as your hardware and distance from the modem. If you want to use broadband for gaming, make sure that your hardware and software are up to date. You can also use Wi-Fi extenders to boost your speed further from the modem.
How much of a difference will I see between 300 Mbps and 940 Mbps?
Probably not much unless you have multiple people streaming games at the same time. Xfinity recommends no less than 300 Mbps. Keep in mind that latency is actually more important than speed. Choose an ISP with an average latency of 50 ms or less for the best experience.