When you're playing an online multiplayer game, nothing is more frustrating than a slow connection. This is where a gaming router comes in. By reducing lag, you can experience your games as they were intended--with a smooth, seamless connection to the server that gives you an edge over the competition. When shopping for a gaming router, the most important factors are the upload speed, download speed, and ping rate, all of which combine for an uninterrupted connection that puts you in the middle of the action. Gaming routers vary in their features and configurations, which can directly impact the quality of your connection. Our favorite gaming router is the Netgear Nighthawk Pro Gaming Router, which allows for bandwidth prioritization and dual-band WiFi.
Considerations when choosing gaming routers
A gaming router provides a wireless connection so that your gaming PC or console can connect to game servers. When shopping for a gaming router, you should consider the upload speed, download speed, and ping rate. Compared with other online activities like video streaming, gaming has low demands in terms of the amount of data transferred. However, the speed and consistency of data transfer plays a major role in avoiding any lagging or stuttering.
The upload speed of a router determines how quickly it can send data. When gaming, you may not need a tremendously high upload speed, but if you plan on streaming your gameplay, you will need a capable gaming router with an upload speed of at least 1.2 Mbps.
The download speed is typically higher than the upload speed. For smooth gaming even when someone else in your house is streaming video, you will need a gaming router with a download speed of about 3 Mbps.
The ping rate is the speed at which your router sends a signal to the gaming server. An ideal ping rate is anything less than 150 milliseconds, with the fastest gaming routers offering ping rates as low as 30 milliseconds.
Gaming routers vary in their design, bandwidth controls, number of antennae, and price.
Dual-band routers offer 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz signals, which allow you to assign different bands to the various devices in your household. These routers are ideal for gaming, allowing you to dedicate a band to your console or PC for an uninterrupted connection.
Routers with quality of service (QoS) technology allow you to prioritize certain devices and tasks over others. This allows you to put gaming first and reserve leftover bandwidth for other tasks like internet browsing or video streaming.
Some gaming routers have directional antennae that allow you to focus the direction of the WiFi signal from your router and increase its range.
Gaming routers that cost $70 to $180 offer a variety of features for a moderate price and should be fast enough for your gaming needs as well as other tasks like video streaming and internet browsing. For $180 to $240-plus, you'll find powerful routers that are usually dual-band in design and offer fast upload and download speeds for a smooth, uninterrupted connection.
Q. What separates a gaming router from a regular router?
A. The short answer is speed. However, routers that aren't marketed as gaming routers may still perform well enough for high-quality gaming and streaming.
Q. Can a gaming router provide a better connection via WiFi than an Ethernet cable?
A. A wired connection is always the most reliable option. However, given ideal conditions and a capable router, it is possible for WiFi to approach the speed and reliability of an Ethernet connection.
Gaming routers we recommend
Best of the best: NETGEAR Nighthawk Pro Gaming Router
Our take: This feature-packed dual-band router is well-equipped for gaming and streaming.
What we like: With the ability to monitor bandwidth usage across devices and manage them with QoS, this is an excellent gaming router with low ping.
What we dislike: Setting this router up may require some troubleshooting.
Best bang for your buck: WAVLINK Dual-Band Router
Our take: This is one of the lowest-priced gaming routers that also has a sleek design and many of the features typically found in more expensive models.
What we like: With a combined dual-band speed of 867 Mbps and four directional antennae, this is a powerhouse of a router for a low price.
What we dislike: A few customers experience dropped connections.
Choice 3: ASUS Dual-Band 2x2 Router
Our take: With dual-band output and four gigabit ports, this is an excellent low-priced gaming router for a household with multiple devices.
What we like: This router stands out for its ability to handle multiple devices at once without issue. The ASUS router app allows for easy management of bands and devices, and the USB 3.0 port makes sharing data between devices on the network easy.
What we dislike: Though a few people have reported dropped connections, this is an infrequent occurrence.
Peter McPherson is a writer for BestReviews. BestReviews is a product review company with a singular mission: to help simplify your purchasing decisions and save you time and money. BestReviews never accepts free products from manufacturers and purchases every product it reviews with its own funds.
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