Tired of getting wiped out in PUBG when your computer lags? Getting your team killed in Destiny 2 because of a poor internet connection? Or simply craving for more dots? You need a new Internet Service Provider (ISP), my friend.
But, as you probably already know, not all ISPs are created equally. Some are just plain better-performing for gaming than others. While your device specific playing-device contributes to a certain degree, your internet connection can still make or break your gameplay.
So we dug into the piles of ISPs that are out there, large and small, and came out with some of the best ones for online game – with data-based research backing up our choices, to boot.
How we picked
The thing about finding the best ISP for gaming is that there’s more than just megabits per second to think about. In fact, having the fastest speeds isn’t necessarily always the most important thing. We made our choices based on a broader overall picture of the ISPs:
- Latency + Ping
- Actual speeds
To check out overall speeds, we dug into Netflix’s ISP speed test. For the rest, we used PCMag’s latest Speed Test to make our selections.
Ping + Latency
When they advertise, ISPs talk a lot about bandwidth - that is, Mbps. Likewise, they ignore the more important things: latency, ping, and jitter. For quick reference, ping is the time that data takes to get from your device to the server and back. Latency is the time it takes for data to travel from a server (like the game you’re playing) to your device. Jitter is simply how consistent ping and latency are.
Between ping and latency, if they’re low, that’s a good thing: data is flowing freely back and forth without being interrupted, allowing you to play in real time. But if either one – or both – is getting interrupted for some reason (distance being the primary factor), then you’ll wind up with lag.
That’s the reason that overall Mbps don’t necessarily matter as much – although you’ll see that often high speeds go hand-in-hand with low latency and ping rates. In any case, as you peruse the ISPs we selected, keep a few numbers in mind:
- <20 ms = ideal ping rate;
- <50 ms = still good;
- <80 ms = O.K. yet;
- ~150ms = irritatingly slow.
Don’t forget data limits
If you’re playing online games, you’re going to want a decent amount of data in your internet plan. Of course, that actual number will vary with the user: how many games do you play, for how long; how many devices and people use the internet in your household; etc.
If you’re a serious – or even moderate – gamer, look for unlimited, with data caps in the 50-100GB range.
Best overall: Verizon Fios
|Plans||Speeds (Download/Upload)||Data caps||Price||View plans|
|Fios Internet 100/100||Up to 100/100Mbps||Unlimited||$39.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Fios Internet 300/300||Up to 300/300Mbps||Unlimited||$59.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Fios Gigabit Connection||Up to 940/880Mbps||Unlimited||$79.99/mo.*||View plans|
*With autopay, plus taxes, equipment charges, and other fees.
Netflix’s latest ISP leaderboard has Verizon Fios leading the pack in 1st place for speed. But not only does Fios rule the roost there, Verizon’s fiber-optic internet service also takes 2nd-place on PCMag’s overall Gaming Quality Index – which measures actual speeds, as well as latency and jitter.
For our purposes, that might as well be #1, because the true #1 on that scoreboard is extremely limited in availability.
With fairly competitive prices, you get awesome speeds and low latency, making them ideal for gamers. The main problem, however, is availability – Verizon Fios is only available in about 9 states on the eastern seaboard of the U.S. So if you’re not out there – tough luck.
Best for availability: Xfinity
|Plan||Speeds**||Data caps||Price - Writer’s region||Price - Editor’s region||View plans|
|Performance Starter Internet||Up to 15/25Mbps||1TB||$19.99/mo.* (15Mbps)||$29.99/mo.* (25Mbps)||View plans|
|Performance Plus Internet||Up to 60Mbps||1TB||$29.99/mo.*||$34.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Performance Pro Internet||Up to 150Mbps||1TB||$44.99/mo.*||$44.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Blast! Pro Internet||Up to 250Mbps||1TB||$59.99/mo.*||$59.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Extreme Pro Internet||Up to 400Mbps||1TB||$74.99/mo.*||$74.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Gigabit Internet||Up to 1,000Mbps||1TB||(Not available)||$89.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Gigabit Pro Internet||Up to 2,000Mbps||1TB||(Not available)||$299.99/mo*||View plans|
*Prices per month plus taxes for length of contract. Additional fees and terms may apply.
**Actual speeds vary with location.
Comcast Xfinity’s internet takes the cake for availability – of all the options on this list, they’re most likely to be in your area, with coverage in 40 states. The highest top-end speeds of any ISP – 2Gbps -, the #4 spot on Netflix, and middle-of-the-pack latency and jitter scores from PCMag combine together to make Xfinity a serious competitor for the #1 overall spot.
The primary reason we didn’t rank them ‘best overall’ is because their PCMag score was so much lower than Verizon Fios. Plus, there’s a $10 charger per 50GB over their 1TB data cap – ouch. You can upgrade to unlimited for an extra $50 a month, however.
Best Data Caps: RCN
|Plan||Speeds||Data caps||Price||View plans|
|Internet 50||Up to 50Mbps||Unlimited||$29.99-$34.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Internet 100||Up to 100Mbps||Unlimited||$34.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Internet 155||Up to 155Mbps||Unlimited||$29.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Internet 250||Up to 250Mbps||Unlimited||$34.99-$44.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Internet 330||Up to 330Mbps||Unlimited||$34.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Internet 500||Up to 500Mbps||Unlimited||$44.99-$54.99/mo.*||View plans|
|Gig Internet||Up to 1Gbps||Unlimited||$49.99-$59.99/mo.*||View plans|
*Price and speed varies by location.
RCN is a relatively small ISP – small enough, in fact, that they give you a list of cities in which they’re available to choose from when you visit their website. Those include most major cities: Boston, Chicago, New York, Philly, and Washington DC.
That aside, RCN ranks well on PCMag’s scoreboard, clinching the #4 spot – 2 places above Xfinity, even. Netflix lands it quite a bit lower, but when you recall that there’s more to gaming performance than top speeds, that’s a non-issue.
RCN also has no data caps – and no overage fees with that.
Best low-data option: Cox
|Plan||Speeds||Data caps||Price||View plans|
|Cox Internet Starter 10||Up to 10Mbps||1TB||$29.99||View plans|
|Cox Internet Essential 30||Up to 30Mbps||1TB||$39.99/mo.||View plans|
|Cox Internet Preferred 100||Up to 100Mbps||1TB||$59.99/mo.||View plans|
|Cox Internet Ultimate||Up to 250Mbps||1TB||$79.99/mo.||View plans|
|Cox Internet Gigablast||Up to 330Mbps||1TB||$119.99/mo.||View plans|
Another cable option, Cox actually comes in 3rd-place on Netflix’s leaderboard – just above Xfinity. But for overall quality, Cox comes in one place behind Xfinity by PCMag’s numbers. By the gig – and especially top-end speed – they’re pretty affordable, and available across the country, although they can’t quite beat Xfinity there.
The downside, however, is Cox’s data limit - although you do get 1TB (awesome!) if you manage to go over that, you’ll get charged $10 per 50GB. If you play a lot or share with roommates, that might hurt. It’s definitely best for those with lower-data needs.
Best budget option: Xfinity
|Plan||Speeds||Data caps||Price - Writer’s region||Price - Editor’s region||View plans|
|Performance Starter Internet||Up to 15/25Mbps||1TB||$19.99/mo. (15Mbps)||$29.99/mo.* (25Mbps)||View plans|
|Performance Plus Internet||Up to 60Mbps||1TB||$29.99/mo.||$34.99/mo.*||View plans|
When it comes to a budget gaming ISP, there’s really no contest – it’s Xfinity again. On top of being the most widely available, they also offer the cheapest prices. So between that and their decent rankings on PCMag and Netflix – it’s a quick answer: Xfinity wins here.
To recap everything:
- The fastest speed isn’t everything.
- Have low latency and ping are more important.
That said, Verizon Fios wins best overall for gaming. Fast, stable speeds, symmetrical download/upload rates, and one of the best overall scores for speed, latency, and ping combined make it clear choice – if it’s available in your area.
Xfinity is the clear choice for availability, with the widest range of any ISPs we considered. But middle-range latency and ping, plus data caps with overage fees could potentially make them a poorer choice – although both still score plenty well to be a contender for the #1 spot. We’ll see what the future holds.
RCN is a better option than Xfinity if you’re in one of the major cities or regions on their list – but if you’re not, tough luck. And Cox is great if you want nearly-comparable coverage and prices to Xfinity, but a little boost in speed.
What is a good internet speed for gaming?
While ping and latency tend to the be the most important, most games do require a minimum amount of download and upload speeds. Actual speeds required vary with the gaming device, but for the most part – latency and ping being below 150ms – , if your download speed is at least 3Mbps and your upload speed at least 1Mbps, you should be fine for most games.
For specific reference, here are the minimum download and upload speeds required by common gaming devices:
|Device||Download speed||Upload speed|
|Xbox One||3Mbps||0.5Mbps (500Kpbs)|
Is satellite internet good for gaming?
Satellite internet typically has fast enough to download and upload speeds to support gaming – but latency and ping quickly becomes an issue. The satellite receiving and sending your data is about 22,000 miles above the earth, so the distance it has to travel is tremendous, which means it takes a long time.
Great progress has been made in satellite internet speeds, but it doesn’t look like this issue in particular will be resolved anytime soon.