Give a little zing to your ping.
By Nicole Bonaccorso and Jennifer Allen on March 28, 2023
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Avid gamers know how crucial it is to have a reliable internet connection. The last thing you want is for your game to lag when you’re having a good match. But when your internet connection isn’t strong, it can be tough to take your game to the next level. That’s where a mesh WiFi router can help.
What is latency and how can mesh WiFi improve it?Avoiding latency is the most important factor when it comes to online gaming. When browsing the internet, you may not even detect a small amount of latency and even when streaming content, it rarely makes a huge difference. However, every second counts when you’re gaming. David Henry(Opens in a new tab), President & GM of Connected Home Products and Services of Netgear, explains that latency “is the time between initiating a command and the action taking place in an online game. It’s often measured in milliseconds.” It’s also known as ping. Henry adds, “[it] could make the difference between making or missing a shot in heated gameplay or having a smooth, immersive experience in VR rather than one that makes you feel queasy.” Generally, you want it as low as possible.
That’s why it’s important for gamers to have the most reliable and fastest mesh WiFi available. It eliminates dead spots around the home while allowing for several devices to be connected to the internet without affecting latency or ping.
Is mesh WiFi good for gaming?You can play most games with any router. Many gamers play video games that are downloaded to their computer, so they don’t even need the internet to play once downloaded. For those into online gaming or streaming though, your router will make a big difference when it comes to your enjoyment levels.
As Twitch streamer Hannah Rutherford(Opens in a new tab) explained to us, “wireless inherently always comes with latency.” Online games require real-time interactions, so if your connection is lagging, you’re going to feel the effect of that delay. Whether it’s a mouse click, a keyboard tap, or a press on a controller, you want your game command to take effect immediately — but that can’t happen if there’s major lag.
Crucially, a wired ethernet connection is generally recommended for those who depend on the lowest amount of lag, says Rutherford, but that may not be convenient depending on how your home is set up.
Jasmine Hong(Opens in a new tab), Operations Executive at British Esports, found a mesh setup helped make her WiFi “much more stable than when I used to play without it.”
What should I look for in a mesh WiFi system for gaming?The best mesh WiFi systems have (or have the ability to expand to) multiple nodes and feature security software to keep your browsing, devices, and gaming safe. As noted by Netgear’s David Henry, some of Netgear’s products offer Advanced QoS such as the Nighthawk Pro gaming line. Other devices also offer wired options where a wired Ethernet connection is preferred.
Hannah Rutherford explains, “mesh needs to be able to support high upload speeds as much as a stable download [speed]. There cannot be latency or jitter on the line – two things that wireless can add.” But a lot of it is down to your internet supplier as well as your router. That’s why you need a reliable broadband supplier as well as a high-quality mesh WiFi router.
The most important things to keep in mind while researching which mesh WiFi system to buy are connection speed, reliability, price point, and the size of your living space (which will determine the amount of coverage you need, measured in square feet).
When it comes to online gaming, specifically, you may also want to look for a mesh WiFi system that allows your gaming system to get “first dibs,” so to speak. That is, a feature that allows you to designate a priority device or, in some cases, a priority application. This will come in handy if others are eating up bandwidth on your network with their far less important “Zoom meetings” and “homework.” Because your gaming system has priority, those other demands on the network won’t slow you down. (But don’t worry, everyone else will still be able to get all their work done without even noticing that their tasks aren’t top dog anymore.)
How does mesh WiFi work and is it easy to set up?Setting up your whole-home mesh WiFi coverage couldn’t be easier. Basically, all you have to do is plug your WiFi router into your internet provider’s modem, and you’ll be well on your way to getting your mesh WiFi network started. Next, you’ll place any necessary mesh WiFi satellites around the rest of your home to help the wireless mesh network reach all the places where it’s needed. Even better, many mesh WiFi systems will come with an easy-to-use smartphone app that’s designed to make this whole process even more simple than it already is.
What are the best mesh WiFi systems?Overall, the best mesh WiFi system for gaming is also going to be the best mesh WiFi for whole-home coverage. We’ve done the research, spoken to experts, and curated a list of the most reliable mesh WiFi routers out there (that also happen to be ideal for gaming).
While this isn’t a straightforward gaming router, it’s one of the best mesh WiFi systems out there, and it can certainly support heavy gaming as well. It’s got some of the fastest speeds clocked on WiFi mesh, topping out at nearly 900 Mbps at close range and remains at 666 Mbps at a distance of 75 feet. The system is more expensive than a lot of other WiFi mesh networks, however, and it may be a bit overkill for just normal internet use — but for gamers and heavy internet users, this is the best of the best. Overall, this mesh WiFi system is a great purchase for gamers who want amazing connection for the whole household.
Best for the Whole Home
If you’re looking to purchase a mesh WiFi router for gaming, it’s probably smart to go with something that supports WiFi 6 (e.g. the latest tech for top speeds and less bandwidth congestion on your home network). Device polarization and open NAT port forwarding make this router great for gaming, but new WiFi 6 features like 1024-QAM and OFDMA mean that this system is also well equipped to handle your entire home, lending it a faster and more reliable network. And of course, most importantly, latency remains lower with this mesh WiFi setup than most competitors.
Best For Avid Gamers
The Nighthawk lineup has been around for a few years and has proven reliability and respect among the gaming community, so it’s no doubt you’ll love the speedy, lag-free, and reliable connection that this WiFi 6 mesh router provides.
With four ethernet ports, you’ll be able to switch between wired and wireless internet. There’s also a USB 3.0 port located on the side of the router — a bonus among mesh systems. The network can also be managed using the Nighthawk mobile app, but according to PCMag, the web-based DumaOS software is even better.
Best For Form and Function
Quite possibly the optimal convergence of features, functionality and value, this mesh WiFi 6 router has it all. It boasts ultrafast speeds up to 5400 Mbps and minimizes lag and latency when in Mobile Game Mode. It also has a dedicated gaming port that automatically prioritizes whatever device is connected to it. It also works with AiMesh compatible routers to expand your whole-home coverage, and its AiProtection Pro keeps your home network secure. Plus, that programmable lighting feature in the front just looks so damn cool, doesn’t it?
Best on a Budget
Though not a mesh WiFi system on its own, this fast WiFi 6 router is compatible with OneMesh WiFi extenders so you can create whole-home coverage with no dead spots or lags — essentially what most folks are looking for when on the hunt for the best mesh WiFi for gaming. Even better, you get it all for a much lower price than traditional mesh WiFi, which is a major plus for gamers on a budget. It’s also compatible with Alexa so you can command it with your voice.
Frequently Asked Questions Mesh WiFi is designed to deliver a reliable connection throughout your entire home, while eliminating dead spots and allowing for speed on multiple devices without slowing your gaming system. It works by using a main router connected to satellite nodes you place strategically around your living space to cut down on spotty service.
Josh Goodell, AT&T Vice President of Broadband Product Management, says it’s important to note that any latency is not just caused by the Mesh WiFi router. Some factors cannot be controlled “like the distance of your location to the gaming servers” while others can, such as “the technology your ISP uses to connect your location [as well as] the quality of your ISP’s network and its network management practices.”
At home, the satellite nodes which use the same SSID and password as the main router (unlike WiFi range extenders) help to cover your home, but Goodell says “the quality and technology of your home network” and “correctly configuring [the] home mesh network to minimize latency” plays a role too.
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