This can be a frustrating thing for gamers, when they are using a Wi-Fi connection to play online and keep finding they are lagging and jumping around on the screen, which disrupts the gaming experience.
Wi-Fi technology is frequently advertised as being “fast” and more and more reliable each year, but the reality is that lag will always be a factor to some extent for any gamer using wireless connections. Are there any steps we can take to reduce this lag when gaming?
Here is a very quick summary of some things to try and reduce ping when gaming on Wi-Fi:
- Move your router and games console closer together.
- Use an ethernet cable if at all possible.
- If you can’t run ethernet directly, use a powerline adapter as a next best solution.
- If available, use QoS settings to prioritize gaming traffic on your network.
- As a very last resort, Wi-Fi range extenders may help a little but are not ideal.
The first solution is pretty obvious – try and close down the distance between your gaming device and your router so you get a stronger signal. You can also try quick resetting your devices and router, as this sometimes refreshes the wireless signal.
Beyond that, the main reason gamers often run into problems on Wi-Fi is that it simply isn’t always the most reliable way of connecting devices to the internet when high speed, low latency data transfer is needed.
Thankfully, there are some alternative solutions, as well as some ways you can optimize your connection if you absolutely have to stay on Wi-Fi. Let’s run into these alternatives in more detail now.
Solution #1 – Use Wired Ethernet Connections If Possible
This is fairly widely known by many gamers, but we’ll still cover it in brief here. Wired ethernet connections are always more consistent, stable and reliable than wireless ones for gaming.
Here are some reasons for this:
- Wired connections provide a direct, un-obstructed channel between your gaming device and your router, without the problems of signal interferance and degradation that Wi-Fi suffers from having to pass through walls, floors etc.
- Wired connections are also a dedicated, uncluttered communication channel to your router. On Wi-Fi, you have to share the same frequency or “space” with other devices also connecting to that router wirelessly, leading to congestion issues. See the section on QoS further below for more on this.
- Wired connections can send and receive data simultaneously with no issues; with Wi-Fi, the router can only process traffic demands sequentially (in a queue), again leading to congestion and lag issues when lots of people are using the internet at once in the home.
- See our article on wired vs Wi-Fi connections for gaming for more on the benefits of wired connections.
Always plug into your router if possible for gaming rather than using Wi-Fi
The bottom line on this is that if you are gaming online, you need to get onto a wired ethernet connection if at all possible. It will just deliver a better connection with reduced lag, and give you a better experience playing online, especially when you have multiple people using the internet at the same time.
Click here to view some longer ethernet cables on Amazon.
Solution #2 – Use Powerline Adapters if Required
However, we also understand that some gamers simply can’t get onto a direct wired ethernet connection. They may be too far away from their router, or not be able to (or allowed to) run long cables all through their house to reach the router.
If you are in this position of being stuck using Wi-Fi because you are a long way from the router, than a powerline adapter is a good solution that many gamers may not be aware of.
Powerline adapters consist of a pair of adapters, one of which is plugged in and connected to your router, the other of which is plugged in and connected to your games console.
The two adapters then transfer data to each other using the existing electrical circuitry of the house, effectively delivering a wired ethernet connection to your device without the need to run long cables all through the house.
They can be an excellent next best solution for gamers who can’t use ethernet directly. Powerline adapters basically give you the same outcome, but using the electrical wiring of the house instead.
See the video just below for a quick demonstration of how powerline technology works.
Powerline Adapters Explained in 2 Minutes
However, it is also true that in some cases, powerline adapters may not be a viable solution, since the wiring of the house needs to be in good enough condition to allow the adapters to communicate and deliver a low latency connection that beats Wi-Fi.
Here are some cases when powerline adapters may NOT work:
- Older houses with old or worn wiring that isn’t in great condition.
- Very large houses with worn/old wiring and complex circuitry.
- Properties which run off separate meters or feeds (adapters can’t communicate)
- If trying to use them in extensions or annexes to properties.
- They often don’t work well next to high power consumption devices like washers and dryers and tools with electromotors.
- See our article on more cases when powerline adapters may not work.
Powerline Adapters can be a great way of getting off Wi-Fi and onto a wired connection
To put this in perspective, in most modern and semi modern houses, you should be fine with powerline adapters, and when they work well, they often deliver a connection almost as good as if you were actually plugged into the router directly with a single ethernet cable.
In this sense, they can be a great way of bypassing Wi-Fi and lowering your ping without the need to use long cables or any complex DIY. They are simple plug and play devices and are worth trying if you have decent quality house wiring and are struggling with lag on Wi-Fi.
Solution #3 – Use Quality of Service (QoS) Settings to Prioritize Gaming on Your Home Network
This is the first alternative option we offer for gamers who simply can’t get onto a wired connection by any means and need to simply make the best of what they have on Wi-Fi. The two main ways of doing this are boosting the signal and managing congestion, which is what QoS covers.
It can often happen that gamers on Wi-Fi especially suffer with lag at peak usage times (especially evenings) when lots of people are using the internet at the same time in the home. This ties in with what we said above about wireless devices having to “share” access to the router in a sequential or queue based way, which can obviously create delays at busy times and increase lag issues.
Put simply, routers can only process demands from Wi-Fi connected devices one at a time and not simultaneously. However, Quality of Service (QoS) is a setting enabled on some routers that allows you to instruct your router as to which order you’d like it to process traffic on your home network.
In other words, you can tell your router to process your gaming traffic demands before anything else connected to that router, hopefully reducing lag issues at busy times.
Here are the very quick steps for configuring QoS for gaming:
- Find the MAC address of your games console in Connection Settings/Status
- Log into your router (type 192.168.0.1 or 192.168.1.1 or 192.168.1.254 into any browser, plus the router password)
- Find QoS Settings if they are available
- Select your games console using the MAC address you found earlier.
- Set the priority to Highest or Maximum.
- Your router will now process all your gaming traffic first, before anything else on the home network.
- Unfortunately, QoS is not available on all routers.
A Demonstration of QoS in Action For Gaming
See our full article on QoS for gaming for more on this topic, plus a more detailed run down of the steps to configure QoS if you get stuck.
Solution #4 – Use Wi-Fi Range Extenders (Last Resort)
We also get that there may be a small number of gamers who a) cannot get on a wired connection at all, either by ethernet or powerline adapter; and b) don’t have quality of service on their router to manage traffic on their router.
For these users, the only real last resort option we can think of is to use a Wi-Fi range extender to at least get the best possible signal if they need to keep using Wi-Fi for their gaming.
Wi-Fi boosters or Range extenders are simple single plug devices that you plug into a wall socket somewhere between your main router and games consoles. The idea is that the extender “catches” and amplifies the main signal from the router, at least spreading it over a slightly larger area for better coverage.
Using these products may give you a slightly better gaming experience, but are a very imperfect solution to reduce ping for the reasons we already mentioned – they still keep you on a wireless connection, even if boosted, and so you may still run into the same problems with network congestion and inconsistent signal that you did before.
See our article on whether range extenders are any good for gaming for more on this. Here is a very quick summary:
Range Extenders may be useful for:
- Improving your signal strength for gaming over short to medium distances.
- For slower paced, turn based online gaming where a little lag is not so detrimental to gameplay (eg. golf, chess, strategy games etc).
- More open plan spaces like apartments.
Range Extenders may NOT be so useful for:
- Gaming over longer distances from your router, with more walls in the way.
- Faster paced games where lag is more noticeable (eg. racing games, first person shooters etc. You really need an ethernet connection for these types of games).
- Congested home networks with lots of people on Wi-Fi at the same time (range extenders will not resolve the issue of congestion if you don’t have QoS enabled).
In summary then, range extenders may be worth a go as a last resort if you literally have no other options, but are not guaranteed to work. If you’re struggling with lag on the main Wi-Fi, then you may well struggle even with an extender as well, but there are some cases in which it may help.
On the positive side, range extenders are available very cheaply online, and are a low risk purchase if you have no other options at your disposal to improve your connection for online gaming.