How to choose a gaming router for the best gameplay

Tips & tricks
7 mins

Choosing the right gaming router is important for gamers looking to optimize their online gaming experience. When every split-second decision counts, it’s crucial to have a network that can keep up, and that’s where a gaming router comes in.

The best gaming routers go beyond conventional routers and offer features designed specifically to handle the high-speed, low-latency demands of modern online gaming. This guide will navigate you through the essentials of gaming routers, highlighting their benefits and critical features and showing you how to match one to your gaming lifestyle and budget. Whether battling in the latest MMO, racing, or eliminating rivals in a competitive FPS, the right router can significantly enhance your performance and enjoyment.

What is a gaming router?

A gaming router is specifically engineered to cater to the demands of online gaming. Unlike standard routers, designed for general internet usage, gaming routers prioritize network traffic related to gaming. This ensures that your gaming sessions are not interrupted by other network activities. They come equipped with advanced features such as Quality of Service (QoS) settings, stronger and more reliable connections, and the ability to handle high-speed data transmission with minimal latency.

Still, you should remember that “gaming router” could also be a marketing term. Any top-of-the-line router can perform well with games.

Benefits of a gaming router

Opting for a gaming router brings several advantages that can significantly enhance your online gaming experience by reducing the time it takes packets with gaming data to reach your device. Some of the key benefits include:

  • Traffic priority: Gaming routers are designed to prioritize gaming traffic, ensuring that your gaming sessions are smooth and lag-free.
  • Improved network stability: With advanced technologies like beamforming and Quality of Service (QoS), gaming routers maintain stable connections even during peak internet usage.
  • Lower latency: These routers are optimized to reduce ping and latency, which is crucial for competitive gaming, where every millisecond counts.
  • Enhanced security features: Gaming routers often have robust security features to protect your network from attacks and unauthorized access, keeping your data safe.
  • Customization and control: They offer extensive customization options, allowing gamers to tailor their network settings to their specific needs, such as allocating bandwidth to prioritize gaming devices.
  • Support for multiple devices: Gaming routers ensure all your devices can operate efficiently on the same network.

All these benefits result in the highest chance of uninterrupted gameplay, minimal lag, and reliable connections.

Key features to consider when choosing a router for gaming

You must look for specific features that will impact your online gameplay for the better. Here are the most important ones.

Network protocols

Network protocols determine how data is transmitted over your network. When looking for Wi-Fi gaming routers, look for devices that support the latest protocols, such as Wi-Fi 6 (802.11ax), to ensure faster and more reliable connections. Note that your gaming device should also support Wi-Fi 6 for it to work. 

A new standard called Wi-Fi 7 is much faster and can reach several gigabit speeds easily. While some routers already support it, at the time of writing, Wi-Fi 7 is still a draft specification, meaning it’s not yet finished and could change. 

Speed and bandwidth

Gaming benefits from high speed and ample bandwidth to handle the intense data transfer without lag. This is why it’s better to use wired (Ethernet) connections whenever possible. For this, opt for routers that offer at least a 1-gigabit connection and the ability to manage bandwidth efficiently across multiple devices. For reference, ExpressVPN’s own Aircove router (with built-in VPN functionality) offers 5 gigabit ports, and Aircove Go offers 3 gigabit ports.

Quality of Service (QoS) settings

Quality of Service (QoS) settings are crucial for gamers, especially in congested networks. QoS allows you to prioritize gaming traffic over other types of network traffic. Imagine you’re in a gaming session when two other TVs turn on in your house and stream UHD video. It could be a problem for you, even if you have spare bandwidth, because latency is much more important for gaming.

Using QoS settings, you can solve this so that your gaming traffic is transmitted before streaming traffic to keep your ping down.

Low latency and ping

Some routers are inherently slower than others, so you will have higher ping even if you use QoS. For example, if you’re on Wi-Fi and your router isn’t proactive when changing channels, your ping latency can easily jump from 50ms to an unplayable 400ms or higher. 

Latency on a bad router could be a problem, even on Ethernet. There’s a considerable amount of processing involved when routing packets to the correct device in your network, so if your router can’t keep up, your ping could see the same or even worse spikes. It could also lead to packet drops (packet loss), meaning micro-disconnections that impact latency so heavily that the game server kicks you out.

Choose quality routers such as Aircove with solid components designed to minimize ping and latency, ensuring your actions are instantly reflected in the game without delay.

Security features

Robust security features protect your network from external threats and unauthorized access. Look for routers with built-in firewalls, VPN support, and advanced encryption standards like WPA3.

Advanced technologies in gaming routers

Besides the crucial features covered above, some more gaming-specific features and technologies can help you get a better gaming experience.

Beamforming technology

Beamforming is a newer technology that focuses your Wi-Fi signal toward specific devices rather than broadcasting in all directions. It enhances signal strength and, therefore, the reliability and stability of your connection.

Gaming VPN support

VPN support in gaming routers allows for secure and anonymous gaming, reducing the risk of DDoS attacks and allowing greater access to online games around the world.

If you want to use a VPN for gaming, you should consider a VPN router. ExpressVPN software is compatible with many great routers to protect you from the inherent risks of always-on connectivity. Our Aircover router comes with VPN functionality built right in, so setup is simple.

Processor and RAM

This can sound weird at first, but routing and processing multi-gigabit connections from and to several different devices requires a lot of processing power.

A powerful processor and sufficient RAM in a router can go a long way in improving your gaming experience, ensuring smooth handling of high-speed gaming traffic and efficient multitasking across multiple devices, preventing bottlenecks in performance.

Price considerations

Price is always a factor when selecting any product, and gaming routers are no different. Gaming routers vary widely in price, from affordable models that cover basic needs to high-end options packed with advanced features. While investing in a premium router can enhance your gaming experience with superior speed and stability, assessing which features you need can help you narrow down your choices. 

Budget-friendly routers can still significantly improve your gaming sessions without breaking the bank. If you need a solid recommendation, prioritize newer models from reputable brands, which will likely get firmware updates for longer. In terms of features, try to get a router that’s at least Wi-Fi 6 and offers wired gigabit connections

Ultimately, determining your budget and prioritizing features that matter most to your gaming setup will guide you to the best budget gaming router.

Choosing the right gaming router for your needs

Selecting the ideal gaming router involves considering your specific gaming environment and the types of games you play. 

Gaming environment

Consider the size of your gaming area and the number of devices that will connect to the network. For larger homes or spaces with many walls and floors, look for routers with extended range and more robust signal capabilities, possibly with mesh networking features. Additionally, the presence of multiple devices requires a router that can manage multiple connections efficiently without compromising speed or stability.

Gaming style and scenarios

The type of games you play and how you play them also influence your router choice. For competitive gamers where every millisecond counts, prioritize routers with low latency and high-performance processors to minimize lag. If you’re into multiplayer online games, a router with advanced Quality of Service (QoS) settings can help prioritize gaming traffic. For those who stream their gameplay, ensure the router supports high bandwidth and has robust upload speeds to handle streaming without affecting game performance. Lastly, consider if you’ll be gaming primarily on a PC, console, or mobile device, as some routers offer features optimized for specific platforms.

Considering all the above features, such as network protocols, speed, bandwidth, and advanced technologies, you can make an informed choice that matches your needs. Remember to consider the price in relation to the features you value most, and think about how the router will fit into your gaming environment and accommodate your preferred gaming style and scenarios. Investing time in selecting the right gaming router will pay off with smoother, more responsive gameplay, enhanced security, and a better gaming experience.

FAQ: About gaming routers

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