The importance of ping when gaming online
Did it ever occur to you that you were in the middle of an online game and suddenly started experiencing lags and in-game delay making the game unplayable although your internet connection seems fine? Internet speed is not the only factor that is important when validating a good internet connection. Ping is equally important and, in the case of online gaming, much more important than internet speed. Before analyzing what ping is and how it affects your gameplay, keep in mind that good ping and online gaming go hand in hand for a great gaming experience.
But, what exactly is ping and how do I know if my internet connection has a good ping response time? Keep reading if you want to find out what ping is, how we can measure it, what ping value is considered being “good” and how to improve your in-game ping.
The definition of ping
In technical terms, ping is signal sent to a host that requests a response. What this means practically is that whenever you access a website or even upload something on social media, you are sending a data package to a particular destination within the wide web. The time it takes to send a request to Google, for example, to open a specific website and the destination website to respond to you is called ping time and is measured in milliseconds. While seeing an increase in ping time when browsing is not a big deal, online gaming is specifically sensitive to increased ping delay because it happens in real time. For us online gamers, we should be way more worried about ping when gaming online than our actual internet speed. Gaming with 0,5mbps is possible while a 500 ping delay will make the gaming experience unbearable and frustrating.
In online gaming, you are sending and receiving information to the nearest server you are connected to in real-time. That is why all online games highlight the pin for you and you can look it up at all times. That is also why ping fluctuates and the main reason why gaming on Ethernet is always recommended. A WiFi connection drastically increases the ping response time because you may not be the only one interacting with the internet at that given moment. Someone watching Netflix or downloading files are sending and receiving different data packages and increase your in-game lag because you are on the same connection as them. An ethernet cable connected directly to the router tells your router that this connection is perceived as a standalone one and is not affected by the 2,4GHz or 5 GHz WiFi channels.
What is a good ping response time and how can you measure it?
Measuring ping response time is pretty straight-forward in online games. While in a match, bringing up the scoreboard will usually have the ping number displayed. From there you can see your ping in real time. If you are browsing and feel like your connection is slow although your download and upload numbers are fine, measured by Speedtest.net, then it may be due to your ping. Enter Windows Administrator (Windows PowerShell) as an administrator and type in “ping www.google.com,” and this will send four different data packages to google and trigger a response in ms. All five responses should be roughly the same and ideally not exceed 100ms. The number displayed is the time your connection needs to send one data package to Google and get a package in response from Google. That is your ping. Once you ping google, you will see “Packets sent, received and lost. While packets received and lost should be four packets, the loss should be at 0%. If you experience packet loss, you know there is something wrong with your ping.
As a rule of thumb, generally good ping response times for browsing the web are:
- <30 ms – 100 ms: excellent ping, unnoticeable ping delay.
- 100 ms to 200 ms: average ping, you will notice some small lags even when browsing.
- 300 ms to 500 ms: slow ping, your browsing experience will be noticeably affected.
- > 500 ms: bad ping of a half second or more will add a noticeable delay to all requests. At this stage, your browsing experience becomes tiring and bothersome, and you access websites with big delays.
For gaming purposes, ping times are much more important and are, therefore, much more strict:
- < 30 ms: excellent ping providing you a lag-free gaming experience.
- 30 to 50 ms: great ping, your online gaming experience will not be affected.
- 50 to 100 ms: good ping, although you may notice small lags when fluctuations in response time are big, for example from 50 ms to 90 ms.
- 100 ms to 200 ms: slow ping, at this stage you will notice a substantial lag in online gaming.
- 200 ms to 300 ms: terrible ping, your gaming experience will be seriously affected, and you will have a hard time keeping up with others as you feel like you are “teleporting from one place to another.”
- > 300 ms: Do not even bother continuing playing. At +300 ping, you should close the game and figure out a way to improve your ping response time as something is undeniably wrong.
5 factors that can affect ping response time and how to fix it
Many factors can affect ping response time, but I will list the 5 most important ones below:
1. Type of Connection
As stated above, a WiFi connection can have a severe impact on your ping time and should be avoided when gaming online. The ideal way to tackle this problem is to connect your PC or laptop to your router via an Ethernet cable. Even when your router is further away, do not hesitate to get a longer Ethernet cable. I have a 20m Ethernet cable since I could not set up my router closer to my PC. Nevertheless, the length of the wire does not matter. Whether you have a 1m, 5m or 20m cable, they will all perform the same. Just in case your router is situated in a different room than your PC or even on a different floor, there is a solution for you as well better than WiFi. A set of powerline adapters will do the trick.
What powerline adapters do is use your home’s current electrical wiring to transmit the internet signal. A powerline set usually comes with two adaptors. One device needs to be connected to the router via Ethernet and the other to your computer again via an Ethernet cable. Once both devices are connected just hit the power button and the devices will synchronize, and your connection will be acknowledged as an Ethernet connection by your PC. While the performance is not quite as good as Ethernet, it is still hugely better than standard WiFi. The drawback is that you can only connect one device via a powerline connection while WiFi is easy to set up and use and does not require any extra wiring. On the flipside, a WiFi connection will save you the hustle of dealing with cable management throughout your house. Never rely on WiFi extenders, though, as these devices receive nearby WiFi signals and technically “boost” the signal. What ultimately happens is that they cut the connection in half. Not only will you receive a worse signal and ping but your internet connection speed will also be affected negatively.
If you are confident that no one is accessing your WiFi and the distance between the router and the PC is small, you can get away with a WiFi connection as long as your router is stable and does not have you to put up with constant disconnections. It is recommended to get a good, aftermarket WiFi router, especially if you are paying your ISP for a high-speed internet connection. Many default routers provided by your ISP are not cut for stable connections. Many times, even a simple restart may fix the problem. So, before changing equipment, consider checking your current configuration and implementing a few tricks from this link on how to fix your internet connection. Below, I have three links for a quality Ethernet cable, WiFi router and Powerline Adaptor. Check it out if you want and consider that, when buying through my affiliate links, you are helping me put up more content in the future and keep this website alive and kicking:
- For a quality Ethernet cable, check out this link.
- For a quality PowerLine adapter, check out this link.
2. Router problem
The router itself might be the root of the problem and should always be replaced by a quality unit. You may be spending some money now, but if you are reliant on a speedy internet connection and are into online gaming, a new, quality router will be a wise investment and will pay off in the long run. Frequent disconnections and internet speed drops are most of the time followed by an increase in ping time as the router fails to deliver and receive packages fast. Before checking the router, you will want to change out the cables and splitters and make sure that your cable management is done correctly. Some cable or splitter might be faulty and in need of replacement. In case the issue persists it is time to focus on the router itself by shutting it down for 30 minutes. The next step is to do a router factory reset by using a pencil or a thin pen and detecting the small reset switch on the back of the router. If the issue continues, try borrowing a working router from a friend and start a game to see how the ping behaves. If the ping is lower and stable, it means your router is to blame and getting a new one will save you time and energy. At the link above you can find an inexpensive, quality router that will do what it promises.
3. Updating or reverting GPU drivers
This might come off as a surprise but has happened to me twice: One time I forgot to update my GPU driver and the previous version would cause a huge ping increase, and the other time it was a newer driver that would cause the issue. GPU drivers can affect response time as they are telling your GPU how to interact with the game and Windows itself. Your GPU cannot function without the driver, and while it is always recommended to update your GPU driver to the latest version by using a software called Display Driver Uninstaller (DDU), sometimes the driver itself can cause latency problems. First of all, you need to remove any traces of the previous driver using the DDU software (click here to learn how) and then install the newest. Should you see a sudden and unexpected increase in ping times after the driver update, re-install the latest driver using DDU. If nothing changes, revert to the previous driver version and see if your ping problem vanishes. At this point, there is nothing you can do except keeping the older driver version and waiting for a newer version to alleviate the problem. It might sound strange, but if it happens and you cannot explain why reverting drivers might be what you are looking for.
4. Turn off your Virtual Private Network (VPN)
A VPN is primarily a safety mechanism allowing you to access the web from a different location. Let me explain: A quality VPN service provider connects you to a server in a country of your choice and changes your current IP address to the one hosted by the server, making it difficult for others to pinpoint your exact location. While your physical address is still traceable by Google, your device’s position will lead your potential exploiter to the server you are connected to, and he will eventually lose your trace. All the information you put out is being transmitted through this server and, therefore, you sacrifice some of your speed and response time for your safety. A VPN is great for concealing your personal information but it will increase your ping and latency and should be turned off while gaming for optimal performance. To learn more about the best VPN on the market right now and why you should never browse the internet without one, click here.
5. Contact your Internet Service Provider (ISP)
Yes, I know, “no shit Sherlock,” but if nothing works, doing the obvious and contacting your ISP might be the solution even for you who want to deal with the problem yourself in the first place before relying on the help of others. The ISP has access to your router and can see if something is wrong. If they cannot detect the problem, tell them to switch your connection from “Interleaved” to “Fastpath,” considering you are not on “Fastpath” already. You can look up whether you have “Interleaved” or “Fastpath” enabled in your router’s settings. You should be able to access your router’s interface by entering either “192.168.1.1, 192.168.2.1 or 192.168.0.1 in Google. Once you are welcomed by your router’s interface, enter the device credentials found on the back of your router and head over to the connection status where it should be listed whether your connection is set to “Interleaved” or “Fastpath.” What Faspath does is sacrificing a few Mbp/s for a faster Ping response time. Most users will find this irrelevant, but for us gamers, it is a welcome change and might be the lifesaver in the end.
Ping response time will affect your gaming performance drastically and ensuring that it stays as low as possible will lead to a better and less frustrating gaming experience. As much as internet speed is essential for evaluating an excellent internet connection, high internet speed is nothing when you can not send and receive information packages from one computer to another fast. And that is exacly what ping does. The lower the ping the better the response time, especially for online gaming where information is being sent and received in real-time. But even if online gaming is not your thing, striving for lower ping times can make even a slower connection look much faster, and who does not want a flawless internet connection? That is why good ping and online gaming go hand in hand. As a general rule, keeping your ping below 100 ms at all times is ideal and doable. A few things you might want to consider for fixing your response time is connecting to the internet via Ethernet, checking your router and cables, updating or reverting your GPU drivers, turning off your VPN and ultimately contacting your ISP.
Have you ever experienced ping issues while gaming or had problems fixing your ping? Did any of these tips help you? Let me know in the comment section below.
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