These days, almost every modern console or PC game requires a broadband connection in some way. On this page, we tell you what the best broadband is for gamins, as well as how to find the best deals.
The most obvious online feature is multiplayer to connect with your friends, but even single-player games benefit from being online - downloadable quests and gameplay fixes for example.
What's the best broadband for gaming?
Your broadband doesn't need to be particularly fast to play games. But you do need decent speeds - ideally from fibre optic broadband - to take advantage of game titles, updates, and instantly streaming HD movies.
You also need unlimited downloads to avoid worrying about a lot of data.
Fortunately, there are a few providers that can provide the type of package that gamers need:
- Virgin Media is one of the fastest broadband providers in the UK. Some packages or bundles advertise average speeds as high as 362Mb - for many gamers it's the obvious choice. On the downside, it's not the cheapest, and not available as widely as other providers. You'll need to use a postcode checker to see if you can get it.
- TalkTalk fibre optic broadband is more affordable and offers average speeds as high as 63Mb, depending on the package. The provider also offers one of the cheapest TV packages around, so if you also want a YouView box too, this is a great option.
- BT Superfast Fibre packages (formerly called BT Infinity) have speeds that should suit all types of gamers. If you choose BT, make sure you get an unlimited package, as cheaper ones come with just 20GB downloads a month - nowhere near enough for modern gaming.
- Plusnet specialises in affordable, simple packages. You won't get much in the way of extras compared to other providers, but you can get unlimited fibre packages and top-notch customer service.
- Sky broadband is truly unlimited, which means that you can download as much as you like without fear of being cut off. Fibre's the best choice if you can get it, and there are usually offers around that include TV as well.
Why do I need gaming broadband?
Without a reasonably fast connection, you'll have to wait longer for games to download, will miss out on all the extra content new games have to offer, and wont be able to play and connect with your friends.
Lets take a look in more detail…
- Online gaming - There are few gaming experiences as thrilling, satisfying and downright fun as playing with others online. Although you don't technically need a particularly fast connection for most games, the faster the speed, the better the experience will be.
- Single player gaming - Developers are constantly tinkering with their games, fixing bugs and other issues that come to light after a game has released. These fixes are known as patches or updates, and are typically downloaded automatically if you're online. Sometimes a patch is a few MB, but sometimes they can be enormous - the Xbox One Borderlands Handsome Collection update, for example, was a stonking great 16GB!
- Buying new games - Increasing numbers of people are downloading their games digitally rather than buying boxed copies from a shop. Big blockbuster games can be 50GB+, and even smaller digital-only games are getting pretty chunky.
- Indie games - Some of the most interesting titles now come from independent developers. Games like Gone Home, Fez, The Binding of Isaac and Goat Simulator, for example - all fascinating, memorable games, and all primarily available through downloads.
- Downloadable content (DLC) - Many games get extra downloadable content after release (or in some cases, even before release). From extra multiplayer maps for series like Call of Duty and Halo, to fully-featured expansion packs, these can greatly enhance the game you're playing, or scratch an itch if you're desperate for more.
- Film, TV and music - You can watch catch-up TV services like BBC iPlayer and All 4, rent movies and TV shows, stream flicks via Netflix and NOW TV, access Sky channels and box sets (if you have Sky TV), watch feeds of other people playing games, listen to music via services like Spotify (on PS4), browse the web, and so much more. All these require a decent internet connection, and without one, you're only scratching the surface of what your machine can do.
How fast does my internet need to be for online gaming?
As a rule, the faster your connection, the better the chances of having a smooth game online, although technically, you only need speeds of around 5Mb to actually play most console or PC games.
That said, the games themselves, and the necessary updates required to play online, are often huge downloads and if you have a slow broadband connection, you're going to spend a lot of time waiting to play instead of actually doing it.
Can I play games online through mobile broadband?
Most mobile phone operators sell mobile broadband dongles that you can plug into a computer to create a Wi-Fi hotspot. Alternatively, some handsets, such as the iPhone, can also be used to create a wireless hotspot via 4G or 3G.
But although 4G connections are technically capable of managing online gaming, most mobile plans come with tight data limits. That data will go fast when you start gaming, so it's best to stick to a home broadband connection where you can.
We'd advise steering clear of 3G connections entirely for gaming. They seem like they should be capable of it, but players of fast-paced shooters are likely to experience some lags.