How to improve latency (ping)

Modern gaming has come a long way since the release of the original Nintendo or Atari. Individual gameplay on console systems has now evolved to multiplayer systems that bring gamers together virtually from all over the world. With today's online gaming, it's more important than ever to have a strong internet connection

Whether you play first-person shooter (FPS) games, racing games or real-time strategy games, you need a fast internet connection to keep your gameplay seamless. If you've seen a delay between pressing a button and seeing the corresponding action in the game, then you may be experiencing latency issues. Latency refers to the average time it takes your gaming devices to send data to the corresponding server and then back to your device.


Keep reading to understand more about high vs. low latency, the causes of latency and tips for how to improve latency to create a better gaming experience. 

Young white man, online gamer in pink light frustrated at the computer

The difference between high and low latency

Latency (also called "ping") is the more technical term for lag, which is when you experience response delays during gaming. High latency means more lag, which everyone knows makes gaming way less enjoyable. Low latency means less lag and smoother gameplay.


Generally, when you test your ping, an acceptable number is anywhere around 40 to 60 milliseconds (ms) or lower, while a speed of over 100 ms will usually mean a noticeable lag in gaming. Essentially, you want the latency from your gaming device to the internet server to be as close to 0 ms as possible, as this means it takes little to no time for one device to respond to another. 

Ping range Quality of ping Effect on gaming experience
0 - 20 ms Great Lag or glitches during gameplay should be minimal; high-quality visuals
20 - 50 ms Good Mostly smooth and responsive gaming experience
50 - 100 ms Fair Most common range for gamers; may experience occasional lag, depending on game and device settings
100 - 300 ms Poor Likely to experience many lags and delays while gaming
300 ms or more Not playable Extensive delays in response; a noticeable lag that will create a poor-quality gaming experience

What causes latency?

There are several different reasons why you may have latency issues while gaming, including these:

  1. Geographical location: The physical distance between your internet router and the game server can affect latency. For example, if you're a Chicago resident, you may want to choose a server in the Chicago or surrounding area rather than, say, in New York. This will help reduce the time it takes for data to travel back and forth between you and the server.

  2. Internet connection type: Your internet connection speed and technology can play a role in experiencing low or high latency. Both DSL and fiber internet broadband internet plans can provide fast enough speeds for virtually lag-fee online gaming.

  3. Equipment: You may have an outdated router that delivers a slower connection. This is also common if you have many people connected to your router at one time. Upgrading to a newer router may decrease latency in gaming. 

Ways to improve latency in gaming

Don't let lags keep you from gaming. If you've been experiencing high latency that's affecting your gameplay, then try these methods to help lower latency (improve your ping) and stay in the game. 

  1. Close out of any unnecessary programs. If you're running large applications like music or video software, then they could eat into your internet bandwidth, which can affect your gaming speeds.

  2. Use a wired Ethernet connection. A direct connection from your router to your gaming device could provide a more reliable, faster signal for gaming. If multiple people in your home are using the WiFi, you could get a spotty connection. A wired connection may help increase speed and decrease lag.

  3. Don't stray too far from the router. If your router is on the other side of the house and you’re using a wireless connection to get your game on, you may experience a slower connection. Consider moving closer to the router (or move the router closer to your gaming center) to improve the strength of the connection. Learn more ways to optimize your WiFi signal if a wired connection isn't an option.

  4. Pick a game server that is close to you. For faster communication between your computer and the server, consider picking a game server that is closer to you. 


Now you have some ideas for how to improve latency in order to get a better overall gaming experience. For more articles related to internet for gaming, check out the CenturyLink gaming internet hub or the list of links below. 

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