Internet speed vs. ping for online gaming [explained]

Internet speed and ping are both important factors affecting online gaming performance. We’ve put together some information below which should help clear up any confusion and help you optimize your setup. 

Is online gaming upload or download?

Both. When you play games online, you’re sending and receiving data. The data you send includes things like controller or keyboard/mouse actions, voice or text messages, or your position relative to other players. 

Young gamer with a headset on playing online games on a PC
Online gamers are constantly sending and receiving data from each other.

Data you download includes similar actions and information from other players as well as things like map and level data.

How important is upload speed for gaming?

Upload speed is the amount of data that you can send in a specific time (usually measured in seconds). This is most important when you are ‘hosting’ an online game. When you’re the host, all the data in the game – such as item or player positions – is sent directly from you to the other players. 

Your performance in online games that require you to be quick is totally at the mercy of your upload speed, from FPSs where fast trigger fingers are crucial to RTS games where a high APM can easily win you matches.

Upload speed is not the only important factor in online gaming – if you have a fast upload speed but poor download and high latency, you’re gonna have a bad time.

What does download speed do for gaming?

Download speed determines how much data can be moved in a specific time (usually megabits per second or mbps). In the context of online games, then, this refers to the amount of data you can pull from the server per second. A higher download speed means you can pull more data. 

Download speeds are generally much faster than upload speeds because most of the time on the internet, users download much more data than they upload. That’s also true with online gaming.

Even with a fast download speed, you’ll run into performance issues when online gaming if your upload speed is slow or your latency is high.

What is the minimum internet speed for cloud gaming?

The minimum required and recommended download speeds required for cloud gaming differ depending on which service you are using. That’s because some platforms are more data-intensive than others

You can find minimum required internet speeds for some of the most popular cloud gaming services below:

Microsoft xCloud minimum internet speed

The minimum internet speed requirement for Xbox Cloud Gaming (also known as xCloud) differs depending on what type of device you are using. It’s worth noting that although we’ve provided the minimum requirements for Wi-Fi connections below, a wired connection is always the best option

Android device

  • 7 Mbps or higher
  • 5GHz Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz is not optimized)

Apple device

  • 10 Mbps or higher (iPhone)
  • 20 Mbps or higher (iPad)
  • 5GHz Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz is not optimized)

Windows device

  • 20 Mbps or higher
  • 5GHz Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz is not optimized)

Xbox console

  • 20 Mbps or higher
  • 5GHz Wi-Fi (2.4 GHz is not optimized)

PS Now minimum internet speed

For the basic PS Now experience to stream games to your PS4, PS5 or PC, you will need an internet speed of at least 5 Mbps

Sony says that 15 Mbps is required if you want to stream games in 1080p.

NVIDIA GeForce NOW minimum internet speed

Like Microsoft, NVIDIA also provides the minimum internet speeds required to use GeForce NOW on different devices and platforms.

Mac OS, Windows PC, Chrome OS, Browser, Android, iOS Safari 

  • Wired connection or 5GHz Wi-Fi recommended
  • At least 15 Mbps for 720p at 60 FPS
  • At least 25 Mbps for 1080p at 60 FPS
  • Minimum latency: 80ms
  • At least 35 Mbps for 1440p or 1600p at 120 FPS (RTX 3080 membership; PC or Mac OS apps only)

Shield, Android TV, LG TV

  • Wired connection or 5GHz Wi-Fi recommended
  • At least 15 Mbps for 720p at 60 FPS
  • At least 25 Mbps for 1080p at 60 FPS
  • Minimum latency: 80ms
  • At least 40 Mbps for streaming up to 4K at 60 FPS

Google Stadia minimum internet speed

To stream games on Stadia, Google recommends a minimum internet speed of 10 Mbps.

The 4K resolution experience (which requires a Stadia Pro subscription), requires a minimum speed of 35 Mbps

What is a good upload speed for Twitch streaming?

If you want to stream to Twitch while you’re gaming, you’ll need a minimum upload speed of 3 Mbps. You’ll probably want more than that if you want your Twitch channel to grow and make money.

Here’s a full breakdown of the required upload speeds for different encoding formats and output qualities:

Twitch minimum upload speeds (GPU encoding)

1080p at 60 FPS

  • 6 Mbps

1080p at 30 FPS

  • 4.5 Mbps

720p 60 FPS

  • 4.5 Mbps

720p 30 FPS

  • 3 Mbps

Twitch minimum upload speeds (x264 encoding)

1080p at 60 FPS

  • 6 Mbps

1080p at 30 FPS

  • 4.5 Mbps

720p 60 FPS

  • 4.5 Mbps

720p 30 FPS

  • 3 Mbps

Is ping more important than download speed?

Many gamers, in particular competitive or professional players would argue that ping is, overall, more important than download speed. If you have the minimum required upload and download speed to play a particular online game, then ping (or more accurately, latency) will be the main variable that affects performance.

Ping is a measure of latency, which describes the time it takes for your connected device to send data to the server and receive it back again. 

Understanding ping, download speed and upload speed

An easy way to understand how latency relates to download and upload speeds is to think of a freight train on its way to deliver some cargo

In this example, download and upload speed can be compared to the size of the freight train (i.e. how much cargo it can move in a given time) and the ping is the speed at which the train can travel.

As you can imagine, there’s not much point having a huge freight train that can transport lots of cargo (a fast upload/download speed) if that train is not able to travel quickly (high ping).

Similarly, even if the train were fast, it wouldn’t successfully deliver much cargo if it wasn’t a big train in the first place. Ideally, you want a train that’s able to carry lots of cargo at one time and that can travel fast.

Ping is especially important in competitive gaming as users with higher ping are at a disadvantage because their data takes longer to reach the server and return to their device. 

Players with higher ping will be able to send and receive their data more quickly, therefore allowing them to see enemies or take shots and other actions more quickly, 

Upload speed, download speed and ping are all important. Satisfactory upload and download speeds are usually fairly easy to achieve because online gaming doesn’t use a particularly large amount of data, so the focus is often on ping/latency as an area where performance can be improved.

What affects gaming upload or download speed?

Various different things can affect your internet speed for gaming. Some of these are within your control and some, unfortunately, are not.

Network hops

This one’s not in your control. 

In order for the data packet you upload to reach its intended location (or for a data packet to be downloaded) it often travels via numerous different network segments. 

When you play online games, your data ‘hops’ between network segments to get to and from the destination server.

When a packet of data moves from one network segment to the next, it’s called a hop. The total number of devices that the packet of data has to travel through to get to its final destination is called the hop count. 

If one of those network segments has a long response time, it will slow the packet’s journey. The higher the hop count, the more likely it is that your data will encounter a slow segment.

You can’t do a huge amount about that and, if that particular network segment is not under the control of your ISP (internet service provider), there isn’t a huge amount they can do about it either.

Your internet service provider

This one’s sometimes under your control. 

ISP’s provide us with lots of the tools necessary to access and engage with stuff on the internet (like web hosting, domain name registration, or just plain old internet access).

The upload and download speeds made possible by internet service providers often fall short of the speeds advertised when the package is sold. 

There are plenty of reasons for this, with a common one being that users’ located physically near each other often share bandwidth ‘locally’. That means that during peak time, speeds are often slower as many people are trying to use the same bandwidth

Ways to improve the effects of your ISP on your upload and download speed for gaming are: Change your ISP, or try to upload and download data during off-peak hours (of course, neither of these are always possible or practical).


This one’s also sometimes under your control. 

Bandwidth is the maximum amount of data that can be transmitted during a given time period. Your upload and download speeds for gaming can be impacted by your bandwidth in several ways. 

For example, if you’re using your internet connection for multiple other things while gaming (for example downloading music or video calling someone). All that other activity leaves less possible bandwidth for your gaming data to be uploaded and downloaded.

The good thing is that this is in your control – if you’re experiencing slow speeds or choppy cloud gaming, try pausing downloads or closing data intensive applications on other devices to free up some bandwidth. 

Another example of how bandwidth might affect your upload and download speeds which is not under your control is if you are attempting to send and receive data from another player who has limited bandwidth. 

Even if you had the biggest bandwidth possible, you’re still going to experience slow upload and download speeds if your gamer buddy is on a connection with tiny maximum speeds.

Connection type

This is under your control.

In order to connect your device to the internet, you’ll need either an ethernet cable or a Wi-Fi router. 

Wi-fi router with ethernet cable connected.
Most casual gamers will opt for Wi-Fi, whereas pro gamers prefer an ethernet connection.

An ethernet connection which creates a physical connection between your console or PC and a router. This is a highly stable connection type and is very secure – no other device other than your own can make a connection. It’s also generally faster than Wi-Fi.

Wi-Fi is wireless technology that allows devices to connect within a certain distance to connect locally and to access the internet. It’s super convenient as you don’t need your console or PC to be within ethernet cable-distance of your router. 

However, Wi-Fi signal strength is vulnerable to atmospheric interference which generally makes it slower and less reliable than a physical connection. It’s also less secure given that any device within range can connect if passwords or keys are compromised.

Most gamers have access to Wi-Fi routers that are perfectly good enough to handle the demands of casual online gaming, but professional gamers will always opt for the speed and security of a wired ethernet connection. 

How to improve ping on wifi

If your download and upload speeds are good, but you’re still experiencing problems with online gaming, chances are it’s your ping that’s the culprit. Three simple ways to try and reduce ping time when using a wifi connection are:

Move closer to the router

It sounds basic, but by moving closer to the router you reduce the distance the waves need to travel between you and the router which increases speed and reduces possible signal interference

Turn off other Wi-Fi devices

Even if you’ve established that bandwidth isn’t the problem, turning off other nearby wireless devices might be worth doing as it can also reduce possible signal pollution/interference.

Play on a local server

If possible, select a server location that’s as close to you as possible. Reducing the distance between you and the server means reducing the number of network hops necessary for your data to get from A to B and back to A again