Alongside a multitude of other ‘gaming’ hardware gimmicks that you can find online today, there is one that stands out from the rest as being just a little different. Producers of these so-called gaming routers tout that they carry features that are essential to gamers, claiming faster internet speeds, lower latency, more ports, and some even with RGB.
What makes gaming routers so special? Today, we are going to take a deep dive into the world of gaming routers to find out what they offer, how they compare to traditional routers, and whether or not they’re worth the money.
If you are pressed for time and want a summary of sorts, our conclusion is this–there really aren’t that many features that come on a gaming router, aside from QoS settings, that you can’t find on a regular router.
Since most gaming routers aren’t offering a whole lot of features you can’t find elsewhere, our recommendation is to save your money for something else, as we don’t think that gaming routers are really worth it.
The One Actually Useful Feature
The one feature that gaming routers offer that does have merit, though, is Quality of Service (QoS) settings. This feature is not commonly offered by ISP’s to consumers, though it comes standard to most gaming routers.
Quality of Service settings essentially allows you to isolate the network’s priority to a single IP address. By doing so, the router is told to execute whatever command comes from computer A before computers B and C. This allows for lower latency, not more bandwidth.
Seeing as latency is more important than bandwidth to gamers, it would logically follow that having QoS settings enabled will increase your network performance as you play online games by lowering your ping. This is the only real performance-enhancing feature of gaming routers, as everything else is pretty much identical to a standard consumer router.
In busy workplaces or houses with a lot of devices connected, a router with QoS enabled might be a good purchase. As we mentioned previously, most routers do not come with QoS settings, so it would be worth contacting your ISP or logging into your router’s network to figure out if you have that feature–if not, a gaming router could be useful to keep some of that latency down.
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Other Features of Gaming Routers
Aside from QoS compatibility, there are other settings and features that come with gaming routers that are touted to be useful for gamers. Let’s take a closer look at some of these to discern whether or not you ought to spend the big bucks for some of these benefits.
Gigabit / Ethernet Ports
Another big selling point for some of these gaming routers is that the manufacturers include a multitude of high-speed Gigabit ports, usually coming in with 4 to 8 ports, or somewhere in between. These ports can handle data transfer speeds of up to 1000 mb/s for some blazing fast download speeds.
There is a problem with using this as a selling point, though–most modern and up-to-date consumer routers already come with 4 of those same Gigabit ports, so it is not as appealing and attractive to a buyer as it may have once been.
Secondly, the overwhelming majority of ISP packages don’t even touch the limits of those download speeds. According to a report from highspeedinternet.com, the average download speed on consumer network packages in the US comes in at 42.86 mb/s.
While your mileage may vary, having Gigabit ports that can transfer up to a gigabyte per second won’t be useful for you if you find yourself anywhere near that median number.
Lastly, as we mentioned before, latency is far more important than bandwidth speed. In other words, how fast data can be sent is more important than how much can be sent, and having a plethora of gigabit ports won’t help you with that.
802.11ac Wireless Standard Compatibility
Most gaming routers that are available on the market today offer 802.11ac compatibility, but as the catalyst is with the gigabit ports, that can only be useful if your existing hardware can receive that signal.
Unfortunately, the older Xbox One and Playstation 4 models (aside from the Playstation 4 Slim) don’t come with 802.11ac compatibility, so only the newest gaming consoles would be able to make use of this feature.
Again, most up to date consumer routers offered by ISPs already have this feature, so it would be worth checking to see if your hardware already supports this connectivity–it very well may be that, by purchasing a gaming router, you end up with nothing that you didn’t already have except a nicer-looking plastic shell.
Dual-Band Wifi – 2.4GHz / 5 GHz
Many gaming routers offer dual-band wifi compatibility as a means to increase network speed and decrease latency for gamers, but there is a little more to it than that under the hood.
Dual-Band wifi is a way of saying that the network is split up into two separate bands, which can hypothetically reduce the congestion and ‘traffic’ on one wifi network.
By placing a console or a PC on one band and every other device on the second band, you can decrease latency for your gaming purposes instead of having every single device in the house competing for bandwidth on the same network. This can potentially reduce the possibility of busy or overactive networks slowing down your network speeds and causing lag and ping-spikes in your games.
However, a common theme seems to be brewing here–most ISP-provided consumer routers already offer this feature, too, which does not contribute to a good case for gaming routers as a whole. While the concept is admirable, the application of the technology on these routers is overshadowed by the fact that cheaper and more reliable alternatives exist, which already offer the same specs and features at half the price.
Passive security features are one thing that gaming routers do exceptionally well. While most consumer routers already have forms of integrated security protocols, gaming routers generally take the cake.
From preinstalled anti-virus software to better connection protocols, many gaming routers come equipped with commercial-grade network security and monitoring technology, allowing the router to protect itself against wirelessly transmitted malware, unsolicited connections, and more.
Many of these routers also come with network protection plans for life, or packages that you can renew, all of which can lead to some fairly sturdy peace of mind.
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Blocking access to certain unsavory websites and monitoring network traffic can be difficult and confusing depending on which router you use, or which aftermarket hub you have installed into your network. If you have a household with a lot of connected devices, this can only lead to an increase in confusion and even more of a headache!
Fortunately, many gaming routers come with parental control packages as part of their software and onboard technology suite, making it easy to control all aspects of network usage, restrict websites and connections, and much more from one singular device.
Better Connection Radius
One of the biggest causes of network lag, latency issues, signal weakness, and other general connectivity problems is not the actual prescribed latency of the router, the bandwidth package offered by your ISP, or even your download and upload speeds–you could simply be too far away from the router.
One of the biggest features of most gaming routers is that the stock hardware and antennas are designed to give as big a connection radius as possible, meaning that even if you’re in the corner of a house, you’ll still have a good connection.
Weak signal radius, coupled with a plethora of devices on a single-band network, can seriously be the downfall of many gamers’ internet connections. Gaming routers, though, with their dual-band, high speed, security-loaded, and radius-boosted connections, can solve a lot of consumer latency problems without the need for additional wifi bouncers or upgraded ISP packages.
Extra Extra, Hear All About It!
While this technically won’t benefit your latency or connection speeds, there are a surprising number of extra goodies that come with some gaming routers, although it depends on the model.
Some gaming routers come with Alexa compatibility, guest wifi, dedicated VPN server hosts, preloaded QoS settings (so that you don’t have to figure out how to set it up yourself), as well as automatic connection prioritization.
If you like variety and options as well as connectivity with over devices in your house, the right gaming router could very well seamlessly tie your entire network ecosystem together.
Are There Any Alternatives to Gaming Routers or Other Wireless Connections?
Yes, there are.
Setting up a wired connection for your console, laptop, or gaming computer will give you the best possible connection speeds and network experience, hands down.
Wireless connections run off of what is called the half-duplex system, meaning that a connected device can only send or receive data at any given time–not both at once, unlike wired connections, which are able to do both, seeing as they run on a full-duplex system.
This reduces network congestion and dramatically improves connection speeds and latency problems, as well as eliminates the notion that ‘you are just too far away from that dang router!’
Wired connections can be somewhat difficult to set up sometimes and can be somewhat of a pain if you use a laptop that is constantly being moved around, but if you are a gamer using a stationary console or desktop PC, this is absolutely the way to go.
Some Ethernet connections, if and when properly set up, can carry a signal for hundreds of feet without a kilobyte of information being lost or degraded, which is exactly what gamers are looking for. This allows for some of the lowest latency times in the industry.
It comes as no surprise, then, that major corporations and businesses repeatedly call in ISPs to set up wired connections for all of their devices and computers.
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So, Are Gaming Routers Worth It?
Our honest opinion is that, no–gaming routers aren’t worth the additional cost. If you are a gamer looking for a better connection so that you can keep getting headshots in Counter Strike, then we would have to simply recommend a wired ethernet connection.
As we previously mentioned, many of the touted features that are marketed as being beneficial to gamers already come stock on up-to-spec consumer routers, so spending the extra money for roughly the same performance simply doesn’t make sense.
However, if you are in the market for a new router after moving houses, switching service providers, or for any reason, a gaming router could potentially be a good choice due to its exceptional signal radius as well as fantastic network security features, both of which come stock–something that cannot be said for all consumer routers.
If We Had To Recommend One Gaming Router, It Would Be…
…most likely the NETGEAR Nighthawk R6700 Smart WiFi router. While it does come in with a pretty hefty price tag depending on where you find it, the Nighthawk is ideal if you are trying to connect up to 25 devices in a large building, as it can cover up to 1500 square feet thanks to its three amplified (and very powerful) antennas.
This router comes equipped with a dual-core processor, Circle parental controls, and preloaded cybersecurity software–these features ensure that you have the ultimate level of control and security of your network as well as the guaranteed ease-of-use of having all of these features come stock.
This particular gaming router also refreshingly diverges from the abused ‘gamer’ aesthetic with all of its funky-shaped antennas and odd angles, so if you are a non-gaming consumer looking for a reliable and powerful router that sports a plethora of useful features, this one could be just right for you.
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