Wifi and Gamers


Wi-Fi has been around for a while now and offers a ton of convenience for people in their homes. They do not have to run cabling under floors or in the attic to allow devices across multiple locations of a home to have internet connectivity.

However, every Wi-Fi has been shunned by PC Gamers this whole time due to lower connection bandwidth and latency, as well as just not being as reliable as a wired connection.

Fast forward to 2024 and the current Wi-Fi options, can they provide a great gamer experience for a home? Is it possible for a gamers home to not need network cable running everywhere?

My home provides a unique opportunity to look at this very question. I am doing a remodeling project in a few rooms of my house plus moving my office around and building a new gaming PC.  As I was building the PC I just used the onboard Wi-Fi for connectivity during the software installation and discovered a pleasant surprise. (More on that in a moment)

I said our home has an opportunity, the reason I said that is, unlike many homes, the PC is our primary source of entertainment, specifically gaming. At any one time you can likely find two active gaming machines and often three with sometimes four. This is because my whole family, wife and kids, are PC gamers. This volume of gaming machines active at once, plus usually the Roku box as well (my wife likes TV in the background while gaming) means we can put some serious stress on a Wi-Fi system.

Further we are not using a fancy, high-end Wi-Fi router. We are instead using a router provided to us by our ISP, a Gigaspire GS4220E, a Wi-Fi 6 wireless router. I am not sure of this routers capabilities, but if it is typical of ISP provided devices, it is not all that great.

So back to earlier when I mentioned building my new rig. I was getting some decent download speeds, so I decided to test it and discovered I was running 750Mbps up and down via my Wi-Fi. That was insane to me, my ISP is only giving my 1000Mbps for service and I typically see speeds maxing at 950Mbps.

While obviously not as fast as my wired connection, this was still a VERY good speed, more than respectable since there was no wire run. I tested latency and found the while it was worse, about 40ms compared to 25ms, it was still not in what I would consider a “bad” range.

Next, I tested the two systems at the other end of the house. Both are getting 400+ Mbps and were seeing the same 40ms latency. Further when we fired up all three systems to run at once on the Wi-Fi the speed and latency stayed the same, or within less than a 10% difference.   

(Testing was done using Speedtest.Net to get bandwidth and latency numbers, always using the same test server.)

I understand that the enthusiasts out there are going to see those numbers and start lamenting how much I am giving up. However, am I really?

The average ISP connection in the US is around 200Mbps. This means even my slow connections are double the bandwidth that most people get with a direct connection to their ISP.  As for the latency, staying under 100 is generally considered good, staying under 50 is considered very good for online gaming.

This is the speed test from my primary gaming unit.

Now though let’s put it to the real test. I, with my wife and friends, have been playing Enshrouded. I have been hosting our server myself as we decide if we want to invest more time into the game. I set up the “server” to run on a backup gaming rig. My wife and I both connected to the server (via Steam) and then my best friend and his son are also connected.

For 4 hours we explored the world of Enshrouded with some crazy fights and awesome building moments. At no time did anyone have any connection issues, no stutter, no lag. The game play experience was flawless. Remember this was hosting the server via Wi-Fi on the same Wi-Fi network as two other machines actively in game. The network code for the game does not allow a direct LAN connection so all three machines were hitting the internet up and down at once.

This is obviously not a very scientific test, but too often we get so caught up in the exact numbers that we forget to look at the practical usage. What about with the Roku running? Nope no noticeable hit there either. In fact, a 4K HDR movie is only typically going to need about 25 Mbps of bandwidth but even if we assume that number at 50, I still have bandwidth to spare.

The only downside I have seen using Wi-Fi only in our home for the last month has been downloading a new game on the machines further from the router. A 400Mbps download speed is VERY respectable but I was used to closer to 800+Mbps on average with Steam. However, the speed lost at the end of the day is not that consequential for real life as we do not often need to grab a new game. When we do, letting it take a few more minutes is not a heart ache of any real consequence.

My takeaway from last month on only Wi-Fi: I do not think most home users need a wired connection anymore. There are circumstances when wired will have advantages, especially with potential stability. However, if the home user has reasonable base connection, is not running a crazy number of devices at once and will not be able to easily run networking cables, Wi-Fi is more than good enough for daily usage.

As for gamers, as I noted with Enshrouded plus my own experience playing Helldivers 2 over Wi-Fi, the difference in game play experience just does not exist. I feel that for most gamers they would have the same experience.

Do not there is a caveat to this conclusion, however. Wi-Fi is not perfect and has some flaws. The building you’re in and the position of the router can affect connectivity as can how many other Wi-Fi devices and networks are nearby. Also, in my experience make sure that all the devices and the router are Wi-Fi 6 or better equipped; older computers or routers might not give the same experience.  Finally, Wi-Fi has some inherent security concerns, so make sure you set up that security properly.

The articles content, opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed in SAPPHIRE NATION are the authors’ own and do not necessarily represent official policy or position of SAPPHIRE Technology.

Edward Crisler
Edward is the definition of an “old school” gamer, playing computer games as far back at 1977. He hosted a tech talk show for 20 years and is now the North America PR Representative for SAPPHIRE as well as SAPPHIRE’s unofficial gaming evangelist. You can follow him on Twitter @EdCrisler.