802.11ac for Gaming Wirlessly - Everything You Need to Know
For many years now I have been wirelessly gaming, experienced my issues every now and then but these past couple of years it's been pretty smooth with my Wireless N+ USB adapter. Sharing the same wireless connection with 20 devices in the house at times can get a little annoying though. Gladly, I no longer have to share my internet with my family anymore. That's why I'm here to tell you about my gaming experience on the most recent wireless protocol - and how sexy it is.
How sexy you ask? I nearly quadrupled my wireless speed up from 100mbps to 500-600mbps. I've tested it with game downloads as well. It was an absolutely-freaking-awesome-upgrade for a wireless connection.
To re-iterate this, I am now getting 4 times the upload and download speed of game installations, movie streams and other internet media than I was before.
"Alright, I'm lost. What the heck is this 'Mbps' mumbo-jumbo?"
Good question! A lot of people are not that tech-savvy and that is just fine! I'm going to break this down barney style as much as I can. Try not to get a headache because it took me some time to understand this as well last semester during my networking technologies course.
Data Transfer Speed
The numbers followed by "Mbps" is the rate of which digital data is traveling between your computer to another, which is refered to as Data Transfer Speed. Data transfer speeds of digital information is normally measured in the unit "bps" (bits per second). The acronym "Mbps" stands for megabits per second. A perfect example for the type of data that is being transferred between one device to another may be a game download or a movie being streamed. In fact, think of it as bits per second as the miles/ kilometers per hour reading for a digital car that majestically drives through the internet.
Note: Do not confuse bits with bytes! Bytes is the measurement of digital storage. 8 bits = 1 byte.
The snapshot below from thecomputercoach.net shows the echelon of bps, Kbps, Mbps, Gbps and so on. This should give you a better understanding of being able to tell how fast a connection is between two computers.
My Current WLAN Speeds On 802.11ac
The acronym "LAN" means local area network and the acronym "WLAN" stands for wireless local area network.
With the Netgear router I bought for my desktop, I got a nifty utility on a disk that replaces your operating system's standard network utility called, "NETGEAR genie." It is currently showing 585 Mbps (megabits per second) on the bottom of the utility interface shown in the picture below. This certainly doesn't come close to CAT6 ethernet cable speeds but a lot of households do not have ethernet/coax ports accessible to bedrooms and kitchens. It's still very, very good for a wireless speed for this era of technology.
The genie helps out a lot, especially for router placement! You can experiment around to find the best spot to place it by paying attention to the signal and Mbps reading. I suggest you try to max out both if you can. The closer your gaming pc router is to your gateway access point, the better.
Here is an example of the speeds I get on the Steam client downloading Rein of Kings. The download finished within 2 minutes for a 1.1GB game file. I was downloading a total 30-40 megabytes every second (320mbps). Previously, this would have been downloading at about 10 megabytes per second (80mbps).
Overall game-play, downloading updates for Windows/games/streaming services etc. have all improved. I'm now able to watch HD movies without buffering every couple of seconds on Amazon Prime. I've experienced little to no lag during my gameplay with World of Warcraft during raiding times since this upgrade as well.
I can now see you all spitting out your cereal this morning like cereal guy does on a daily basis.
Image drawn by Bob Averill - Source is here
My Wireless LAN Setup
My family recently picked up Verizon FiOS (50/50 plan) and we had a new router (Verizon FioS Quantum Gateway) shipped out to us. I noticed it came with two wireless networks instead of one when setting up the computers around my house. Ahhhhh, that's when I discovered the 5Ghz band of wireless networking.
Verizon FiOS Quantum Gateway model: FiOS-G1100
Though, when I tried to connect... I was immediately disgruntled that I couldn't connect on my desktop, or my brand new laptop, or any device in the house. At this time I conducted some research and learned there was a new 802.11 protocol that had just came out a year ago, the glorious 802.11ac!
I wont get into details about IEEE 802.11 protocols but if you want the short and sweet explanation, its the wireless network standard set by the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers. These guys are the masterminds behind wireless networking and a plethora of other standards within the digital computing world.
"IEEE 802.11ac is a wireless networking standard in the 802.11 family (which is marketed under the brand name Wi-Fi), developed in the IEEE Standards Association process, providing high-throughput wireless local area networks (WLANs) on the 5 GHz band. The standard was developed from 2011 through 2013 and approved in January 2014." - Wikipedia
When I logged into my home router's web interface I noticed there was only one other device using the 5ghz band and it was the Xbox One. Great! If I upgrade my desktop's USB router, I won't be sharing traffic with 20 other iPhones/iPads/laptops in the house.
I did a little research on the 5ghz band, seeing if it was really worth upgrading my gaming desktop's router. A lot of people mentioned the 5ghz band isn't good when it has to penetrate through walls, I took the risk and boy has it been rewarding. I have a great connection going through two walls with the total distance roughly 25-30 feet from my router.
So I went out and picked up a Netgear AC1200 Wireless USB 3.0 Adapter. It was about 70 bucks at Bestbuy. My desktop is fairly new, few years old and has a lot of 3.0 ports - so I get the full power of this beast.
Overall Happiness With My Upgrade
I'm really glad I did this upgrade, especially for my Amazon/Netflix and gaming experience improvement. If you wish to do the same, I suggest following the same setup that I have. You will not be disappointed if you decide to go with 802.11ac over 802.11n.
Tips If You Are Upgrading
First off, I did have one issue when I was connecting for the first time on the 5ghz band. Be sure to configure your MAC address filtering properly or turn it off if you are on a Verizon FiOS Quantum Gateway Router. For some reason the 5ghz band comes preset with MAC address filtering on.
Secondly, if you are afraid of upgrading and not getting the results you expected, Best Buy has a 14 day return policy with no restocking fee.
Third tip, if you do not have a Verizon FiOS router but have another gateway router that supports 802.11ac, make sure the 5ghz band is enabled with 802.11ac mode. Mixed mode (b/g/n) will not support the higher speeds. However, 802.11ac backwards compatible with 802.11n, just not the mixed mode and probably not as good on terms of upload and download speed.