Not all internet connections are made equal. The quality of your internet connection can have a real impact on your gaming experience. When gaming online, the last thing you want is an unstable internet connection with high latency. You also do not want to be waiting hours for large updates to download. In this article, we’ll look at DSL and whether it is suitable for gaming in 2023 and beyond.
DSL is okay for gaming in most situations. However, large files will take longer to download because DSL generally offers download speeds of 25 Mbps or less. Sometimes download speeds with DSL can be as low as 5 Mbps. Fortunately, DSL generally offers a stable latency of 40 milliseconds or less.
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What is DSL
DSL is an acronym for digital subscriber line. DSL is a type of high-speed (broadband) internet service that uses traditional copper phone lines to transmit and receive data. It’s available in many, but not all, areas. This includes rural areas that do not have cable or fiber based internet options.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not need landline phone service to get DSL service. The vast majority of DSL providers offer a service called “Dry Loop DSL”. Of course, if you want to have a landline phone, you can have it on the same line as the DSL service. DSL operates well outside of the frequency range used for voice service.
DSL has some unique pros and cons that gamers should be aware.
Pros of DSL for Gaming
- The biggest pro of DSL for gaming is that it’s widely available, even in many rural areas.
- Can be less expensive that cable or fiber internet, but not always.
- Speeds are plenty fast for multiplayer online gaming.
- Latency is low enough for online gaming; 40 milliseconds or less ping is normal with DSL.
- DSL speeds are generally stable throughout the day, even during peak hours.
What are the Cons of DSL for Gaming
- Most DSL services top at 25 Mbps or less. This means that large files can take hours to download.
- If the copper lines connecting you to the phone company’s central office are in poor condition, you may experience some connection stability issues.
- While suitable for online gaming, latency will not be as low as with a cable or fiber internet service.
Difference Between Speed (Bandwidth) & Ping (Latency)
Speed, also known as bandwidth, is the measure of how much data can be transferred at once. The higher the bandwidth, the more data can be transferred in a given amount of time. Speed is generally measured in megabits per second (Mbps). Think of bandwidth as the number of lanes on a highway or the size of a water pipe. The larger the pipe or, the more lanes on a highway, the more flow you can sustain.
Latency, also referred to as ping, is a measurement of how long it takes for data to travel from one point to another. Low latency means that data can travel quickly from one point to another, whereas high latency means that it takes longer for data to travel between two points. Latency is generally measured in milliseconds (MS).
When it comes to gaming, latency is much more important than speed because low latency means that there is less lag and a higher quality gaming experience. When most people say that their internet has issues with gaming, the issues they are experiencing are generally due to latency and not bandwidth.
How Much Speed Do I Need for Gaming
You need a minimum of 3 Mbps down and an upload speed of 1 Mbps to play online. Anything below that, and you’re likely to experience issues.
That being said, most people who game regularly recommend a bare minimum of 5-10 Mbps down for a consistently smooth gaming experience. Most DSL connections are rated for 5 Mbps or more.
When it comes to gaming, one of the most important factors is bandwidth consistency. With DSL internet, you can get up to 50 Mbps of download speed and up to 2 Mbps of upload speed, depending on your service provider. More commonly, max download speeds range from about 5 Mbps – 25 Mbps. Upload speeds most commonly range from 1 Mbps – 2 Mbps.
These speeds are obviously much lower than the typical 100 Mbps – 1,000 Mbps that most cable or fiber-based internet connections are able to offer. This means that while you should not have any issues playing your games, downloading content such as games, DLC, and updates can take much longer. If this is an issue for you, you may want to let your downloads run overnight.
If you have multiple gamers in your household, you may be limited by the number of players that can enjoy fast speeds at the same time without any slowdown. You may also run into issues if you are trying to game while someone else is streaming Netflix, Hulu, etc.
5G Home Internet offers a higher level of bandwidth than DSL at the expense of higher latency.
For online gaming, a stable connection is much more important than connection speed. If your connection is constantly dropping or lagging, you will struggle with online gaming. A stable connection will help you avoid getting booted from servers and missing out on important gameplay.
DSL is often a less stable connection than cable or fiber, but it is better than satellite or 5G wireless. DSL is stable enough to meet the needs of most gamers. The main exception is if the copper phone lines that connect your home to your phone provider’s central office are in a state of disrepair.
When you’re playing an online game, you want the lowest possible latency. That’s the time it takes for a signal to travel from your device to another location and return.
When it comes to gaming, latency is what matters most. A low-latency connection means that there’s less of a delay between when you make an input and when it registers in the game.
That means faster reflexes and a better gaming experience overall.
If there’s too much latency, your actions in the game will be delayed, and you’ll be at a disadvantage against other players. DSL offers a relatively low latency connection.
Latency with DSL is generally between 25 – 50 ms which is higher than cable or fiber but good enough for most gamers.
DSL plans generally include unlimited data. It is relatively uncommon to see data caps on DSL-based internet connections.
This means you can game for as long as you want without having to worry about overage fees or throttling. This is in contrast to most cellular internet service providers.
Is DSL Fast Enough for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network
According to the official support pages for Xbox Live and PlayStation Network, DSL is more than fast enough.
PlayStation Network (PSN) requires a minimum of 3 Mbps download speed, and 1 Mbps upload speed.
Xbox Live requires a minimum of 3 Mbps download speed, and 0.5 Mbps upload speed.
These speeds are enough for both current generation systems, Xbox Series X and PS5. They are also enough for the previous generation consoles, including the Xbox One and PS4.
Is DSL Fast Enough to Play PC Games
DSL is fast enough for PC gaming as long as nobody else is using the internet connection at the same time. Steam recommends 10 Mbps for optimal performance but only requires a minimum of 3 Mbps for proper game operation.
While DSL may not be as fast as fiber optic or cable internet, it’s still fast enough to play most online games without any performance loss. It is sometimes less expensive than other types of internet connection, which is ideal if you’re on a budget. It is also available in more rural areas than cable or fiber-based internet.
Will DSL Be Fast Enough for VR Games?
VR games are becoming increasingly popular, but they require a lot of bandwidth to run smoothly. Video games with VR may lag because DSL has limited upload speeds and higher latency. We would not recommend DSL for VR games.
Online Gaming in Rural Areas
Many rural areas do not have access to cable or fiber internet. This can make online gaming more difficult. Cable connections are available in some rural areas, but there are many areas that only have DSL available.
DSL is a great option for those who live in more remote or rural areas because it offers a decently fast internet connection, relatively low latency, and reliability that is better than satellite or cellular options.
Most games require minimal bandwidth, so even if the speeds you are getting are fairly low, you can generally game without much issue.
If you need speeds higher than what DSL can offer, or if DSL is not available at your rural location, we would recommend checking out Starlink satellite internet service. Starlink is by far the best satellite internet option for online gaming. Learn more about gaming on Starlink Internet Service.
Situations Where DSL Will Not Be Good
With all the praise we have given DSL, it’s easy to overlook situations where DSL will not be a good option. When you’re choosing an internet connection technology, it’s essential to pick the right one for your particular situation. Here are some situations where DSL is probably not the best choice.
Having Multiple Screens in a Large Family
DSL has lower bandwidth and will almost certainly struggle to keep up with multiple 4K or even multiple HD video streams.
For example, Netflix recommends 10Mbps download speeds just to stream videos in HD quality without any interruptions and latency problems. They recommend 25 Mbps for 4K. This is a per-stream measurement, so be sure to add up the total based on the number of simultaneous streams.
If you have a large family or roommates, you may want to consider another type of internet service. Fortunately, many areas have access to other services that provide enough bandwidth for all of your devices, such as fiber optic and cable internet.
Sending and Receiving Large Files
When you need to download or upload large files, DSL is not the best option. This is because large files take significantly longer to transfer over a DSL connection than they would over a cable or fiber-optic connection.
If you do a lot of file transfers over the internet, DSL is probably not your best option in 2023 and beyond.
Alternatives to DSL for Gaming
1) Cable internet
Cable internet is a great alternative to DSL for gaming because it offers faster speeds, lower latency, and generally better reliability. Cable internet is widely available and easy to find in most locations. It can be more expensive than DSL and may not be available in some rural areas.
With cable internet speeds of 1 Gbps or higher is possible. Upload speeds with cable tend to max out at between 35 Mbps – 100 Mbps, depending on the provider and the DOCSIS version being used. DOCSIS 3.1 offer much faster speeds than DOCSIS 3.0.
2) Fiber Optic Internet
Fiber optic Internet is generally the fastest type of Internet connection. It’s becoming more widely available, but it’s not available in all areas yet. If you have fiber-optic Internet, it is likely the best choice for online gaming.
- Fiber-optic connections are much faster than DSL, downloads will be much quicker.
- Stability is improved, and you are far less likely to get dropped from a match.
- Fiber-optic connections are less likely to be affected by weather conditions than DSL.
3) 5G Home Internet
5G Internet is the next generation of wireless internet, and it’s available in many areas. 5G comes in a few varieties, including millimeter wave, Ultrawideband, and 5G nationwide. Depending on the type of 5G available to you, your speeds could be similar to DSL or closer to that of a fiber-based internet connection.
5G and gaming are not a perfect combination, though. Connection stability and latency are often worse than that of a DSL connection. Despite having faster download and upload speeds, 5G home internet services from providers, including T-Mobile and Verizon, are less than ideal for gaming.
Conclusion: Is DSL Suitable for Gaming
DSL is suitable for gaming in most circumstances. If you are unable to get cable or fiber based internet at your service address, DSL is oftentimes a suitable alternative.
If you do need to get DSL, don’t go for the most basic offering from your ISP. Get a plan that has a speed of at least 10 – 20 Mbps.
If you have access to cable or DSL internet at your service address, just pass on the DSL. The cost difference is generally minimal at best. DSL is a legacy technology that has been on its last legs for years now. DSL is not ideal for the modern internet as we know it today; streaming, gaming, smart homes, etc., were never a consideration when DSL was invented.