Starlink Satellite Internet is a rapidly growing option for people who live in locations that lack access to traditional broadband internet. It is also competing with 5G Home Internet for customers eager to cut ties with their traditional internet service providers, such as Xfinity, Spectrum, or AT&T.
A common question people have about Starlink Internet is whether it is good for gaming or not. I was fortunate to be able to test Starlink Internet for 30 days and evaluate its gaming performance. I tested a large variety of games, including RPG, FPS, and Esports titles, on several popular gaming platforms, including PS5 (PlayStation Network), Xbox Series X (Xbox Live), and PC (Steam).
Starlink Gaming – Hands on Reviews With Data
Can You Game on Starlink
Based on my first-hand experience, I would recommend Starlink for certain types of games but not for others. You can absolutely play all games using Starlink Internet; however, the quality of your experience will vary widely depending on the game.
|Xbox Series X
Based on my experience playing games using Starlink Internet, roleplay games (RPG) and real-time strategy (RTS) games tend to perform quite well. There is minimal lag, and most people would be perfectly happy with the quality of the gaming experience.
Where things get a bit dicey is with games in the first-person shooter (FPS) genre and some of the MMO titles such as Fortnite. By no means are these games unplayable, but you will definitely notice the difference when compared to a cable or fiber-based internet connection. Given the choice, I would not choose Starlink if I regularly played FPS, MOBA, or MMO games. However, they are playable, and for some people, that would probably be good enough.
Starlink Performance Metrics (Download, Upload, Ping, Jitter)
|Average (Peak Hours)
|Average (Off Peak Hours)
Based on my testing using Ookla’s Speedtest.net, download speeds, and upload speeds are more than fast enough for online gaming using Starlink. Contrary to popular belief, online gaming doesn’t require that much bandwidth. 5 Mbps is more than enough for online games to perform optimally.
Starlink Gaming Download Speeds
With average download speeds of 82 Mbps during peak hours and 127 Mbps average download speeds during off-peak hours, Starlink offers more than enough download bandwidth for any online game.
If you are worried about whether Starlink download speeds are fast enough for gaming, you can rest assured that you will not have issues related to insufficient download speeds on Starlink. Even during peak hours, I rarely, if ever, got less than about 50 Mbps download speed.
Speeds are also fast enough that you will not be waiting hours for games or large system updates to download due to slow internet.
Starlink Gaming Upload Speeds
Upload speeds with Starlink are significantly lower than download speeds. However, it is important to note that even the 7.8 Mbps upload speed average I got during peak hours is more than what is required for Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, or Steam.
When I tested gaming on Starlink, I never once found that I was maxing out the upload capacity of my Starlink Internet Connection. Streaming games is a totally different matter. If you want to stream games to platforms such as Twitch or YouTube, you will likely run into issues with Stalrink.
Starlink upload speeds are more than fast enough for gaming but not so great when it comes to pushing high-definition video to the cloud in real time. If you stream games, you will likely need more upload bandwidth than what Starlink can consistently provide.
Latency (Ping) and Jitter
latency with Starlink tends to be in the 55 – 90 ms range based on my testing and pinging of various locations on the internet. This is a bit lower than what you would get with a 5G home internet service from Verizon or T-Mobile. When I tested 5G home internet for gaming, I found that during peak hours, such as between 6:00 PM and 11:00 PM, latency with 5G home internet would frequently spike to 200 ms or more. I did not experience this issue with Starlink, and overall, ping stability was much better.
On average, pings to Cloudflare’s 220.127.116.11 DNS were about 5 ms lower than pings to Google’s 18.104.22.168 DNS.
Latency is one of the most important factors in determining the quality of your gaming experience, and unfortunately, it is an area where Starlink falls a bit short of a cable or fiber-based internet connection. It also falls a bit short of what most people get with a DSL-based internet connection. Interestingly, you can, in fact, game on DSL.
Jitter with Starlink was generally in the 4 ms – 15 ms range. This is acceptable for gaming but, once again, not ideal for certain types of games. If you play FPS and MMO titles, you may find the jitter to be a bit excessive.
Starlink Reliability and Drops
Unfortunately, I experienced a fair number of signal drops on Starlink. Based on my testing, most of the drops were for 15 seconds or less. For most web browsing activities, this is not that much of an issue. For real-time online gameplay, it was super frustrating.
These momentary drops resulted in me getting dropped from lobbies and having other issues during gameplay. These drops would occur on average about once or twice per hour and were usually just long enough to get kicked from a match before my internet connection would return.
Given that most people do not want to get randomly kicked from a match, I would say signal drops are the number one issues that gamers will face on Starlink.
Based on my 30 days of testing, which in all fairness, is too short for an optimal reliability test, Starlink Internet was 98.9% reliable according to the monitoring tools from Uptime Robot that I was using.
In my 30 days of testing, most of the downtime was during outages that lasted for 5 minutes or less. I did not experience any lengthy outages, but the frequency of short interruptions seriously hurt the overall uptime percentage.
A longer test would be required to get a great sense of the overall reliability, but based on the data I collected, Starlink is pretty reliable when compared to other satellite internet services but significantly lower than the 99.7% reliability I got while testing Xfinity or the 99.85% reliability I got when testing AT&T Fiber.
Starlink NAT Type
With Starlink, your NAT type will be Strict in most games on Xbox Live, PlayStation Network, and Steam. You will likely see NAT type 3 on PS4/PS5 consoles.
If you choose to use Starlink for gaming, your NAT type will almost certainly be strict. A few people have reported getting a moderate NAT type, and nobody will see an open NAT type with Starlink Internet.
With Starlink rolling out support for IPv6, hopefully, many of these issues will be resolved, as IPv6 does not require using NAT at all.
Why Strict NAT with Starlink
Starlink uses CGNAT technology to assign private IP addresses to subscribers rather than providing publicly routable IP addresses. This is the same as with 5G home internet from Verizon or T-Mobile or what you get from legacy satellite internet providers such as HughesNet or Viasat.
In contrast, most residential ISPs, including AT&T Fiber, Verizon Fios, Xfinity, Spectrum, Breezeline, Fidium, etc., all provide customers with a publicly routable IP address.
By way of using CGNAT, your Starlink connection has two layers of NAT running on it. This is commonly referred to as double NAT, and most games struggle to make this work properly.
CGNAT also means that popular techniques of changing your NAT type to open are impossible. These include port forwarding, UPnP, and DMZ functions. All of these require that your router has a publicly routable IP address assigned to it. UPnP is designed to make it easy to open your NAT type. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work with Starlink Internet.
Even if you use a 3rd party router with these functions, they will not be effective on Starlink because of CGNAT.
Starlink Internet for Gaming: The Good
Starlink has many qualities that make it suitable for certain types of online gaming. If you do not have access to cable or fiber internet, Starlink may be a great option to consider. A few of the pros of using Starlink for gaming include.
- Fast download speeds
- Near universal coverage in North America and many other parts of the world
- Lower latency than legacy satellite internet services
- IPv6 Support
Many games, including RPG titles and RTS games, perform decently with Starlink. If you play mostly these types of games, Starlink will probably perform just fine for you.
Is Starlink Good for Gaming: The Bad
Starlink does a few issues that could make it less than ideal for some gamers, especially those who game competitively. The primary issues I ran into while gaming on Starlink included.
- Latency is higher than with cable or fiber internet
- CGNAT means that your NAT type will likely be strict
- Jitter is higher, and this makes using in-game VoIP functions a challenge
Starlink for Gaming: The Ugly
Drops in my Starlink signal are the number one issue that makes Starlink less than ideal for gaming. Even though the drops are generally 10 seconds or less, it is more than long enough to get removed from a multiplayer match.
I had issues with drops despite following the direction from Starlink and using the Starlink App to ensure that my Starlink Terminal had a clear view of the sky in all directions. With drops occurring at least once per hour, online gaming with Starlink was a bit frustrating to say the least.
Conclusion: How is Gaming on Starlink
How good is Starlink Internet for gaming in 2023? Based on my hands-on testing, and extensive research, I would hesitate to call Starlink “good for gaming.” However, for some types of games, it works acceptably as long as you can live with a few drops here and there.
When compared to other internet options for gaming, it falls somewhere between DSL and 5G Home Internet. Starlink is not able to match the gaming performance of cable or fiber internet. However, it was never intended to do so.
Starlink is designed to be used in areas that lack the infrastructure for cable or fiber internet. When compared to legacy satellite internet, which uses geostationary satellite technology, Starlink is a complete game changer. Starlink’s approach of using low earth orbit (LEO) satellites gives it a massive advantage over the competition.