Broadband for gamers
Gamers are among the most demanding online users – and with good reason. It's easy to spend hours building characters and earning experience points in multiplayer environments like World of Warcraft and City of Heroes.
When you take that character into battle, you'll need low latency (the time delay between performing an action and seeing it on screen) and high ping rates to make sure you can keep up with the action.
As for dropped connections, they can mean the difference between life and virtual death. So, stability and low latency are top of the list. Who do you call? This is a tricky one to answer because, in theory, ADSL connections should all be much of a muchness.
They advertise a maximum download rate, and, depending on your circumstances, you should be able to get as close as possible to that without considerable drop outs. However, there are other considerations that govern the speed and reliability of your connection.
LLU (local loop unbundled) ADSL – broadband provision using ISP-installed equipment at your local exchange – is as affected as much by the whims of demand as dial-up used to be. Have you ever noticed a drop in line speed around 6pm? That's when the hordes come home, log in and start using up the contention bandwidth available at your exchange.
The more people there are using the available bandwidth, the more packets of data are lost. At best your connection slows; at worst it drops. With an average contention ratio of 50:1 per unit of capacity, choosing a popular provider may be counter productive to your gaming career.
Another issue is traffic shaping. This practice is standard in the industry, but little discussed. It amounts to the active limiting of data traffic on certain ports in order to make sure that mainstream traffic gets through.
One of the few ISPs to be entirely open about the practice is Plusnet, who publishes a chart showing exactly how it shapes traffic data at different times of day. For example, it limits all online gaming traffic to 2Mbps, all day every day. To be frank, this should be plenty for modern gaming requirements – and at least you know it's consistent.
We've chosen Be for a number of reasons. Price isn't really a factor here, but at £21.50 a month, Be Pro isn't the most expensive package in this roundup. For that money, you're offered ADSL2+ broadband of up to 24Mbps of bandwidth and a fixed IP address. However, the real advantage is that users can set their connection to 'gaming' mode.
This gives you a 'fastpath' connection, with error correction switched off. You lose some reliability, but server connections are faster. A further advantage of using ADSL2+ that won't be around for long is that you won't be competing with the masses for your bandwidth. Enjoy it while it lasts.
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