As an avid gamer of FPS games, I got excited after Starlink was launched.
Did this mean I could start gaming from my rural home that has no chance of getting fiber internet anytime soon?
After testing several games such as Warzone, Apex Legends, Call of Duty, and Destiny on Starlink, I have an answer for you.
Starlink is a good option for hobby gaming as speeds are good and latency is within playable limits for most users. However, Starlink is not good enough yet for competitive gaming as other users who have fiber internet will have a slight advantage due to less latency.
Starlink for Gaming: How does it Fare?
The most critical factors that affect the quality of online gaming are latency (ping) and packet loss.
Download and upload speeds are mostly never a problem unless your speeds are really low.
Test Data shows that the speeds and latency (ping) for Starlink are quite good for most types of gaming in 2021 and 2022.
|Recommended||10 Mbps||5 Mbps||50 ms or less|
|Starlink US (Average)||90.55 Mbps||9.33 Mbps||43 ms|
These numbers can only be expected to get better as Starlink is launching more satellites every month.
The only situation where a high download speed would be helpful when gaming is if you have to download large game files.
Considering the speed of Starlink, a 2GB file can be downloaded in under 3 minutes.
Does that mean Starlink is perfect for gaming? Well, not quite.
Starlink for Competitive Gaming: What's the Problem?
In competitive gaming, even a small disadvantage in terms of latency can be difficult to overcome.
Starlink users experience two issues occasionally that make competitive gaming difficult:
- Fluctuations in latency
- Packet Loss
The truth is that even a high ping of 60-80 ms is manageable as long as the ping value stays relatively constant.
But some Starlink users experience fluctuations in ping that negatively affect their game making competitive gaming difficult.
Ping is the delay between your computer requesting (pinging) the server and the server sending it back to you.
Ping is actually not related to download or upload speeds in any way.
In fact, it's possible to upgrade to a higher bandwidth (speed) internet plan (by paying more) and experience higher ping/latency making gaming worse for you.
This ping disadvantage can be crippling when you play competitively against other games that have fiber broadband with much steadier connections.
Clearly, Starlink is not as good as fiber internet, but everyone knew that.
What's important is that it's much better than other satellite internet providers such as Viasat and Hughesnet.
Another issue is the packet loss that happens with some users. Several users have reported packet losses that range between 2-10%.
In simple terms, a 2% packet loss means that when 100 packets of data were sent to you, 2 were lost and never received at your device.
Think of it as similar to poor cell service when you are unable to hear parts of what the person on the other end says.
You can test your packet loss for free at packetlosstest.com
A packet loss greater than 1% can be noticeable when gaming or video conferencing.
It can cause the game to lag and cause drops in the game.
Does this happen all the time? No.
These are issues that are affecting some users at certain points during the day, especially during peak traffic hours.
Now whether you'll be one of those people who experience latency and packet loss is a matter of luck.
Once you set up Starlink correctly, there isn't much else to do.
Your latency is determined by factors such as the congestion in your area (cell), closeness to ground stations, and also where the other players are located.
Latency can be worse if you live in a low-capacity area according to the Starlink coverage map.
Bottomline: Starlink isn't ready (yet) for competitive gaming due to the possible fluctuations in ping and packet loss that occur multiple times a day.
Starlink for Hobby Gaming
Starlink works quite well for hobby gaming if you're willing to shrug off the occasional high ping and packet loss that can happen.
After playing several games for tens of hours in the past few months with Starlink, I can honestly say that it works well.
I also had group gaming sessions with 3 people simultaneously using the Starlink connection in my house and had no issues.
My personal experience, reports from other users, and all the speed tests and latency data point to Starlink being good enough for hobby gaming.
Starlink vs Other Internet Options for Gaming
If I were to compare Starlink with other internet options for gaming, this is how it would go in order of preference.
|#1||Fiber Internet||The best as expected|
|#2||Starlink||Excellent for hobby gaming, but not the best for competitive|
|#3||4G Internet (AT&T, T-Mobile)||Good for hobby gaming, but data caps are an issue and speeds are low compared to Starlink|
|#4||Other Satellite Providers (Viasat, Hughesnet)||Poor for almost any kind of gaming|
If you can get fiber, there's no better choice obviously. People who get fiber are not really the intended customers of Starlink.
But Starlink wins compared to the rest of the options.
4G internet may seem like a viable option, but the much slower download and upload speeds can make non-gaming activities difficult.
Forget about streaming 4k on Netflix without buffering.
4G also has much lower data caps whereas Starlink has a large 1 TB data cap for its residential plan in the USA.
Compared to Starlink, 5G home internet can be a good option since it has no data caps. But the quality of the internet can vary depending on the distance from the 5G tower.
How to Fix Gaming Issues on Starlink
While Starlink isn't perfect for gaming yet, if your ping and packet loss numbers are way off the average numbers, there could be other issues at play here.
There might be some things you can do to make gaming better on Starlink.
Remove any Obstructions to the Dish
Make sure there are no obstructions near your dishes such as overhangs or tall trees.
The Starlink dish can be very sensitive to obstructions.
Use the Starlink app to verify that the dish has a clear line of sight.
If you live in a thickly forested area, you might need to install a tall tower to raise your Starlink well above the trees that can obstruct the field of view.
Mount the Dish correctly
There are several mounting options for Starlink but they are not all equal.
Make sure the dish is sturdy and does not sway in the wind.
Use the right Starlink accessories for optimizing the internet you get through Starlink.
Use Ethernet and not WiFi for Gaming on Starlink
Using WiFi can cause extra latency issues while gaming.
A good ethernet connection is a must-have for a good gaming experience on Starlink.
If you have no way to use Ethernet, at least make sure you're on the 5 GHz spectrum on your router and not the 2.5 GHz one.
Split the WiFi bands using the Starlink app to make sure you are on 5 GHz.
Game during Non-peak hours
This might sound atrocious but the truth is that you're likely to get lesser issues if you avoid the peak hours when gaming.
The peak hours are around 5 PM to 11 PM in a lot of places. But this could vary.
This also means you should try to get Starlink residential if you can because during peak hours Starlink RV gets deprioritized.
If you want to travel occasionally with your Starlink, get Starlink residential and activate the portability feature.
To know how your ping varies during the day, use a tool like PingInfoView to get a graph of your ping over an extended period of time.
Use a better Router that has QoS Management
Quality of Service (QoS) is a feature of a router that prioritizes the traffic that we mark as more important.
When you have other Starlink users in your home this becomes important.
If someone in your network is downloading a heavy file or doing any download speed-intensive task, it can cause your ping/latency to spike.
This network issue is called buffer bloat.
To check if you have buffer bloat, run this test- Bufferbloat Test.
Of course, this can be prevented if everyone else stops using the internet when you're gaming.
But this isn't practical for most people.
The solution is to use a router that has QoS capabilities to manage any buffer bloat issues.
The router that comes in the Starlink box isn't great at doing this.
I recommend you get a good gaming router like the Asus AX5400 WiFi 6 Gaming Router.
This has QoS management inbuilt into it that will help with buffer bloat.
But before you switch your router, make sure to actually run the buffer bloat test.
Avoid Gaming in Bad Weather
There's clear evidence that shows Starlink does badly when there's a storm or heavy snow.
Well, I know this, because if there's a heavy storm, I face short outages on my Starlink.
This is also why I've kept my 4G LTE as a backup since I live remotely and access to the internet is critical to my work.
Stormy weather can cause spikes in latency and at worse, internet outages.
Will Gaming on Starlink get better?
Temporary outages of 5-10s while gaming was common in 2021 before the first Starlink shell was complete.
But Starlink has since added more shells and it is only getting better.
First, Starlink is launching more satellites every month and is ramping up the number of ground stations deployed.
Second, Starlink has implemented a built-in laser system on the newer satellites.
This built-in laser system will enable satellites to transmit data to each other without going through a ground station.
While Elon musk's target of bringing the ping to 20 ms might be a bit of a stretch, the future of Starlink is bright.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
How much ping does Starlink get?
The average Starlink ping in the USA is 43 ms in 2022 according to speed test results from Ookla. Users report pings as low as 25 ms to around 100 ms at different times during the day. The ping is low enough for most gaming activities and video conferencing.
Why is Starlink slow at night?
Starlink gets slow at night due to network congestion as most people come from work and do data-heavy tasks at night. This includes streaming in 4k and downloading large files. Starlink RV and Portability users are worst affected by it as they only get a best-effort service and are prioritized below Starlink residential users.