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Gamer’s guide to the best setup

Discover what hardware, software and internet speed are needed for the best console gaming setup

friends gaming on couch

The optimal gaming experience starts with your setup.

Gamers want to enjoy the best possible experience when they play, and this often comes down to what type of setup they're working with. In gaming, even a setup with some good elements can deliver subpar performance and make it difficult to immerse yourself in gameplay if every aspect isn't optimized.

While creating a high-quality gaming setup can be time-consuming, it can also be an extremely worthwhile investment. The joy and excitement of gaming depend on good equipment and a fast internet connection — both help reduce lag and improve response times during play, allowing you to focus more completely on in-game objectives.

Additionally, incorporating well-made and supportive gaming accessories into your setup can lower the risk of ergonomic injury and help you stay more comfortable during extended play sessions.

However, not every piece of high-quality hardware or software will properly fit every setup. The exact items you'll need will vary depending on the equipment you already have on hand, the type of gaming you prefer and your internet service provider (ISP). Your ISP's ability to deliver quality service will impact your gaming immensely, so it's worth scrutinizing your internet plan to ensure it's truly providing everything you need.

Optimizing your internet for gaming

The quality of the network connection in your home is a vital component of your gaming setup. Full-performance gaming generally requires a reliable high-speed internet connection, as using a slow or inconsistent connection can result in high lag, inconsistent ping and dropped frames.

The minimum recommendation for internet gaming speed is about 3 megabits per second (Mbps) for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads. However, you may prefer speeds around 20-25 Mbps if you have family or roommates who might be gaming simultaneously in your household. Of course, you may actually want to go with a higher Mbps — potentially much higher, if you do a lot of intensive online activities. Remember, the average household uses a lot of internet-connected devices at the same time, and not just for gaming. If you'd like to figure out what internet speeds you'll truly need, take into account all of the devices that all users will be on and consider how heavy usage between users will be at one time.

Use a wired connection whenever possible

When feasible, using a wired internet connection like ethernet can help improve your gaming experience. Wired connections deliver faster speeds and lower latency than Wi-Fi, which can help reduce issues like in-game stutter and rubberbanding. Additionally, the quality of a wired connection doesn't fluctuate based on signal strength like Wi-Fi does, allowing you to enjoy games online while maintaining a solid connection.

When setting up a wired connection, make sure that you use modern cabling equipment; many older ethernet cables may not be compatible with newer devices, which could prevent you from connecting at all. Before buying an ethernet cable for gaming, it's important to make sure that it fits with all of the devices you plan to use on your network, or that you have the adaptors needed to make it fit.

Wi-Fi

Even though it's not as reliable as ethernet in all cases, Wi-Fi may still be the best option for some gaming setups because of its range and versatility. When using Wi-Fi for gaming, make sure your signal is as strong and consistent as possible.

Because the speed of a wireless connection is dependent on signal strength, you'll need to make sure your router is well-positioned to deliver a strong signal to your gaming area. Ideally, your router should have a direct line of sight to all the devices you want to connect. It should not be placed near any obstacles that may obscure the signal, such as shelving, appliances and furniture.

When setting up a Wi-Fi network for gaming, it's also critical to choose the best Wi-Fi channel for your bandwidth. Modern routers can be "tuned" to a variety of different channels designed to suit different bands — some of which contain more traffic than others. Switching your router to a lesser-used channel on your band can help speed up your connection by reducing the number of other devices competing for your airspace.

If your signal is regularly slow or spotty when gaming, it may help to disable Wi-Fi for other devices on your network. Even if you're not actively using them, Wi-Fi-enabled devices such as smartphones and tablets can take up bandwidth just by being connected. Switching Wi-Fi off on these devices while you play can help improve the speed of your connection by freeing up additional bandwidth.

5G

Depending on your performance needs and the type of gaming you want to do, you may benefit from upgrading your home to a 5G Wi-Fi network if possible. As the 5G network is consistently expanding to cover more areas, providers like Verizon can deliver significantly better speeds and lower latency than other networks. This makes 5G ideal for competitive online gaming, live streaming, downloading files and other more data-heavy applications like augmented reality (AR) and virtual reality (VR) gaming.

PC gaming vs. console gaming

Among gamers across the globe, debate rages as to whether a PC or console can provide the best gaming experience. The truth is that both are excellent options, but for different reasons. While PCs are highly customizable and can be modded and upgraded to run games at the highest specifications, modern consoles offer ease of use via plug-and-play and can stand toe to toe with some of the higher-end PC models.

If you're looking to invest in a rig, visit our comprehensive guide to the ideal PC gaming setup. For the competitive console gamers looking for the best setup options, on the other hand, we've got you covered below.

Best setup options for console gamers

Much like other types of gaming devices, consoles come with their own unique pros and cons. Consoles are effectively closed ecosystems. This means they have little to no customizable settings compared to PCs but they're easier to set up and can deliver a more seamless gaming experience right out of the box — making them an ideal choice for many people.

When looking for these devices, it's critical to consider the type of console you have at home while you shop, as Xbox accessories may not be compatible with PlayStation consoles, and vice versa. This will help you maximize the performance of your console and avoid the hassle of returning something you just bought.

There are several things to consider if you want the best console gaming performance, most of which fall under two main umbrellas: accessories and subscription services.

Must-have gaming accessories

In support of a better console gaming experience, you must have the right hardware in addition to the console itself. There are several accessories that all console gamers should have on hand to improve their gameplay.

Headset

A good headset can provide you with a more immersive console gaming experience and help you improve your performance in competitive play. Headsets can be particularly beneficial for online multiplayer gaming, as they can enable you to communicate with other players more effectively and reduce distractions caused by background noise from your home environment. Most gaming headsets are highly versatile and can be used with a variety of different consoles.

Speakers

If you want to hear the exact direction your enemy's footsteps are coming from or want to enjoy sweeping orchestral notes and high-fidelity sound effects, you should look into a set of decent speakers. For console gaming, you're likely looking at home theater solutions that can be used with your TV, such as a soundbar.

Gaming chairs

For the right ergonomics experience during long gaming sessions, consider a chair built specifically for gamers. You can order your own custom chair, with unique embroidery and color combinations, that provides lumbar support and keeps you comfortable while you game.

Controllers

Console gamers will primarily use a controller to navigate menus and play games, and most consoles come packaged with a single controller. However, it's always a good idea to snag an extra controller or two — just in case the one you're using dies in the middle of gameplay or you want to play with other people. Some consoles even offer "pro"-style controllers that feature back paddles and extra buttons for precision gaming. Additionally, you can even get specialized controllers designed for use in specific games, such as a steering wheel for racing games, to further enhance your experience. You may also want to seek out additional grips to make your controllers more comfortable to hold or skins to customize their aesthetic to your tastes.

Charging stations

A charging station is a dedicated device, separate from the console, that you can use to charge your wireless controllers. These devices allow you to charge a greater number of controllers simultaneously and can help you reduce wear and tear on your console's USB port over time. Charging stations are made to fit specific consoles, so the device you buy must be compatible with the console you have at home.

Vertical stands

Though some newer consoles are meant to stand vertically, older models are designed to lay horizontally. Use a specialized stand to position your console vertically, keep your gaming area organized, and save vital shelf space.

Aesthetic accessories

Certain accessories may not impact gameplay, but they can transform the space you game in and add an extra bit of fun to your experience. Consider getting LED light strips that change colors while you game or a backlighting kit to place behind your display.

Subscription services

In addition to hardware, several paid subscription services enhance your console gaming experience. These services can expand the functionality of your console and give you access to a greater number of games:

  • Game Pass: Game Pass is a monthly subscription service offered by Microsoft that gives users access to a rotating library of games, as well as premium services like Xbox live gold and EA play. Game Pass is available for both console and PC gamers. Xbox users can also choose to purchase a more comprehensive Xbox All Access package, a bundle that includes the latest generation Xbox along with 24 months of Game Pass Ultimate.
  • PS Plus: PlayStation Plus is a monthly subscription service offered by Sony for PlayStation consoles. Similar to Game Pass, PS Plus users pay a monthly subscription fee that gives them access to an ever-changing lineup of PlayStation titles. Generally, you'll need at least a basic or "essential" level PS Plus subscription to play most online PlayStation games, except for some free-to-play titles. However, Sony also offers two higher-level PS plus subscriptions that each give users access to a wider catalog of titles.

These services are highly versatile, as they give you the freedom to cancel or change your plan if you want to. Additionally, console users can also choose from a variety of different media subscription services, including Netflix, Hulu and ESPN+.

Gaming tools

There are a variety of dedicated tools that gamers can use to improve their experience and maximize the efficiency of their devices. Each of these offers its own unique functions and benefits:

Game boosters

Game boosters are software applications that use data-driven insights to help you optimize your device. These programs collect temperature and memory data from the device while you play, and use insights from this data to automatically adjust your settings for an optimal experience. Game boosters also allow you to limit and/or filter the types of notifications you receive while playing a game, which can help you stay focused.

Performance monitoring tools

There are a variety of different applications that you can use to monitor the performance of your gaming devices:

  • FPS Counters: A device's frame rate, usually measured in frames per second (FPS), is a common metric associated with gaming performance. If your frame rate is too low, it can cause problems like latency. FPS counters monitor your frame rate over time, which can help you identify when lagging issues occur and what causes them.
  • CPU and CPU monitors: These programs can provide you with a comprehensive overview of your system's performance and health. These programs keep track of metrics like temperature, fan speed, currents, voltage, and load speeds.

Programs like these can help you identify any issues with your gaming devices or apps in less time and diagnose them with greater accuracy.

Steam and other virtual marketplaces

Virtual marketplaces are a valuable resource and a fun way to shop for games and other content online; such as add-ons, DLCs, game soundtracks and gaming-related applications. Some marketplaces, like the popular Steam, also have social networking features that allow you to form online groups and share information with other gamers.

Besides Steam, some of the most popular virtual marketplaces for gamers include GOG.com, The Humble Store, Itch.io, Green Man Gaming, The Epic Games Store, and the Microsoft store. These marketplaces are highly convenient, as they can allow you to download purchased titles instantly and access them at any time via a virtual library.

VR and AR gaming setups

Compared to more established gaming mediums, AR (augmented reality) and VR (virtual reality) gaming have very unique considerations for performance. Specialized AR and VR products help create a fun, immersive experience for players. There are several things you'll need to optimize your AR or VR gaming setup:

Function and space

A functional setup for AR or VR gaming is very different from setups for other types of consoles. One of the biggest priorities is having space so you can move during play. Before you begin gaming, ensure the floor is free of clutter and furniture has been moved aside.

Additionally, excess sunlight can adversely impact tracking during VR gaming, so the room you choose should have minimal sunlight or thick curtains that allow you to darken the play area.

Base stations

Base stations track the locations of your VR headset and controllers while you play to create an immersive, room-scale experience. Well-placed base stations can improve response times and help ensure that your VR experience is tailored to the size of the room you're in.

If you plan on moving around the room with your headset on, you'll need four base stations for a safe and optimal experience. Two stations are generally enough to support stationary VR play. Your base stations should be placed in opposite corners of the room and angled toward you. Ideally, they should be positioned high above the ground, this can be done with wall mounts or collapsable stands.

Cable management

Keeping the cables out of the play during play is another common challenge for VR and AR gamers. Unruly cables are more vulnerable to damage and can create a significant tripping hazard, but installing a VR cable management system in your home can help you avoid this issue. These systems use ceiling-mounted hooks to keep cables lifted up and out of your way, and pulleys to ensure you'll never run out of slack.

Storage

There are several different ways to properly store your VR equipment when it's not in use. VR headsets can often be safely kept in their original boxes, as these boxes are specifically designed to cradle their unique shape. If you'd like to keep them out and ready for use, headsets can also be stored on a shelf or mounted on a stand, although it's important to keep them away from high-traffic areas of your home.

If you plan on traveling with your headset, however, it may be easier to purchase a purpose-built case. These cases are designed for easier carrying and transport and often come with additional compartments to carry your cables and accessories.

Mobile gaming setup tips

While mobile gaming is more convenient and accessible for many people, its performance can be limited by a variety of factors, including the processing power of your mobile device and the size of your data plan.

Fortunately, mobile games and mobile gaming accessories are only becoming more advanced, powering constant improvements in graphics and gameplay. If you want to get the most out of your device and enjoy the best possible mobile gaming experience, there are several steps you can take.

Maximizing performance

Being aware of the factors that affect performance and taking the right steps to mitigate them can help you avoid lag and slow game speeds.

Disabling notifications

Though many mobile games don't show notifications during gameplay, some — such as phone calls — may still come through. Switching your notifications off when you play can help you stay focused and keep your game running smoothly.

Clearing up your storage

While mobile games have become significantly more advanced over recent years, they are also more data-heavy and take up more space on our mobile devices. If your device's storage is overloaded, it can seriously impact how your games and apps run. Cleaning unused files from your device and storing them in the cloud can help your games run smoothly and free up space for additional games you may want to download in the future.

Battery saver mode

Mobile gaming can also consume a significant amount of your device's battery life. Switching your phone or tablet to battery saver mode while you play can extend its lifespan by reducing background data consumption, and disabling energy-intensive features like location services. While it can affect visual effects like brightness, battery-saver mode won't necessarily impact your mobile gaming experience.

5G

Just like it does for console gamers, a 5G internet connection can substantially improve the experience of your online mobile games and apps by reducing latency and lag. As 5G smartphones and networks become more widely available, they will also enable developers to create more detailed and immersive games for mobile devices, including AR and VR games.

Improving your gaming experience

While smartphones alone may struggle to deliver the same level of immersion as consoles or PCs, several mobile gaming accessories can help you create a similarly engaging mobile gaming experience:

Attachable controllers

If you enjoy mobile gaming, but dislike playing on your phone or tablet's touch screen, you may benefit from purchasing an attachable controller. This is a handheld remote device that resembles a console controller or computer mouse and keyboard. They can be connected to your smartphone or tablet and used to control mobile games and apps.

Cooling cases

Overheated phones are a common occurrence for avid mobile gamers. Frequent overheating can cause permanent damage to your device's battery, but a cooling case can help reduce this risk. Cooling cases are devices with built-in fans that can be attached to smartphones to lower their temperature. These devices come with adjustable fan speeds and built-in thermometers that allow you to monitor your phone's temperature during extended gaming sessions. Many cooling cases are adjustable, but can still only fit phones within a certain width range.

Battery cases

Battery cases are another effective way to extend the lifespan of your phone. These devices resemble normal smartphone cases but come with built-in lithium-ion batteries that can provide your phone with extra power while simultaneously protecting it from damage. This can allow you to play more in between charges and prevent your phone from dying unexpectedly while you're gaming.

Video out

A video out cable, sometimes called a phone-to-tv adapter, will allow you to connect your smartphone's video output to a television via the TV's HMDI port. This will enable you to view your phone's display on a much larger screen, making your gaming experience much more immersive.

USB hubs

As their name implies, USB hubs are devices that expand the number of available USB ports on your mobile phone, allowing you to connect it with more devices at the same time. These ports can be used to connect your phone to other devices like TVs and computers, as well as gaming accessories like attachable controllers, giving you the ability to customize your mobile gaming experience to a greater degree.

Subscription services

Just as there are gaming subscription services for consoles, there are also services available specifically for mobile gamers:

Apple Arcade

Apple Arcade is an entertainment subscription service offered by Apple that allows you to access a large catalog of games on your iOS devices. It also gives you the freedom to download games and play them later.

Google Play Pass

Google Play Pass is an entertainment subscription service for android devices. Subscribing to Google Play allows you to browse from a wide selection of mobile games and apps, and download them at no charge.

Services like these can allow you to discover new games and apps, and save you the trouble of purchasing an entire game when you want to try something new.

Best gaming setup tips on a budget

The cost of games and gaming equipment is one of the main factors that prevent people from building their own setups. Fortunately, there are several ways for gamers on a budget to optimize their experience without spending a lot of money:

  • Buy used hardware and games: Buying used games and gaming equipment instead of new can help you save money without compromising the quality of your experience.
  • Trade-ins: If you have older games that you no longer use, you can trade them in at some retailers to help offset the cost of new games and equipment.
  • Look for online sales: While newer games often have high sticker prices, many online marketplaces, like Steam, are well-known in the gaming community for their annual sales. During these sales, you can buy popular games and apps at significantly discounted rates. Planning your purchases around these events can help you reduce your gaming budget without sacrificing choice.
  • Utilize subscription services: While they require you to pay a monthly membership, gaming subscription services like PlayStation Plus and Xbox Game Pass can save you money by allowing you to access a large library of titles without having to purchase individual games.

The latest deals on gaming equipment

Regardless of your budget or the type of gaming you're into, there are a variety of different products and services that can help you optimize your experience. Verizon has a wide selection of products designed to suit any type of gaming setup, including:

  • Console gaming products like controllers, headsets, popular game titles, and latest-generation consoles like PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X.
  • PC gaming products like keyboards, mice, and wired controllers from quality brands like Razer and Logitech.
  • Mobile gaming products like attachable controllers, earbuds, and over-ear headsets.
  • VR gaming products like charging docks, extension cables, carrying cases, and headsets from major VR brands like Meta.

Finding the right equipment can make all the difference for your gaming setup. It's often beneficial to browse and compare multiple products and accessories, and Verizon has everything you need to take your gaming setup from "dream" to "reality."


Reviewed By: Verizon Editorial Team
Last Reviewed: 7.19.2023
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