Ping is how fast your internet is, and if you like playing games online, this test will tell you where your best ping is. Computer screens show colors of different wavelengths that we can’t see; actually, they’re made up of ones and zeroes. It turns out the faster the series of zeroes and ones fly across an internet connection, like a cable or wireless network, the less time it takes for information to get from one place to another (a process called “a packet”).
Pinging simply sends packets of data back and forth between two points on a network to measure speed – think of it as clicking “refresh” on an electronic browser until the page loads. That number often shows up as “ms”, which is milliseconds or thousandths of a second, so when your ping time comes in at 100 ms, it means that information takes around 100thousandths of a second to get from one place to another.
If your ping is too high, namely higher than 80ms (milliseconds), then it might lag or freeze on some occasions. On the other hand, if your ping is lower than 20ms then it could be that you are located in a region which means that the host of the game does not have good enough servers and as such your gameplay might suffer from lower pings than this figure. A lot of people usually take ping tests using online tools.
Many gamers are obsessed with ping because it helps them choose the best server possible. Servers aren’t just online game lobbies; they’re the physical computers that house all your data and where you see everything on your screen. Your computer sends information about what’s happening in an online game to the server (sending “player X shot player Y” every time you click left-click), and then receives updates about who lives and who dies back from the server. Data has to go both ways, but not at the same speed.
This means that if you’re sitting in San Francisco and your game server is in Paris, France, there’s going to be a lag. The internet has nothing set up between those two points; it’s like water flowing down the street instead of through a pipe. How big this delay (or “ping”) becomes depends on many factors outside direct control: how fast each computer is, what type of connection they have (cable, fiber optic), where their servers are located geographically (“servers” might actually be anywhere in the world), whether or not they’ve upgraded their infrastructure recently, and so on.
All this means routers, central hubs connected directly to the source of traffic flow – can be incredibly important. A direct connection to a router can mean the difference between bouncing back and forth through different routers, each of which slows down traffic along the way (this is called routing), or having a straight path from your house to their servers (low ping). The shorter the distance, the better.
This is why gamers often choose specific providers when they play games online; these companies specialize in minimizing lag for gaming. The most popular ISPs for gamers are wired services like Comcast and Charter that connect directly to ports on routers and provide low-latency connections with short paths almost anywhere in North America and Europe. Wireless internet services also offer low pings, but you’re limited by signals that may not be able to get through walls or over long distances; this is why most gamers stick to wired Ethernet connections.
Knowing your ping time can help you determine the best location for an online game server, which can make a big difference in how fun a game is. If you’re looking to play “Call of Duty” online, it’s helpful to know that Call of Duty servers are located on East Coast networks while Battlefield 1 servers are generally housed on West Coast providers. The two games have very different feels when you’re playing them online because they receive data from their respective servers at different speeds due to geographic location.
With this tool, along with our real-world speed test that lets you compare all major internet service providers side by side, we offer everyone the chance to check where they stand and see if clearer skies are just a ping test away.