Are Wi-Fi Hotspots Good for Gaming?

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There may come a time where your Wi-Fi at home goes down, but you still want to get online and do some gaming. This begs the question as to whether Wi-Fi hotspots are good for gaming and whether they are really worth it in the long run?

Wi-Fi hotspots can be good for gaming, but they can be unreliable at times in regards to speed, latency, and coverage. Depending on the types of games you are looking to play and how much data you have, using a hotspot can also end up being expensive if you don’t have an unlimited data allowance.

In this article, we’ll discuss how a Wi-Fi hotspot works, whether a Wi-Fi hotspot is good for gaming, and how much data you can expect it all to use.

How Do Wi-Fi Hotspots Work?

Wi-Fi hotspots are essentially access points that allow you to connect to a Wi-Fi network that isn’t your regular home or office network.

They work by connecting to a cellular network, most commonly 4G, and then casting a Wi-Fi signal to which you can connect your device to.

Although you can get dedicated hotspot devices, like a USB dongle, the most common way of setting up a hotspot is to use your smartphone.

Combining the phone’s hardware, software, and network data services, you can make use of your phone’s cellular data allowance and provide connectivity where it may not have previously been possible.

If you don’t have a Wi-Fi network available to connect to on your laptop for example, but do receive cellular data on your smartphone, you can still access the Internet on your laptop by connecting to the phone as a hotspot.

The idea is that a Wi-Fi hotspot should pretty much work in the same way as your home’s Wi-Fi network, but in reality, things will be slightly different.

Whereas at home would you expect the speeds, range, and cost of your Wi-Fi network to remain consistent, when using a Wi-Fi hotspot these can vary depending on where you physically are at the time.

If you were lucky enough to achieve exceptional performance in one location, don’t expect it to be the same wherever you go as it will more than likely change.

It’s for this reason, primarily, that connecting to a hotspot when wanting to game online can be a bit hit or miss. It does ultimately come down to the quality of connection and how stable it remains.

Can You Game off a Mobile Hotspot?

It is certainly possible to game online when connected to a mobile hotspot, but just don’t expect the same kind of performance that you would achieve from being connected to the Internet through your primary home network setup.

Some people have actually reported some great success in gaming whilst connected to a hotspot when their primary wireless connection was realistically too slow or even non-existent in the case of an outage.

One thing all of these people had in common, though, is that they had a strong 4G connection at the time.

I suspect it wouldn’t have been as good of an experience if they were to only be receiving a 3G signal.

Another pleasant surprise was that the ping response times and latency weren’t as bad as anticipated.

Someone receiving a ping of 30ms on a wired connection was getting around 60ms whilst on a hotspot, which isn’t too bad at all if you ask me; especially if you aren’t looking to play a competitive online game where a lower ping really does bring some advantages.

Others have reported lag whilst connected to a hotspot, but the game being played is a factor here as some are notoriously bad for lag even when using a fast and stable Ethernet connection. 

Still, most of the time the game was still perfectly playable. The lag could just get a bit irritating at times – that’s all.

The general feeling I got from those that have tried and tested using a hotspot for gaming is that it can work well providing you receive a stable 4G connection, but may not really be worth it unless it is your only option.

If your primary network connection is down or simply too slow, absolutely give it a go and see how you get on. Just be wary of data usage which we will move on to next.

How Much Data Does a Wi-Fi Hotspot Use for Gaming?

You’ll be pleased to hear that gaming itself doesn’t use a lot of data, even when playing online multiplayer games.

As a rule of thumb, you can expect modern online games to use between 40MB and 250MB of data per hour, which really isn’t a lot when you consider that streaming high-quality video can use almost four times that.

Although the act of gaming itself is kind on your data allowance, there are a few things to keep in mind.

The first is that downloading the games themselves can end up using an enormous amount of data; especially modern titles like Call of Duty: Warzone which exceeds 100GB in size.

Trying to install that whilst connected to your Wi-Fi hotspot is a recipe for disaster if you are not on an unlimited data plan.

You would likely exceed your allowance very quickly and then end up having to pay an extortionate amount in overuse charges.

It’s also not just the downloading of the games themselves that you need to be cautious of, but the installing of updates that inevitably come later down the road.

Depending on how far out of date you are, it’s not uncommon for the patches and updates to use more data than it would be to install the game in the first place.

The size of the download will be determined by the type of game and the system you are playing it on.

On portable systems, you can expect games to be between around 1GB and 10GB in size, but on the PC, Xbox and Playstation you can expect them to be substantially more, especially if it is a large mainstream title like Warzone which I referenced earlier.

My advice is to make sure that the games you want to play are downloaded, installed, and fully up to date before you even consider connecting to the hotspot wherever possible.

Most of us will have an unlimited data allowance on our regular home networks, but not necessarily on our cellular data packages.

If you do anticipate using your hotspot on a regular basis and there may come a time where you need to install an update on the road, it is worth considering an unlimited data plan just to cover your bases.