Technology Explained

What Are Gaming Routers and Are They Worth Buying?

Gavin Phillips Updated 04-12-2018

Hardware companies target gamers with all kinds of special gaming hardware. You can grab gaming keyboards, headsets, mice, monitors, and even gaming motherboards and sound cards. It doesn’t stop there though.


Most of the major router manufacturers now offer “gaming routers”—routers specifically designed with online gaming experiences in mind.

But what exactly do these gaming routers do differently from standard routers? Moreover, do their features really matter?

What Does a Gaming Router Do?

If manufacturers want you to buy a gaming router, what separates them from a regular router 7 Router Tips Every Gamer Needs to Know for Optimal Performance If you're paying for a super-fast connection, but still struggling with speeds, it could be your router. "Gaming routers" are marketed as faster than the rest. Is there any truth to that? Read More ? The key difference between a gaming router and a regular router is Quality of Service (QoS) features. A QoS utility predominantly focuses on sending your data exactly where it needs to go.

Don’t all routers do that? Yes, they do. However…

A typical router doesn’t care about which type of traffic is which. Your roommate using BitTorrent at maximum speed, Dropbox uploading and downloading files, web browsing, Netflix, gaming—it’s all the same to your router. All of it has equal priority when it comes to your internet connection


Of course, if you live in a busy household with multiple people attempting to use these services simultaneously, your internet can struggle to meet the demand. And if you’re trying to smash someone online at FIFA while someone else streams 4K video and another decides to upload their entire photo collection, your online gaming experience becomes decidedly laggy.

Gaming Router Quality of Service and Other Features

QoS takes that incoming data and, understanding how important gaming is, prioritizes incoming traffic for your game 5 Reasons to Enable Quality of Service Settings on Your Router You live in a busy household. Everyone wants the best internet speeds. But your router is slow. You need to enable Quality of Service settings to share the bandwidth around. Here's why! Read More . In that, your gaming router attempts to minimize packet loss for gaming connections while bunching the rest of the incoming and outgoing network data into a separate stream.

One of the most common quality of service tools is Qualcomm’s StreamBoost. StreamBoost (or variants based upon StreamBoost) features in a wide range of gaming routers as many are powered by a Qualcomm chipset.

Manufacturers have tweaked and developed their own versions, too. StreamBoost and similar technologies are considered adaptive QoS, in that they can automatically adjust to the shifting demands of your home network.


In many cases, adaptive QoS isn’t there to strangle the connections of other internet users in your home. (Unless you set it up like that, of course.)

Rather, the adaptive QoS attempts to balance the demands of the available incoming bandwidth for the end users. But as it is a gaming router, your gaming QoS will take precedence if that’s what you require.

Other Useful Gaming Router Features

Gaming routers also come with a bunch of other useful QoS and quality of life (QoL) features. There are a few gaming router features you should look out for.

Now, none of these features are exclusive to “gaming routers.” However, they’re certainly not found on low-end routers, or ISP-provided routers either. But they’re certainly available on routers that are cheaper than the high-end gaming routers.


How to Prioritize Your Gaming Router Traffic

One of the most important things to do after purchasing a gaming router is configuring your network priorities. What’s the best way to prioritize your gaming router traffic to deliver the best gaming experience?

  • Prioritize by Service. Want every device on the network to access a specific app? Set your network to prioritize by service. For instance, you could set every device on your network to have priority to a specific game or a video streaming service, like Netflix.
  • Prioritize by Network. Gaming routers allow prioritization by the network. That is, you can give your wireless connections priority over wired.
  • Prioritize by IP Address. Each device on your home network has a specific IP address behind your router. If each device has a static IP address—that’s an IP address that isn’t dynamically allocated when it joins the network—you can specify the network traffic priority for each IP address. (How do you get a static IP address, anyway What Is a Static IP Address? Here's Why You Don't Need One A static IP address is one that never changes. Dynamic IP addresses do change. We explain why you don't need a static IP address. Read More ?)
  • Prioritize by MAC Address. Your hardware has a unique identifier known as a MAC address. When your device connects to your gaming router, the router receives the device MAC address. You can then prioritize network traffic to devices based upon their unique identifier.

Some gaming routers let you combine prioritization methods. You could prioritize by service and IP address; funnily enough, that’s the perfect combination for streamlining gaming traffic.

Gaming Mode on D-Link Routers

D-Link routers—not just gaming routers, but many D-Link brand routers marketed to home users in general—come with a “Gaming Mode.”

This mode isn’t very self-explanatory. The D-Link router configuration interface says “If you are having difficulties playing some online games—please enable this mode.” and that “Gaming Mode should be used when you are playing games on the internet from behind the router.”



While D-Link doesn’t provide much documentation on this, it turns out that “Gaming Mode” is essentially the same thing as “Full-Cone NAT” and the router uses “Symmetric NAT” when gaming mode is disabled.

Let’s back up a bit here. Your router uses network address translation (NAT) to share your internet connection between the devices connected to it: PCs, gaming consoles, smartphones, tablets, and whatever else. Your router discards incoming traffic by default because it has no idea which device to forward it to.

Now, let’s say your Xbox console establishes an outgoing connection to the internet. When the Xbox receives a response to that connection, the router will forward the incoming traffic to the Xbox.

With the default Symmetric NAT, the router will only forward traffic to the Xbox if it’s from the same destination the Xbox opened a communication channel with.

With full-cone NAT—that’s “Gaming Mode” in D-Link router parlance—the router will forward all incoming traffic on that port over to the Xbox.

In other words, when Gaming Mode is enabled, the Xbox can establish an outgoing connection and then receive incoming connections from any other address. This is often necessary when playing games, as they may be hosted on the Xbox itself.

Many people have reported that enabling Gaming Mode on a D-Link router is necessary to use Xbox Live.

Is a Gaming Router Worth the Money?

Gaming routers aren’t just a marketing ploy. They genuinely come with a host of useful features such as gaming traffic prioritization, additional Gigabit Ethernet ports, the latest wireless standards, and powerful router hardware.

However, it’s important to remember that none of these features are exclusive to gaming routers. QoS, Gigabit Ethernet, and dual-band 802.11ac Wi-Fi are common features in all higher-end routers.

Be sure to check out our guide to the best routers for gaming. And if you’re wondering if you need a new router specifically for Wi-Fi 6 What Is Wi-Fi 6 and Do You Need a New Router? There's a new wireless standard coming. But what is Wi-Fi 6? And should you upgrade to a Wi-Fi 6 router? Read More , we can help answer your questions.

Related topics: Hardware Tips, Router.

Affiliate Disclosure: By buying the products we recommend, you help keep the site alive. Read more.

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  1. Kaden
    December 5, 2018 at 2:53 pm

    Can I add a GPU tho My Ryzen 5 2400g APU? Will the APU affect the graphics card and should I switch my Ryzen 5 2400g to the Ryzen 5 1600x and add the graphics card?

  2. Rosetta
    November 29, 2018 at 8:02 am

    Can u suggest what to use to get through a NAT TYPE 3 (through gaming consoles - PS4 .. ATT Wireless Hotspot) and what we need for this to happen? Our internet service is an unlimited ATT Wireless Hotspot and is the only way we can get connected as we do not have the option to connect hardwire (internet companies here in Alaska hasn't gotten out to our area yet. I have been searching now for the last few years for better internet but no go yet. I know the Nat Type 3 really hasn't nothing to do with the Internet itself (I don't think, lol.). Anyways, Can u help?

  3. Terence
    January 20, 2018 at 12:24 am

    Does this QoS thing affect both wired and wireless access?

  4. marina
    January 6, 2017 at 4:07 pm

    Otlihnai, ohen poznovatelnai statia. Tak derzat.

  5. Eddy
    February 14, 2016 at 11:13 pm

    would you have to buy a gaming pc or does a gaming router act as one

    • Josh
      August 18, 2017 at 1:55 am

      *sigh* A router or "gaming router" in this instance is what provides you with a little thing called wifi, you might have heard of it. A gaming pc could use either a gaming router or a normal router same as any other normal pc. A gaming router isnt just for a gaming computer which is just a normal computer with better specs.

  6. Charles
    March 11, 2015 at 4:11 am

    I think that you should all suck my big fat juicy cock, it tastes like skin I think.

  7. epi
    September 10, 2013 at 1:46 am

    I think the last part is just port forwarding,which is available in most, if not all routers. Yeah, i think that 'gaming routers' labelling are just gimmicks. A better feature is to be able limit/control bandwidth on certain devices connected to the router.

  8. Mike
    September 9, 2013 at 6:05 pm

    When mentioning 3rd party firmware updates, you should include Tomato, especially for QoS. Tomato's interface for QoS configuration is so much easier to understand than DD-WRT and OpenWRT. Plus with the graphs you can quickly determine the usage and help modify and tweak your QoS for the patterns on your network.