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MoCA Adapters and Their Effective use in Gaming

Written by: Goran Damjanović
Best MoCA Adapter for Gaming

A MoCA network, led by MoCA adapters, is a type of home internet network that uses existing coaxial cabling to directly connect the router to devices spread across different rooms, such as gaming PCs, smart TVs, or game consoles. Coaxial cables can be found in many homes across the world. These cables deliver the cable TV signal as well as cable internet to end users.

Aside from good old Ethernet cables, a MoCA network setup presents the second fastest & most stable internet backhaul option that also boasts very low latency. In other words, a MoCA home network can provide a superb, low latency, online gaming experience if you can’t plug in your device directly in to the router via Ethernet.

Let’s dive deeper into this often-overlooked solution for expanding your home network and see how its performance makes it a near-perfect ethernet connection substitute for any gamer.

A coaxial cable was at the core of the first transatlantic cable installation built in 1858, connecting Europe and North America via telegraph. Interestingly, the first patent for coaxial cable technology wasn’t issued until 1880 when Oliver Heaviside, an English physicist, finally explained the theory behind the technology.

What is a MoCA Network Adapter and How Does it Work?

The MoCA adapter is the central part of every MoCA network setup. The most basic network is made out of two MoCA adapters, one ethernet device such as a router, and a single output device, which can be anything from a gaming PC, TV, gaming console or anything else that you’d wish to hook up to the internet.

The internet signal goes from the router via an Ethernet cable to the MoCA adapter. Then, the signal’s encoded, with the encoded signal coming out the other way through the adapter’s MoCA-compatible coaxial port.

The internet signal then travels via the house coaxial cabling to the next MoCA adapter. Then it enters the adapter via its coaxial port, gets decoded, and then sent via Ethernet cable to the receiving device. And that’s pretty much it.

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MoCA Adapters Are Compatible with Most Internet Solutions

They’re even compatible with cable internet; some cable modems come with MoCA-compatible coax ports, allowing them to play the role of the primary MoCA adapter. So, if you’re on any type of modern internet solution, MoCA has you covered.

With that said, earlier MoCA revisions had some issues with DOCSIS 3.1 cable modems because they both use the same frequencies higher than 1GHz. In practice, however, you should be fine since most DOCSIS 3.1 modems rarely use 1GHz+ frequencies.

If the problems exist, your MoCA adapter documentation should include options you need to tweak to enable compatibility. Either that or a mention of a firmware update that should remedy the DOCSIS 3.1 issues.

Finally, MoCA adapters aren’t compatible with satellite TV or satellite internet. This includes services such as Dish Network or Direct-TV. Again, the source of the issue is in both services using the same frequency range. However, unlike the situation with DOCSIS 3.1 modems, there isn’t a solution that would make MoCA adapters compatible with satellite-based TV and the internet.

The first medium used for transferring Ethernet and internet signals was, you’ve guessed it, also coaxial cable. Due to the technology’s high efficiency and low signal loss – due to the electromagnetic field carrying the signal being fenced inside the cable – coaxial cables are perfect data signal carriers.

MoCA Standards Explained 

Multimedia over coaxial technology was initially used to distribute then-novel IP television via existing coaxial home installations. The original purpose of the tech expanded to internet signal backhauling in homes where installing ethernet (Cat 5/Cat 6) cables or fiber optic solutions was impossible. Soon after, the Multimedia over Coax Alliance was born and became the sole MoCA standards issuer.

MoCA wasn’t resting on its laurels, and ever since the 1.0 version of the standard, ratified in 2006, we’ve seen massive improvements regarding maximum data bandwidth.

MoCA 2.0 has a max throughput of 1Gbps, while its successor, MoCA 2.5, has a max bandwidth of 2.5Gbps. The latest version of the standard, MoCA 3.0, can achieve data rates up to 10Gbps, but, unfortunately, you cannot buy a MoCA 3.0 adapter yet.

At the moment you can either get MoCA 2.0 bonded or MoCA 2.5 adapters. We recommend getting a MoCA 2.5 adapter since that’s the latest standard and because MoCA 2.0 adapters aren’t really cheaper.

Note that MoCA 2.5 adapters come either with 1Gbps or 2.5Gbps ethernet (RJ-45) ports. If your download and upload speeds combine to less than 1000Mbps, you can pick either one. If you have a Gigabit plan (download higher than 1000Mbps) then be sure to get a MoCA 2.5 adapter featuring 2.5Gb ethernet ports.

To find out your maximum internet speed, check out your internet plan and add up your download and upload speeds, which should be listed in Mbps or Mbit/s. For example, if you have 300Mbps download and 150Mbps upload your total speed is 450Mbps.

MoCa Coax Networking Standards Explained

Best MoCA Adapter for Gaming

The marketplace features a number of different options that vary depending on the MoCA spec they support as well as maximum speed.

The Motorola MoCA 2.5 adapter is probably the safest bet, with a pricing of around $130 for two units. This adapter supports speeds up to 2.5Gbps and comes with a built-in coax splitter. The goCoax MoCA 2.5 adapter is a pretty good budget choice with a price of about $100 for a pair of adapters. The goCoax adapter also supports 2.5Gbps speeds but doesn’t include built-in adapters.

You can also pick one of the ScreenBeam MoCA 2.5 options. The downside here is that the cheaper models, which are already pricier than both Motorola and goCoax solutions, only come with a max bandwidth of 1Gbps instead of 2.5Gbps. Note that SreenBeam also offers a MoCA-based Wi-Fi Access Point. It supports MoCA 2.0 standard which means it’s limited to a maximum bandwidth of 1000Mbps.

What to Watch Out for When Buying MoCA Adapters for Gaming

  •     When creating a MoCA-based ethernet connection, you’re not limited to just a couple of adapters. Most MoCA adapters support up to sixteen connections at the same time.
  •     MoCA adapters are backwards compatible. For example, you can use a MoCA 1.0 adapter with a MoCA 2.0 device, with the former being limited to its max data rate of 100Mbps.
  •     MoCA adapters with wireless capability can extend your Wi-Fi network via coaxial cables. If you have a coax cable grid in your house, you don’t need Wi-Fi extenders or mesh systems to create a house-wide Wi-Fi network.
  •     While most newer adapters come with built-in splitters, you might need one in case you get an adapter that doesn’t include a built-in solution. When looking for a splitter, make sure it’s MoCA compatible. The purpose of the splitter is to let you use the MoCA network and cable TV or cable modem simultaneously.
  •     Some houses feature a POE (point of entry) coaxial cable that’s not connected to the rest of the in-house coax cabling. If that’s the case, you’ll need to diagnose your coax network to determine which cable ends in which room. To do that, you need a coax tester kit.
  •     You might also need a MoCA-compatible coax amplifier if you live in an exceptionally massive house.
  •     Creating a MoCA ethernet network in your house can lead to the internet signal escaping your home through the POE coax port, which can be a security issuepo. Luckily, lots of newer MoCA adapters come with built-in POE filters. The alternate solution is to buy a standalone POE filter and hook it to the POE coax port in your home.
  •     The maximum data transfer rate depends on the MoCA version supported by the adapter – the coax cable is just the medium carrying the data – and your internet plan, of course.
  •     Max data rate takes into account both download and upload. For example, suppose you have a 500Mbps symmetrical connection and maximize download and upload speed simultaneously. In that case, a 1Gbps MoCA adapter will be maxed out since adding the two equals 1Gbps (500Mbps download + 500Mbps upload).
  •     Using MoCA adapters adds about 3-5 milliseconds of latency to your existing internet connection. This is less than Wi-Fi and about the same as powerline adapters.

Now that we explained everything there is to know regarding MoCA technology let’s talk about the meat and potatoes of this guide, MoCA multiplayer gaming performance against Wi-Fi and powerline adapters.

MoCA Gaming Performance vs. Powerline Adapters vs. Wi-Fi

Before we show you the performance numbers, remember to always use a direct Ethernet connection if you’re an esports gamer that demands the highest possible network performance with lowest ping.

Added latency when using Ethernet is practically non-existent. And considering that Cat 6 ethernet cables are rated for up to 100 meters, you can hook your gaming PC or console to your primary router directly via cable, no matter the router’s location.

If you can’t create an Ethernet cable-backed direct-to-router connection for one reason or another, you’re limited to alternative solutions. These include Wi-Fi, MoCA adapters, and powerline adapters. Let’s compare MoCA with Wi-Fi first.

MoCA vs. Wi-Fi

A fast and stable Wi-Fi connection can be used for online gaming without connection drops or high latency issues. In theory, a Wi-Fi access point adds just a couple of milliseconds of latency, which in no way should affect your gaming experience.

For instance, if you have 50ms of latency between your network and the game server, a modern (read: Wi-Fi 5 or 6) Wi-Fi access point will add about 5-10ms of latency, which is not bad.

The general consensus is that anything lower than 100ms is optimal for multiplayer gaming. However, we’d say that for the optimal experience, you want 70ms ping or less. And for the best possible experience, esports gamers should aim for 50ms of latency or less.

In a perfect scenario, you will have a Wi-Fi router sitting in your gaming room, with your PC or console being the sole device hooked to that wireless network. Combine that with a solid Wi-Fi card, and you should have no issues whatsoever.

The thing is, most gamers don’t have a perfect Wi-Fi setup. They have to rely on a wireless signal originating from another room or even farther. And having a wireless network only for yourself is even rarer.

Even if your Wi-Fi router features MU-MIMO technology that allows multiple wireless connections simultaneously, the signal strength will drop, and your ping will noticeably increase as soon as someone else starts using the network.

Wi-Fi extenders and Wi-Fi mesh systems can help mitigate this issue to a certain degree. But even then, the signal will degrade considerably as soon as someone else connects to the primary or any other Wi-Fi access point that sits between the primary router and your gaming device.

Also, your unit is most likely surrounded by other Wi-Fi antennas and wireless devices if you live in an apartment or condo complex. This can negatively affect your wireless signal even if your router is located in the same room as your gaming setup and no one else is connected to the network.

For example, look at the performance of a Wi-Fi mesh system in this MoCA vs. Wi-Fi mesh gaming comparison video from Lon.TV YouTube channel. The test was performed in Sea of Thieves with a baseline latency of about 65-70ms via ethernet connection.

With a 100-percent free mesh Wi-Fi connection, the added ping was anywhere between 9-15ms. Not great, not terrible. However, when that same Wi-Fi mesh system gets under load, the added ping increases to about 25-45ms, with total latency breaching the 100ms limit.

With even more devices connected to the network, the ping skyrocketed to ~140ms, double the baseline ping level. This kind of performance will completely ruin your multiplayer experience.

On the other hand, the MoCA adapter added just a couple of milliseconds of latency and kept the connection fully stable. Even under load, the MoCA adapter should maintain the same latency as long as you don’t fully top up your internet speed.

Aside from much better performance latency-wise, MoCA adapters are a much better solution than Wi-Fi when we talk about connection speed. On the MoCA network, your connection speed shouldn’t drop below ~90 percent of the maximum speed you get directly from your router.

On the flip side, Wi-Fi suffers from various issues that drop the connection speed considerably with distance. Walls and other obstacles will decrease connection speed. Next, the more devices are using the network, the lower the connection speed and stability and higher the latency.

Wi-Fi extenders and Wi-Fi mesh solutions are also far from perfect. A Wi-Fi extender may maintain a relatively high speed, but once other devices start using the same wireless access point, both the speed and latency will tank.

As for Wi-Fi mesh systems, each node of the mesh drops the connection speed further. A study performed by MoCA alliance has shown that Wi-Fi mesh solutions, at best, offer about half the speed of a MoCA adapter.

Lon.TV Wi-Fi mesh testing resulted in similar drops. The image below shows results from testing a 1Gbps LAN network. The Wi-Fi mesh setup – 1st gen AC1200 Google Wifi with Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac) support – drastically drops speed with every node while adding 13ms of latency. The MoCA solution, on the other hand, achieves around 90 percent of the max speed with latency intact.

Having 50 percent or less of your max bandwidth isn’t great when you need to quickly download a new update before you can play your favorite game. Especially these days when games such as CoD: Warzone regularly push updates that weigh tens of gigabytes.

And with Warzone 2 download size measuring around 115GB, we’re sure you’d want to have access to 90 percent of your max bandwidth instead of 50 percent or less.

At the end of the day, MoCA adapters are much better than any Wi-Fi solution for multiplayer gaming. MoCA network maintains much lower latency and much higher connection speed, both of which are very important for any gamer.

Even if you don’t play multiplayer titles, we recommend getting MoCA adapters, if possible, to get the best download speed.

MoCA vs. Powerline Adapters

The only thing where powerline adapters are comparable with MoCA adapters is the ease of installation. The installation procedure is even more straightforward than with MoCA adapters. All you have to do is hook your ethernet cable from the router to the first powerline adapter, then hook both powerline adapters into a power plug, press the pair button, and that’s it.

However, this is where powerline adapters’ merits end. For starters, while many powerline adapters are rated for 1Gbps speeds or higher, the reality is less exciting. Real-life speeds achieved by powerline adapters are way lower, and while their connection is stable and adds just a couple of milliseconds of ping, potential complications are numerous.

Unlike coax cables, electrical wires aren’t made for data transfer, which results in various problems when using powerline adapters. These issues are tied to the quality of electrical installations, devices hooked to your home electrical grid, circuit breakers you’re using, whether powerline adapters are connected to the same circuit or not, etc.

Check our Best Powerline Adapters for Gaming Stations list for a full breakdown of drawbacks.

If your home has an existing coaxial cable network, we wholeheartedly recommend MoCA adapters over powerline adapters. The former solution offers much faster speeds, higher reliability, and lower ping. The extra bonus is that a MoCA network can’t be affected by literally any device connected to your electrical network.

MoCA Adapters for Gaming – Conclusion

If you can hook your gaming PC or console directly to the router via ethernet cable, use it and don’t even think about other solutions.

The second-best option is a wireless connection between your gaming device and a wireless router. As long as the router’s in the same room, there aren’t any other devices connected to the same Wi-Fi network, and you’re living in a house not surrounded by a ton of other wireless devices.

If any of the two options listed above are out of the question and your home has coaxial cabling built inside its walls, we recommend using MoCA adapters for expanding your home network, especially if you’re a gamer who prefers playing multiplayer titles.

Mainly because they add almost no extra latency. Also, the amount of added lag won’t increase if someone else is using the network, if there’s lots of space between two MoCA adapters, or if you are surrounded by Wi-Fi antennas.

Not only that, but MoCA adapters also offer the best experience when it comes to maintaining the maximum internet speed across your home network. You can expect about 90 percent of the max bandwidth even if you’re using more than two adapters.

This is why the MoCA home network is, notwithstanding ethernet cables, the best solution for every gamer looking to build a home internet network while maintaining the lowest possible latency and highest connection speed.