After over a year in beta testing, Cox is rolling out its Elite Gamer add-on for new customers. The ISP claims it can improve your latency by up to 32 percent if you subscribe to the service, though some caveats apply.
Cox’s Elite Gamer service costs $7 per month if you have your own router and $11 per month if you rent its “Panoramic Wi-Fi Gateway.” What Cox is offering is a GPN — Gamers Private Network. If you’ve heard of WTFast, reports a year ago stated Cox was implementing its own version of the technology. Because Cox Elite Gamer is used to optimize public network traffic, this kind of service would have been explicitly legal, even under the old, now-defunct net neutrality rules.
GPNs are conceptually similar to VPNs, in that they create a connection between you and a target server, but they aren’t designed to facilitate encrypted communication. Instead, they improve latency (again, in theory) by ensuring that your packets take the most direct route possible between your PC and the game server.
But therein lies the rub (or the “up to” 32 percent, if you prefer). If you have a great connection and low latency already, this kind of service won’t help you. The degree to which it can improve performance is going to depend on just how bad your ping times are to start with, and whether more direct routing can help you in the first place. I wouldn’t expect a GPN to be able to do much if you’re trying to game from a satellite connection, or if you’ve got a last-mile problem causing your service to slow down.
Also, Elite Gamer really ought to carry an asterisk, because the service apparently requires Cox to perform game-by-game optimization. Right now, there’s a solid set of popular titles — League, FF XIV, Valorant, WoW, CS: Go, Fortnite, PUBG, and Overwatch are all supported, for example. Other games, like No Man’s Sky, Sea of Thieves, Red Dead Online, and Starcraft 2 aren’t listed.
WTFast, in contrast, offers support for over a thousand titles and has an option for you to create a profile for a title that isn’t already listed. Both services are PC-only unless you own a specific Asus router that’s capable of using WTFast when connected to a console.
WTFast supports more games, but Anthem as first-listed under “Most Popular?” Really? And no, I didn’t click “Least Popular” by mistake.
Compared with Cox’s $11 modem rental fee, WTFast is more expensive at $12.49 per month if you buy a year at a time and $15 per month if you pay every four weeks. But it also supports every PC game and isn’t tied to your ISP.
One thing the two services have in common is that they are single-license, per-computer seats. WTFast states that you can install the service on multiple computers, but only one person can be logged in at a time. Cox appears to have copied this trend. Elite Gamer comes with one license, and you can purchase up to three others from the company, for an undisclosed fee. I’m assuming the fee is roughly equivalent to the price of WTFast or the Cox service fee if you already own your router.
Would I try it? Personally, no. Cox sucker-punched its customers recently when it declared it would throttle entire neighborhoods if it decided one person was using too much bandwidth. There is no option to appeal and no way for other affected customers to even determine what happened to their internet service. The idea of paying the company $7-$15 more per month, per account when Cox literally just declared it has no obligation to provide the internet service people are actually paying for is… unappealing.
But, then, I’m not stuck on potentially poor Cox internet, with no choice to use anything else. Given how terrible competition is in the US ISP market, that’s probably the situation at least some gamers are in. And with the pandemic still encouraging people to stick close to home, a lot of folks are putting their home networks through a workout. If you’re stuck on Cox service, you’ve had your lines checked, and you can’t seem to get a decent ping time, a service like this might improve it. Just read the fine print carefully and understand that it might not work.