Whatever your plans for the internet might be, you should know how fast your internet is and what is more you might need to get it working correctly. The best way to learn about the speed of your connection is a speed test, of which there are quite a few readily available online. Yet not all of them are made equally, and some might give you the wrong idea about your connection. We want to help you avoid that problem, and similarly, we want to help you make sure your internet is everything you hoped for. Therefore, we looked into today’s speed tests and picked our favorites.
Here is everything you need to know about speed tests and which are the best ones to use today:
Why You Need a Speed Test
You can get an idea of how fast your internet is, but there’s little way to measure it properly. You can check how long it takes to download a large file, but a large part depends on the server you are downloading from and might not have much to do with your connection. A speed test will use the maximum potential of your connection and provide you with the most accurate results possible.
And these results will be vital when trying to fix internet problems. How would you know if your internet is faster if you didn’t know how fast your internet was in the first place? Should you need to call your ISP, having, hard data helps narrow down the issue much faster. And you’ll be able to know if you can make additions to your smart home without issue.
The good news is that, unlike a major purchase, using a speed test doesn’t require a major investment of either time or money. In fact, all it needs is a link to the speed test site and a few seconds. None of the speed tests we recommend will charge you a penny.
Terms and Concepts to Understand
Download Speed: This is the metric that most people think of when it comes to internet speed, though there is more to internet speed than it. Nonetheless, it is vital. It measures how fast your device downloads information from the internet. A faster download speed means you can stream high-quality video without issue and get games, movies, and other large files on your device faster.
Upload Speed: You aren’t just downloading files and information from the internet; you’re also uploading files, requests, and information as well. The upload speed is a measurement of how fast this occurs. It’s vital for professionals that need to upload files regularly. And everyone needs at least some upload speed to make requests and do things like being on video calls.
Ping Rate/Latency: When you send out a request from your computer over the internet, how long does it take to get a response? That is what ping rate is a measure of. A poor ping rate can lead to lag when playing video games, issues with video calls, and more. If it requires a constant connection, then the ping rate matters.
How Does a Speed Test Work?
Ok, so speed tests sound great, but how do they work? What happens when you click the “start test” button?
Generally, once the speed test starts, your device will attempt to download a file or a series of packets from a testing server. How fast your device does this will be measured by the speed test. When the download is done, your computer will attempt to upload a file to the server, effectively reversing the process and measuring that. Your ping rate will also be measured during this time, as the ping rate is effectively the response time to and from a given server.
Once all this is done or as it is happening, the results will be shown to you on the screen. And that’s about it!
What Makes for a Good Speed Test?
How did we pick out our top choices for internet speed tests? We used the following criteria, balancing them appropriately given the needs of the average user:
Consistency: An inconsistent speed test is a useless speed test. We only recommend speed tests that produce consistent results and are not subject to bugs or issues. While issues can occur with any tool, we expect them to be exceedingly rare.
Accuracy: This is as obvious as consistency but also requires mentioning. The most accurate speed test is the best speed test. However, that accuracy cannot be perfect not because of the speed test but because of the network the user is trying to test. We’ll go into how to increase accuracy later on in the article.
Number of Servers and Server Locations: When you use a speed test, you are likely automatically connected to the nearest server. If the closest server is far away, you won’t get as accurate reading as you’d like, at least regarding the ping rate.
Lack of Intrusive Elements: Most of the best speed tests are minimalist in their designs and lack too many elements other than the test itself. Too many ads or videos on a speed test site can compromise results, as the user must also download those elements. Additionally, someone with a slow speed who is experiencing problems won’t appreciate having to wait.
Design: A simple design is the best design for a speed test. We looked for speed tests that didn’t clutter the screen. If extra information is presented, it should be helpful to the person conducting the speed test.
No Bias: Most ISPs have a speed test available, but how much can you trust them? A speed test from an ISP artificially inflates numbers on a test from someone using some ISPs; make sure their speed tests are free from bias. Others we can not be so sure about. We only recommend those from the first group.
The 7 Best Speed Tests to Use
1. Ookla (Speedtest.net)
Ookla, or Speedtest by Ookla, is one of our top choices and one of the best-known speed tests operating today. It was one of the first and remains one of the most consistent and accurate on the internet. You’ll find it on more than just this list, for a good reason. It allows you to keep track of tests if you have an account, provides accurate readings quickly, and provides just enough information to help but not overwhelm a new user.
Ookla also has the advantage of providing people with more information than most other speed tests in an easy-to-read manner. Everything on the screen appears deliberate, and you can’t help but feel confident in your results, no matter what platform you are testing on.
Ookla is also nice in that they have a video-specific speed test. Need to know whether your internet can handle 4k content in a flash? Ookla can help with that. And on top of that, the site has additional tools such as a 5G map and helpful analyses that give greater context to the speed of your connection and information on how and when you can expect a faster connection.
We’ve talked about the browser version, but there are also apps from Ookla for speed testing from an Android or iOS device. You can work with it in Chrome, on Mac or Windows computers via apps, or even on AppleTV if you’re worried about being able to stream your favorite content.
We recommend using Ookla if:
- You want to use one of the most well-regarded speed tests on the internet and a tool that has been used by more people than we can count.
- You’re confident that your speed test will not be heavily impacted by banner ads on the website (if you have high-speed internet already, this should not be an issue).
- You want to use a single speed test on various devices to compare.
Fast.com is owned and operated by Netflix, one of the sites with a vested interest in ensuring people know what kind of internet service they’re getting, considering how Netflix is responsible for a significant portion of internet traffic. True to its name, it’s a fast speed test, working in a manner of seconds and just starting up when you load the page (you may want to know this before using it). You’ll need to ask for more information to get an upload test, but it’s simple enough. You also get a loaded and unloaded latency number. You can rerun the test by pressing a button if you wish. And there are a few options that allow you to get more information at once.
Fast.com might be the most straightforward speed test (or at least out of the popular ones). There is little on the page, especially not until you ask for more information. All you get is your test, a “Powered by Netflix” logo, and some options after the fact.
That’s all there is to it. It’s one of those things that’s easier to see for yourself than explain, so please try it out.
We recommend using Fast.com if:
- You want a quick and easy speed test that will tell you the basics of what you need to know in a minute.
- You prefer an ultra-minimalist design in your speed tests.
- You are especially interested in ensuring your internet speed can handle a streaming service and streaming good content.
Do you want to test how your internet works on your browser or not have to install anything (including Java or Flash) to run your speed test? Then Testmy.net is a great option for you.
Based on the background of the speed test and how it works via HTML5, it is one of the best speed tests if you want to compare different browsers. There are plenty of comprehensive options and more information on the speed test itself than average. Speed test nerds will want to check this one out, if only to judge it. It also still works on Android and iOS devices through a default browser, so there is no issue there.
Testmy.net will not be the prettiest or most efficient-looking test, no matter how you look at it. It can feel a bit dated, even though the test works perfectly fine. If you can look beyond that, you can find a detailed speed test that’s fantastic for some scenarios and a good choice for just about any other. Additionally, you need to use a different test for download speeds, upload speeds, and latency, which can be a hassle. There are also ads on the site, but they are not active during the testing process itself, so we doubt there is any interference.
We recommend using Testmy.net if:
- You want a highly accurate speed test that operates on HTML5 and PHP.
- You are looking for more in-depth information on your speed test results.
- You don’t mind the relatively dated design of the website and interface.
- You want to test internet speed and related metrics between two competing browsers.
As we’ve mentioned and as you’ll undoubtedly hear elsewhere, consistency is vital when working with speed tests. Yet not all speed tests are great at testing for consistency. Fortunately, Speedof.me was built with consistency in mind, and you can trust that you will get reliable results every time you boot up the test. It takes longer than most of the other tests on this list, though that is to provide as much information as possible.
You can keep a record of your results using cookies, making it not the greatest for results over different devices unless you record them manually. Though you can export the results to a spreadsheet, which can be excellent should you need to talk to your internet provider. The interface is easy enough to understand, but you might want to make a toggle or two to make viewing easier for yourself.
With all the above benefits listed, Speedof.me isn’t for every situation. You cannot manually change your speed test server, and the screen can look busy with all the information you get. Essentially Speedof.me is more of a specialized choice than a first choice, but an important specialized choice to know about.
We recommend using Speedof.me if:
- You are looking to get results about the consistency of your connection and other vital stats.
- You don’t mind taking a few minutes to view the charts and additional data that come with the speed test.
- You are fine with some of the uncommon limitations of the speed test mentioned above.
5. Xfinity Speed Test
Now while we warned against using a speed test by a provider, we consider the Xfinity Speed Test an exception. After some testing of our own, we found no bias in the test and think it is as good an option as any listed here. Additionally, the Xfinity Speed Test can provide more context to your results on the website. Need to know if your connection is suitable for streaming content? They can tell you. Need to learn more about how the test works? The information is there.
And do you want to know what you can do with your current speed? Xfinity Speed Test will tell you that as well. You will be able to get bullet points about what you can do with your current internet speed, and they even provide a few tips to help you get better results. It’s not comprehensive, but it is a nice touch.
It would be best if you opened a panel on the results screen to get an upload speed, which is somewhat annoying to people who know they need that information, but the results are still accurate, and the design strikes a balance between not being too much and being engaging for the tester. Additionally, the interface on some devices is a bit busy, but nothing that can’t be overlooked or overcome.
We recommend using Xfinity Speed Test if:
- You do not mind using a speed test by one of the major internet service providers.
- You would like more contextual information and help with what the numbers on your screen mean in real terms.
- You want a balanced and friendly speed test that will be happy to remind you about anything you need to know.
Perhaps not the most widely known speed test but one that has made enough of a name to catch our attention, SpeedSmart kept that attention by being a solid choice for people to test their internet, all the while providing access to information both in the present and the past. It is an HTML5 internet speed test that you use with your browser and with apps for iOS and Android, and you can keep track of results using an account.
With SpeedSmart, you can also load up previous speed tests with a profile. It works across devices when you want to test a network on your computer and smartphone. The test itself is easy enough to understand, and you can easily change what settings there are.
We did wish it had a few more servers for more local testing, but we did notice that they have servers in many countries to work with.
We recommend using SpeedSmart if:
- You know you will be performing multiple tests and need a convenient and helpful way to log them.
- You are looking for a decent alternative that uses HTML5 and will provide you with the basic information you need.
- You live in or near a city they have a server for or are fine with testing your connection from a fair amount away from a major city.
7. Speed Test by IHT
Last but not least, if you are looking for a speed test focused on your connection and whether things are working correctly (like most speed test users), then Speed Test by IHT is a great choice. It is by Internet Health Test, and the page provides a nice range of information on the speed test and what you might want to expect for your results. It is related to Ookla, though the test is simple, and this test also measures the variation in latency (jitter).
You will be able to select your host server if you want to make a test in various locations across the world (often good for checking things before gaming or a video call).
Speed Test by IHT is a bit interesting in that you don’t use an account to keep track of your results but instead can share them on social media. Outside of the odd novelty of bragging to your friends about your great internet, you can also email yourself the results for safekeeping, which is a bit more practical. These options are available in limited ways on other speed test sites, but this speed test is a bit more open and encouraging of it.
We recommend using Speed Test by IHT if:
- You want to know more about the context of your results and what your connection will be able to do.
- You want an excellent secondary or backup test to rely on for comparison to other tests.
- You like the idea of being able to email yourself with your speed test results or share them on social media.
What Results Should You Hope For?
As a general rule, we think having a download speed of 100Mbps is excellent, though the more, the better. Similarly, we believe most homes should have an upload speed of at least 10Mbps. In terms of the ping rate, anything below 20ms is excellent. Anything that is above 150ms will likely lead to problems.
Though this is abstract, not everyone expects or wants these speeds if they are available. What you absolutely want to be on the lookout for, however, is that your actual speeds are 80 percent of the advertised speeds your ISP provided you. Ideally, it should be higher, but if it is consistently lower than this, then there is a problem, and you should get on fixing it to the best of your ability. This could involve changes on your end or calling your ISP.
How to Best Use an Internet Speed Test
A speed test best works until optimal conditions and with multiple measurements. Here are a few steps and tips to help you get the most accurate information possible:
- When testing a WiFi network, you will want to do so from different areas of the home and perhaps even all the rooms in the house. If there is a major gap in coverage, then it might be time to move the router or invest in a range extender.
- You will ideally want to test under the same conditions multiple times daily. Some ISPs have good hours and periods where the infrastructure is under greater stress, resulting in lower speeds.
- Know what speeds you are looking for and should be expecting given your service plan. Getting your results isn’t as helpful if you don’t have a reference point.
- When making all these tests, we recommend having a notebook or document handy to record all the results. Some apps will, however, keep a log of your speed tests for you. Take note of the speed test’s time, place, and results.
- While this will likely happen automatically and might be outside your control depending on the speed test, make sure you are using the closest server to your location as possible. If, for some reason, you want to test using a server further away (perhaps testing the ping rate in less-than-optimal conditions).
What to Do if Your Internet Isn’t Fast Enough
So you used a speed test, and we weren’t pleased with the results. This is a common problem with many potential causes (we’ll go over them). Though it also has many solutions, most of which aren’t that difficult to implement. If you want to improve your results or you want to improve your internet speed, please consider the following:
- It could be an issue with your internet equipment. Is your router in a place where it can send a signal without interference? Is it in a central location in the home, and if not, is there a range extender for your network to pick up the slack? If you are using an ethernet cable, is it tattered in any way or potentially broken?
- Replacing your equipment can be expensive (except for the ethernet cable), but it might be necessary. If an ISP provides equipment, then calling them about a replacement is in order.
- You might have too many users or devices on the network. While most routers can handle at least a couple of dozen devices, there is still only so much bandwidth to go around. Consider checking what devices are connected, what they are downloading, if anything, and whether you can turn off a few internet-intensive background processes.
- You may want to check if your ISP is throttling your connection for any reason. It might think you’re illegally torrenting something when you are not, or you want to limit your connection as you’ve gone over their monthly data allowance. Throttling is a major issue worth more investigation if you think the throttling is unfair.
- Some types of malware or other device issues can cause issues with your connection. This issue is likely limited to one device if it is the case, but it is a serious problem. Scanning your PC for malware and ensuring it is working properly can help with more than just your internet connection; you should do it regularly.
- After trying out most of the other options and finding no improvement, it is time to call your ISP. Be polite when talking to them, but do not let them dismiss the problem and not solve the issue. You might need to take some time for this, but ideally, they’ll be able to help remotely or send a technician if necessary.
- If your base internet speed isn’t enough, it isn’t enough, and making tweaks isn’t going to make enough of a difference. If you are unsatisfied, you might want to consider changing your plan or changing your ISP. With a different plan, you might be able to get the internet speed you need, and a new provider can open up many possibilities, including a change in connection type.
Determining your internet speed and how your connection looks is tough on your own. Fortunately, with the right speed test from those listed above, you can get a read on your internet speed (and possibly any problems) in seconds. We hope this article helped you learn all that you need to and that you can get better and faster internet as soon as possible. Thank you for reading, and we encourage you to return to this page as needed.