With more than 4.5 billion people now using the internet, it's safe to say we are now fully into the digital age. However, as many of us are aware, just having internet access often isn't enough; you need to have fast internet.
This is because we now demand more from our internet connections than we ever used to. We stream videos and music, talk face-to-face with one another via apps such as FaceTime and Skype, share photos and other media, email, and so much more.
Most of the time, if you're internet isn't performing up to your standards, you can easily tell. Things move slowly, and your blood usually starts to boil.
However, before you get on the phone with your internet provider and start screaming, it's important to know exactly what's happening. One of the best ways to do this is to perform an internet speed test using one of the many internet speed test tools that are out there.
Like most things, not all the tools that are out there are going to do what you need. So, to help you, we've put together this guide about the best internet speed test sites.
What is an Internet Speed Test Site?
An internet speed test site is a website that can test the speed and quality of your internet connection. It usually works directly in your browser, which means you don't need to do much except visit a website to use them but some tools require you to download a piece of software to be able to run a test.
These tools are almost always free, at least the best ones are, which makes them a really handy way to test your internet connection and decide if you need to switch providers.
What Do They Measure?
Internet speed, obviously. More specifically, they measure both upload and download speed.
Download speed refers to the amount of data that your device can access in a given period time, usually a second, and is measured in megabits per second (Mbps).
Upload speed, as you might imagine, refers to how much data your device can "upload" to internet servers. It's also measured in Mbps, but typically, upload speeds are considerably slower than download speeds, mostly because people spend far more time downloading information from the internet than they do uploading to it. This also means upload speed probably won't be as important to some people as it is to others.
However, if you are a webmaster or do lots of file sharing, such as sending videos or photos, you may want to pay closer attention to upload speed.
How Do They Work?
Internet speed tests work by creating packets of information and sending them to servers. They create packets that mimic the information you would be accessing normally, such as videos, text, images, etc, and then they measure how long it takes for the data to go from the server to your computer.
As a result, the data that your speed test is testing isn't "real," which means that the test results that you get will only be a simulation of what your actual internet connection can do. But if the test is designed properly, then it will be able to pretty accurately copy what actually happens when you use the internet, which means quality results that give you a proper indication of what's going on.
The good speed tests will transfer the data in the same way that it normally would. Usually, this means doing it in a certain order - computers don't download data all at once but rather in a specific sequence. So, you should be wary of speed test sites that don't do this since the data will likely not reflect your actual internet connection.
Things That Will Affect Your Internet Speed Test
To fully understand how internet speed tests work and how to interpret the results they give, here are some things you need to keep in mind when running tests:
Perhaps one of the biggest strains on your internet speed is the amount it's being used. If multiple people are online at the same time, and they are all doing intensive things, such as streaming or downloading movies, then your internet is going to run more slowly, and this will be reflected in your speed test.
As a result, when running a test, you will want to make sure that your network isn't under too much stress, as you'll get below average results, which might lead you to make a rash, uninformed decision about your internet provider.
The only exception to this is if this is how you normally use your internet connection. In other words, you want to make sure you're running tests at times when your network is being subjected to normal working conditions.
So, if this kind of heavy activity we mentioned is not normal for you, make sure to test at another time. If it is typical, and you test when no one is online, your internet will seem to be running much more quickly than it does when you sit down to use it.
Time of Day
Another thing to keep in mind is the time of day that you run your test. Internet providers deny this, but most people agree that they throttle connection speeds during peak times of the day so that they can save money. Peak times are considered to be 7 p.m and 11 p.m., although in many cases that extends to 1 a.m.
However, even if they don't actively throttle the speed, the amount of people on the network at once does put stress on it and leads to a slower connection. This most commonly occurs with cable internet connection because local users all share the same service lines, meaning they need to share the bandwidth, which can lead to slowdowns.
If this is when you normally use the internet, then you will probably want to run a test during this period to mimic typical conditions. But even if this is the case, know that your connection will likely be slower than what was promised to you, or as compared to what it would be at other times of the day.
The device you're using is also going to affect the speed of your internet. Newer, faster computers and phones will be able to handle more data at one time, meaning they will be able to transfer it faster. As a result, if you have an older device, there's a chance that's the reason you're not getting the connection speed you want. Better to try out your connection using a different device before making the decision that your current connection is too slow and needs to be replaced.
What to Look For In An Internet Speed Test Site
Now that you know all about internet speed tests, here's what you need to look for in a good one. These are the criteria we used to decide which ones to include on our lists.
The most important component of an internet speed test is how accurate it is. In other words, if it doesn't give good results, then it's pretty much useless. We test the accuracy of a site by running multiple tests, during different conditions, at different times, and looking for any inconsistencies.
Any speed test we found that was anything less than near-perfect, we left off our list, as these wouldn't be much use to you. All the options on this list deliver quality results that will help you better understand your internet connection.
Number of Servers
Internet tests work by mimicking what happens when you actually use the internet. Since your internet works by contacting several different servers around the world, the more servers an internet test site has access to, the better.
All the internet speed test sites we have reviewed use an ample amount of servers to be able to accurately test the velocity of your actual connection.
When an internet speed test is working, it's testing a lot of different things at once. However, if you're not an internet whiz and don't know what all the things that are being tested mean, then the test is going to be pretty useless to you.
Fortunately, there are internet speed tests out there for everyone. Some will simply give you a number, which refers to the download speed (Mbps) whereas others will give you much more data, which you can then use to better understand what's going on with your internet and whether or not there is a problem with your network.
Lastly, an internet speed test must be impartial. We tend to shy away from services offered by cable providers since they have an incentive to rig the test in such a way that makes their internet seem faster and that of their competitors seem slower.
However, this doesn't mean that every test site that's offered by an internet provider is biased. There are some out there offered by companies that we wouldn't necessarily think of as impartial, but that do a good job at measuring internet speeds accurately. We verify this by running multiple tests using these tools on many different networks during different conditions, and when the results remain consistent, we're okay with giving the site our seal of approval.
The Best Internet Speed Test Sites
Now that you know everything you need to know about internet speed tests and what makes a good one, here's our list of the best ones. Each one offers something slightly different, but we also encourage you to try out more than one to see which is best for you.
Speedtest.net (By Ookla)
Speedtest.net, which is owned by Ookla, is one of the most popular internet speed tests out there, and there's a good reason for that: it's one of the best.
The main reason we like it so much is that it uses more than 1,000 servers to run its tests, which means results are going to be extremely accurate and will deliver results that are very close to what's actually going on with your network at the moment you run the test.
We also like Speedtest because it's super easy to use. All you need to do is go to the website and click "Go," and the test will automatically begin.
Another thing that's great about Speedtest is that it works super-fast. You can expect to have both upload and download results within 15-20 seconds.
However, Speedtest doesn't tell you much more than that. It will tell you which server it used and where it's located, as well as some basic information about your internet provider, which you likely already know.
But if you're looking for an easy-to-use and understand speed test that is also highly reliable and fast, then you probably don't need to look much further than Speedtest.
SpeedOf.me is another great option that we highly recommend you try when you are looking into your internet connection.
It doesn't use nearly as many servers as Speedtest - only about 88 - but it doesn't pre-select a location but rather does so randomly, which your regular internet connection does normally. As a result, this is more than enough to simulate your internet connection and deliver accurate results. Files are uploaded and downloaded in sequence, which makes for an even more accurate result.
However, probably the best thing about SpeedOf.me is that it delivers results in real-time, meaning you can see how your internet speed is varying on a moment-to-moment basis while the test is being run. SpeedOf.me keeps track of your past results and displays them for you so that you can compare results from different times.
This is a really useful feature if you are continuously disappointed with your connection and are thinking about changing providers. You'll be able to see if these poor results are occurring regularly, and if this is the case, then you will probably want to start thinking about making a change.
For the tech-savvy individuals who want to get more than just upload/download speed data from their internet speed test, Testmy.net is probably going to be the tool for you.
Unlike the other options on this list, Testmy.net is a program that you need to download onto your computer. This is necessary because it is going to be studying more than just speed, and it would be too slow if it just ran through your browsers. If you aren't going to use this data, the download probably isn't worth it, but if you are, then this is an excellent tool.
To give you an idea, Testmy.net looks for things such as router distribution, browser health, and latency, and you can also manually adjust which servers it uses, which is useful if you suspect the reason you're having trouble with your connection is due to the server it keeps connecting to.
One thing we should point out is that the upload and download speed tests are done separately, so you'll need to make sure you're doing both so that you can get a full picture of what's going on with your connection.
All in all, if you're ready to handle all that Testmy.net can do, then you will not be disappointed with its ability to inspect your internet connection.
Internet Health Test
If you're looking for a complete snapshot of what's happening in the background of your network, then Internet Health Test is a nice tool for you. It takes considerably longer than most other speed tests but this happens because it's running a lot of different tests at once.
This means it's routing your connection through many different servers and also creating different packets of information, which helps you figure out how your internet connection performs when it's being subjected to different conditions.
Again, this probably isn't the tool for you if you're not super familiar with some of the more technical aspects of internet connections and networks, but if you are, then you're going to find Internet Health Test really useful.
What's nice too about Internet Health Test is that it's an open-sourced software, which means it's being improved upon all the time, and it also doesn't record any of your personal data.
Google Fiber Speedtest
Google Fiber is technically an internet service provider, and because of this, we would normally be a bit skeptical about it. However, we found it to be completely unbiased and very accurate, which is why we allowed it to make it onto our list.
It's also super easy to use, and it runs quicker than most other speed tests out there. In most cases, you will have results as quickly as ten seconds from when you start it.
Google Fiber Speedtest tests both upload and download speed at the same time, giving you a pretty complete snapshot of your internet health all at once. Another thing that is nice about the tool is that when you're done, you can check up on how your internet connection compares to others in the area, which will help you determine more easily if there is a problem.
You can also quickly and easily read up on some things you can do to make your internet connection faster if you find that you're not getting the speed you should be getting.
Fast.com is an internet speed test provided and run by Netflix. We like it pretty much only for two reasons: 1) it's very accurate. We ran countless tests and compared the results and found very few discrepancies, and 2) it's super easy to use.
All you need to do is visit the website. The test begins automatically, and it displays, in large black numbers, the speed in real-time. It's also super-fast. The whole test only takes a few seconds, and if you would like to see a bit more information, you can access it easily.
One thing to note is that the number being automatically displayed is only the download speed. This isn't a huge deal since this is usually the more important piece of data, but if you want to find out more about your internet connection, then you will need to click the "show more information" link right below the large display of your download speed.
Make Your Internet Faster
So, now that you know the best ways to test your internet, we recommend you start trying some of these out. Compare the results you get from each tool, and also compare them to the speeds advertised by your internet service provider.
In the event you're not happy with your internet, your first inclination may be to upgrade your internet connection but this probably means spending more money. So, before you go give away more of your hard-earned dollars to an internet company, consider implementing one or more of the following tricks:
Move closer to your router or remove obstacles. The distance between you and your router will affect speed, and if you are trying to browse from an area where walls are thick or there are big metal structures, your connection will likely be slower. Consider changing locations and do some new tests to see if this is the problem. Simply using the internet from a different place, or installing a range extender, could be just the fix you need.
Update Your Router. If your router is not equipped to handle the speed of your internet connection, then you will always experience slow speeds. Check your router's specifications to see if it can handle the speed coming in from your provider. In the event your router is out-of-date, contact your internet provider. They may be willing to give you a new one, especially when you currently rent one from them, and it might not cost any additional money.
Use a different device or browser. As mentioned, the device you're using can have a pretty big impact on how fast your internet experience is. Try to test out your connection using something newer before upgrading your connection. The browser you use can also have a similar effect, but it probably won't be as dramatic. Still, it's worth it to try out something new and run a few tests to see if this gives you access to better internet.
These six internet speed tests are the best out there. They will allow you to quickly and easily detect if there are any issues, and if there are, you can implement some fixes to get faster speeds.
Of course, some of the tools on this list are easier to use than others, and some offer you more data than you might need but we're confident there is a tool on this list that will help everyone better understand their internet and get the best possible connection.