A fast internet connection is a necessity of modern life. The UN declared a connection a human right. Schools expect students to have one and a fast connection is required to enjoy most of the technological benefits of the last two decades. Yet how fast of a connection do you have?
Your internet speed can determine how much time it takes you to perform vital tasks online and, in some cases, how connected you can remain to the outside world. Your choice of internet plan and provider is perhaps one of the most important ones you'll make for your household. You need to have at least a reasonably fast connection.
Here are a few facts on modern internet usage to showcase the importance of having a solid connection in 2019:
According to Pew Research, 89 percent of U.S. Adults use the internet in some capacity. All but two to three percent of adults aged 18-49 use the internet, and the senior (65+) population is the only outlying group, with only 66 percent of them using the internet in 2018.
Home broadband is common. While the number of broadband users has just about evened out over the past five years (it trends from 65-73 percent, with 65 percent in 2018), it remains a staple of the US household. What should be noted is that there is an increasing number of adults who do not have broadband but do use smartphones (20 percent in 2018).
According to Speedtest.net, fixed broadband download speeds throughout the world on average increased 26.5 percent from 2017-2018. The average download speed is now 46.12 Mbps, and the upload speed is 22.44 Mbps. Companies are basing their services on these metrics even if optimization is important, and you don't want to be left behind. The quick update files of today would take days to download 15 years ago.
You do not need to settle for a slow connection, you do not need to be left behind, and performing a test can help you see if you are above or below bar when it comes to your connection. This is where the speed test site comes in, which does exactly as you might expect: perform a test to see what your download and uploads speeds are so you can use this info as needed.
Below you will find some information regarding how to best test your internet speed as well as our top picks for which site you should use.
How You Should Test Your Internet Speed
You Should Not Be Splitting Up Your Connection: Your connection shouldn't be under heavy use when performing a test. This can apply to anything else in the household as well. This might cause interference one way or another.
You Should be Testing Under Ideal but Normal Working Conditions: What we mean by this is that you shouldn't be deviating from the norm in terms of equipment or activities (downloading a movie in the next room, for example) when determining your internet speed, unless you're experimenting to see if a new setup provides a faster connection.
Perform a Few Tests: A single test shouldn't take long, so we encourage you to perform a few tests to ensure accuracy.
Test Over the Course of the Day: Your current ISP might work great now but it might very well throttle your connection during peak hours of the day. Counteract this potential blind spot by testing over the course of a day a few times and seeing how the results stack up.
What You Should Look for in a Testing Site
Ease-of-Use: You don't want to spend fifteen minutes learning how to test your internet speed.
Accuracy: If a site isn't accurate, there's no point to using it.
Commitment to Real-World Testing Conditions: The better a site can accurately simulate common situations (such as streaming or downloading a movie), the more useful the site. Testing under optimized conditions can be helpful for some people, but most users will want a site that's true-to-life.
A Simple Design: A complicated design with any additional tools or ads running in the background can affect your results, especially if you're connection is slow. You want to work with a site that is simple and focused.
A Wide Server Range: If a site only has servers in one region, the results will be skewed by region. Choose a site that has servers across the country to provide you with an accurate reading.
Freedom from Bias: This doesn't mean a company cannot create a test (someone has to make them), but interference is naturally unacceptable to any test, and as such we wanted to make sure that any selection of ours had no noticeable bias.
Our Top List:
We find Speedtest.net (owned by Ookla), one of the most popular and one of the oldest, to still be a fantastic option for people looking to test their connection, regardless of the platform they're on.
The service has a massive list of servers based throughout the country, allowing you to perform more accurate tests regardless of the distance you are looking for. It also will recommend the closest ones to you when you switch, making the user experience just a bit easier.
We were impressed in particular with the ability for users to keep records and previous data for comparison, as well as use a database to learn about stats regarding connections from across the world. This makes it a great option for professionals or simply curious home users looking to notice trends and patterns. The results are also easily sharable, if that is an important factor for you.
We are a bit concerned, however, with some of the ads that show up on the site and some of the graphics, as they might interfere with getting a precise result, especially for users with an extremely slow connection to start with.
At first glance Speedof.me does not look like other internet speed test sites, and we find that to be a good thing. The test displays itself in a chart over time, allowing you to see not only your total speeds but the consistency of your connection as well, which makes it a great choice for online gaming.
That being said, the downside to this is that it's a bit harder to immediately see and interpret your results than other speed testing apps and sites. We would also like to note that the mobile version was very different in this regard, with more immediately accessible information.
It will work on most devices without the need for an app (making it great for a quick check) and utilizing HTML5 to perform the test, a standout feature when compared to many other test sites.
There aren't as many servers when compared to some other sites on this list, and you can't keep a record (which would be excellent considering how they display information), but many users will find this to be their speed test of choice.
Testmy.net is one of the most comprehensive options we found when reviewing internet speed testing sites, and they have fined-tuned their processes to perfection. It is an independent, trustworthy provider that runs on HTML5 and does exactly what it was created to do without any unnecessary flair or distraction.
For people looking for a comparison, it provides statistics for your speed compared to the averages for your ISP, city, and more. It will tell you exactly where you stand and you won't need to put in much extra effort to do so. You can also create an account to save records and check back to see if adjustments work or if the time of day matters for your connection.
The only downside is that much like Speedof.me, the results aren't always pretty to look at (some would even say hard to read, but most certainly not hard to understand). Once you get used to it you won't mind, but it isn't the fastest test to get a glance of what you're working with in a given area. Professionals and enthusiasts certainly won't mind in the long run, however.
4) Xfinity Speed Test
There isn't much to say about Xfinity Speed Test except for the fact that thankfully there isn't much to say about Xfinity Speed Test. There are no distractions and there are no pop-ups or bits of unnecessary information littering the screen. The design is sleek and easy to read, with modern graphics in both the mobile and desktop versions of the program. You'll get a quick download speed and then you'll get a quick upload speed and that's it.
While it may be produced by Comcast, we didn't detect any bias when using the tool and you don't need to be a subscriber to use it. Readings were accurate and consistent.
There are also a few bonus features such as being able to change the host location if you know you're working with something different on a normal basis. You can also change the protocol if needed. It provides a few tips if you desire to help you get accurate results. From all our estimations, it's a great tool whether you're looking to change your connection or if you're just looking to optimize the one you already have.
It is missing a way to save tests, but for the average user it's one of our top choices.
5) Internet Health Test
Internet Health Test is a much more comprehensive test than most if not all the other choices on this list. For anyone looking for as much information as possible gathered from a complete and multi-step testing process, Internet Health Test is where you want to go.
It will effectively run your connection through an obstacle course of servers, situations, and locations so that you get a set of data that is much closer to a real-world result than some other sites that test under ideal circumstances. It will take a little while compared to the minute-at-most tests other sites use, but you are getting effectively six tests at once.
It also is simplistic in design, offering very few additional features and there aren't too many settings you can change. That being noted, we find that it works best when paired with another service for both comparison and in case you need some of those features. It does, however, allow you to post your results to social media or email them to yourself (or someone else) for future records. This might come in handy for IT professionals.
The HTML5-based speed test Speedsmart is an easy-to-use and universally accessible option for you that provides accurate speeds (they send more data through to create a more fine-tuned test) and also will provide you with ping information, which is great for anyone who needs a low-latency connection such as those who use video chat and gamers.
Speedsmart, like a few others on this list, allows you to create an account and check on your previous tests, even across devices. This allows you to easily check on not only a single device's connection but a network across a home or office.
It has a healthy, but not comprehensive, list of servers to choose from (with a listing of how far each is away from you as a nice touch). It doesn't try to do too much with its homepage, either. It's a great all-around speed testing site for the average user who might want ping information on top of upload and download speeds.
Even more simple than Xfinity's option is Netflix's Fast.com, which is connected to what we expect a lot of people are using it for. Netflix consumes 15 percent of the world's bandwidth, so they have a good reason to provide people with a speed-testing app. They also have a vested interest in letting you know when you're ISP might be throttling your connection, as they have had a long conflict with ISPs regarding this issue. Fast.com uses Netflix servers, making it perfect for making this determination.
When you start it up there isn't even a start button. You get a mostly white screen and some real-times results before it settles on the ultimate estimation of your speed (you also get your upload speed at the end of the test. Yet don't let the first impression fool you, there are still plenty of options such as being able to select several parallel connections and always show all relevant metrics if you're annoyed by the initial startup design.
We wouldn't necessarily recommend it for an overall speed test, but for Netflix? It's exactly what you're looking for.
By no means is this list exhaustive. There are dozens if not more other sites that you can use in order to test your internet speed, and most of them will work just fine. Yet after testing, we found that our above selections struck the right balance in terms of ease-of-use, accuracy, design clarity, and freedom from bias.
We would also like to note that our top pick might not be the top pick for your needs. Perhaps you need extremely rigorous testing with more detail for professional IT reasons. In that case the more minimalist options might not cut it for you. Consider your needs and make your choice from there.
What Can Cause Slow Speeds?
Once you test your connection, you might find that you aren't getting the speeds you are looking for. After double checking and rerunning your tests, you will want to investigate further. One or more of the following reasons might be the culprit:
Too much usage of the network at once.
An outage in the area caused by maintenance or inclement weather.
Your router or a cable is malfunctioning or overheating.
Your WiFi signal is being partially blocked.
Your ISP is throttling your connection.
Your computer might be infected by malware or viruses.
What to Do Next?
That depends entirely on what the source of the problem is. Sometimes new hardware is the answer, and sometimes you just need to change the location of the router. A cleanup of your system might help as well. If it's the ISPs fault, then you will need to contact them. If this gets you nowhere, then you will need to change providers, which unfortunately can be tiresome without the right resources.
You need to know if you are getting what you paid for when it comes to your internet connection, and we hope that the above seven sites help you get a handle on what you're looking for, no matter what it is. You may need to try a few options and you will want to control your environment as best as you can, but we promise the information is worth it when making decisions for your office or household.
We expect to update this list in the future, so we will always be vigilant should a better option arise or one of the above sites no longer be available or meet our exacting standards. We hope that the above information provides you with any information you may require and hope that you find the internet connection you deserve.