Nowadays, Wi-Fi speed is everything: it dictates the quality of Netflix, the speed of Spotify and the efficiency of your work. But how can you tell if you’re lagging behind everyone else or speeding ahead? We go on the hunt for the best internet speed test you can use.
First, a quick definition: an internet speed test is a website that will give you an overview of your download and upload speeds by sending a “ping” to your server. The higher the results, the better. Although designs vary, most speed tests come in the form of a “speedometer”, making it easy to spot if you’re stuck in first gear or revving into fifth.
However, in the words of The Big Tech Question’s co-editor Barry Collins, “there are a lot of shysters out there”. That means you need to be careful who you trust, as certain sites could provide inaccurate figures that make you put in a panicky phone call to Sky customer services.
In fact, even with the best tests below, we still would take all of the results with a sprinkle of salt – they’ll give you a helpful indication, but not a cast-iron reading. That said, if you’re paying for download speeds up to 50Mbits/sec and multiple speed tests put you at 18Mbits/sec, there’s clearly something wrong and you should contact your internet service provider (ISP).
Best internet speed test: The method
To put the
Apart from the speed results themselves, I looked at the websites’ ease of use and design. And, because we’re very scientific here at The Big Tech Question, I awarded each of the tests a score out of five speedy lightning bolts (⚡)…
Best internet speed test: Fast.com
Fast.com’s test is a strange proposition. First, it consistently measured my download speed a lot lower than the other services (by up to 4Mbits/sec in some cases, which may not sound like a lot, but, in a field of such fine lines, it’s significant), although the upload result was similar to the rest.
Second, and perhaps more crucially, the design is anything but user-friendly: the upload speed test is weirdly hidden away under a “Show more information” button and, even more strangely, there’s the ability to share your results on Facebook or Twitter. Trust me, none of your friends will be even remotely interested.
It’s only when you peek at the bottom-right of the window that everything becomes clear: the test is “Powered by Netflix”. So, if you want to get a very quick overview of whether you can watch the streaming service in Ultra HD (you’ll need over 25Mbits/sec), Fast.com might be an option. But, if you want a more detailed and accurate reading, carry on scrolling.
Best internet speed test: Google
Type “internet speed test” into Google and a box will appear at the top of the results list. This is Google’s own-brand test, which is a product of the Measurement Lab (M-Lab) consortium.
And it’s about as fool-proof as they come: simply read the warning (here’s the most important bit: “M-Lab conducts the test and publicly publishes all test results to promote internet research. Published information includes your IP address and test results, but doesn’t include any other information about you as an internet user”) and hit the big, blue “RUN SPEED TEST” button to generate the pop-up above.
In my testing, the results appeared extremely quickly – Google warns that it could take up to 30 seconds – and they were on a par with the better services. Usefully, you’re also given a rating after the test that tells you, in layman’s terms, the overall speed of your broadband and what it should be able to handle. I’ve smugly included mine below…
It’s a neat little touch that makes the Google test perfect for users who just want a simple and quick answer. That said, we’d still recommend going to a dedicated speed test site for the most thorough overview.
Best internet speed test: SamKnows
At first glance, the SamKnows test resembles the Fast.com tool above, but it couldn’t be more different. The design is clean and makes following the two “phases” of the testing in real-time a breeze. Just click the red Start button to begin.
In terms of results, the SamKnows dial was very similar to the others and even showed download speeds above 50Mbits/sec, which was gratifying. Again, the cliché about salt and pinches thereof
However, what marks this speed test out from the crowd is the company’s reputation. Founded in 2008 by Sam Crawford, SamKnows has become a go-to resource for all thing British broadband (we’ve used its data before). Of course, that doesn’t mean that the tool is infallible, but you’ll be given the peace of mind that you’re dealing with a firm that actually cares about your speeds. As the website explains…
At SamKnows, we believe that access to
high-qualityinternet connectivity is a basic human right. We believe passionately that we can make a positive contribution by helping to improve internet connectivity, accessibility and quality of experience.
Best internet speed test: Speedtest by Ookla
If you’re muttering “I knew it would be Ookla” under your breath, take a goodie bag. Speedtest has been the gold standard for quite a while now and it’s still the site
The difference is immediately clear from the design: while other tests opt for a minimalist, dial-on-white-background look, the deep blues and glowing neon of Speedtest wouldn’t look out of place in NASA mission control.
To start the test, click the Go button and gaze in wonder as you’re given a real-time line graph of your speeds, as well as the normal speedometer dial. As you’d expect, the results matched all of the other leading contenders.
But the real beauty of Speedtest lies in the extras: you can choose from a list of servers, compare your previous results (via another nifty neon line graph) and there are dedicated apps (available on Android and iOS) for testing remotely from your smartphone or tablet.
Overall, if you consider yourself a tech-head or broadband boffin, Speedtest by Ookla is the way to go.
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