Is your Internet connection feeling a bit sluggish? Just conduct an Internet speed test. Ooops! Turns out some of those online speed tests might be a scam. It turns out that online speed tests might be giving you biased information….intentionally. We tested more than a half-dozen network speed calculators, the results varied widely. And we aren’t alone; CNET tried to do this and found variances by a factor greater than 10. CNET reported that many experts claim HTML5-based speed tests are more accurate than tests that use Java and Adobe Flash. Others point out that multithread tests such as those used by Ookla (Speedtest.net and branded by many ISPs) don’t represent real-world network traffic as well as single-thread tests. Even CNET’s own speed test seems to vary significantly from other speed tests! Arrgghhh! And don’t even consider your ISP’s own speedtests. C’mon, they only want to convince you that you are getting the highest speeds possible.
We were particularly alarmed by Speakeasy’s Flash-based Speed Test which showed very slow speed rates………not surprisingly, Speakeasy is selling alternate Internet providers. Conversely, Speedtest.net by Ookla seemed to return unusually fast download speeds that were almost double that of other online speed tests. No surprise there, as many ISPs send their customers to Ookla’s speed test site. We flat out disagree with Kim Komando that Speedtest.net is reliable. Speedtest.net measures the time it takes for your computer to exchange brief messages with the testing server, as well as how long it takes for your computer to download and upload a small amount of data. Other speed-testing sites like MegaPath SpeakEasy Speed Test and Bandwidth Place use similar methods.
The results of the HTML5-based speed tests conducted at Bandwidth Place ranged from 5Mbps to 11Mbps, those at Toast.net exhibited a similar range, and the Flash-based tests at ZDNet’s Broadband Speed Test recorded speeds from 5.8Mbps to 11.4Mbps. And we liked Google’s Mlab Speed test, although we found that the results differed based upon which browser you ran it on. (Microsoft Edge returned the fasted results, Firefox returned the slowest). Double arrrggghhh! Microsoft created its own speed test at Bing, but its results also generally were on the high side.
- We found much more accurate rates at TestMy.net‘s HTML5-based tester.
- Netflix has launched fast.com, an ad-free mobile and broadband speed test to inform users how slow or fast their connection really is.
- One enterprising entrepreneur created Speedcheck.org which is super simple to use.
- We liked he FCC’s Broadband.gov which runs on the Measurement Labs platform (however, it doesn’t support the Safari, Google Chrome, or Opera browsers. The FCC’s test also requires that you supply your street address) But, the FCC offers a mobile app that is quite accurate.
- If you have a mobile phone, you may also want to use the CalSPEED app created by California regulators to measure wireless speed. HTML5-based speed tests such as those offered by SpeedOf.me and TestMy.net seem to have an advantage in that they require no additional software. If you suspect you’re paying for more bandwidth than you’re actually getting, you needn’t trust your ISP’s test results to make your case — especially if you happen to live in one of your service’s dead zones.
How to Interpret Speed Tests
In order to understand the test results, here are some things you need to understand:
- Throughput is the amount of data that can be transferred over your Internet connection at one point in time.
- Megabits per second (Mbps) refers to data transfer speeds as measured in megabits (Mb). This term is commonly used in communications and data technology to demonstrate the speed at which a transfer takes place. A megabit is just over one million bits, so “Mbps” indicates the transfer of one million bits of data each second. Data can be moved even faster than this, measured by terms like gigabits per second (Gbps).
- The speed tests show the current throughput you can get on your Internet connection. Factors such as network congestion and other downloads in progress can affect the available throughput.
- The results of the test can be affected by any network congestion between you and our servers. If you have other downloads in progress this can also affect the results.
While the all of these speed tests are intended to give a general idea of your computer’s connection speed, a number of factors can affect results. Depending on your broadband service, you may see slower speeds at certain times of the day, like in peak Internet use hours during the workday, or in the evenings, when video-streaming is a popular activity. Worse yet, they don’t even accurately report the peak transfer rate! So, you are left with having to test your connection at various times in order to get the most accurate picture of your ISP speed.