In today’s digital era, we use the internet for practically everything. We use it to communicate, work, socialize, entertain, and so much more. However, as we put increasing demands on our internet connections to provide us with access to the things we want and need in life, it’s essential the networks we use are up to the task.
In most cases, you can tell from your experience whether your internet can meet your needs. Inadequate connections will lead to slow load times, and they may even prevent you from performing basic tasks.
Yet inadequate performance isn’t always the fault of your internet connection. There could be other factors at play. Determining what’s going on starts with testing your internet connection to get some data about what’s really happening. Once you have this data, you can make an informed decision about whether or not you need/want to change internet plans or service providers.
If you do a quick Google search for “internet speed tests,” you’ll find there are quite a few, and not all of them are going to be as useful as you want them to be. To help you, we’ve put together this guide. Read on to find out which test site is the best and how you can use this information to improve your connection and experience.
Everything You Need to Know About Internet Speed Tests
Before we go into the best tests out there, we thought it would be useful to review exactly what these sites are, how they work, and what they measure.
Quite obviously, internet speed tests measure your internet connection speed, which comprises two things: upload speed and download speed. For those who don’t know, upload speed refers to the amount of time it takes data to move from your computer to internet servers, and download speed is a measurement of that process in reverse. Both are measured in megabits per second, written as Mbps.
In general, download speeds are more relevant to most people. The vast majority of us spend much more time downloading stuff from the internet (loading web pages, streaming videos, listening to music, video chatting, etc.) than we do uploading. Still, though, it’s useful to know both figures.
It’s important to remember that internet tests perform a simulation, and therefore don’t always reflect actual speeds.
To do this, they create packets of information that mimic the type of data that typically travels over your network. The better the test, the more closely these packets resemble the information you actually use, which means the results will be more accurate. The test sites we’ve identified for this list all do a good enough job simulating the data making the results they produce accurate.
Components of a Good Internet Speed Test
Below is our list of the things we look for in an internet speed test, i.e., the criteria we used to determine which services deserved to make it onto our list. There are a lot of things you can take into account, but we chose to focus on the following:
What good is an internet speed test if the results it produces aren’t accurate? To ensure that the test sites we’re recommending are accurate, we ran multiple tests under various conditions and then compared those results with those we get from our own diagnostic tools. Anything that’s not perfect or incredibly close to perfect gets tossed out. After all, if we’re using these tools to figure out if our internet is good, we need to make sure the data we’re collecting is as close to 100 percent accurate as possible.
Number of Servers
When you go to access a piece of information using the internet, the process begins with your modem trying to “contact” multiple servers, which it does so that it can find the fastest route to the information you’ve told it to go out and get. Some of the lower-quality internet speed tests out there only access a handful of servers, which we don’t like because it doesn’t accurately reflect what’s going on, leading to poorer results. Therefore, we focused mainly on test sites that made use of multiple servers when running their diagnoses.
Another critical component of any internet test you use is its user interface. While there may be some complicated technical things going on in the background of these tests, we don’t want to recommend any product that is too difficult to use. This will bog you down and make it hard to get the information you need to decide your internet connection.
The best internet speed test sites will work with just one click, but another thing we look for is how they present the data. For the more complicated tests, we like to see the important figures – upload and download speed – displayed front and center, with the other information off to the side so as not to confuse those who don’t want this information. How easy the test is to use played a significant role in determining the best sites to use.
Many internet service providers offer a speed test you can use, but we are typically skeptical of these tools since they raise concerns about impartiality. Mainly, we worry that these tests will provide different results for those using that company’s connection to make it look like network performance is better than it is. However, the big providers know that it would not be good optics to have a biased test, so they have created pretty fair tools. Before we included one of these tests on our list, we made sure to test it repeatedly to ensure there wasn’t any favoring of one network over the other.
Lastly, internet tests are free. DO NOT PAY FOR ONE. All of the tools we recommend don’t cost a penny, and they are all plenty good at what they do. If presented with the opportunity to pay for one of these tests, know that it’s a scam and run away. There are plenty of ways to test your internet connection without having to spend a dime.
The Best Internet Speed Tests for 2020
Now that we’ve identified the core function of an internet speed test as well as the components of a good one, it’s time to present our list of the best internet speed tests for 2020. Here are the ones we’ve determined to be the best:
Speedtest.net (By Ookla)
If you search for an internet speed test, it’s quite likely that the first hit on search results will be for Speedtest.net (By Ookla). There is a good reason for this – it truly is one of if not the best internet test available in 2020.
What helps set this particular tool apart from the others is that it uses more than 1,000 servers to perform its test, allowing it to more accurately replicate your network’s actual conditions than most other tests. This translates to more reliable results, meaning any decisions about your internet that you make from this test will be based on sound data.
Also, Speedtest is very easy to use. Running a diagnosis of your network is a simple matter of navigating to the site and clicking the “Go” button. The rest happens automatically, and you get your results usually within 15-20 seconds, which is faster than most other tests.
One thing we don’t like about Speedtest is that it only tells you about upload and download speed. When you get the results, it will tell you which servers it used (which isn’t all that helpful to most of us) and which provider you’re using (which you should already know.) Yet if all you’re after is a fast, reliable, and easy-to-use analysis of basic network performance, then you really can’t go wrong with Speedtest.
In addition to sporting the most creative name/URL, Testmy.net is also a handy tool for those of you who are a bit more tech-savvy and are after more than just upload and download speeds.
Testmy.net is actually a program that you need to download onto your computer and run. It’s delivered to you like this instead of as an online tool because it digs deep into what’s happening with your network, and it needs something more than just a simple web interface to do this. If it ran on your browser, it would likely be slow, which would decrease its effectiveness.
Don’t worry, it’s still free, and the program is small that it won’t take up too much space on your computer. It downloads quickly, and in a matter of minutes, you can run a test. When you do, you will be able to look at things such as router distribution, browser health, and latency. You can also manually adjust which servers are being used to test the network under different conditions.
If you don’t know what any of these things are, don’t worry; just use one of the more basic tests on this list. But if you do know what these things are, then know that Testmy.net will give you reliable results that will be very useful in helping you diagnose what’s going on with your network.
Google Fiber Speedtest
Since Google Fiber is technically an ISP, this is the only ISP-created test to make the list. Despite some people’s objection, Google is usually pretty good with this stuff, and as a company, it certainly has the infrastructure to create a great test, which it has.
After running it through our testing protocol, we found no bias and that it was also highly accurate. Additionally, it works very, very quickly. In most cases, results showed up less than ten seconds after starting the test, which is faster than most other tests on this list.
One nice feature of the Google Fiber Speedtest is that it lets you see what connection speeds are like in your area. This means you can compare your results with those of your neighbors (or at least those somewhat nearby), which should help you figure out if any performance issues you have are unique to you or just part of a larger trend.
Furthermore, after you do your test, Google will present you with links that you can follow to read more about what you can do to improve performance, or that will at least help you better understand why you’re not getting the speeds you think you should be.
Although SpeedOf.me uses far fewer servers than Speedtest – 88 compared to more than 1,000 – it makes up for this by running the test without pre-selecting a server, something that happens under normal conditions. Because of this, SpeedOf.me can produce highly accurate results without having to rely on quite as many servers.
What we like about this particular test, though, is that it delivers real-time results. This means that you can monitor your network’s performance on a moment to moment basis; you don’t need to wait for the test to be over. This is useful as it can help you figure out exactly what’s going on with your connection at a particular moment.
Also, SppedOf.me automatically keeps a log of your past test results, and we love this feature as it allows you to track performance over time and determine if slow speeds are a real problem or merely an anomaly.
On top of its accuracy, these extra features help make SpeedOf.me an excellent choice for an internet test. We should point out that it pretty much only measures upload and download speeds, so if you’re looking for something more, you may want to look elsewhere.
Internet Health Test
Although it takes quite a bit longer to run than some of the other tests on this list, the extra wait time could be worth it for you if you’re out for a complete snapshot of what’s happening with your network.
This test takes a bit longer than most because it runs multiple tests, i.e., it creates multiple packets of information and sends them through a variety of different servers so that you can get into the nitty-gritty of what’s happening with your internet connection.
If you’re not particularly knowledgeable on your internet connection’s technical aspects, then this test might not be all that useful for you. It will give you a lot of information that doesn’t make all that much sense to you. However, if you are familiar with this stuff, you’re probably going to love Internet Health Test.
An internet test that’s owned and operated by Netflix, there are two things we like about Fast.com: its accuracy and its user interface.
Once you type in the URL and get to the site, the test starts automatically, and then results are available in seconds. When the test is done, it will display a number on your screen, the current download speed offered by your network. If you want more information, all you need to do is click on the tab below the download speed result. You can get your upload speed and information about your ISP and the servers used in the test.
If you’re looking for a more complete tool, then this isn’t the one for you, but if all you want is a quick diagnosis of your download speed, this tool will go beyond sufficient.
Factors Affecting the Accuracy of an Internet Speed Test
While all offering something slightly different, all of the tests mentioned above have in common that they are accurate. However, before you go off and start doing speed tests, you should know that there are a few things that can dramatically alter your results, and you should be aware of them so that you can properly interpret the speeds returned from your testing. These factors include:
How to Speed Up Your Internet
If you’re still not satisfied with your internet connection after running your tests and accounting for the factors mentioned above, there are some things you can do that might improve the situation. Of course, it’s entirely possible you simply need to upgrade your service plan, but before you do that, make sure to try out the following hacks:
If you’ve tried all of these things and still aren’t happy with your internet connection, then it’s time to upgrade. Make sure, though, when you call your ISP that you express your dissatisfaction, and be ready to tell them that you’ll switch to someone else if they don’t offer you a better deal. This should help you improve your network without paying exorbitant prices.
Time to Test
Now that you have all the information you could ever want and need about internet tests, there’s nothing left to do except start testing. Consider running tests using more than one of these tools, and think about doing them over a period of time. Then, once you have the results, you will be able to make an informed decision about whether or not it’s time to upgrade your internet plan for something faster and more able to meet your needs.