The internet is more relevant in today’s society than ever. We work, play video games, watch TV, shop, connect with our friends and family and just about anything in between using the internet. Ever since I moved my home office upstairs I noticed a significant decline in my internet performance. I ran a few internet speed tests to start troubleshooting the problem. Am I getting the network bandwidth I’m paying for? Due to few different results I started wondering if internet speeds tests really work. Therefore I dug in and did a little research to see what the truth is about internet speed tests and if they really work.
How do Internet speed tests work?
Most internet speed tests work by sending a binary file to your computer with instructions to send them back again. Your download and upload speeds will be measured by how much data can be sent/received in usually a 10 second time period. Some site can also check your “ping” – a measure of latency by sending an HTTP request to the server and seeing how long it takes for a response. Most services will process several files during the test and use a formula to calculate your speed, usually dropping a percentage of the highest and lowest results before producing your final result.
What Internet speed do you need?
- 5 Mbps or less: Basic Web surfing and email.
- 5–10 Mbps: Web surfing and email, with occasional streaming and online gaming, shared among a few connected devices.
- 10–25 Mbps: Moderate high-definition (HD) streaming, online gaming, and downloading files, shared among several connected devices.
- 25–40 Mbps: Heavy HD streaming, online gaming, and downloading, with many connected devices.
- 40+ Mbps: Hardcore streaming, online gaming, and downloading, with a large number of connected devices.
Hulu and Hulu Plus Streaming Requirements:
- 1.5 Mbp/s for SD content and 3 Mbp/s for HD content
Netflix minimum internet speeds:
- 1 Mb/s for viewing on a laptop computer
- 2 Mb/s for viewing standard definition video (480p) on a TV
- 4 Mb/s for viewing High Definition video (720p, 1080p)
- 5 Mb/s or more for the best audio and video experience
- 15 Mb/s is the minimum necessary for 4K streaming (25mb/s is preferred).
Recommendation for getting the best speed test results
- Reset your modem or router before performing the tests.
- Close all ongoing downloads or any other programs that may be using your connection.
- Always reset your computer or device before running the tests.
- Power down all other devices.
- Clear your browsers cache. This should be done before each test. If you are running several test in a row this could impact the results since the files are already on your computer.
- Use HTML speed test rather than tests that use Flash. Services that use Flash have to make adjustments estimated as high as 40% to compensate for using Flash technology.
Factors that may affect your results
- Ongoing downloads and any other programs that may be using your connection.
- Wireless vs. Wired connection – a wired Ethernet connection may eliminate the possibility of wireless interference.
- The location of the server used for the speed test. Most services have access to a fixed number of servers and automatically choose the server closest to you. Therefore finding a server under 300 miles from the end user is the ideal.
- How far your computer is located for your router or modem if testing over WiFi.
- Differences in hardware – phones and tablets have less sophisticated WiFi antennas than say a laptop or PC.
- Out of date devices (like modems and routers) can significantly slow down your connection.
- Using an old and outdated browser.
- How many devices are connected? Because a large number of devices can compete for your bandwidth (network congestion).
- Time of day your run the test. Prime time which is typically in the evening will produce different results than running the tests at say 4 am in the morning.
List of Internet Speed Tests
- fast.com/ – Netlfix
I ran about 50 test on the various sites above with 4 devices – iPhone 6, iPad Air Pro, Dell Latitude E5540 and a Dell XPS L702. Results were ideal on the first 3 devices (average 200 Mbps down and 15 Mbps up) and horrible results on the XPS – around 20 Mbps down. As a result I moved my modem to the office and plugged the XPS directly into it via a network cable. Speeds on the XPS are now 150+. I believe that internet speed tests do work and are mostly accurate and reliable. I was able to verify my speeds and adjust my internet setup to my advantage.