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What does this speed test measure, and how does it work?
Our speed test measures your download speed, upload speed, and latency (also called ping or jitter). Here’s how we test each of those.
In order to measure your download speed, our test selects a server close to your location and uses this server to download a file. The test then measures how fast the file is downloaded over a certain amount of time to pinpoint your download speed.
To test your upload speed, we run the download speed test in reverse. Instead of downloading a file, we measure how quickly that same file is uploaded to the nearby server.
To measure the latency, or how long it takes your computer to contact the server and get a response back, we measure how long it takes your computer to receive a reply from the server.
We measure your latency several times during the test, so you’ll see a maximum, minimum, and average latency score listed in milliseconds (ms).
What can affect your speed test results?
No broadband internet speed test is perfect, and that’s because many things can affect your speed test results. That includes the following:
1. Multiple devices are using your internet
If you have multiple devices, like cell phones, computers, and home security systems, all using your internet connection at the same time you take the speed test, your results might be slower than what you expected. That’s because there’s only so much bandwidth your internet connection has available for sharing.
But we should stress here that using means actively downloading or transferring data. If a device is just connected to your internet but not doing anything, it shouldn’t slow your internet connection down.
You can think of bandwidth kind of like a hallway. If there are only a few people strolling through it at one time, everyone can walk at the fastest speed. But when more people try to walk through the hallway at the same time, everyone has to move slower in order to move around the other people.
2. Your device uses Wi-Fi
You’ll get the fastest speeds if you can connect your device with an Ethernet cable. We call this a “wired connection” and generally recommend using this type of connection if you’re after the fastest speeds possible.
But if you can’t connect your device with an Ethernet cable, using Wi-Fi is okay. Just know that different types of devices have different Wi-Fi setups, meaning you might get better results on one device than another.
3. Your router isn’t up to date
If you use Wi-Fi or connect multiple devices to the internet at the same time, you’ll need a router. And if your router is older or if you haven’t updated its firmware in a while, it could slow down your internet speed test results.
We’ve got more info on why you should update your firmware in our guide to restarting your router. (Which, by the way, is a good way to fix some internet issues too.)
4. You’re using a VPN
If you’re using a VPN, it could slow your internet speed down. That’s because a VPN routes your internet connection through a different server or servers to add an extra layer of security and privacy.
We recommend turning your VPN off to take the internet speed test and get the most accurate results—but don’t forget to turn it back on when you’re done!
Find out if they’re legal (yup!), how they work, and our recommendations for the best VPNs in our VPN guide.
How much speed do you need?
Here in the US, 25 Mbps is considered “high-speed” internet by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC).1 And while we don’t necessarily disagree, how much internet speed you need is more dependent on what you plan to do online and how many people use your internet.
We’ve also seen the FCC's baseline internet speed recommendations, but honestly, we think these recommendations are a little off.
Those recommendations don’t take into account the fact that you’re probably not just streaming Netflix online. C’mon, everyone knows that while you stream Netflix, you’re also browsing Instagram while your kiddos play Xbox, your partner hops on a Zoom call for work, and your smart home system is adjusting the thermostat for you. All at the same time.
Okay, okay, but how much speed do you need? Here are our general internet speed recommendations if there’s only one person using the internet in your home:
- Streaming video: 25 Mbps or faster; 50 Mbps or faster if you want to stream in 4K
- Streaming music: 10 Mbps or faster
- Gaming: 25 Mbps or faster for most games; 50 Mbps or faster for first-person shooters (FPS) and player-versus-player (PVP) games
- Working from home: 50 Mbps or faster
- Email and browsing the internet: 5 Mbps
You’ll want to add a buffer of more speed if you have more than just yourself using the internet, though. We get into the nitty-gritty details of the best internet speed and providers for gaming and streaming if you’re curious.
How to choose the best internet provider
If you have choices when it comes to picking your internet service provider (ISP), consider yourself lucky. But even so, it can be really confusing to pick the best internet provider, so we pulled together a list of our recommended ISPs across the US.
6 best internet providers in the US
- Best Value: Xfinity
- Best for Fiber Speeds: AT&T
- Editor's Choice: Verizon Fios Home Internet
- Best DSL and price lock: CenturyLink
- Best cable internet for rural areas: Optimum
- Best satellite internet speeds: Viasat
|Xfinity Internet||$19.99–$70*||75–1200 Mbps||View Plans|
|CenturyLink Internet||$50–$70†||100–940 Mbps||View Plans|
|AT&T Fiber||$55–$180‡||300–5000 Mbps||View Plans|
|Optimum Internet||$40–$180^||300–5000 Mbps||View Plans|
|Viasat Internet||$59.99–$299.99°||12–150 Mbps||View Plans|
How to speed up your internet
Here are a few tricks you can try to speed up your internet connection without even picking up the phone to call your internet provider. Now that’s what we call a win.
- Restart your modem and router
- Check if the website is experiencing issues
- Reposition your router
- Use an Ethernet cable instead of Wi-Fi
- Look for a new internet provider
And if you’re on satellite internet, check out these extra tips for optimizing your dish.
5 fastest internet providers in the US
If one of these internet providers offers service in your area, take a look. They’re well-known for offering and delivering some decently fast download speeds.
|Astound Broadband Powered by RCN||$25–$70**||300–1200 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|Xfinity Internet||$19.99–$70*||75–1200 Mbps||1.2 TB||View Plans|
|Astound Broadband Powered by Grande||$25–$60††||300–1200 Mbps||Unlimited||View Plans|
|Viasat Internet||$59.99–$299.99°||12–150 Mbps||35 GB–Unlimited||View Plans|
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