How to Test Internet Speed

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Are you paying for broadband service and want to make sure you're getting the actual speed you're paying for?

The fact is: many things can affect your upload and download speeds. Slow internet can be due to modem or router problems in your wireless connection, issues in your web browser, or even a bad wire connection from your Ethernet cable.

Checking out the truth about your network speed is fast and easy, thanks to multiple speed testers available today. Choose from those brought to you by your provider, or use a third-party speed test site.

I'm going to make testing your internet connection speed even simpler. In this guide, I give you the scoop on the internet service providers that you can use to check your internet speed, plus I'll tell you about the most well-known free internet speed tester around.

Internet Speed Check

You should check your internet speed routinely to ensure that you're receiving what you're paying for. A lot of the time, you're not receiving the full value of your current plan.

With this guide, you'll figure out how to check your internet speed, so you'll know and understand what your actual speed is in comparison to the internet connection speed you're paying for.

What Is Your Internet Speed?

I bet you've asked yourself this: "How fast is my internet connection, really?" If you're looking for an exact reading, then you should refer to your provider's speed test or run a speed test with one of the many speed testing services that help you determine your connection performance.

We also recommend checking out the Speedtest by Ookla, a free internet speed test that will measure how fast your download and upload speeds are.

Here's how Ookla's speed test will look when you access their site:

Ookla speedtest results 1

And the final results will read out like this:

ookla speedtest results 2

What Internet Speed Do You Need?

Is your current plan fast enough? Do you need a true broadband connection (the FCC defines broadband speed as 25Mbps) or will a slower package do? The internet speed you need is dependent on the activity you participate in. For instance, you'll probably want broadband service for streaming HD video on TV (4 Mbps with Netflix). Conversely, a lower-tier plan will do fine for streaming music (1 to 2 Mbps).

For SD video streaming, such as Hulu or Netflix, you need a minimum connection speed of more than 1Mbps. However, for HD, 3D, or 4K streaming, you will need a higher speed. Fortunately, sites like Netflix will automatically adjust streaming quality based on your current connection performance.

Related: Buyer's Guide to Streaming Sites

What internet speed do you need for Netflix?

Here are the absolute minimum speeds for Netflix streaming:

  • 1Mbps for streaming on laptop
  • 2Mbps for viewing SD on a TV (480p)
  • 4Mbps for streaming HD video (720p, 1080p)
  • 15Mbps at absolute minimum for 4K streaming

What internet speed do you need for Hulu and Hulu Plus?

Here are the minimum required connection speeds for streaming with Hulu and Hulu Plus, courtesy of a Hulu help article.

  • 1.5Mbps at absolute minimum for SD, regardless of device
  • 3Mbps for HD viewing

There are also live television streaming sites that you should consider as well, which may require a faster internet speed compared to streaming video with services like Hulu and Netflix.

Below you will find information on the minimum required internet speeds for the PlayStation Vue, Sling TV, and DirecTV Now services.

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How much internet bandwidth do you need for Sling TV?

According to Sling TV, you will need:

  • A constant speed of 3Mbps or more to stream video content on portable devices.
  • A constant speed of 5Mbps or more for a single stream of video content on a TV, PC, or Mac.
  • A constant speed of 25Mbps or more for households who maintain internet use on multiple devices.

Internet Speeds for Gaming

According to some sources, internet speeds of between 15Mbps and 20Mbps is more than enough for gaming, but the latency of your connection matters more than your speed. It's important to note that a fiber broadband connection is the most stable. Plus, you'll need good upload speeds, which are favored by fiber optic services like Verizon FiOS, for tasks such as Twitch streaming.

However, Microsoft has provided Xbox users with the minimum internet speed requirements - but recall that minimum requirements do not constitute comfortability with your connection. Here are the recommended speeds for playing online with your Xbox One console:

  • Download Speed: 3Mbps
  • Upload Speed: 0.5Mbps
  • Ping: Less than 150 milliseconds

However, there are some game streaming services, such as PlayStation Now or PlayStation SharePlay, that will demand heavier download and upload speeds. Players supposedly need a minimum of 5Mbps to stream PlayStation Now's offerings, though for plenty of players, that may not always be the case, as they have experienced issues with the service even with 10Mbps download speeds.

Pro Tip: Packet loss - rather than broadband speeds - can be a major problem for gamers. The most common cause of packet loss is network congestion (in other words, too many people online at the same time). If your broadband speed testing doesn't indicate a problem, you can reset your modem or router - or both - to improve the issue. If that doesn't help, it's likely either network congestion or the game servers, neither of which you can do much about besides playing at a different time of day when network speeds are likely to be faster.

Before Testing Your Internet Speed

For the best results, and it will be suggested by most speed test providers, you should do the following:

  • Use a wired connection if possible - A wire connection via Ethernet cable provides you with the strongest internet speeds and the most stability. However, if you're doing a broadband speed test over a wireless connection, that is okay too. Just make sure that your Wi-Fi router is not suffering from interference from devices like microwaves. Furthermore, disconnect your other wireless devices that are using Wi-Fi, as that will hamper your Wi-Fi signal and slow down your internet speeds.
  • Make sure that your computer is not running anything in the background - Your computer can very well be downloading something in the background. To check, all you need to do is open the Task Manager on Windows (which can be performed by using the control-alt-delete function) or the Activity Monitor on OS X and look at your network status via the "Network" tab to the far right. Furthermore, you should quit or close all apps on your computer to prevent apps from downloading updates while you test your connection. However, if your OS is automatically updating, then you will need to wait until the update is finished before you can test your connection.
  • Finally, ensure that your modem and router are rebooted - Refreshing your modem and router will often provide you with the best test results possible.

Internet Service Provider Speed Tests

Here, you'll find the available internet provider speed tests, which should help you determine what your speed is. Of course, even if you aren't using these providers, you can always take their internet speed tests free of charge.

Testing Speed on Mobile Devices

Let's change up the scenario a bit: say you want to see what your connection speeds are on your cellphone or another wireless device, like a tablet. In this case, you'll typically need to download an app, either from Google Play or the App Store, depending upon your device. Why would you want to do a speed test on a mobile device? Just as you pay for a certain speed on your home internet, you pay for certain speeds on your cell phone as well. This way you can see if you're getting what you're paying for while on the go.

Recap

Now that you know how to test internet speed, there's no reason not to do so regularly.

If you do encounter slow internet speeds, then you should rely on several troubleshooting methods. Fortunately, we have a guide for increasing your internet speeds.

Furthermore, if you are unhappy with your internet speeds, then you should take a moment to read our review of the best internet providers. Interested in knowing who the fastest internet provider is? We rank the major internet service providers and show you who is the fastest. For an in-depth look at the different packages and deals offered to you, you can compare internet providers side-by-side here.

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