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Broadband Connection Explained: Tips on Correct Internet and Wi-Fi Speed Testing

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At one point or another, you might have wondered how to do a proper Wi-Fi speed test or the right way to figure out how fast your Internet connection is.

In this post, you'll find out what an Internet connection entails and how to figure out the absolute speeds of your connections. Take "absolute" with a big grain of salt, though, since these speeds vary greatly.

The method mentioned here is also what I use for official testing in all networking reviews on this website.

Before we continue, ensure you understand that Wi-Fi and the Internet are two different things. As a result, using one to test the other can be problematic.

Dong's note: I first published this post on December 19, 2018, and last updated it on November 9, 2022, to include additional relevant information.

Internet or Wi-Fi Speed Test: Netgear CM600 Cable Modem
Internet or Wi-Fi Speed Test: Figuring out those numbers can be challenging.

Why you should care about your Internet speed

It's generally helpful to know how fast your Internet is. Faster always seems better, but you only need certain speed grades to do specific tasks.

Above a certain speed grade, where the connection is fast enough for even the most demanding application, broadband speed testing should be used only to confirm the paid bandwidth. It's meaningless otherwise.

Take video streaming -- one of the most bandwidth-taxing online activities -- for example; you'll generally need a minimum download speed of:

  • 3-4 Megabits per second for DVD quality or face timing on a phone screen.
  • 5Mbps for HD quality.
  • 25Mbps for Blu-ray (4K) quality.
  • 80Mbps for 8K video.

Keep in mind that this is the speed required by a single stream. If you have more than one person streaming simultaneously, you generally need to multiply those numbers with the concurrent clients to determine the necessary real-time bandwidth.

Also, there are a lot more online applications than streaming. Some of these applications -- such as automatic updates -- even occur within a connected device without you getting involved.

So yes, again, faster Internet is always better. But there's more than the download speed on the Internet.

Internet connection explained

When testing an Internet connection, you'll get two main numbers, download and upload -- sometimes they are called downlink and uplink. And you might also see a few other values, including ping, jitter, and package loss.

Following is the breakdown of what they mean.

Internet speed: Upload vs download

Download speed represents how fast you can pull things from outside your local network.

That said, streaming a movie, surfing a website, downloading a file, getting an email, etc., use the download pipe.

In a speed test, download is the speed the test device (a computer or a phone) pulls information from the remote server that hosts the test data.

Upload represents the speed of the opposite direction.

Things like sending an email, posting a photo or comment to Facebook, saving a file to Google Drive, using cloud-recording/smart devices, etc., use the upload pipe.

While we use more of the download pipe, data transmission -- delivered in small portions called packets -- needs both directions to work. That's because your computer uses the upload pipe to confirm to the remote server that it has received a packet and is ready for the next one.

That said, when the upload pipe is clogged up, you can't download anything.

In a Cable broadband connection, the download speed tends to be much faster than the upload speed. But you might get the same rate for both directions with a Fiber-optic service.

Still, suppose somebody is seeding a torrent file or uploading a large amount of information without limiting the upload speed for the task. In that case, others might not be able to download anything. Keep that in mind.

Cloud-recording security cameras, like those from Google or Arlo, and "smart devices" can put a massive strain on the upload. Don't use them if you have a modest broadband connection. In this case, you might need to conserve your Internet bandwidth. )

Packet loss

As the name suggests, packet loss happens when a packet of data is either not received or partially received.

Most of the time, this results from a bad physical connection or incompatible MTU settings. In this case, the packet will be resent. Packet loss shouldn't be higher than 1 percent.

Lag (or latency): Ping vs jitter

Both ping and jitter relate to the delay in a connection, but they are slightly different.

Ping is the fixed latency (a.k.a lag) at a given time -- in a speed test, it's generally measured at the beginning. It's the amount of time, shown in milliseconds, needed for a data packet from one party to reach another or vice versa.

The shorter your ping is, the better your Internet connection is for applications that require real-time interaction, such as Wi-Fi calling or online gaming. Generally, a ping of 15ms or shorter is considered excellent.

Jitter, often called Packet Delay Variation (PDV) or ping variations, measures ping values over time -- the entire test.

In other words, if every packet takes the exact amount of time -- no matter how long -- to arrive at the destination, then there's no jitter.

The higher the jitter value, the more likely a packet loss will occur. The jitter value should be below 30ms and is generally below 10ms.

How to do a real Internet speed test

There are many speed testing websites, such as Speedof.me, Fast.com, or Speedtest.net, for you to choose from. But don't get too obsessed about which to use. They all use the same test methodology.

And no matter which you use, the results will vary due to the server's location (and Internet speed). So pick one that's best for your location, and in that sense, Speedtest.net is excellent -- it's ubiquitously available with many servers of different speed grades.

Since you're on this page, do a quick test right now.

⏱️ Dong Knows Tech custom Speed Test transfers data between your device and an Ookla test server

So how fast is it? Totally fast, and you're happy with it? Good for you! You can move on now. But if it's not what you expected, keep in mind that chances are it's not your correct Internet speed anyway.

If you were using a phone's cellular connection during the test, that was indeed your Internet's actual speed. However, mobile Internet speed continuously varies greatly depending on where you are.

Let me explain. When you did the test, there might have been other devices in the network, also using part of the connection's bandwidth.

If you have an ultra-high-speed broadband plan, the local Wi-Fi or your computer's wired connection might not be fast enough to deliver the Internet bandwidth fully.

That said, to find out the real speed of your broadband connection, you must prepare before the testing.

Netgear CM2000 Nighthawk Multi Gig Cable Modem BehindSonic Fiber optic ONT
Your Internet speed is generally most correct at the terminal device, such as your Cable modem or Fiber-optic ONT, at your home's broadband drop. Specifically, you want to connect the test equipment to the network port of the terminal device -- in the photos above, it's the yellow or white network cable, respectively.

What you need to do a real Internet speed test

To test your broadband connection, you need to do that at the source -- the terminal device -- using equipment with a connection grade that's the same or better yet significantly faster than the expected Internet speed.

You don't want the testing equipment to be the bottleneck, else, you'll the test result is the speed of the equipment itself.

Specifically, here are what you need:

  • A test computer with a network port: A Gigabit port is usually OK, but if you want to test a full Gigabit, Gig+, or faster broadband connection, a Multi-Gig-capable (2.5Gbps, 5Gbps, 10Gbps) computer is a must. That means, in most cases, you need a desktop with a 10Gbps PCIe internal adapter or a Thunderbolt laptop with a 10Gbps external adapter.
  • CAT6a or higher grade cables: Generally, CAT5e cable can deliver up to 10Gbps, but for testing, it's best to use CAT6a or higher grade to make sure.
  • (Optional) a router capable of Multi-Gig on both WAN and LAN sides: This applies only if you want to test the connection via (behind) the router. In this case, turn off any bandwidth-related features of the router, such as QoS, bandwidth limiter, traffic monitor, security, etc. If you have a sub-Gigabit broadband connection, a Gigabit router will do.

After that, here's how to connect the devices for the test:

  • Connect the test machine directly to the Internet terminal device, a modem, a gateway, or a Fiber ONT, using a network cable. The objective is to remove all middle devices, like a slow switch or router, that can be the bottleneck.
  • (Optional) If you use a router, make sure you connect its fastest ports for both the WAN -- the terminal device -- and the LAN side, which is your test computer. Generally, the speed test function of a router (via its web user interface or mobile app) is only for reference and is never correct due to various reason.
  • Check to ensure the computer is the only device using the broadband connection during the test. For example, if the Internet source is a gateway, make sure you disconnect all other devices from it (unplug all other network cables and turn off its Wi-Fi.)

And that's it! Now on the test computer, do a few speed tests as you did earlier. The number you get is your real Internet speed.

You'll likely still get a different result each time you do a test. That's just how the Internet is. Feel free to use the highest number as your broadband score.

Now, if it's still significantly lower than your broadband plan, it's time to call the provider to complain.

Again this complicated real test is to make sure you get what the ISP promises you. Generally, you only need to do a random test on any device to determine the connection speed at any given time, and if it's fast enough, there's no need to do anything else.

How to test a router’s Wi-Fi speed test

There are many Wi-Fi speed test apps. None of these are accurate for a couple of reasons.

First, mobile devices almost always optimize their Wi-Fi adapter for power consumption and not performance to conserve battery life -- the former is way more important in real-world usage.

Second, none of these apps can move data between itself and another local device to replicate what users do in real life. They are all synthetic.

That said, avoid using speed test apps if you want to know how fast your local Wi-Fi speed really is.

And you shouldn't use Internet speed test apps to test the local Wi-Fi speed, either. In most cases, a router's Wi-Fi speed is likely much faster than the speed of a broadband connection. Even when you have ultra-fast Internet, many variations in the World Wide Web can adversely affect broadband speeds. The gist is that it's rarely accurate, if at all, to use the Internet to test your Wi-Fi's throughputs.

Note on speed testing using a phone

It's OK to use a phone to do a speed test via an app as long as you don't take the result as the true indicator of your Wi-Fi or broadband speed. Instead, consider the number as the phone's real-time general connection speed. And that information can be helpful enough.

If your Internet or the Wi-Fi connection is faster than a particular speed grade, say 500Mbps, and you want to figure out the actual speed, you need to test it via a computer with the fastest network and Wi-Fi adapter to make sure.

The best way to determine a router's Wi-Fi speed is to copy data from one computer (a server) to another (a Wi-Fi client) within the local network, using a single wired-to-wireless connection.

If you use multiple Wi-Fi clients for the testing, the router's Wi-Fi bandwidth is shared; therefore, you can't determine how fast its Wi-Fi can genuinely be. That's not to mention other factors, such as software driver or hardware grades.

And that means, again, you need to do some preparation.

What you need to do a real Wi-Fi speed test

In my experience, the real-world speed of Wi-Fi 5 (802.11ac), even at its best, has never surpassed the sustained rate of a wired Gigabit connection. But Wi-Fi 6, and especially Wi-Fi 6E, can be significantly faster.

In any case, keep this in mind: The connection speed between a pair of network devices is at the mercy of the lowest party involved. The rate you see is that of the bottleneck device -- if that's the device you want to test, then your result is correct.

That said, these are what you need to test a device's Wi-Fi speed:

  1. A computer that plays the server's role and hosts the test data. This computer must have a Gigabit network port -- or a 10 Gigabit Ethernet port if you intend to test a Wi-Fi 6 router -- and use a solid-state drive as its storage. Connect this computer to the fastest LAN port of the Wi-Fi router you want to test. (If the router doesn't support Gigabit, you can forget about it. It's already too slow, anyway). Now on this server computer, share the folder that contains the test data so that it's accessible to other computers that connect to the same router.
  2. A second computer -- be it a laptop or a desktop -- to play the Wi-Fi client's role. This computer must have the highest-end (fastest possible) Wi-Fi adapter of at least the same speed grate as the router. This computer should also use a solid-state drive as its storage. Connect this computer to the Wi-Fi network of the router. Make sure you separate the bands when possible, be it 2.4GHz, 5GHz, or 6GHz, into different networks to know which band is being tested.

And that's it! Now from the second computer (the Wi-Fi client), browse for the shared folder on the server and copy the data. Time how long that process takes, do some simple math with the amount of data involved, and you'll figure out how fast the connection is.

For example, if the data you copy is 2000 megabytes and the copy process takes 30 seconds, the speed is 66.7 megabytes per second or 533.6 Mbps.

You can move the Wi-Fi client around to find out how the distances -- between the router and the client -- affect the Wi-Fi speed.

Similar to Internet speed, the Wi-Fi speed also tends to fluctuate. That said, feel free to pick the highest number of the same location as your router's speed.

The takeaway

Again, unless you need to find out the actual speed of a Wi-Fi broadcaster or your broadband, for one reason or another, there's no need to work very hard at it. Most of the time, a quick speed test is enough.

Ultimately, we only need the connection to be as fast as an application requires. Above that, the extra bandwidth will not amount to anything meaningful.

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75 thoughts on “Broadband Connection Explained: Tips on Correct Internet and Wi-Fi Speed Testing”

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  1. Hi Dong, Do your bandwidth calculations for video streaming (e.g., 5Mbps for HD; 25Mbps for 4k) assume compression? They seem low for raw video so I was hoping you could give an example of a calculation.

    Thank you and I’m a big fan of your writing

    Reply
    • They are true numbers, Andrey, and not for raw videos but compressed streaming formats. You can even try that yourself: Stream a single 4K video, say from Netfix, and watch your real-time bandwidth via the router. Most of the time, it’ll be lower than 25Mbps.

      Reply
  2. You have shared a very useful post i really like it keep going on, thanks for sharing such an informative content with us. I like to visit this helpful blog again for further updates.☺️

    Reply
  3. Hi Dong, have you tried the local version of open speed test? {…}

    I assume it’s similar to copying a file from a server like you’re doing, but a bit more convenient assuming there’s nothing that’s different with this speed test program.

    Would love to hear your thoughts!

    Reply
  4. Not exactly the answer I was hoping for. I currently have AT&T Uverse with a 50Mbps plan. Speedtest confirms the modem is getting that. I also just got Charter Spectrum Gigabit and the same test gives me anywhere from 700 to 830 Mbps. Not exactly 1,000 and certainly not 900+ that some people get. It could be because our house is about 1,200 ft from the TAP. So I want to compare what I have now and it’s frustrating. I can test my wifi with my phone and I say BS because even 120 ft away from this basic modem/router from AT&T (5268AC) I’m getting 89% of the bandwidth. That’s not right IMO because when I had this solo, my son couldn’t play video games and was really banned from League of Legends because of bad speed. So I routed a Cat5 cable from the router to his room to a Nighthawk and then ethernet to his desktop and he’s never complained again. So I am buying a Netgear Orbi 6 and placing the router next to the AT&T in my office and then the satellite in my son’s room on the opposite end of the house (roughly 150 feet away). I want to compare the wi-fi speed between the mesh and spectrum and then also with the Uverse router with the Nighthawk. I need to walk around the house and see if I may need a 2nd satellite. What software can I use to compare the different configurations? I am using ethernet backhaul on the mesh.

    Reply
    • Reread the post, Patrick. Using a phone, you can *never* get the correct speeds in testing, especially at this speed grade. Also, don’t get Orbi if you already wired your home — more here.

      Unfortunately, you’d need to do quite a bit of reading before you can figure this out. Getting frustrated won’t help. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  5. Hi Dong,

    First let me say that I love your site and your honest assessments on networking tech. I’m a long-time reader and first time commenter.

    In no way is this meant to be insulting; I’m sure you are already aware of these concepts but I just wanted to point something out for the sake of your readers that are interested in speed testing their networks.

    **It is a good idea to test your read/write speeds to your local storage and use this as a gauge to ensure you’re Wi-Fi speed tests aren’t being limited by your storage throughputs.**

    For instance, if you run a local copy/write (e.g. create a brand-new copy of a large file from one local storage drive to another local storage drive [ex. C:\test.file -> D:\copy-of-test.file] *you need to have two separate local storage devices for this*).

    1. Let’s say your write throughput tops out around 300MBps (megabytes/sec) which is ~2400 Mbps (megabits/sec).

    2. Now, when you perform your speed test on your Wi-Fi 6e connection that is supposed to be giving you 4800Mbps, or whatever, and you are only seeing somewhere in the neighborhood of 2400Mbps, you will be able to conclude that your bottleneck is with your storage throughput and not your Wi-Fi hardware.

    **note** there are a lot of factors that affect storage throughput like caching, write acknowledgement behavior for the particular file system, RAID parity level, CPU, Mem, bus, etc. But there’s no reason to dig down into all of those variables if you are only interested in testing your wireless network speeds. Unless, of course, you identify your storage as a bottleneck, and want to diagnose it more granularly to try to find a fix.**

    I’m sure you are already aware of the above, and probably didn’t want to overcomplicate the post by listing every possible factor that plays a part in a speed test. I just thought I’d mention it in case someone runs into this. It was a lesson I had to learn from experience years ago.

    Regards and thanks again for your fantastic reviews.
    William
    Lead Technical Architect for Cloud, Data Center, Automation, & DevOps Technologies

    Reply
    • Appreciate your input, William. My equipment all uses NVMe SSDs that can do over 2000MB/s of sustained copy speeds — that’s some 7x of 300MB/s or 16000Mbps. I mentioned those drives in the post and linked to my review of one of them. If somehow you’re new to NVMe SSDs, this post will help. Generally, on this website, it helps if you read any post with some attention. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  6. Does it matter if I speed-test my mobile data with any speed test page of telcos in my country? Each of them using their own local internet gateway respectively but all of them located at the same place. Will it affect accuracy of the result?

    Reply
    • Yes, Fara since each test server might have a different configuration, etc. But generally, there’s no need to be super accurate, and you can test using all of them and pick the one with the highest numbers as your Internet speed.

      Reply
  7. Hi Dong, thanks a lot for sharing this. I just got a RT-A86U.

    I’m currently running this as a wired AP mode. On the note of synthetic speed test, I’m utilising a mobile app; CloudCheck and to test solely the wi-fi link speed between my phone (iPhone 13 Pro Max) with the router, I’m utilising the wi-fi sweetspots function.
    Based on the data, it maxes out at 750Mbps when just 1m away from the router.

    Should I be seeing >1Gbps on this graph granted that the phone utilises a 2×2 MIMO? Have separated out the 2.4Ghz and 5.0Ghz band.

    In professional settings, have set the following for the 5.0Ghz band (which I thought may affect better performance):
    – modulation scheme: up to MCS 11
    – airtime fairness: disabled
    – multi-user MIMO: enabled
    – OFDMA.802.11ax MU-MIMO DL/UL OFDMA + MU-MIMO
    – 802ax/ac beamforming: enable

    Hope to hear if you have any comments on this as based on your review of this router I saw that you were able to achieve 1250 Mbps on the 2×2 MIMO setup 3m away. Kind of bummed that I’m not able to achieve a similar result to you which was the primary reason I upgraded from my aging Apple AE.

    Best,
    Russ

    Reply
    • Check out the post again on the testing, Russ. I talked about it in great detail. Please don’t do what I advise against and ask me questions. That’s unfair. πŸ™‚

      Reply
  8. Hi Dong, Wow! This post was awesome in helping me understand (as much as I’m able) the workings of the invisible internet! But I have a question that may or may not belong right here. Forgive me ahead of time if it doesn’t.
    If I have a VERY unstable connection for a long time, say over a year of constant loss of service, dropping repeatedly 25-30 times a day, could that damage a PC? Or laptop or tablet or even a phone that is or has been connected to the internet through my gateway? I ask because -Awful Connection and all of my machines and my phone are acting super hinky. Throwing security alerts at me when I try to go online, telling me my system(s) are compromised or are being attacked. No malware of any kind to be found. I had one computer worked over by two separate tech people from local computer shops with high ratings and also at Best Buy and none of them could find a thing. Also, the computer, phone or whatever I’m using works like a champ AWAY from home, but as soon as I come home and connect one to my gateway, it’s a mess from there. They all started to mess up within a week of each other, and I don’t have them connected to each other. I am at a loss and my ISP is a word I won’t say here.
    Thanks again for this post!

    Reply
  9. Hi Dong – I have 4 different wifi networks running (copper, 4g and 2 on Starlink (the Starlink + a wifi extender)) and wonder if there is an application that can test all 3 simultaneously or nearly simultaneously without requiring me to connect to each one, one by one in succession? It’s time consuming to do the latter and not accurate as in particular the 4g & Starlink vary a lot by time. Thanks ,Adrian

    Reply
      • Thanks Dong. What I have are 4 networks my computer can connect to:
        Starlink
        4g from Vodafone
        Copper line from BT Openreach
        And then an extender which extends whichever I choose

        I am struggling to test the speed of each effectively to see which I should ultimately select to focus on as I can’t really get enough data and am after a piece of software that can measure the down and upload speeds of all these networks systematically.

        Does that make better sense?

        Adrian

        Reply
        • That still doesn’t make sense, Adrain. I can’t read minds. You need to use the same langue as I do, so to speak. πŸ™‚ Check out the posts on networking basics on the site and be specific.

          Reply
        • Why can’t you use speed test.net while connected to each one individually? If you want to test the quality of each one, you could use something like the Cisco WebEx test. Lastly, you could do a free demo for speedify which allows you to leverage all four connections at once.

          I’m really guessing at what you’re going for at this point though.

          Reply
          • Thanks, Marcus. I think I got what Adrian was trying to say now. So here go, A:

            1. It seems you have three Internet connections one of which you use via a Wi-Fi network. So you don’t have four “networks”. Check out this post to know how Wi-Fi and Internet are different.
            2. You can use one Internet connection at a time. So to test them all simultaneously, you need to use three devices. Or you can test them one at a time.
            3. It’s generally not possible to combine multiple Internet connections into one to increase bandwidth.

            Hope this answers your questions.

  10. Thank you for tagging this fantastic writeup. Very in-depth and thorough. I’ve been through a couple WiFi 6 routers now including the RT-AX86U and for the life of me, I cannot obtain over 600Mbps WiFi speeds but hard wired on all of them have been 950/950 so I’ve deduced that there must be external factors at play as both a WiFi 5 AC 160mhz laptop and S21 Ultra can’t break 600Mbps down.

    Reply
    • It’s likely the Jumbo Frame settings on the router and/MTU setting of your client, J. You can try turning on (or off) the Jumbo Frame on the router and see if that makes a difference. It’s in the LAN – Switch Control section within the web interface. Don’t mess around too much with these settings…

      Reply
  11. Hi Dong,

    I have ATT 1000 Mb fiber service. When I connect directly to the ATT Gateway via ethernet from a desktop, I regularly get speeds of 750-850 Mb for both upload and download. My normal setup is an RT-AC88U connected the gateway. When I test from the same desktop (same cable) through the router, I am getting 300-350 or so. I’ve tested several times of day and have tried to make sure nothing heavy is stealing bandwidth (streaming etc.). I have swapped the cable between the router and gateway a couple times (5E).

    It’s been about a year since I set all this up, and at the time I think I tested both ways but I am not 100% certain.

    Of course as you have pointed out in your other posts, I don’t really need that faster speed, but they advertised 300 Mb and 1000Mb for the same price when they rolled out the service so I thought why not. I am mostly curious if I have messed up a setting in the router.

    Thanks,

    Scott

    Reply
    • I would start by making sure that when you connect the router, that both sides so the port at 1000 full.

      Assuming your firmware is up to date, I would do a hard reset (NVRAM), reprovision it, and then do another hard reset and reprovision it. I know it sounds crazy, but there are plenty of reports out there about configurations not fully wiping out and I have experienced it myself.

      I’m sure Dong will have other suggestions but that’s where I would start.

      Reply
    • Likely you have the Jumbo Frame or MTU settings of the router and your Network card set in different values, Scott. Change the former in the router and see if that fixes it. The JF is in the LAN area of the web interface.

      Reply
  12. Thank you Dong for a great article and much detail. One question though. I upgraded my old router from 2.4 Ghz to a dual band 2.4 and 5Ghz. I see that my wired and wifi laptop are still getting the same upload/download speeds of about 30/4Mbps respectively before the upgrade. I also see on the router web interface that these laptops are set at 5Ghz.
    Why don’t I see speed increases? Should I see speed increases? The gateway is connected on DSL (with filter).

    Reply
  13. So I have two routers I am testing to make sure I have my new Asus AX89X setup right before I sell the Netgear RAX200. I have a gigabit internet connection. I read the posts about network setup and made sure both have 160Mhz bands enabled. I have two computers sending 1 video file thats over 2GB on a shared photo on laptop 2 with ethernet cable. Laptop 2 is downloading the file with a intel ax 200 wifi card and I got the exact same 113MB per second for both routers (They should be around 1400-1435Mbps right?). I’m pretty sure I’m bottlenecked somewhere because my internet is getting slightly speeds at 900-945Mbps with speedtest.net. Laptop one has a intel AX200 wifi 6 card. Laptop 2 has a gigabit ethernet port and cable. Both laptops have adequate M.2 NVME drives with at least 530MB read 230MB write. WAN shouldn’t be faster than LAN. What do you suggest I try next?

    Reply
    • Your setup yields 1Gbps at best, Nathan. The number you got was correct. Keep reading, you’ll find out why. My only advice is: Don’t make assumptions! πŸ™‚

      Reply
      • Thanks for the advice. I definetely will keep reading and I thank you for taking the time. I just wanted replicate your results and 1435Mbps is quite alot different than 904Mbps considering its not using internet its all over the network. The only reason I care is because Im thinking about setuping a NAS in the future. Back to the forums. I’m gonna read everything.

        Reply
  14. Dong, i’m a big fan and have learned quite a bit from your articles.
    I have a question regarding 2 different ports in my home. I’m getting about ~90mbps and ~290mbps using SpeedTest with another port 10 feet away. I have fiber and a home run with a switch panel, and placing the router at the wall through the panel. I can’t figure it out, and I am wondering if this is simply a wall wiring issue that would reduce my signal so much.
    Appreciated in advance.

    Reply
    • Likely one port is a Fast Ethernet (10/100Mbps) and the other is a Gigabit (1Gbps), Jerry. More here. As to why that’s the case, check your wiring and equipment.

      Reply
      • Understood, but they are both in the same condo unit, and that would appear strange as both are next to each other in the switch panel and then 10 feet away across the living room floor layout. Could this be a wiring problem? Perhaps one of the eight wires affected? Thoughts?
        Thanks in advance.

        Reply
        • It could very well be. For example, I have a 30 foot extension that will only run at 10m. One of the pairs is bad. If you go to network and settings, then adapter properties, click on status. It will tell you what speed the port is running at. If it says 100mbps on the same computer and connected patchcord, it’s most likely a bad cable.

          Reply
  15. Great info here, Dong. This post is long and gets technical, so feel free to remove or edit. I’m posting it in case anyone needs to do a deeper dive into testing.

    For the more curious or advanced users or those not able to get results from nearby servers, there are some factors to consider. Most of these have been mentioned, but expanding a bit:

    Additional details regarding inconsistent or poor test results:

    1. Test hosting site server capacity. Stick to the major players like Speedtest, Google, etc. Most major ISP’s also have dedicated servers. (ATT, Comcast, Level 3, etc). Just Google them.

    2. Peering – Also related to the above, but different. This is what connects ISP to one another and others, such as Google, Facebook, Netflix, etc. When you traverse several peers to get to a server, it adds latency and unpredictability since your ISP is only responsible for its own peering links. If a server is on an ISP network with poorly managed or undersized peering links, results will be poor.

    3. Bandwidth does not equal throughput. Bandwidth is the size of the pipe. This is what you are really paying for. Throughput is the speed at which data travels through that pipe. For typical internet traffic, the further away the server is, the lesser the throughput will be. However, there are some tricks!

    4. While a single test on your connection may yield lower results, say 10m on a 100m connection, you should theoretically be able to fill the pipe with additional tests. So, I would expect to be able to do 7-9 additional tests and add them up to be in the 70-90mbps range.

    5. Your device. Older PC’s or phones with older network hardware, weak course, low memory or outdated drivers can be the culprit. At the very least, make sure all firmware, drivers, etc are up to date and test with the most modern PC you have. Borrow a neighbor’s, if needed!!!

    Test sites:

    1. Speedtest often has servers sitting on the ISP’s network. In this case, it will be the most accurate depiction of how well the ISP manages capacity, congestion, etc. Of course, the load on the test server can be a factor, but it is less of an issue today than in years past.

    2. Google’s test should yield nearly identical results. The reason for this is that Google has direct and robust peering with most major ISP’s, so there is typically only an insignificant amount of additional latency.

    3. When you hit a server outside of the ISP network, but is a know reliable test site, there is still the chance of traversing bad peering links.

    Regardless, a couple of things can be done if you’re confident you are testing to far away servers that are reputable.

    1. Perform multiple simultaneous tests. For example, Google, speedtest, Comcast, att, or whatever major isp in your area. It takes a bit of quick timing but is possible. You can also use more than one pc, since cpu utilization can be a factor. Add them up and you should see that you’re able to fill the pipe with multiple streams of data.

    2. Good old-fashioned download. Ubuntu is available for download at servers around the world. Just Google “Ubuntu mirror launchpad”. Many colleges and government entities host the files. The mirror/download site list also tells you what internet bandwidth the host has. Go for the largest ones. Then, do multiple simultaneous downloads from one site and do the math. You can also do this with multiple sites, since the server might throttle multiple requests from the same user (you). There are calculators on the web that can perform the conversion.

    I probably missed some things, but I think I’ve said enough! Happy testing!

    Marcus

    Reply
      • My pleasure. I currently work for an ISP and have worked for several major ISP’s enterprise divisions over the past 20 years. I’ve held roles as a technician, network engineer, data center engineer, sales engineer and now sales leadership. Always happy to contribute!

        Reply
  16. Is there a reason why fast.com seems to be “slower” in test results than speedtest.net?
    Also, I find the Google speed test (Mlab) seems closer to speedtest than fast.
    https://www.google.com/search?q=internet+speed+test
    What I like about speedtest is the plotted results over the duration of the test which can show burst, “shaping” and other performance or throttling intervention.

    Reply
    • They are all the same, Adam. They all fluctuate and the speeds vary mostly due to the server’s location or capacity.

      Reply
      • Testmy.net results show abysmal speed when speedtest.net shows more than contracted speed. Fast speed little lower within contracted speed

        Reply
        • That’s because Testmy.net doesn’t have a server close to where you are Aiyer. Use Speedtest.net. It has the best selection of servers. Or just use the test of Google.

          Reply
    • Think of all the website speed test this way, use them all, which ever the fastest is the most accurate. Where ever you are the speed test server is not your ISP and your ISP only responsible between you and them and whatever ISP or the tier network they are directly connected to.

      If you are driving from your house to a grocery store. Your ISP own the street that your house is on and if there is a construction on one of the street between your street and your favorite grocery store street are on then there is nothing you or you ISP can do about it. But if you go to a different grocery store about the same distance or even a little farther then your speed would improve. But in term of speed, generally sparking the best grocery store would be the one closest to you, all the speed test websites follow the same logic assuming there is nothing else wrong in between you and them.

      Reply
  17. Dear Ngo,

    I live in Singapore.

    When the speed test using ISP server states the D/L and U/L speeds to be
    70 & 50 Mbps, the Wi-Fi speed per Windows 10 shows only, D/L and U/L
    speeds like 0.00X and 0.00Y Mbps. Why such a vast variation?

    It appears that the speed test data is of no relevance in actual upload and downloads. Is it the case?

    I called the ISP tech support numerous times, but they have no answer.

    Kindly share your knowledge.

    Thanks for your contributions.

    I wish you the best of everything in life.

    Reply
    • Wi-Fi has nothing to do with an operating system, Jay. It seems like there’s something wrong with your Windows 10 machine you used for the testing if I understood you correctly. Try picking a test server near you?

      Reply
  18. Have a google mesh setup currently and 1000mb fiber connection. Looking to upgrade to wifi 6 debating a mesh or the asus rtax86u. I’m not even sure mesh is necessary for me in 1600sq ft home but I really just want to get closer to the speeds I pay for wirelessly. Running some wifi6 and wifi5 devices about 20 devices total. What mesh would you recommend? Or would you say the asus is a better bet. Thanks

    Reply
      • Thanks! My home is not wired I do try and plug in as much as possible to avoid wifi. I have an 8 port unmanaged switch which helps. So you think a mesh system will be overkill? I just want to make sure that all my outdoor wifi cameras get a signal as well but sounds like you think creating an ai mesh setup if needed is a better option. Thanks

        Reply
  19. Hello Dong,
    I hope you can point me in the right direction once again. In preparation for installing a new AX86u I ran some benchmark tests with my old AC86u.
    I checked the speed with Ookla and timed the download of a file from my NAS. I did the same tests with my old samsung tablet with N wifi and also with my new S6 Lite tablet that has AC wifi. The old tablet was twice as fast in all tests. When I look at the Network properties in my setting on each device the new tab shows a network speed of 72Mbps and the old tab shows 150Mbps.
    Nothing seems right to me. Is there anything you can point me to?
    Thanks
    Darryl

    Reply
  20. Hi Dong,

    Your site is very informative especially to non-tech guys like me. Maybe you can help me with my issue. I just moved to a new gigabit provider. I also had a gigabit service from the previous one. I have a Nighthawk RA200 AX11000 router. Instead of a cable modem (Netgear CM1000), i now have a Fiber ONT that I connect my router. What I am having issue with is that I only get half the download speed on wifi now as compared to my previous provider. I understand that previously, i get an asymmetric service as compared to symmetric right now. Prior to moving to the new provider, i clocked my download speed at 645mbps, up 9.8mbps. After the install of the new provider, download 277mbps, upload 488mbps. Is there something I need to configure on my router to at least bring up the download speed?
    Thanks!

    Reply
    • Assuming your ISP delivers, Bim, (you can check to make sure by doing a proper test directly from the ONT), I’d recommended a couple of things:

      1. Update your router to the latest firmware.
      2. Reset it to default factory settings and set it up from scratch. There might have been some settings applicable only to the previous internet plan.
      3. Use the router’s 2.5 Gbps port as it WAN port.

      Reply
  21. Hi Dong,
    I think I was testing my speed incorrectly before when I was getting some wonky real low numbers. I was always selecting the server from my ISP rather than letting Ookla select automatically the server with a low ping.

    Do I understand correctly that I should let Ookla select automatically?

    Thanks
    Darryl

    Reply
  22. What exactly is a gigabit network port? I want to test my wifi speed using my MacBook Pro (13-inch, 2017, Two Thunderbolt 3 ports)…I have an adapter that will let me plug an Ethernet cable into my MacBook. Is that sufficient enough for to test (somewhat accurately) my wifi speed?

    Reply
  23. Howdy! Do you know if they make any plugins to help with Search Engine Optimization? I’m trying to get my blog to rank for some targeted keywords but
    I’m not seeing very good results. If you know of any please share.
    Thanks!

    Reply
  24. In your view which 5 GHz channel do you find to offer the best performance? I find that Channel 52 and 100 offer superior performance to the others…

    Reply
    • This depends on the WiFi standard, the time of day and especially where you are. The two channels you mentioned are both DFS and might not be available in certain places.

      Reply
  25. Hi Dong,
    A Vietnamese news website copies your post without introducing the source. Just FYI, in case you’re not aware.

    Reply
  26. Hi Dong, I have an Aimesh with an AC86U as my main router. How do I make the 5GHz band work only with 802.11ac clients and the 2.4GHz band just for 802.11n clients? Thanks!

    Reply
    • You need to turn off the SmartConnect mode (It’s in Wireless section under Advanced Settings) then change the Wireless Mode for each band accordingly. You can choose to name the two bands differently or the same (in this case make sure the password — WPA Pre-Shared Key — is the same too.)

      Reply
  27. I would like to know what 5GHz channel that you are using? Asus (exp. AC86U) is well known as working well in channel 149~161 and Netgear (exp XR500) works well in channel 36~48. Also, what region did you set to those router in Wi-Fi setup (AC86U great in Australia region and XR500 great in US region )? This make major changes as many reviewers use these channels and region trick to β€œpromote” some sponsored routers by putting it to the optimized position to make it looks great (Australia AC86U in channel 149~161 wins XR500 and US XR500 in channel 36~48 wins AC86U) , too tricky in this industry, I hope I can finally find the trustworthy site which disclose it all for the testing setup, thanks

    Reply
    • Hi there,

      Thanks for your input. I actually test routers using ALL channels, one after another, as well as using the Auto setting, which is generally the default. I report the highest scores.

      Hope this helps, πŸ™‚

      -Dong.

      Reply

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