Internet speed tests

I’ve tried a lot of different broadband speed tests. Up until the last year or two, they usually agreed fairly closely when measuring my connection. Recently, the reported speeds have been much more diverse.

Why do the results vary so much? Is there a truly accurate test out there?

It turns out that most of the speed tests offered by Internet Service Providers (ISPs) are actually using the same Flash-based test, provided by a company called Ookla. I’ve read that Flash-based tests are all currently unreliable due to technical limitations in the current versions of Flash. Here’s an excerpt from the web site:

There is buffering between the application and the browser and throughput bursting due to CPU usage. Flash based tests need to make adjustments for this… rough estimate adjustments of up to 40 percent. How can the test be accurate if it’s being adjusted by 30-40% to offset an unknown variable.

Emphasizing this problem with Flash-based tests is my recent experience with very slow speeds from my provider, Shaw. Shaw’s own test showed results that match exactly what I’m paying for: 25 Mbps down; 2.5 Mbps up. This made no sense, since even basic web surfing was painfully slow. I reported the problem; Shaw eventually found the cause and fixed it. Everything went back to normal: web surfing was extremely fast again. But what did Shaw’s Flash-based test show? The same results as when speeds were clearly slow.

So I started looking specifically for non-Flash tests. I’ve found two HTML5-based tests that seem to be much more reliable and accurate than the Flash-based tests: SpeedOf.Me and Both of these tests avoid the problems inherent in Flash-based tests. Both also offer additional features, such as comparisons with previous tests and other test results in your region and from your ISP, and graphs that show previous test results.

But my overall favourite is SpeedOf.Me, because it comes closest to showing the actual speeds I’m experiencing at any given time.

Here’s a list of the speed tests I’ve looked at:

About jrivett

Jeff Rivett has worked with and written about computers since the early 1980s. His first computer was an Apple II+, built by his father and heavily customized. Jeff's writing appeared in Computist Magazine in the 1980s, and he created and sold a game utility (Ultimaker 2, reviewed in the December 1983 Washington Apple Pi Journal) to international markets during the same period. Proceeds from writing, software sales, and contract programming gigs paid his way through university, earning him a Bachelor of Science (Computer Science) degree at UWO. Jeff went on to work as a programmer, sysadmin, and manager in various industries. There's more on the About page, and on the Jeff Rivett Consulting site.

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