Internet speeds vary depending on many factors. Sometimes, when you and all your house mates or neighbours are streaming Netflix at the same time, things can slow to a crawl. Or, it could be that a dodgy Wi-Fi connection is running slowly and making you think your broadband provider is at fault.
If you use a VPN, that could be the cause of web pages loading slowly. But a quick visit to a website such as Speedtest will tell you in a couple of minutes how quick your connection is.
We see a lot of articles suggesting that this is a 'Wi-Fi speed test'. But it isn't. It's a test of the whole connection from your device - a PC, laptop, phone or tablet - to a server on the internet. So it is testing both your Wi-Fi speed and broadband speed - or purely mobile data speed if you're running the test on your phone via a mobile provider and not over Wi-Fi.
If the Wi-Fi link to your router is slower than your broadband speed, that will be the limiting factor when you run an internet speed test. Let's say you're signed up to a broadband package that offers a nominal (download) speed of 100Mbps. But if your laptop's Wi-Fi tops out at 50Mbps, that's the result you'll see when running an internet speed test.
Typically, Wi-Fi is a lot faster than your broadband, so the latter is the limiting factor. And here's how to test your Wi-Fi speed.
Also note that many broadband packages are asynchronous, which means they have different speeds for uploading and downloading. Download speeds are the only ones you really hear about, because they're often much faster. Upload speeds can be very slow - up to 90% slower than download speeds - which is why it can take ages to upload a video to YouTube, for example. Internet speed tests will tell you both your upload and download speeds.
Put simply, internet speed testing tools can tell you whether your connection is fast enough for video streaming and whether your ping (latency) is good enough for online gaming.
Note: to get the best results you should make sure your internet connection isn't being used for anything else while you test and, if possible, connect to your router via an Ethernet cable as this is likely to be faster than your Wi-Fi.
Free internet speed test
Just click on the Start Test button below to see what your speed is right now.
After running the test, you will get a result including ping measured in milliseconds, download speed and upload speed.
The download and upload speeds will be measured in Mbps, which is Megabits per second, not to be confused with Megabytes per second. To convert between the two divide a speed in Megabits per second by 8 to get the Megabytes per second figure.
You can also get apps for some speed checkers, including the ever-popular Speedtest, for iOS and Android. Here's what the Android version looks like, along with the test results.
How to test your Wi-Fi speed
If you speed result is slower than you were expecting and you ran the test over Wi-Fi, you can check your Wi-Fi speed separately to see if that's the issue or not. Finding an app to test Wi-Fi speed is difficult because a lot of broadband testing apps call themselves "Wi-Fi speed test".
However, there is an Android app called WiFi Speed Test by Zoltán Pallagi which allows you to disable the internet part and just see how fast is your local Wi-Fi. It isn't the prettiest, but it does the job.
This only tests the 'upload' speed, which is the speed from your phone (or tablet) to your router or whatever access point you're connected to. Again, the speed will be limited by the slowest device - your router might be the latest model with WiFi 6 support, but unless your phone also supports the same speed, the result you see will be the speed of the slowest device.
Here we've tested with a Huawei P30 Pro (802.11ac) connecting to a Linksys Velop tri-band mesh system. (Ignore the BT Hub SSID - this was cloned to the Velop system to avoid having to reconfigure a whole load of devices with a new Wi-Fi network.) The speed of 461Mbps is very good, and way faster than the 37Mbps download speed we get from our BT Infinity 2 broadband connection.
You can run the test in this app in various places around your home to see how speeds vary in different rooms, or even in the garden. It can be very helpful in knowing where best to place your router or mesh network nodes.
How fast should my internet be for video streaming and gaming?
If you're checking your broadband connection to see whether it's good enough for certain tasks, here are some recommended speeds:
Video streaming services such as Netflix recommend a speed of 1.5Mbps download and 5Mbps for HD quality. Even higher quality video streaming such as 4K Ultra HD requires 25Mbps.
If you're a gamer, your ping wants to be as low as possible, and certainly well below 100ms for a lag-free experience.