If you want to check if you’re getting the broadband speed your provider claims to provide, or if you’re trying to figure out if it’s a poor Wi-Fi connection causing videos to buffer or lag games, we know a number of free ways to do this.
Often, it can be difficult to tell if it’s your home Wi-Fi or your broadband that’s slow. Also, doing a “Wi-Fi speed test” isn’t the same as checking your broadband speed, but there are plenty of apps (and people) that use the two terms interchangeably.
If you try to test your internet speed on a weak or slow Wi-Fi connection, you might not get a real number because low Wi-Fi speed can be the bottleneck. It’s actually a test of your entire device connection – a PC, laptop, phone or tablet – to a server on the internet. So it tests both your Wi-Fi speed and your broadband speed. Of course, you can test your mobile data speed if you run the test on your phone with Wi-Fi turned off.
But what if you want to know for sure how fast your broadband connection is on your router? Well, you’ve come to the right place because we’ll explain everything you need to know.
It should be known that internet speeds vary depending on many factors. Sometimes when you and all of your housemates, family members, or even your neighbors are streaming Netflix at the same time, things can slow down. Or, it could be that a questionable Wi-Fi connection is working slowly and makes you think your broadband provider is at fault.
If you are using a VPN, this could be the cause of web pages loading slowly. Be sure to turn off any VPNs before running any tests – unless you’re testing your VPN provider’s speed, of course.
Free Internet Speed Test
The service we use to check broadband speeds is Speedtest.net. You can do this in a web browser or download the app for Android and iOS.
It will tell you – normally within a minute – how fast your connection is, but make sure you are standing close to your router if you are running the test on a Wi-Fi connected device. To rule out the possibility of a Wi -Slow Fi, it is best to run the test using a laptop or PC connected directly to your router with an Ethernet cable.
There are many more you can use, including Fast.com, Broadspeedchecker.co.uk, and Broadgenie.co.uk.
It really depends on your broadband speed: the fastest broadband in the UK can deliver 1Gbps (like Virgin Media’s Gig1 plan) which will be faster than most Wi-Fi routers But virtually all ISP-provided routers will offer faster Wi-Fi than your broadband speed. Those that support Wi-Fi 5 should be able to manage 300-500 Mbps at close range.
If you want to see how fast your home Wi-Fi is working, here’s how to test Wi-Fi speed. Also find out if Wi-Fi 6E is worth it.
You should be aware that many broadband plans are asynchronous, which means they offer different speeds for uploading and downloading. Download speeds are the headline numbers you hear about, as they are often much faster. Download speeds can be very slow – up to 90% slower than upload speeds – which is why downloading a video from YouTube can take time, for example, when it’s much faster to download from youtube.
Likewise, if you’re having issues with Zoom calls where your own video stops and starts, you should test your download speed and remember that smart cameras that record to the cloud will use some of your bandwidth. download.
Internet speed tests should tell you both your upload and download speeds.
They should also report your “ping” in milliseconds, which is your connection latency. This is important for real-time applications such as online games and video calls. A lower number is better.
To note: Download and upload speeds will be reported in Mbps, i.e. 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 number of megabytes per second.
You can also get apps for some speed checkers, including the hugely popular Speedtest, for iOS and Android.
How to test your Wi-Fi speed
If your speed result is slower than expected and you took the test over Wi-Fi, you can check your Wi-Fi speed separately to see if that is the problem or not. Finding an app to test Wi-Fi speed is difficult because many broadband test apps call themselves “Wi-Fi speed test“.
However, there is an Android app called WiFi Speed Test Internet Speed by Zoltán Pallagi that allows you to turn off the internet portion and see how fast your local WiFi is. It’s not 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 any access point you’re connected to. Again, the speed will be limited by the slowest device – your router may be the latest model that supports Wi-Fi 6, but unless your phone also supports the same speed, the result that you will see will be the speed of the slowest device.
Here we tested with a Huawei P30 Pro (Wi-Fi 5) connecting to a Linksys Velop tri-band mesh system. (Ignore the BT Hub SSID – it was cloned to the Velop system to avoid having to reconfigure a whole bunch of devices with a new Wi-Fi network.) The 461Mbps speed is very good and much faster than the 60 Mbps download speed we get from BT.
You can use this app in various places in your home to see how speeds vary in different rooms, or even in the garden. This can be very helpful in knowing where best to place your router or mesh Wi-Fi devices.
What internet speed do I need for Netflix, Zoom and games?
If the reason for testing your broadband speed is to see if it’s good enough for certain tasks, here are some recommended speeds:
- Standard definition video streaming 1.5 Mbps download
- HD video streaming 5 Mbps download
- 4K video streaming: 25 Mbps download
- 8K video streaming: 50 Mbps download (minimum – recommended: 100 Mbps)
- Zoom / Teams video call: 4 Mbps upload / 3 Mbps upload (for HD)
- Online gaming:
If you’re not happy with the speeds you got from these test tools, check out the best UK broadband services, best UK broadband deals, best mesh Wi-Fi systems and also learn how to reduce ping.
Plus, here are some great tips for speeding up and improving your home Wi-Fi speeds.