Internet Speed tests lie, my connection sucks!
August 28, 2008 6:43 PM   Subscribe

Why is it when I take internet speed tests my rating is great, but overall my browsing is miserably sluggish?

OK, so I've called Comcast at least 10 times, and every time they go through the same crap: Unlpug modem, restart it, blah blah blah. A few times they've had me take speed tests to "prove" my connection is fine, but again, normal browsing is slow.

Here are the results from a couple tests:
Download Speed: 12963 kbps (1620.4 KB/sec transfer rate)
Upload Speed: 950 kbps (118.8 KB/sec transfer rate)
Download: 10223 kb/s
Upload: 710 kb/s

I'm running Firefox 3 on a pretty nice computer. My wife is running the same on an older computer, both get the sluggish net result.

So why is it the tests say I have great speed, but browsing is so slow?

Thanks for any help,
posted by toekneebullard to Computers & Internet (12 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
Slow DNS servers can make browsing extremely latent. Try changing to to see if it has any effect. If it does -- find a local (latency wise) dns server, or setup a caching DNS server.
posted by SirStan at 6:47 PM on August 28, 2008

If you're actual straight download speeds are fine (try downloading a large file), then that means the issue could be with your computer.

Generally Firefox 3 is pretty darn speedy, but make sure you don't have other weirdo apps running the background goofing around with your browser. Some anti-virus apps can really hamper browsing.

Check out PC Decrapifier. Uninstall any program that you don't use. Then clear out your internet cache, and defrag your hard drive.
posted by wfrgms at 6:48 PM on August 28, 2008

what do your ping times look like to some of the sites that give you sluggish performance.
posted by Good Brain at 7:23 PM on August 28, 2008

Web performance is definitely a case of "weakest link". A lot of popular sites have servers which are overloaded, which means that you can take data a lot faster than they will send it.

Does your browsing performance vary depending on the time of day? Is it the same early in the morning, in the afternoon, late at night? Is it the same on week days and weekends? If it's different at different times, then it means the problem is something being overloaded. If it's always the same, then it's something on your end.

One thing to look at is whether your browser is set to use a proxy. One time I noticed that for no reason which was obvious all my browsing was going through an AOL proxy. Which was strange, because I'm not an AOL user. I don't know how that happened.

By the way, what is your computer and what operating system are you running?
posted by Class Goat at 7:41 PM on August 28, 2008

I've seen signficant improvements by adjusting settings to use OpenDNS.
posted by genial at 8:16 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Just chiming in to reiterate the answers pointing to a name resolution problem. Try an openDNS server.
posted by mr_roboto at 9:06 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

Bandwidth Shaping

Example: Comcast's Powerboostâ„¢ service provides a burst of speed at the beginning of a download/upload. From their site (in tiny grey print):
Comcast 6Mbps High-Speed Internet with PowerBoost provides a burst of download and upload speed above the customer's provisioned download and upload speeds for the first 10 MB and 5 MB of a file respectively. It then reverts to your provisioned speed for the remainder of the download or upload.
The speed test relies on a chunk of test data less than 10Mb of data, so the speed test reflects this "burst" of unbridled speed.
posted by bryanzera at 10:02 PM on August 28, 2008 [1 favorite]

If you are using Internet Explorer to browse the Web, which you probably shouldn't be, but if you are, you can use IE7Pro to enable DNS prefetching. Basically, it will do a DNS lookup on every host referenced on a Web page, so that when you click a link the address is already in cache. On a high-latency link or a slow DNS server, it can make a noticeable difference.
posted by kindall at 11:20 PM on August 28, 2008

Response by poster: Thanks for the tips guys. I'll look into this OpenDNS stuff.

My computer is a 3GHz Dual Core P4 with 2 Gigs of RAM. It's a nice machine, so I have a hard time think that's the problem. I often go through and clear out old programs and use various decrapifier programs to keep things running smoothly. Also, I don't have a crazy amount of extensions slowing down FF3 either. As for various times of day, It DOES seem to be worse in the evenings, however, when I run a test during the evenings, it's still great. It use to be just the evenings, but now the speed all around has taken a dive.

While I will look into the OpenDNS stuff, I just want to know why the speed test results would be so great, but then when I open another tab things are slow.
posted by toekneebullard at 6:56 AM on August 29, 2008

A short answer explaining a few things - A Speed test is (usually) a single-point, manged-size file transfer. Browsing the web is more complex - a lot of pages are made up of multiple components, possibly pulled from different domains. Each time one of those pieces is called, your machine is making a check with a DNS service to translate the '' name to a '' format name. If you're having DNS issues, that can bog things down enormously - especially if you're browsing sites built like CNN's for instance, where some items are coming from '', some from '', etc. Watch the bottom left of the browser window, and see how many different items pop up as each page loads.
posted by pupdog at 10:15 AM on August 29, 2008

Second OpenDNS. It's fast, and you can do other stuff with it too (like filtering and blocking phishing sites).

Are all sites slow, or is it only certain ones? I usually use Yahoo as a pretty good casual benchmark to see if my Internet connection is working properly.
posted by kenliu at 5:38 PM on August 29, 2008

Response by poster: So I've tried Open DNS for a week now, and I see no difference at all. I may even be willing to say it's worse, but maybe not.
posted by toekneebullard at 6:52 AM on September 9, 2008

« Older Donor Base Enlightenment!   |   Two tickets to anywhere, please. Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.