If you’re like me, you don’t care how fast your Internet connection is… until it clearly isn’t working as it should be. That’s when I load a Web site like Speedtest.net or Netflix’s Fast.com to see what’s going on. Often, the answer is “something’s whacked,” and I restart first our AirPort Extreme, and if that doesn’t fix the problem, the Arris cable modem provided by Spectrum (previously Time Warner Cable). Those restarts almost always bring my Internet connection back to full speed. I find that annoying, since I would hope that the manufacturers could have anticipated and integrated such a simple fix, but also good, since more complex problems require a long call to Spectrum support.
But it all comes down to that speed test, and while I appreciate Ookla’s Speedtest service, I’m not wild about the ads on the site, particularly the sketchy ones for MacKeeper and similar products that can be difficult to distinguish from the site’s own interface. There are plenty of other services and tools to choose from, and I’ve availed myself of some of them over the years, but I need to perform such tests infrequently enough that I usually find myself going back to Speedtest.net, since it’s the one I can remember. (The main tests I ran across while researching this article include the SourceForge Speed Test, Measurement Lab’s Network Diagnostic Test, the Speakeasy Speed Test, and DSLReports’ Speed Test. They all reported virtually the same performance, though I liked the interface and recommendations from the SourceForge test the most.)
So I was pleased to see that Ookla has now come out with a free Speedtest app for the Mac (10.10 Yosemite and later) that lives in your menu bar and enables you to run a speed test with two clicks.
Once it’s installed from the Mac App Store, you may need to launch it from your Application folder to get it to appear in your menu bar. Click its menu bar icon to open the test window, and click again on the big “Go” circle. Speedtest starts running its tests and reports the results in the same window. To repeat the test, click Go again. The Speedtest app remembers your test results, and you can see your high speed, average speed, and the last three results by clicking the silhouette button in the upper-right corner of the window. For events further back in the past, click Result History.
If you want to quit the app, you can click Quit Speedtest on this screen, which is an odd place to hide the command. Luckily, you can also just press Command-Q at any point.
Perhaps my favorite feature of the Speedtest app is that it continues to run its tests even if you switch to another app. The Speedtest window disappears, but it reports its results with a banner notification.
My primary criticism revolves around Ookla’s decision to make Speedtest a menu–bar-only app. Although it isn’t particularly CPU-hungry, it does seem to consume 1–2 percent of CPU usage on my 27-inch Retina iMac while inactive, and 5–9 percent while running a test. Given how infrequently I need to run speed tests, I’ll probably quit Speedtest after using it rather than let it slow my iMac down, however imperceptibly.
Regardless, if you prefer apps to Web sites, the Speedtest app for the Mac is worth a look. It’s free, easy to use, and doesn’t clutter its interface with ads.