Let’s face it – the main reason most of us have internet connections at home these days is to stream our favourite TV shows and movies.
And there’s no more frustrating feeling than having a binge-watching session interrupted by buffering problems, a phenomenon Netflix is seeking to explain (but not fix) with its new tool, Fast.com.
Described by the streaming giant as a “simple-to-use, ad-free website powered by Netflix”, Fast.com allows you to check your internet’s download speed at any given time.
The site performs a series of downloads from Netflix servers, giving you a final real-time figure in megabits per second (Mbps).
You don’t have to be a Netflix subscriber to use the service – it can also help you see why your Stan, Presto or Apple TV stream is slow.
“Fast.com is another tool consumers can use for greater insight and control of their Internet service,” Netflix vice-president of content delivery architecture David Fullagar wrote in a blog post.
Unfortunately, Fast.com is more of an indicator than a trouble shooter – offering little insight into what its numbers mean or how to improve them.
The dream speed
If you’re sitting there looking at the number on your screen and not quite understanding what it means, Netflix’s guidelines for optimal streaming speeds are as follows:
• 0.5 Mbps – the required broadband connection speed to access Netflix.
• 1.5 Mbps – the recommended broadband connection speed for Netflix.
• 3.0 Mbps – the recommended speed for SD quality (the typical option for most subscribers).
• 5.0 Mbps – the recommended speed for HD quality.
• 25 Mbps – the recommended for Ultra HD quality.
Most people living in the city or suburbs should be able to get a speed of around 8 Mbps to 14 Mbps.
How to speed it up
If your Mbps is frustratingly low, there are a few things you can do to try and speed it up.
One way to take immediate action is to tweak your Netflix playback quality by pressing Shift+Alt+Left Click on a PC, or Shift+Option+Click on a Mac.
Or you can change the streaming rate by heading to your Netflix account settings, choosing ‘Manage Video Quality’ and selecting from one of the three options available.
Other tips for boosting your internet speed include:
• Switching to a wired connection (directly connecting to the modem with an Ethernet cable).
• Avoiding downloading in peak periods like before work in the morning or after work in the evening.
• Rebooting your router or modem.
• Trying a new internet browser.
• Closing other internet-using apps you may have running in the background.
The Fast.com launch followed Netflix’s debut of a mobile phone-specific feature earlier this month that allows users to control their streaming quality and the amount of data they consume.
It’s clear the global giant is keen to help its subscribers circumvent dodgy connections, placing the blame squarely on the internet service providers rather than on their service.