About a year ago I moved to a new house. Moving from a well-connected city to a very rural part of Idaho forced me to change my internet service, but the local options couldn't meet my work-from-home needs. Solution, SpaceXStarlink satellite internethas been an important part of my life and work ever since.
After the first few months of living with Starlink and a few days of testing the service, I gave it my allapproval vote. The service won an Editors' Choice award and is one of the best improvements to the quality of life for people living in rural areas in a long time.
But there have been some changes since then. New plans have been introduced, prices have increased, and some reports claim that Starlink's performance has declined over time. (Due to differences in location and many other variables, not every Starlink user has exactly the same internet speed.) So when six months have passed since our first review, we decided to retest and revisit the Starlink web service with some Starlink tests speed to see if it's still worth it.
Where to buy the Starlink antenna
Standard Starlink kit
Starlink High Performance Kit
Standard Starlink kit
Starlink's high efficiency
After a few months of living with Starlink, it's better than ever
Having used Starlink for the better part of a year, I can answer many of the questions people have about the service. Is it easyconfigure Starlink? (Yes.) Will I need itStarlink priborbeginning? (Almost certainly.)Is Starlink fast enough to play?(Yes.) Will it workwinter time? (Yes.) Can you fix it yourselfdamaged cable? Theoretically yes, if your dog needs it.
The biggest concerns arising from this expanded use are mainly related to equipment availability, the cost of the Starlink service, and concerns about overall quality of service. Let's look at each.
One of the biggest complaints I had early on with Starlink was the process of getting the necessary hardware. This required buying an antenna, router, stand and cable upfront - costing $599 - and then still needed extras to get the installation right. I managed to get thingsin operationwith a temporary setup that placed the antenna at ground level in my yard, but a more permanent installation on my roof required a few extra additions.
(Source: Brian Westover)
You can certainly run your Starlink service with this basic equipment package, but it is highly unlikely that it will contain everything you need to install a Starlink antenna in its long-term, permanent location. Whether on the roof, on a pole in the middle of the field, or in any other configuration, you will need accessories to properly position the antenna.
Ideally, this would be emphasized as part of the initial buying process, but it is not. You need to assess your home, determine the ideal mounting situation and find out what additional accessories you might need, such as special brackets for different types of roofing, construction materials and distances. Check out oursStarlink Accessory Guideto help you find the accessories you need for installation.
A positive phenomenon is the streamlining of the process of purchasing initial equipment along with the standardStarlink kits are now for sale at Home Depot. They still cost $599, and it looks like you'll still need to purchase add-ons through the Starlink app, but that takes one big headache out of the initial setup process.
Prices: up, up and up
If as a Starlink user I had one complaint it was the price increases. When I first signed up a year ago, the cost was a simple $100 a month. Now, 12 months and two price hikes later, that's up to $120 a month for supposedly the exact same service.
Starlink operates as something of a no-contract service, month-to-month, although you pay quite a bit of money upfront for your equipment. It would be nice to be able to lock in the price for longer periods of service if you feel like it, something many other ISPs offer. Two price increases in one year is a rarity.
That said, I still get great value for money, even at the current price. This is also in line with the fees that would be chargedanother satellite internet provider, and these services are much slower than Starlink.
Network effect: state of expansion
Finally, there is the issue of efficiency. Starlink has been adding users like crazy for the last year, but the performance has always seemed satisfactory to me. However, this may not apply to every subscriber. There are credible reports of performance degradation from some users in North America. Others mentionslight increase in speed, but it should be noted that this improvement is not constant from year to year. We'll look at this in more detail below using our own test numbers.
In addition to the quality of service, SpaceX is clearly investing a lot of money, time and effort into expanding and improving the Starlink experience. New plans added over the past year include the Roam option aimed at RV users, the Best Effort tier which offers a cheaper option for a slightly less impressive service, and more and more options for ships, planes and even trains.
New (top) and old (bottom) Starlink availability maps showing increased service availability in several parts of the country (Source: SpaceX/Starlink)
All of this is on top of the great advances made withwebsite openingin areas that were previously on the waiting list as well as during launchmore satellites in low Earth orbitto the Starlink constellations, which are the basis of the Starlink service. And the best news from Starlink's many recent developments? Long awaiteddata restriction removed, giving users with heavy data usage a sigh of relief.
Increasing satellite speeds are attracting all subscribers
Of course, all details regarding the speed and performance of the service are subject to certain caveats. For the Starlink web service, these alerts are location based. I live in a relatively sparsely populated area of Idaho with fewer local users than, say, California or Virginia. There's a reason why in much of the country new customers are placed on waiting lists instead of simply adding new customers, and that's because each Starlink satellite has limited bandwidth to share with the customers directly below it on Earth. Although my tests use the same equipment and satellites used by other Starlink subscribers, my results may differ from those of people living where user saturation is already slowing down the service.
But don't worry too much about these differences. Changes in connection speed that I observed during the tests we will discuss below should still be communicated to all other Starlink users, even if their overall speed does not match mine. Faster is faster, even if the improvements don't translate to exactly the same gains for every user, everywhere. Also, as the Starlink network improved, SpaceX opened up more service areas in areas that were previously on the waiting list. The improvements made will not only be seen in better speeds for each user, but also more new users will be able to join the service in areas that were previously closed.
Finally, it's always worth pointing out that Starlink isn't really for high-density areas, but for rural areas with no other alternatives to high-speed internet. If you have cable or fiber in your area, get it. These options usually offer better service at better prices. The Starlink service is specifically tailored to provide connectivity where other options fail, not as a low-cost alternative to established ISPs.
Starlink performance in 2023: Significant improvement
Since my first Starlink review, my daily internet usage has remained the same. At work, I'm online all day, and frequent video calls and large file downloads are part of my job at PCMag. My kids still stream their favorite shows; my wife and I listen to music and podcasts; and i play a little here and there. And aside from patching up the broken cable and replacing it with an official Starlink cable, everything else remains the same as the day I installed it last year. Same antenna, same router, same position on the roof.
For our six-month follow-up tests, we used the same test computer we used the first time. It's a small desktop computer configured solely to run our test software. During testing periods, this test bench continuously ran a test script that periodically checks Ookla's Speedtest.com website to record download and upload speeds, and pings specific servers every minute to measure latency. (Ookla is owned by Ziff Davis, the parent company of PCMag.) Running this Starlink speed test 24/7 for two weeks, we collected thousands of data.
While our initial (2022) testing was cut short by the global outage (we omitted some of our two-week test results so the event wouldn't skew our performance analysis), there was no such outage this time, giving us a full 14-day test period.
Over our two weeks of testing, we saw a wide range of download and upload speeds offered by my Starlink connection. With high speeds of up to 261Mbps and low speeds of less than 5Mbps, the speeds weren't always brilliant, but they mostly lived up to Starlink's promises.
Average download speeds were excellent, averaging over 100Mbps almost every test day. Since our home relies on this single internet connection for work, streaming TV and music, and even gaming online, consistent speed and quality were absolutely essential.
Our next set of charts specifically looks at the performance consistency of download and upload speeds, as well as the latency offered by Starlink's satellite internet service.
Here we see that most recorded download speed tests (hundreds count) fall between the 50Mbps and 200Mbps advertised for the service, with only a few slower outliers. This is exactly what we expected given Starlink's claims, but we were surprised to see a significant number of download tests recording speeds in excess of 200Mbps. Overall, you're more likely to see speeds higher than promised than slower.
Outside of high-end fiber connections, it's extremely rare for upload speeds to come close to download speeds, and Starlink is no exception. However, most test results over the two-week period put Starlink transfer speeds between 10Mbps and 20Mbps, with a large number of results ranging from 20Mbps to 50Mbps. In rural areas where DSL service providers and While satellite providers promise download speeds ranging from 2Mbps to 5Mbps, this is a big improvement over local options.
Finally, there is the issue of latency, measured in milliseconds. Testing recorded almost nothing slower than 100ms, with most results falling between 20ms and 50ms. It's enough to enjoy games and active video calls without any noticeable lag.
Sending ping results to the two servers we tested on—Cloudflareov 184.108.40.206and Google 220.127.116.11 - we see that the target server will have little impact on the overall latency scores, but both offered a similar overall distribution of scores. This suggests that our analysis above holds true, even considering the fact that we received faster pings on Google's servers.
These numbers are still within Starlink's promised bandwidth range and provide exactly the quality of service I expected when I signed up. Our original review noted that such speeds were simply unmatched in many parts of the country, and that still holds true.
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But how do these newer test numbers compare to last year's test results?
Starlink speed tested: uploads still a fraction of downloads
When we look at the performance scores from our Starlink 2022 review and compare them to the new 2023 performance scores, one thing becomes very clear: Starlink just got better.
Looking at the raw averages alone, we see that the average download speed jumped from 89.38 Mbps to 129.64 Mbps, which is about 30 Mbps faster. Transfer speeds have also increased, from 10Mbps to 15Mbps, which is a welcome change. And despite using the same antenna and router, Starlink managed to reduce latency by a full 10ms, making everything faster and more responsive.
Looking more closely at the numbers, we see an average improvement of 30 MB/s reflected in our testing period. For comparison, we looked at nine days of data for these point-by-point comparisons, but the same goes for the entire 14-day period — download speeds are about 40% to 50% faster every day.
But that's just the average download speed, an average number from multiple test results. What if we looked at the lowest and highest download speeds?
Comparing the lowest recorded speed for each test day, we see that most days are actually higher than in 2022. While both occasionally dropped to the 20Mbps range or less, our 2023 results were consistently higher, while our 2022 numbers rarely exceeded 20Mbps. Even the slowest Starlink offers better download speeds in 2023 than last year.
This is a tighter comparison between the top download speeds, if only because the performance hits the upper limits of what Starlink hardware can handle (both on Earth and in space). Starlink promises speeds of up to 200Mbps, and last year's tests showed that to be true, with results ranging from 185Mbps to 246Mbps. But in this latest series of tests, we've seen consistently higher peak numbers, generally higher than 220Mbps. Of course, this is not sustainable during the day, but it raises the ceiling enough to make a real difference.
Regardless of the ups and downs, the bigger question is consistency: how reliably will Starlink deliver download speeds of 100Mbps or higher? Well, according to our numbers, the odds are much better than last fall. (I should point out here that while we have more test days in this latest batch of results, we have averaged them per day to more directly compare them to our 2022 numbers.)
Last year's numbers (in blue) were mostly in the same general range, but most of the test results were between 20Mbps and 100Mbps. This time around, our testing showed that most of the results were between 60 Mbps and 200 Mbps, which is a big shift towards faster speeds overall.
Loading speeds don't get the same dramatic upgrades, at least because they're still a fraction of what load speeds offer, but the trend continues here. While last fall most transfers measured between 0Mbps and 20Mbps, our more recent tests show a significant shift towards higher speeds - much more between 10Mbps and 20Mbps and a significant number between 20Mbps and 30Mbps. And there were proportionally more results at even higher speeds, 30Mbps, 40Mbps or even 50Mbps.
One area where we expected the test results to remain relatively unchanged is latency, as there are so many bottlenecks in the Starlink system that need to be improved, from router and antenna speeds to satellites in space and ground units. which SpaceX uses to actually connect these satellites to the greater Internet. But somehow the Starlink service has even improved here, offering faster speeds and lower latencies, effectively eliminating the 100ms+ latency seen in our first round of testing last fall. While most services still measure latency between 30ms and 50ms, the fact remains that you are now more likely to get better and faster ping metrics than you were six months ago.
Add it all up and what Starlink has achieved is impressive:Allhas improved.
Verdict: You'll have to snatch my Starlink from my cold, dead hands
Even as the number of customers grew, Starlink managed to open more service areas, shorten waiting lists, and improve service in all areas (the latter, at least in my rural area). I could complain that it cost me an extra $20 a month over the original price when I signed up, but there's no way I'm giving it up.
It's hard to judge how good Starlink compares to any other option for rural internet users until you try them side by side. While DSL and other satellite providers are still popular, SpaceX's Starlink network is truly the best choice for people who don't have access to a fixed broadband connection like cable or fiber. And as our test results show, this is a service that is being actively improved. Combine faster download and upload speeds, lower latency, and increasing access to hardware, and suffice to say Starlink remains a winner.
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