Skip to main content

A guide to testing your wireless router's performance

wifi router
(Image credit: Getty)

Your wireless router (opens in new tab) has the critical duty of transferring data between your wirelessly networked computers. It often acts as a bridge between your home/office network (opens in new tab) and the internet, too, so when your connection speeds begin to dip, it makes sense to check whether the problem lies with your wireless router or your internet service provider (opens in new tab).

You can identify issues with your wireless router by using some great Wi-Fi (opens in new tab) speed testing tools for Android or iOS. For larger business networks with multiple wireless routers, we recommend using the best network monitoring tools (opens in new tab) to get an overview of your entire network and identify bottlenecks.

How to test your wireless router’s performance: Preparation

It’s important to recognize that there’s a difference between testing your internet connection speed and testing the speed of your wireless router. A wireless router that performs well will offer excellent speeds across your home or office network.

Popular speed testing tools like Speedtest (opens in new tab) from Ookla and Project Stream (opens in new tab) from Google are useful for testing the speed of your internet connection, but they can’t show you the maximum speed your wireless router can handle when copying or streaming across your home or office network. 

Typically, a wireless router will be able to offer speeds that are a lot faster than the internet connection your ISP provides you. The average U.S. internet speed is only around 43 Mbps. Most Wi-Fi routers are capable of at least 433.3 Mbps, and newer 802.11ax routers have a theoretical limit of 9,600 Gbps.

Performance testing on a wireless router means testing the speed of your Wi-Fi network. Besides showing the data transfer speeds you can get when copying or streaming between your devices, it can help you ensure your router is enabling you to get the maximum capacity from your internet connection.

To test the performance you’re getting from your Wi-Fi router, the easiest way is to use a wireless speed test tool available for Android or iOS.

Speed test being performed on Speedtest website

Testing tools like Speedtest from Ookla can only tell you the speed of your internet connection, not the performance of your wireless router. (Image credit: Ookla)

Step 1: Download and install a wireless router testing tool

Several Wi-Fi network speed test tools are available for Android, iOS, Windows, and Linux. Wi-Fi Speed Test (opens in new tab) is a local Wi-Fi speed testing tool for Android, available for download from the Google Play Store. This free version contains all the features you need to test a wireless router’s performance. The Pro version, unlocked for $2.40, removes ads and allows you to run longer tests so you can better test your wireless router’s stability.

If you don’t have an Android device, you can use an iOS alternative such as Wi-Fi SweetSpots (opens in new tab), available on the App Store for iPhone.

Screenshot of Wi-Fi SweetSpots on the App Store

Wi-Fi SweetSpots is a free tool for checking the Wi-Fi signal quality around your home or office. (Image credit: Apple)

Step 2: Set up Wi-Fi Speed Test

Connect your phone to the Wi-Fi network you want to test. By scrolling left in Wi-Fi Speed Test, you can check network details such as the SSID, channel, and expected link speed.

There are a few options you can change in the More Options menu, but generally, you can leave them as default. If you’ve purchased the Pro version of this software, you can set the Wi-Fi test run time to be longer than 10 seconds.

Screenshots of Wi-Fi Speed Test

Wi-Fi Speed Test includes a few options that alter the details of your performance test. (Image credit: Wi-Fi Speed Test)

Step 3: Run a Wi-Fi Speed Test

Press the Start button and wait. A latency test will be performed first that will tell you the number of milliseconds it takes to get a reply at all from the wireless router. Then a 10-second Wi-Fi speed test will be performed.

Check the average speed the test got against the maximum link speed of the connection, which is shown at the top of the screen. Wi-Fi transfer speeds in the real world are never as high as the theoretical top speed because of error checking and interference, but if the speed is significantly lower than expected, the router may be incorrectly configured or there may be Wi-Fi congestion in your area.

Screenshots of a speed test being performed with Wi-Fi Speed Test

A Wi-Fi speed test tool will show you the signal strength, latency, and speed of your Wi-Fi network. (Image credit: Wi-Fi Speed Test)

Step 4 (optional): Wi-Fi Analyzer

Another tool for testing your wireless router’s performance is Wi-Fi Analyzer (opens in new tab), available on the Google Play Store. This app has a few tools that can help you get to the bottom of poor performance on your Wi-Fi network.

Wi-Fi channels are frequency bands that your wireless router can use. If your Wi-Fi network shares a channel with multiple other strong Wi-Fi signals, the traffic of all networks will be sent over the same radio frequencies. This causes congestion in the radio band that will slow down your network speed.

The Channel Graph shows you all the wireless networks in the area, their signal strengths, and the channel they use. Similarly, the Channel Rating tool will suggest the best Wi-Fi channel to use for the least interference. 

Finally, the Signal Meter will show you the strength of the Wi-Fi signal as you move around your home or office. This can help you to identify Wi-Fi “dead spots.” You can consider installing a Wi-Fi repeater (opens in new tab) to improve the coverage of your Wi-Fi signal.

Screenshots of Wi-Fi Analyzer

Wi-Fi Analyzer is another useful tool for checking the performance of your Wi-Fi network. (Image credit: Wi-Fi Analyzer)

Summary

In summary, to test the performance of your wireless router, you can use simple speed test tools available on Android and iOS or a more comprehensive network monitoring tool such as Network Watcher (opens in new tab), Pulseway (opens in new tab), or Atera (opens in new tab).  

If you’re not happy with the speed you’re getting from your wireless router, you may want to consider various options for boosting your wireless router signal (opens in new tab). Alternatively, you can upgrade your router by choosing from the best wireless routers (opens in new tab) available today.

Richard brings over 20 years of website development, SEO, and marketing to the table. A graduate in Computer Science, Richard has lectured in Java programming, and has built software for companies including Samsung and ASDA. Now, he writes for TechRadar, Tom's Guide, PC Gamer, and Creative Bloq.