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When I came across Autobahn (for Windows/Mac) and read about what it is capable of doing, I immediately wanted to install it and try it out. According to the website, it “optimizes your Internet connection to provide blazing fast downloads and video streams.”
In the past, I wrote about how to tweak Vista to improve Internet speeds, and Mahendra wrote about finding the fastest DNS to optimize your Internet speed. Everyone is looking for ways to get a little bit more out of their bandwidth these days. And as more and more people watch streaming video for free, and stream music and movies, download speed becomes more of an issue. However, as many commentators on those articles pointed out, you only have so much download speed, and unfortunately you can’t exceed your ISP’s speed limit.
If the claims of what Autobahn can do are true, it would solve the problem of optimizing bandwidth for people who are not terribly tech-savvy. In order to test the software, I decided to try comparing my actual baseline Internet speed with the speed after installing Autobahn. To perform those tests, I decided to use the Flash Internet speed apps provided for free by DSLReports.
My Internet Speed Baseline
The first order of business is to check what my current baseline speed is before installing or tweaking anything. I decided to run tests from my house to various points across the country. Since a lot can depend upon what you’re doing at the time that you run the tests, various points would offer a better baseline to start from. Any improvement to overall Internet speed should improve the throughput on all of them. First, I tested my connection speed to Washington, DC.
Then, my connection speed to New York City.
And finally, my normal connection speed to Los Angeles, all the way across the United States.
Now, these values give me something solid for comparison after installing the software. So our starting Internet speed values are: Washington DC (7187 Kb/s download, 249 Kb/s upload), New York (8025 Kb/s download, 404 Kb/s upload) and Los Angeles (5998 Kb/s download and 392 Kb/s upload).
Installing the Software
Installing Autobahn is crazy simple. You visit the website, click install, and it’ll walk you through the install procedure.
All you have to do is click the big green “Go!” button. I’ve highlighted the claim that I want to test. If the actual Internet connection itself is optimized, then I should see better throughput overall. Throughout the install, you never have to leave the Autobahn web page. Once it’s installed, the site recognizes a successful install and informs you of such as shown here.
Now that I have Autobahn optimizing my system, let’s see what this baby can do. Kicking open the DSLReports page, I run the same three tests as earlier. First, Washington DC.
Then my new connection speed to New York.
And finally, my new connection speed across the U.S. to Los Angeles.
So now, my new Internet speed rates are Washington DC (7459 Kb/s download, 471 Kb/s upload), New York (7756 Kb/s download, 411 Kb/s upload) and Los Angeles, CA (5474 Kb/s download, 335 Kb/s upload).
So, overall results of Internet speed caused by installing Autobahn appear to be an increase of 272 Kb/s download and 222 Kb/s upload from here to Washington, DC, a decrease of 269 Kb/s download and increase of 7 Kb/s upload from here to New York, and a decrease of 524 Kb/s download and 57 Kb/s upload from here to Los Angeles. Since transfer speed can pretty much vary to this degree on it’s own, depending on what other activities you’re doing on your PC, these values reflect no substantial overall gain or loss of speed due to Autobahn.
Testing Streaming Video
These results don’t mean that the software doesn’t work, it just means that it doesn’t accomplish greater streaming quality or speed through an optimized overall Internet connection. As readers noted in the comment area of my Vista tweak article linked at the start of this article, streaming video can be optimized when you configure the system to give it higher priority on your connection.
It could be possible that the Autobahn software simply optimizes the stream – providing faster/better downloads and streaming quality. I decided to test the download speed at YouTube before and after installing Autobahn. For my test, I used the new Apple iPod YouTube advertisement that’s about 8 minutes long. I started the video at 2:00:23 and the full video was downloaded and buffered by 2:06:30 – almost 6 full minutes to receive the full 8 minute video.
Once I was finished, I re-installed Autobahn and ran the same streaming video. The download of the video stream started at 2:12:06 and completed at 2:18:04. About a six minute buffer/download time and essentially the same exact throughput. Video streaming quality was essentially unchanged.
On the Autobahn website, I noticed that MLB TV was noted as one site that’s affiliated with Autobahn, so maybe Autobahn is especially efficient for that particular site. So I tried the same test as above at MLB TV. Without the software installed, I started downloading a video of game highlights at 2:30:12, and the full video completed loading by 2:32:02, about a 2 minute load.
After reinstalling Autobahn, I refreshed my cache, cleared my history and tried the download again. This time the start was 2:34:40 and the finish time was 2:36:35. Again, about a 2 minute load time and essentially unchanged by the installation of Autobahn.
Not to be deterred by these results, I wanted to try one last test. I’ve heard that Autobahn can significantly improve downloading on iTunes. So, I uninstalled the software and fired up iTunes. I found an old L.L. Cool J song I used to love as a kid that was just over 5 minutes long. I purchased the song and watched the download speed closely – the start was 2:55:00 and the finish was 2:55:18 – about 18 seconds.
After reinstalling Autobahn, clearing my cache and attempting the same download again, I had a start time of 2:58:05 and a complete of 2:58:18 – about 13 seconds, and a 5 second improvement.
According to the website, the FAQ explains that Autobahn “optimizes your incoming bandwidth” for better downloads and streaming. It reports that it doesn’t use the peer-to-peer transfer or upstream “stealing” that other software uses. While this seems to be true, it also appears that at least if your system is already running at fairly well-optimized speeds, the software can’t do much to improve your existing video streaming quality, or the speed of your downloads.
Have you ever tried Autobahn or any other Internet speed “accelerator” software? How well did it work for you? Share your results and experiences in the comments section below.