X-Wares

Broadband Optimizer

Dan Knight - 2002.02.07 - Tip Jar

If you're surfing the Internet over a high speed connection (DSL, cable, etc.), you owe it to yourself to download Broadband Optimizer. This free program goes in the OS X StartupItems folder and claims to tweak OS X for better broadband performance.

I'll believe it when I see it.

Testing the TiBook

So Wednesday evening I downloaded Broadband Optimizer, which I had read about in Bob LeVitus' article on OS X FAQ, and ran the Cnet and Bandwidth Place tests using both Internet Explorer and iCab. Then I installed Broadband Optimizer, rebooted, launched each browser, cleared each cache, and ran the same speed tests.

They say there's no such thing as a free lunch, but this freeware really speeds things up on my TiBook.

I'm running Mac OS X 10.1.2 on a 400 MHz TiBook with Classic launched in the background. My first test was Internet Explorer 5.1 on the Cnet site - it came in at 427 kbps. Retesting with Broadband Optimizer installed I obtained results of 614 and 642 kbps just a few minutes later on an AT&T Broadband cable modem connection. That's a 47% improvement.

Test two used iCab, which measured 272 kbps before Broadband Optimizer. After installation, I obtained scores of 680 and 583 kbps - more than double the earlier score.

Test three: iCab and Bandwidth Place. This test rated communications at 560 kbps and said it would take 15 seconds to download a 1 MB file. After installing Broadband Optimizer, communication speed rose to 723.5 kbps (29% better) and said it would take just 11.6 seconds to download a 1 MB file.

Test four: IE 5.1 and Bandwidth Place. Unfortunately IE blew up when I tried to print the before results. Microsoft. After installing Broadband Optimizer, Bandwidth Place measured throughput at 690.2 and 717.6 kbps. Too bad I didn't record the earlier result before I tried to print it.

This is not a wide-ranging scientific test. I ran the tests a few times, but the load on a cable modem connection will vary from minute to minute. Still, in every single test the throughput was significantly higher with Broadband Optimizer installed.

Just a Minute....

Of course, that's just one set of tests on one computer, so early this morning (between 5:30 and 7:00 a.m.) I ran the same tests on the beige G3/266 under IE 5.1, iCab 2.7.1, the latest overnight build of Mozilla, and Opera 5. I got some very different results.

On the Cnet test, IE ranged from 644 to 744 kbps under the stock OS X 10.1.2 installation, but dropped to 606-640 kbps with Broadband Optimizer installed. Likewise, it scored 949.8 to 980.8 kbps as measured by Bandwidth Place before installing Broadband Optimizer, but only 734-735.6 afterwards.

Next up, iCab. Speeds ranged from 510 to 680 kbps on Cnet before, and held steady on all tests at 680 kbps after installation of Broadband Optimizer. The Bandwidth Place figures were 847.2 to 997.6 kbps before and a steady 723.5 kbps after.

Mozilla ranged from 611 to 646 kbps on the Cnet test, dropping to the 565 to 574 kbps range after installing Broadband Optimizer. Similarly, throughput ranged from 957.2 to 982.6 kbps according to Bandwidth Place before Broadband Optimizer, but declined to 755.3 to 769 with it installed.

"The fastest browser on the Web" didn't fare too well on the old beige G3. Opera 5 ranged from 291 to 314 kbps on the Cnet test. With Broadband Optimizer installed, it improved to 314 to 340 kbps. Testing on Bandwidth Place, Opera scored a steady 333.7 kbps before, 385.7 after.

Note that there was probably a whole lot less traffic on the neighborhood cable network this early in the morning than there was Wednesday evening. It is possible that an increase in early morning cable modem use contributed to the lower results obtained with Broadband Optimizer.

Despite running the same versions of browser and OS, the results were very different. Except for the case of Opera, Broadband Optimizer usually made performance worse on the beige G3.

Conclusions

Browsers

Interestingly, every time we look at Opera, we find that it isn't the fastest browser on earth. In fact, it was the slowest browser tested. Based on these tests, iCab and IE both offer pretty fast performance, with Mozilla not far behind. Opera ranged from one-third to one-half the performance of the other browsers tested.

Time of Day

Since cable modem bandwidth is shared with your network neighbors, you'll probably get much better throughput at 5:30 a.m. than at 6:30 p.m. Our top evening speed was 717 kbps, but this morning we hit 997.6 kbps.

Broadband Optimizer

This piece of freeware is a first beta and really helps out the TiBook. However, it generally has a detrimental effect on our beige G3. Whether that's due to the different CPU, slower CPU speed, slower bus speed, less RAM (288 vs. 512 MB), or an older and possibly slower hard drive on the beige G3 is unknown.

I've contacted the author of Broadband Optimizer to share my findings. Maybe a future version will work better on older hardware.

That said, I suggest you try Broadband Optimizer on your computer to see if it makes things better or worse. If you'd like to report your findings, please email them to < > and be sure to include your computer details (model, CPU, speed, installed RAM, version of OS, browser(s) used), your connection type (cable, DSL, etc.), and your before and after results. LEM

Dan Knight has been using Macs since 1986, sold Macs for several years, supported them for many more years, and has been publishing Low End Mac since April 7, 1997.

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