Starlink review

Rural internet users rejoice - fast internet's now available for a fair price

Starlink marketing materials
(Image: © SpaceX)

TechRadar Verdict

Starlink's satellite service is easy for subscribers and you can set up the hardware in minutes. Be prepared to spend more time and money for optimal performance though.


  • +

    Less expensive than mobile data

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    Hardware rental

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    Easy Setup


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    May require additional hardware

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    Potential speed throttling

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After moving to the countryside and experiencing repeated issues with traditional broadband, we decided to give Starlink's residential service a try. Here’s what we learned about how Starlink's residential service works and if it delivers on its promise of high-speed internet.

Elon Musk's SpaceX has been in the news frequently of late - and the service is improving all the time. The 'portability' feature makes it possible to deploy satellite internet elsewhere for a small monthly fee, plus Starlink hopes to provide an off-grid cellular service in the next few years. Still, Starlink is best known for offering a solution to people living in areas outside the scope of high-speed broadband or fibre optic internet. True, such people can rely on a mobile data (4G or 5G) connection but this is usually very costly and not very reliable.

But does it deliver everything it promises? Or is it pie-in-the-sky stuff? We put Starlink to the test. 

Starlink: Pricing & coverage

Starlink marketing materials

(Image credit: SpaceX)

One of the big caveats of using Starlink is that it's not yet available in every area of every country. Fortunately, the main website immediately prompts you to enter your address, to check if coverage is in place or planned for your area, then lists various subscription plans. 

  • Starlink subscriptions

Given the huge cost of launching satellites it's hardly surprising that the cost of a basic subscription has risen in recent years: currently it's $120 per month for a 'standard' plan which offers 'unlimited data'.

There is a caveat here however, in that 'Standard' data usage is subject to a 'fair use' policy. Full details of expected performance for various plans are available on the main site but in brief these are a download speed of 25 - 100 Mbps, an upload speed of 5-10 Mbps and a latency of 25-60ms. 

If you find this too restrictive you can also pay for a certain amount of 'Priority' data. For instance paying an extra $20 per month ($140) will net you 40GB of 'Priority' speeds. While latency is no different, the expected performance of 'Priority' data is much greater with download speeds of 40-220 Mbps and upload speeds of 8-25 Mbps. If you’re looking for the best small business router and ISP, Starlink for Businesses offers separate subscription plans.

  • Unlimited data

Starlink warns that it tries to allocate data for its Standard Plan in a 'fair and equitable manner', and if you're found to be exceeding this they may seek to restrict your network speed. The examples given in the fair use policy include streaming, video calls or online gaming, though puzzlingly enough the same policy also promises to treat all traffic neutrally.

After one month and nearly 400GB of data, we experienced no issues with this policy, although this may be because we use the best VPN on all devices, encrypting traffic so Starlink can't distinguish specific content like streaming video. 

  • Hardware

The other caveat when signing up for Starlink is hardware costs. Traditionally, this has required you to pay in order to sign up but Starlink has clearly responded to customer feedback. There are special promotions in place. For instance, users in rural Canada can currently benefit from over 70% off hardware prices. Customers in certain countries can also choose to rent the hardware instead of buying. This is the route your reviewer went down, which required payment of a small activation fee of around $50 then an extra $10 per month. 

When placing your order, you can also choose to purchase an Ethernet adapter for an extra $40. This is because the supplied Starlink Router has no Ethernet port of its own. Do this if you want to connect devices directly to it via Ethernet or if you wish to attach an alternative router. Starlink subscriptions come with a 30-day free trial. You can cancel your subscription at any time. This also applies to any hardware you're renting, though we assume in that case it would need to be returned to SpaceX. 

Starlink: Unboxing

Starlink marketing materials

(Image credit: SpaceX)

When we placed our order for Starlink, the package took only around a week to arrive - though due to a small addressing error it was picked up at the local post office. Even for a standard residential connection everything you need to get up and running is in the box, including: 

  • A rectangular Starlink satellite 'dish'
  • Small plastic stand for said dish
  • 75ft connecting cable
  • Starlink Wi-Fi router
  • 10ft power cable for the router

To make things even simpler, setup is handled by a free smartphone app that walks you through the process.

This is one area where Starlink truly shines, though we were luckier than most as we had an outside power socket and an open lawn. The dish slots into the stand effortlessly and after that, like any of the best Wi-Fi routers, it's a simple matter to connect the cable to the device. We would warn users though, to check that the white LED at the base of the router is illuminated to make sure that it's powered on.

When it comes to placing the dish, we recommend using the Starlink app's built in 'obstructions' tool, which can scan the sky to check if there's anything in the way of the dish receiving signals from SpaceX's "low earth orbit" satellites.

When the dish first powers in, the app warns that it may take around 15 minutes to establish a reliable signal. We found it did this much sooner (around 5 minutes) and used the helpful interface to create a custom Wi-Fi network for other devices to connect.

Starlink: Placement

It only took us less than ten minutes between unboxing the Starlink hardware to going online. Still, there's a catch.

Placing Starlink's standard rectangular dish on a front lawn as we did with cables snaking from it onto your porch simply isn't sustainable. In the first case it can lead to obstructions, as in our case given that the house was directly between the dish and the satellites. Putting the cable and dish on the ground also exposes the hardware to the elements. Ideally the dish should be fixed permanently in a location with an unobstructed view of the sky.

The Starlink website can come to the rescue here. Aside from selling more advanced satellite dishes, you can also buy a standalone 'pipe mount' or various wall/roof mounting kits. In our case, this was unnecessary as there was already a vacant satellite mount on our roof where the dish could be slotted in. Not every subscriber will be so lucky.

The other issue of course is that of the router. It's very difficult to store outside safely, so unless you're very comfortable with DIY, you'll need to do as we did and shell out to have a man come and drill holes in the wall to stow the router safely inside whilst still connected to the dish.

Starlink: Speed test

Starlink marketing materials

(Image credit: SpaceX)

The Starlink website warns that connection speeds can vary depending on many factors like the placement of your dish, the number of other people using the service at the same time and your chosen activity.

One particular concern for us when putting Starlink through its paces is that most speed tests can't account for the latency between a device and the wireless router. Fortunately this isn't an issue for Starlink's ever-useful mobile app, as it delineates clearly between Wi-Fi and Starlink speed, if you choose to run an 'Advanced Speed Test'.

In order to avoid the issue of network congestion we ran our tests around 23:00 at night using the Starlink app running on an iPhone 14 Max Pro. The 'Starlink Speed' for downloads was 71 Mbps and the upload was 15 Mbps. This was entirely consistent for the promised speeds for a 'Standard' plan of  25 - 100 Mbps (downloads) and 5-10 Mbps (uploads). 

Starlink: Final verdict

After spending some time with Starlink, we can say we’re absolutely delighted with the residential plan. In many cases it works out to be more cost effective than using mobile broadband. Advanced speed testing also shows the download speeds compare very favorably to fixed-line internet in his particular rural area, though you'll need to do your own research to discover if this is true where you live. 

The introduction of hardware rental is particularly welcome, as previously the upfront cost of buying the dish, mount and router was a major criticism of Starlink's service.

The only warning we'd offer before you sign up today, is that you'll probably need some additional hardware and expertise to install the satellite dish permanently. 

During our research, we did find users who found very inventive workarounds such as using zip cables to attach the dish to the top of a tree. Still, you'll probably gain the best signal from purchasing a roof mount, as well as enough cabling to fix the dish there safely. 

Nate Drake is a tech journalist specializing in cybersecurity and retro tech. He broke out from his cubicle at Apple 6 years ago and now spends his days sipping Earl Grey tea & writing elegant copy.