At a Glance
Note: This review addresses v1.05 of the software.
Are you the geeky type who wants to wring every last bit of speed out of your Internet connection? Do you spend any portion of your waking life wondering how you can find the fastest DNS servers out there to speed up your browsing? Then you'll love Namebench. This small, free utility performs benchmark tests on multiple DNS servers, reports back on which are the fastest, which the most secure, and so on, and recommends which DNS servers you should use. Once you get that recommendation, it's up to you to configure your PC to use the fastest DNS servers. How to do that is well beyond the scope of this short review.
Why should you care about using the fastest DNS server? When you browse the Web by typing in a URL, your browser needs to contact a DNS server before it visit that page. Web servers require that you use a numeric IP address, rather than a URL with characters, and DNS servers do that translation. So the faster the DNS server, the more quickly your browser will be able to contact a Web page. Typically, you use your ISP's DNS servers to resolve the addresses, but you can use other DNS servers as well, such as ones provided for free by OpenDNS, or more recently by Google Public DNS.
When I did testing with Namebench, it reported that my ISP's DNS servers were faster than OpenDNS, Google Public DNS, and other DNS servers, and recommended that I stay with my ISP's servers, although it recommended that I change their order. I did that, and at times it does seem I get to pages more quickly.
Should you use this program? If you're comfortable changing your DNS settings, and are the kind of person who likes to make incremental speed improvements, Namebench is worth the download. Otherwise, you'll find it of little use.