Starlink: Setup, Speed Test, Power Draw

Yup, I’ve gone and done it. My troubles finding usable internet last week were the final straw. The primary reason for my return to my friends’ place in Cottage Grove, Oregon was to receive my Starlink shipment. It arrived today. I’ll be doing a full unboxing and setup video, but for those of you who like to read, here’s how it went.

There’s not a whole lot in the box. There’s the router, the “Dishy” which is what they call the satellite antenna, cables, some legal print, and that’s it. It’s very well packaged, and nothing was damaged in shipping.

I verified a common complaint I’ve been reading about. The 75-foot cord that goes between the Dishy and the router is often not securely plugged into the Dishy from the factory. It actually fell out as I began to mess with it. I plugged it back in, and may secure it with a piece of gaffer’s tape to keep it from falling out again. It doesn’t clip in at all, so it could fall out again as the Dishy moves around.

Because it’s not windy, I placed the Dishy on the roof of my van. There’s nothing but gravity holding it there at this time. I’ll have to figure out a better way to mount it when I return to the Arizona desert, where the wind could blow it right off the roof the way I have it now. I ran the cord in through a side window and all the way back to the “Southern New Hampshire Cabinet” next to the bed. I put a few extra outlets in there so Trisha could keep all of her stuff charged. She’s not here anymore, so I plan to use these to run my new power inverter instead, and in turn the Starlink router. Everything plugs in only one way, and before I knew it, I was ready to go.

I was inside the van, out of the sun (and shooting video) and working on configuration when I turned it on. But I threw my GoPro on the roof, and captured this video of Dishy moving itself into position to catch signals from the satellites. It’s pretty cool.

The configuration itself is pretty straightforward. You define your network name and password, then wait a while for it to set itself up. My first attempt at this failed, with the router stuck in a loop where I was waiting for it to restart, but never actually giving me a WiFi network to connect to and finish configuration.

This screenshot is from inside the Starlink app, but I found these instructions online as well. I did a factory reset on the router, and started over again. This time, the setup worked perfectly, and I was online in a matter of minutes.

Difficulty with setup is another common complaint I see about Starlink. It’s mostly automated, but when it doesn’t work, there isn’t much you can do, and you’re stuck. As a former IT professional, I’m very familiar with the “have you turned it off and back on again” procedure when a device isn’t working. A factory reset made sense as the next step, particularly because I hadn’t finished setting it up and it wasn’t working anyway, so losing my settings was no big deal. It’s worked ever since, except for another issue I’ll discuss later.

Naturally, I had to put it through its paces. After all, that’s why I’m doing this at my friends’ place, where I can always fall back on their WiFi if I run into problems with Starlink like I did during setup. The speed test on the left is the one I ran through the Starlink app, which told me I was getting 121 Mbps download speeds. That’s amazing! 8 Mbps upload isn’t amazing, but certainly usable. It’ll just take a while to upload a YouTube video, which I can certainly do since, unlike cellular hotspots, Starlink has no data limits.

But I didn’t want to simply take Starlink’s word for it, so I ran another speed test through Google. Its numbers were slightly lower, but still excellent, and similar enough to Starlink’s own test. I can definitely agree with the “very fast” assessment. I plan to spend some time watching videos on my Starlink connection tonight to see how well it works.

Another big question about Starlink is how much power it draws. It’s certainly a whole lot more than a mobile hotspot, and has been a major concern for me in my decision to get it. I’ve seen figures of 100 watts for how much power Starlink consumes. Over the course of 24 hours, that would be my entire usable battery capacity, without accounting for anything else like the fridge or laptop. So I plugged it into my Jackery, which displays exactly how much power it’s putting out.

While the output did hit and exceed 100 watts briefly during startup, it settled down to somewhere in the 30 to 50 watt range once it connected. That’s still more than I planned on, but not bad. It shouldn’t be a problem for my solar to keep up during these long days in June, where my batteries are at 100% by noon even with my laptop running all morning. I’ll have to keep an eye on my battery voltage in the fall and especially over the winter to make sure I can keep them topped off.

When I plugged the router back into my new power inverter after this test, the router kept shutting off a few minutes after I turned it on. As a test I plugged it back into the Jackery, and it’s been running just fine ever since. I bought a 300-watt pure sine wave inverter specifically to run Starlink. It should be adequate, but perhaps it’s not. I should be able to return it, if that’s the case.

For now, I’ll keep running it off the Jackery, and experiment with the other inverter some more. If there’s too much variation in my overall house electrical system to keep Starlink happy, I may look into installing a completely separate system on the trailer to run it on as a long term solution. This could even include a special mount on the outside for Dishy. But that will be a project for later. Right now I just want to get to know Starlink, its quirks and features (as Doug DeMuro would say), and figure out how to work best with it.

So far, it hasn’t been perfect, but it’s been pretty darn good. Things are looking good.

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