If you're in the market for the best DNA testing kits (opens in new tab), keep reading as we've got all the information you need. 23andMe is our top pick from all the DNA testing sites thanks to their huge region database and detailed reports.
23andMe collects your saliva in a special test tube that is sealed and sent into the lab for extensive analysis. In order for the results to be accurate, you can’t eat, drink, smoke or chew gum for 30 minutes prior to giving your sample. It takes longer to collect the sample for this kit than others, like LivingDNA (opens in new tab) that uses swaps, because of the amount of saliva needed. You also need to ensure there aren’t any bubbles reaching the fill line that gives the impressing of having enough saliva. It took us about five minutes to get a good enough sample to send in.
After registering our kit and sending it in, we were able to track it from the moment it was sent from the post office until it reached the 23andMe lab. Some samples took 15 days before we received notification of it being received at the lab while others posted within three days after being sent. The posted turn around from the time 23andMe receives your sample until your report is ready is up to eight weeks. Adding in the time it takes for the lab to receive your sample in the first place, it is possible you’ll be waiting close to three months for your final reports. The good news is the detail the test reports includes more than any other DNA testing kit and it's well worth the wait. On average, our testers got their full DNA reports within two weeks after the sample was received by 23andMe.
There are several ways to reach out to get help with your test kit or access your results and other information online. Direct phone contact is available but also email through the 23andMe website.
Unfortunately, when it came to direct contact, we didn’t find the company very friendly or helpful when we reached out. Though our questions were answered, we found the representatives we interacted with to be curt and ready to move on. Most answers can be found on the 23andMe website or within the instruction booklet that is included with the kit itself, so there is very little need to speak directly with a customer service representative in most cases.
23andMe review: Test results
- Widest number of reports available
- Can give you the geographic regions where your ancestors came from
- You can delve deeper with the 23andMe Health+
What sets 23andMe apart from the other DNA test kits is the number of reports and the amount of detail within them. The autosomal part of your DNA is used to give you the geographic regions where your ancestors came from, like Central Asia, South Africa or Northern Europe. But unlike other DNA tests, 23andMe gives you specific countries, counties and sometimes cities where your family originated from. We also found that 23andMe was able to determine geological ancestry more easily than other kits. Where other companies listed anything under a single percentage point as “other”, 23andMe easily identified that part of testers’ ancestry.
23andMe also uses your mitochondrial DNA to figure out when your ancestors moved from one region to another, giving you another piece of your genealogy puzzle of how your genes make up you. For example, one tester’s timeline identified that her family lived in Italy during the early 1600, and when they immigrated to England. Other ancestors moved throughout Northern Europe during the same time, though 23andMe showed when a portion of the family stayed behind in the originating region and when the entire family moved.
You can delve deeper with the 23andMe Health+. This can be purchased from the get-go when you first purchase your test kit or you can add on the analysis later on. In both cases, you will get a good view of what disease and allergies you may be prone to, including Parkinson’s and Alzheimer’s, and fun facts like how likely you are to be bitten by mosquitos, or what percentage of your ancestors and descendants have hair that becomes frizzy in humidity. The 23andMe health analysis can’t diagnose any diseases you may have, but if you see a certain marker for cancer or arthritis it may prompt you to speak with your doctor about possible screenings.
23andMe review: Beyond the test results
- Connects you with relatives that have also taken a DNA test
- You can opt in to 23andMe’s family matching feature
- Unique tools that let you compare your DNA with your children
Once you have your DNA results, 23andMe opens up a whole new world through its online database. Part of its services is connecting you with relatives that have also taken a DNA test from this service and give consent for the information to be shared.
If you opt in to 23andMe’s family matching feature, you can connect with other 23andMe users with similar genes. This feature lets you view your matched relative’s display name, sex, profile photo, percent of DNA shared, number of DNA segments shared, relatives in common and haplogroups. The interface also estimates how closely you are related to each match. In fact, 23andMe gives you a more closely match result compared to other tests. For example, other tests list parents and their siblings as first or second cousins. But 23andMe correctly identified them as Father and Uncle.
If you’re more interested in learning about the relatives you already know you have, 23andMe has a few unique tools that let you compare your DNA with your children, parents, and grandparents. If multiple people in your family tree want to get tested, fill out a GrandTree, which shows you which segments of DNA you inherit from each of your tested parents or grandparents. While nowhere near as comprehensive as AncestryDNA (opens in new tab)’s family tree and genealogy tools, 23andMe’s more nuclear approach to family genetics is a great option that lets you explore your genetic relationship with more immediate relations.
23andMe review: Is it worth the cost?
For the Ancestry + Traits kits, 23andMe charges $100. If you want more results beyond just where you hail from you will need to purchase the Ancestry + Healthy kit for $200. For $400 you can have your results rushed. This is by far the most expensive of the tests we reviewed, cost-wise, but the amount of detailed information you get with any of the 23andMe kits is amazing. Comparing point for point what you get for the cost, 23andMe ends up being the best overall deal despite the high cost.
Should you use 23andMe?
23andMe is hands down the best and most detailed DNA kit on the market. The sheer volume of information you get with this kit is both inspiring and overwhelming. While the price is a little steep, we feel it is well worth the investment. The collection of the DNA sample does take some time and 23andMe doesn’t have the same family tree maker and genealogy tools as Ancestry.com, but overall it's still the top pick for DNA testing kits.
23andMe is the most comprehensive DNA testing service we tested. It has over 50 different reports to help you paint a good picture all about you and where you came from. Both your autosomal and mitochondrial DNA are analyzed to give you a more detailed report of your genetic makeup, ancestry pool, and both geographical and migrational ancestral history with more than 1500 regions represented. You do have the option to have additional analysis run to determine health traits of you, your ancestors and future generations.
It takes a little more work to get your DNA to 23andMe and the wait time can be pretty long depending on the time of year – it takes longer at the first of the year due to the increased number of samples sent in following the holidays. The cost of the kit is also more expensive compared to other services. But the amount of information you get is worth every penny.