A couple of people have mentioned aria2 as an alternative to the in-house favorite here axel, and just to satisfy my own curiosity I decided to throw them into a pit and see which one is left standing. I can’t tell you what I expected to see happen, except maybe to learn about another option as a console-based download accelerator.
I think “accelerator” is the key word in this weight class, since neither one really really has the same functions as wget-queue.pl or fttps. I label those as “managers” and these as “accelerators,” purely based on their overall function. And really, you could probably insert one or both of those accelerators in the code of either of the managers, since I believe they otherwise rely on the die-hard wget to get the job done.
The only problem is, neither one really “accelerated” things for me — they both topped out my network connection to the same degree and for the same duration of time. For this mangled little experiment, I relied on the in-country University of Toyama mirrors for Ubuntu ISOs, a host that is usually so wicked fast that I can sometimes download files from there faster than I can get them between machines in my own house. No joke.
But both aria2 and axel simply pushed the needle all the way to the right, neither one forcing the download speed beyond what was already dictated by my out-of-date components. It was still pretty darned fast though.
That means this comparison has to shift to features and approaches, and that’s where your own interests and proclivities will determine which one you prefer. So in that context, and as a brief and incomplete overview. …
- axel can search for sites with apparently faster download rates, and distribute the workload between them. That might make some Web masters happy, since it means you’re not pounding their individual system for extended periods of time. No doubt you have your own opinion on that particular issue; it is a convenience though to find a server somewhere else on the planet with the same file, but faster response times.
- aria2 can handle a variety of formats beyond a straightforward download link. Torrents, in particular, are very cool with aria2; of course it’s not a full-fledged client in that department, but doesn’t claim to be. Flexibility wins it points though, I admit. On the other hand, you might argue that axel follows the “Unix philosophy” in some sense or another.
- Dependencywise, aria2 is a little heavier than axel, but that’s only to be expected since it technically can handle more than axel. axel weighs in at around 43Kb for its binary executable under Debian, while aria2c is a comparatively massive 2.7Mb. If you’re considering an out-of-date machine as the host, available memory might come into play, which means the size of the binary might be important.
Outside of those points you should probably delve in for yourself and see which one appeals to you. Like I said, on a fast connection to an in-country server neither could push speeds beyond what I usually see for the hardware. Both have features that the other might not; install, decide, enjoy.