Welcome to T3's 23andMe DNA testing kit review. 23andMe is one of the best DNA testing kits on the market right now and has become synonymous with at-home DNA testing – to date more than 10 million people have found out more about their health and ancestry using 23andMe.
And that’s why 23andMe stands out. There are plenty of DNA tests available to buy right now that can paint a good picture of your ancestry, but 23andMe is different because it analyses three types of DNA, which also provide you with personalised health reports and extras you don’t get in every test, like the origins of your ancient motherline, as well as how many Neanderthal variants you’re carrying around in your genes.
We reviewed the 23andMe DNA test to find out how to use it, what the results are like and how it stacks up against the competition, all of which you can find in T3's best DNA testing kit guide. Read on to find out what we thought of 23andMe’s popular DNA testing service.
23AndMe DNA review: DNA Collection
First up, it’s important to point out that there are two types of 23andMe DNA tests. The first is the Ancestry test and provides details about your ancestry composition, as well as information about your DNA relatives – this is the cheaper option.
For nearly double the price, there’s a test called Ancestry and Health. This covers all of the ancestry results, as well as providing you with personalised health insights that reveal your predisposition to certain conditions. You pay more for this second choice but, if you can afford it, it’s well worth the thorough results it serves up about your health in the present and ancestry in the past.
To get started with 23andMe, you need to send for a test, which arrives within 3 to 5 days. You’ll then need to provide a saliva sample by spitting a few times into the funnel provided in the testing kit. Before you send the sample off, you’ll need to register it online so it can be linked back to you – it just has a number on it and not your name for privacy reasons.
Once your sample is sealed back into the kit and it’s all registered, you need to send it back to 23andMe for testing, which comes with free postage. Although we received a review sample of the 23andMe test, which meant results were speedier than usual, 23andMe says they generally take around 3 to 5 weeks to arrive with most users.
23AndMe DNA review: DNA results
23andMe will alert you with an email when your results have arrived, when they’re being tested and, finally, when your results are in. To access them, you’ll need to use the same details you registered with and then you’ll find your personalised dashboard.
One of the best things about 23andMe is how good the user interface is. Even though the results are highly detailed, they’re all presented in a way that makes them easy to find, easy to understand and easy to interpret too – after all, there’s a lot of data to comb through.
We reviewed the Ancestry and Health kit, which means along the menu bar at the top of the dashboard they’re the two main options. Head to Ancestry and you’re greeted with a breakdown of your genetic ethnicity – visualised as a pie chart and then a map, which you can interact with to find out more about where your ancestors likely came from.
This is all interesting in itself. But you can also dig deeper and view your ancestry timeline. For example, 23andMe tells me I have a small percentage of Scandinavian heritage, which dates back to 1810. You can also look at how certain chromosomes are affected by your ancestry composition results too.
This section of the 23andMe dashboard also shows you how many Neanderthal variants you have in your DNA – and how you compare to everyone else who has taken the test. For example, I have more Neanderthal variants than 84% of 23andMe customers.
23andMe also examines a number of different types of DNA to provide information about your haplogroup from both your motherline and fatherline. This is the group of humans who you descended from and provides additional information about how your ancestors likely migrated.
You can also head to DNA Relatives to find people who have some, or a lot, of the same DNA as you. You’ll see a long list of matches from close relatives (assuming they’ve taken the test too) through to second, third, fourth, fifth and so on, cousins.
If you click on the people who you’re matched with you can view how their DNA compares to yours, as well as send them a message.
The Health part of the 23andMe dashboard contains all of the personalised reports about you and there are a few different sections to look at. The Health Disposition section includes where genetic factors have been found in your DNA sample that could predispose you to certain conditions, including Parkinson’s Disease and Celiac Disease.
The Carrier Status section is similar, but shows the likelihood that you carry certain genes, so although they may not affect you, you could pass them onto your kids. There are also a range of more trivial results about you, including how you’re likely to sleep and what you look like. Although it’s cool to see all of these results, and what they show, most of this section is just a bit of fun – many of us know if we’re predisposed to things like motion sickness or have freckles already, after all.
There are lots of data and privacy settings within 23andMe, which can be a bit confusing. But the good thing is they can all be changed within the settings page of your dashboard at any time. For example, you may not want to connect with DNA relatives for a while, so you can switch that option off. Similarly, you may have not liked the idea of sharing your results to aid in research, but maybe that idea appeals to you more now, so you can switch that on.
23AndMe DNA review: verdict
There may be plenty of DNA tests on the market right now, but 23andMe stands out with its super detailed results, fantastic dashboard and user experience, as well as its more unusual results, like haplogroups and health reports.
If you’re keen on building a family tree or care more about genealogy than anything else, we recommend you check out whether a DNA test solely dedicated to ancestry might be a better fit – we also like AncestryDNA. But for everyone else, 23andMe is a great option. Sure it can feel a bit pricey, especially if you go with the Ancestry and Health option, but we think it’s worth it for the wealth of data you get out of it.