Disclaimer: Please do not take these results as the end-all, be-all when it comes to Sprint 4G performance. I’m one person testing in one state. Your experiences will likely differ based on a number of factors. Note this post only pertains to data speeds. Battery performance is another test coming soon.
How fast is Sprint 4G? We already previewed the Overdrive mobile hotspot, but what about the new HTC EVO 4G?
Sprint claims customers should experience download speeds that are “10x faster than 3G” and they base that on a download speed comparison of 600 Kbps for 3G and 6 Mbps for their 4G. Sprint anticipates customers who have the EVO will consume more data and they are charging a mandatory $10 premium data add-on for whatever plan you pick.
Since this is the first 4G handset in North America and one of the most important launches in Android’s history, we felt compelled to do some detailed speed tests and compare them with several other 3G networks. For this round of tests we used a HTC EVO to test Sprint 4G and 3G, a Droid Incredible to test Verizon 3G, and a Nexus One to test T-Mobile 3G.
I wanted to see how the networks performed during peak traffic and off-peak hours so half of the tests were performed in the day during rush hour (4-6 PM) and the rest were performed late at night (1-3 AM).
To measure the download and upload speeds, I used the Android app Speedtest.net. I’ve seen some people complain about the app, but it produces the most reliable results from any test I have used. Speedtest.net is also the app that Sprint chose to demonstrate 4G speeds when they showed off the EVO at CTIA and during the recent NYC pre-launch party.
All test were performed in Corpus Christi, TX – which was one of the early markets to receive the Sprint 4G WiMAX network. At each location and on each network, I ran the speed test five times. I tossed out the high and low results, then took the average of the other three.
Peak traffic: Daytime testing
Download: During daytime testing, the Sprint EVO on 4G produced the fastest download speeds at the most locations (3). However, the 4G download speeds topped out around 2 Mbps and fell short of the advertised 3-6 Mbps. Surprisingly, the fastest download speeds of the day were achieved over Sprint 3G at my final location, where I was able to hit an average of 2.14 Mbps.
Upload: The Sprint EVO on 4G also produced the fastest upload speeds at the most locations (3). Sprint has capped 4G uploads at 1 Mbps and that is exactly what we found during our testing.
Ping: I’m not sure how important latency is to the average smartphone owner, but we included the results anyways. Sprint 4G offered the highest ping times of any network we tested during the daytime. Sprint 3G had faster ping times at every location I checked.
Daytime conclusion: Overall, the Sprint EVO on 4G offered the fastest download and upload speeds at the most locations. It was not quite as fast as I had hoped for, but Sprint 4G still came out on top
Off-peak hours: Nighttime testing
Download: Nighttime produced some interesting results. I was able to achieve 1-2 Mbps with Sprint 4G, but Sprint 3G was surprisingly faster at three different locations. I assume the Sprint 3G tested faster because the network was less congested, but I’m a little disappointed in the 4G results.
At one location I had three bars when connected to Sprint 4G, but I was unable to gain an internet connection. I tried rebooting the phone and turning the 4G radio on and off, but nothing fixed the issue. When I went over to Sprint 3G at this location, I instantly had internet again.
Upload: Once again, the Sprint EVO over 4G provided the fastest upload speeds at the most locations. I was able to get close to the 1 Mbps cap during most of my tests.
Ping: I measured about the same ping times at night as I did during the day – between 160-190 ms.
Nighttime conclusion: Download and Upload speeds remained about the same during day and night. For downloads, I topped out around 2 Mbps and uploads were at 1 Mbps.
Sprint 4G: The HTC EVO on 4G generated the fastest and most consistent results. Downloads rarely dropped below 1 Mbps, but they never broke 3 Mbps either.
I’ve seen Sprint 4G do over 5 Mbps with the Overdrive when we tested it in Austin, so my expectations were high. I only did detailed testing in Corpus Christi, but I also used my EVO in Austin and San Antonio. The top download speeds in each city were around 2 Mbps.
Sprint 3G: This was probably the biggest surprise of all my testing. I had no idea Sprint 3G could produce actual download speeds over 2 Mbps. The speeds dropped dramatically during the day, so it looks like Sprint 3G is pretty congested in my city.
T-Mobile: My city has been upgraded to T-Mobile’s HSPA 7.2, but I have seen no difference in download speeds. Only a single location (at night) was able to break 1 Mbps for downloads.
Verizon: For what it’s worth, Verizon had the best latency during day and night. Download speeds were around 1 Mbps down and 1 Mbps up, which is good. At nighttime, I was even able to break 2 Mbps at one location.
Sprint 4G is fast, but it didn’t live up to my expectations when tested in multiple Texas cities. As you saw from the results, the download speeds maxed out around 2 Mbps, but we were also able to get those results on Sprint 3G.
Having said that, I still see how certain people can benefit by having 4G on their phone. It provides a reliable internet connection that is as fast as DSL. Sprint 4G also performed well during the daytime, when many other networks were bogged down with traffic.
I’ve seen people asking how Sprint 4G performed while moving and in-doors, so I tested that as well. I did not see any noticeable drop-off when using 4G in my apartment and I was still able to achieve the same 2 Mbps that I saw in all my outside testing. I was also able to measure download speeds of 2 Mbps while in a car doing 70 mph.
As I finish writing this post, I’m still questioning how important mobile speeds are to the average customer. I have been with T-Mobile the last two years (which was one of the slower networks in my city) and I have no complaints in my day-to-day use of my Android phone. Even when I was limited to 2G Edge, my Android phone still performed as I would expect it.
Do you think 4G data is worth the mandatory $10 a month? If you are a person who wants to upload a lot of video or share the internet connection with other devices, then yes. Owning a Sprint EVO 4G is like carrying around a a high-speed internet connection (DSL like) in your pocket.
To end on a positive note, other users have been able to achieve greater download speeds in other states. Our friend Dylan Anderson measured an impressive download speed of 4.3 Mbps when testing in California.
Keep in mind this phone has not even shipped yet and speeds could improve over time. Carriers routinely update these phones over the air with new firmware and radio images, which enhance performance.