CNET editor Dong Ngo stacks the Verizon version of the new iPad against AT&T’s counterpart and finds that the fast 4G speeds make mobile users the winners.
Picking different servers in testing will affect the result a great deal. Nevertheless, for the most part true 4G connections are generally more than fast enough for tablet users. (Credit: Dong Ngo/CNET)
Despite its mundane and nondescriptive name, the new iPad (third generation) is actually the first 4G device from Apple.
The iPhone 4S and the iPhone 4 are both 3G devices. The fact that iOS 5.1 makes AT&T’siPhone 4S show a 4G signal only makes it more confusing and now you probably don’t knowwhat 4G is anymore.
I do, however. How, you might ask? Well, it’s simple: 4G is fast, and putting a Ferrari logo on your Honda Civic won’t make it a racing car. No offense to the Civic; it’s great on gas, but it’s speed we’re talking about here. So let me say this once again: the new iPad is the first 4G device from Apple.
A couple of months ago, I had a chance to roam around San Francisco with the new iPhone 4S from all supported carriers and found that none offered cellular Internet speeds even close to those of the slowest 4G device. Now, I just did the same thing with the new iPad, both AT&T and Verizon versions, and it was quite the opposite story.
How it was tested
It’s necessary to say that cellular Internet speeds vary greatly from one location to another. This is because cell towers are scattered, and when many devices are connected to a tower, each will get a smaller portion of the service. This means that even at the same location, the speed might also change at a different time of day.
That’s why it’s very hard to have a good sense of how fast a cellular connection is. In an effort to get the most representative samples, I picked three well-populated locations around San Francisco, including CNET’s headquarters near the Financial District, the Pier 39 area, and Union Square.
At each place, I did the testing three times, but unlike with the iPhone 4GS, I tested the new iPad each time about 30 minutes apart from another by driving around those places between each round of testing. While this was more time consuming, it helped make the average number similar to what you’ll likely experience, since different times of day are factored in.
For the testing, I used the Speedtest.net mobile app, which is not designed for the iPad’s screen, but since it’s not a game, that won’t be a problem. For each test, I picked the same and closest server for each device.
In addition to the Verizon iPad, I also used an iPhone 4 to test the speed of the Personal Hotspot feature, which allows the iPad to work as a mobile hot spot and share its cellular 4G connection with other Wi-Fi devices. The AT&T version of the new iPad doesn’t offer the Personal Hotspot feature.
Keep in mind that these tests only evaluate data speeds for these devices in San Francisco and are not designed to be representative of data speeds you’ll find in your area. However, they at least should show how the data speeds compare between each carrier’s version of the iPad, as well as the speed the Verizon iPad’s hot-spot feature offers.
Unlike the iPhone 4S, where the connection speeds changed significantly at the same location, the iPad showed much more consistent speeds at one location. They did change a great deal from one location to another, however.
Read more: New iPad 4G real-world speed test: You’re the winner