Home' LAPTOP Magazine : December 2010 Contents Hotspot Smart
We put six devices to the test to see which
one delivers the best speeds.
by Mark Spoonauer
With so many great features packed into
smart phones these days---whether it's
blazing processors, social networking
integration, or HD video recording---one thing
that isn't being talked about enough is mobile
hotspot integration. A mobile hotspot app allows
a smart phone's data connection to create a Wi-Fi
network for multiple devices at once, including a
digital camera, iPad, laptop, or portable media
player. Since you'll pay anywhere from $20 to
$30 extra per month for this convenience, we
wanted to know: Which of these phones provides
the best speeds?
As of this writing, only Sprint and Verizon Wireless
offered mobile hotspot phones, so we took two of
Sprint's handsets and four of Verizon's for a test
drive in two locations in New York City using their
3G networks. In Sprint's case, we also used its 4G
network, which provides a huge speed boost and
is finally becoming available in large cities such
as New York and San Francisco.
Ready to bathe your Wi-Fi gear in mobile
broadband goodness? Let's get it on!
SELECTION AND COST OF SERVICE
On Verizon Wireless, smart phones with mobile
hotspot capability include the HTC Droid Incred-
ible, Motorola Droid 2, Motorola Droid X, Palm
Pixi Plus, Palm Pre Plus, and Samsung Fascinate.
We decided to scratch Palm's offerings from our
testing because they are the two oldest devices
of the bunch. Most of the Verizon Wireless phones
enable connectivity for as many as five devices at
once. The service costs $20 per month for 2GB of
data. If you go over, it will cost you a whopping
$50 per additional gigabyte.
Sprint currently offers two phones with hotspot
functionality, the HTC Evo 4G and Samsung Epic
4G. The carrier charges $30 for its service, but
the data is truly unlimited. If you live in a 4G
area, the data speeds might be good enough to
kick your current ISP to the curb. We say "might"
because Mobile WiMax doesn't penetrate build-
ings that well.
HOW WE TESTED
We used the Toshiba Satellite A665 notebook as our
test Wi-Fi device. To measure data performance,
we used Speedtest.net, averaging the download
and upload speeds after three tests each in two
locations. In addition, we downloaded four popular
websites via Google Chrome three times in each
location and averaged the time it took for them
to fully load. The sites included CNN.com, ESPN
.com, NYTimes.com, and Laptopmag.com.
For pure data speeds, the HTC Droid Incredible
came in first for downloads and uploads over 3G.
The Samsung Fascinate had the slowest average
download speed, while the slowest upload speeds
over 3G came from the Evo 4G. However, the Epic
4G's uploads weren't much better.
If you live in an area with 4G coverage (61
markets and counting), you'll love the Evo 4G and
Epic 4G. In lower Manhattan, one of a handful of
New York City locations that had 4G turned on
during our testing, we achieved a lightning-fast
average download speed of 5.1 Mbps on the Evo
4G. The Epic 4G maxed out at 2.6 Mbps, which
is about half as fast as the Evo 4G, but still more
than double the speed of several other hotspot
phones using 3G only. Upload speeds over 4G
were dramatically better for these phones than
with 3G, with the Evo 4G jumping to 880 Kbps
and the Epic 4G reaching nearly 1 Mbps. Only
the HTC Incredible came close over 3G.
So how about web surfing? Over 3G, the Droid 2
delivered the fastest average time, narrowly beating
the HTC Incredible. The Evo and Epic brought up the
rear. However, the Evo 4G blew past the field when
we turned on 4G, turning in an average download
time of 3.7 seconds. The Epic 4G improved to 5
seconds over 4G, but that time still trails the Droid
2, Fascinate, and Incredible.
If you're looking for a good mobile hotspot phone,
we'd say that the HTC Incredible is your best bet on
Verizon Wireless because of its superior download
and upload speeds. However, the Droid 2 is also
a good choice because of its zippy web page
Overall, though, Sprint's Evo 4G impresses us
most. This 4.3-inch powerhouse offers blazing
performance over 4G with download speeds that
are much faster than any 3G phone, and its 3G
downloads were quite good as well. Plus, 4G is
coming to even more cities by the end of the year.
The only downside to the Evo 4G is its sluggish
uploads over 3G.
Yes, you pay $10 more for the hotspot plan
on Sprint, and that's on top of the $10 premium
data fee for regular data usage. However, unlike
Verizon Wireless, the data is unlimited, and the
total cost per month when you add in 450 voice
minutes and included text messages is comparable
to Verizon's plans.
LAPTOP | December 2010
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