Cellular & WiFi Performance

The Epic 4G is the second smartphone we’ve reviewed that has a WiMAX radio for use on Sprint’s 4G network. This is actually why I’m reviewing the phone and not Brian, Raleigh, NC happens to be one of the 40 US cities with Sprint WiMAX coverage.

Those of you who read my EVO 4G review will remember that I did’t have the best experience with WiMAX in Raleigh back then. I’m sorry to say that the situation hasn’t really improved much since.

The best download speeds I’ve seen are still in the low 3Mbps range, and upload is usually stuck around 1Mbps while on 4G. On a good day, AT&T’s 3G network is anywhere from 1 - 2Mbps down and 1 - 1.5Mbps up in my area. As with the EVO 4G, Sprint charges a mandatory $10 per month Premium Data fee for 4G support regardless of whether or not you use it.

The other issue is consistency. I usually don’t get those 3/1 numbers, often times I’ll see speeds more like 1/1 or 1/0.5Mbps. I’m always seeing screenshots of users in other WiMAX areas with speeds 2 - 3x my best case in Raleigh, so this may just be a problem with coverage in Raleigh. Either way I’d suggest looking into what to expect in your area before making a decision based on 4G alone.


Speedtest Results for the Epic 4G, all results on 4G except for the topmost result

I will say that I no longer have the problem where 4G performance is worse than Sprint’s 3G in my area. I usually get around 0.5/0.5Mbps on 3G, so there’s a noticeable performance increase when WiMAX is enabled.

And just as was the case with the EVO 4G, 4G isn’t actually more of a battery drain as long as you’re stationary. If you have it enabled while you’re moving around (rather than just turning it on once you’ve gotten to a location) you’ll see a drop in battery life.

Whether or not Sprint itself is a good network for you depends entirely on coverage in your area. In my experience, AT&T is usually either great or absolutely horrible - there’s very little in between. While Sprint (and Verizon) are consistently good. Compared to areas with great AT&T coverage, Sprint can’t compete in performance - but where AT&T’s coverage is weak, Sprint’s average performance is usually better. Awesome occasionally or consistently reliable - those are the two choices it seems.

WiFi performance was better than the Motorola Droid X and the Nexus One, but behind the iPhone 4.

Like all other smartphones we’ve reviewed, the Epic 4G’s cellular signal does attenuate based on how you hold the phone. Given the sheer thickness of the device it’s harder to get the large signal drops by holding the phone that we see on thinner devices.

Signal Attenuation Comparison in dB - Lower is Better
  Cupping Tightly Holding Naturally On an Open Palm
Samsung Epic 4G 10.0 5.0 0.0
Droid X 15.0 5.1 4.5
iPhone 4 24.6 19.8 9.2
iPhone 3GS 14.3 1.9 0.2
HTC Nexus One 17.7 10.7 6.7

The biggest drop I noticed was 5 dB when I held the phone normally, and 10 dB when I held it tightly trying to cover as much of the antenna as possible with my hands. This is in line with other Android smartphones (actually a bit better), and obviously better than the iPhone 4.

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  • medi01 - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    Java's JIT could create code that is faster than C/C++. Because unlike C++ compiler, it also has runtime info about executables, it could know for sure, which of the if branches is more likely to be true, for instance.

    The only part of Java that was much slower than C++ was (and I think still is) sin/cos related functions. Since Sun had to guarantee "runs anywhere" with the exactly the same results, instead of using CPU's features they "manually" calculate it.
    Reply
  • Voo - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    Well java WAS slow - around ten years ago, but people have already made up their mind, it's hard to get new ideas into some heads. Though the lack of a JIT in dalvik hampered performance, but that's hardly something where you can blame the language for..

    Ah, just like all those people who still believe that manual memory managment is inherently faster than GC..
    Reply
  • medi01 - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    Java is not inherently slower than C++, but it does need more memory.

    The problem with Androids up to 2.2 was Dalvik VM that had no JIT.
    Reply
  • designerfx - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    what a brilliant troll, or accidental. I'm not sure, but plenty of debunked this.

    What really brings down the entire samsung line of phones is that the GPS is horrible. I have one myself, and have the same issue on the vibrant as on the epic. Samsung really screwed the GPS up bigtime.
    Reply
  • lwatcdr - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    Well when faced with such a brilliant technical argument like "but Java sucks. Big time" what can one say.
    http://www.cnn.com/2004/TECH/space/01/16/space.mar...
    Is an article from back in 2004 about how those idiots at NASA used Java to control the Spirit rover on Mars.
    If only they had you available to show them how to do right.

    Man I get sick of this crap. I heard the same thing way back when. People complaining when programmers used high level languages to write programs instead of assembly.
    The thing is that it was all silliness just as it is now.
    What really counts isn't the language but the programmer using it.

    Android's speed issues tend to because by.
    1. Not using the GPU for the UI
    2. Using multitasking from the start.

    IOS has only just now gotten official multitasking and even that is limited.

    But really just drop the
    Reply
  • Iksy - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    Umm... to be clear, this is just the user interface used on Earth, which is something Java does well. The rovers themseves are controlled using VxWorks RTOS. VxWorks itself is written in C or C++ I believe. Reply
  • Ethaniel - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    Well, it's not the kind of technical argument everyone would like, but it gets to the point. Anand reviewed like half a dozen of Android phones, all with the same problem. So, or the companies are making exactly the same mistake with each and every model they launch, or Java is to blame. And no, I'm not trolling because I do want to Android to succeed. A troll is based on hate, and it usually doesn't check back the thread he/she started. And you haven't seen a single insult in this thread, right? ;) Reply
  • ktwebb - Monday, September 06, 2010 - link

    Sounds like an IPhone Fanboy that is trying his best to be subjective. Samsung actually did not get it right performance wise. They use an antiquated and slow file system. For a pleasurable UI experience on Android, the N1 is still king, especially on 2.2. The only way the samsung galaxy variants fly is with root access and ext2, 3 or 4 fixes. there are GPS fixes as well however where Samsung let down actually is in the UI with Touchwiz and their ridiculous homage to Apple. No wonder this twit liked it. Android people IMMEDIATELY change the launcher. Anyway, the Hardware on the Galaxy S is excellent. Samsung did their best to eff it up and only with tweaks and root level access is it a really strong phone. Google and Androids main problem is OS sprawl and fragmentation. They get that cleaned up and the IPhone 4 is a distant second mobile OS. Right now, with the clear advantages Android phones have, specifically customization and an open source community among others, it's essentially a wash. It's about what you prefer and are comfortable with. I'm an Android guy because I like to make my phone do what I want it to, not what Jobs wants my phone to be. Reply
  • StealthX32 - Monday, September 06, 2010 - link

    ktwebb, I don't think Anand reviewed it w/ the ext2 FS hack/fix (whatever you want to call it). The UI speed is fine from the factory; it's much better than the EVO 4G (even with Froyo) and on par w/ the N1, just not as good as it *could* be once you root it and fix the filesystem. Reply
  • ktwebb - Tuesday, September 07, 2010 - link

    N1 Froyo is faster than stock Galaxy S Variants. And yeah, he didn't review with hacks and I certainly understand why he wouldn't. Shouldn't need them. But that is a Samsung issue, not Android. Samsung has the potential for a very good handset with the Galaxy S. They are trying their best to eff it up though. I haven't played with the EVO but had android phones since the G1 inception. The N1 was the best UI experience after Froyo was pushed. And far better than any IPHone I've used, although my experience with 4 is limited. Reply

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