Sprint's 4G network is currently live in 31 cities but will expand the service with partner Clearwire to Miami, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Cleveland, Pittsburgh, Salt Lake City, New York City, Houston, Boston, Washington, D.C., Kansas City, Denver, Minneapolis, and the San Francisco Bay Area by the end of this year, at which point Sprint says its 4G network will cover 120 million people. If you don't live in one of these cities or wander out of a coverage zone, the Overdrive will switch to 3G. Sprint says its 4G network can provide wireless speeds of up to 10 times faster than today's 3G, with average download speeds ranging from 3Mbps to 6Mbps, compared with 3G's 600kbps to 1.7Mbps.
We tested the Sprint Overdrive in Las Vegas during CTIA 2010. Based on five tests using Speedtest.net, the Overdrive averaged download speeds of 2.61Mbps and upload speeds of 0.2Mbps; a 3.46MB photo took 1 minute and 40 seconds to upload with a signal strength of -45dBm. For comparison's sake, the Verizon Wireless MiFi offered around 1,000Kbps download and 500Kbps upload, and the Sprint Sierra Wireless 598U USB stick averaged 890Kbps for download speeds and 381Kbps for upload speeds.
The Overdrive came in quite handy during our week at CTIA, providing reliable 4G coverage and good speeds. It actually saved our sanity on more than one occasion when our hotel's Wi-Fi slowed to a crawl and in fact, we had completely switched to just using the Overdrive. Hopefully, Sprint will continue to roll out its WiMax network at a steady pace so others can enjoy the benefit of the Overdrive soon. Our only major complaint is about battery life. It's rated for 3 hours of continuous use (1.5 days of standby time), which is pretty much what we got on a single charge, but that isn't much, so keep your charger handy.