UK vs US: Who has the best tech?

The US keeps telling us it's best at stuff like space and armies and that. But is it really bestest with technology? We launched our own non-explosive missile of investigation.

Ian Morris
6 min read

CNET UK loves America. Heck, some of our best friends are Americans. You might have heard of them. But we're fed up of Britain being treated like a straw-chewing yokel when it comes to tech. Sure, some of the biggest tech companies in the world are in the US, but we're beginning to suspect American geeks don't really have it any better in their day to day lives.

We wanted to settle it once and for all, so we looked at our most important technologies, and tried to work out which side of the Atlantic had the best setup. This isn't just about who makes the best things, it's about who implements them best.

Technology is like oxygen to us. Take it away, and we'll squirm around on the ground, flapping like a fish on the deck of a boat. So instead of holding our breath, we inhaled the whole globe of technology, and exhale the glorious gas of judgement for your benefit. 

So sit back, get your fingers at the ready for some furious moaning via the comments section, and enjoy an epic tech battle between one superpower and one former superpower.

Given it was a British man who basically invented the computer, you'd think we would be pretty good -- nay, world-class -- at making them today.


In the UK our computer industry ended with Amstrad and Sinclair computers during the 80s. After that the scene was dominated first by Atari and Commodore and then by Apple and Dell.

Now all that's left of the British computer industry are a few little companies that make computers for schools, like Lord Sir Alan Sugar's Viglen and RM. And that's fine if you're looking for a sensible PC, but not so good if you want something that's thin enough to fit in an envelope and sharp enough to cut the head off a zombie.

Result: US win

At first glance, this must seem like no sort of fight at all. The US wins hands-down, right?

Well, technically there are some broadband setups in the US of A that make us moist around the mouth. Take FiOS, for example, a fully fibre-optic service that delivers TV, telephone and Internet services to US homes. The top-speed broadband from Verizon is some 50Mbps with a 20Mbps upload, beating Virgin's top UK speed by quite a wide margin, at least with upload.

But there's a catch, and that's the cost. Expect to pay $140 per month for the top-tier FiOS service, which works out at a honking £88 per month. Virgin, on the other hand, is £38 per month for 50Mbps download and 5Mbps upload. A tad slower overall, but for half the price, we can't help but think we'll manage with a quarter of the upload speed.

We can't claim either country has a clear victory though, so it's a joint win. US and UK united once more through our love of burgers and high-speed Internet.

Result: Tie

In the US, the transition to digital TV was about moving over to high definition. In the UK, it was about trying to make pay TV work over the air. When it didn't, it was about making digital TV free, with as much choice as possible. Where the US has its major networks in HD over the air, the UK had more channels, but no HD.

From that, you'd have to say that it's a clear US win. After all, Freeview is stuffed with shopping channels and stations that claim to play music, but actually just seem to play constant Paris Hilton.

But early this year, HD launched on Freeview, meaning the UK has a generous selection of free, SD channels and the main networks represented in high definition.

So that's a clear win for jolly old Blighty right there, and that's before we've even invoked the name of the mighty BBC to bolster our argument.

Result: UK win

At first glance, it seems obvious to say the Yanks win this one too. After all, they've got Hoover, the most famous sucking product the world has ever seen.

But despite the eponymous nature of the Hoover, the company hasn't done very much to advance the world of sucking since housewives jumped off their chairs, squished the mice that had been pestering them and went out to earn more money than their husbands.

These days, vacuuming is all about the Dyson and its fancy balls and ability to absorb dirt faster than a bored commuter with the Holy Moly app on their phone. And it's with good reason too. When the Dyson first launched the DC01, homemakers the country over laughed at its gaudy colour and clear plastic dust collector. Then they stopped laughing, and started hoovering -- sorry -- Dysoning up all manner of things festooned around their filthy flats.

Spiders cower in fear of the cyclone technology, dust is pulled halfway across the room by the might of the Dyson vacuum and it's turned cleaning from an arduous chore into the sort of power-crazed man-festival Jeremy Clarkson would endorse.

Result: The UK sucks best

If you can find a more insular industry than Hollywood, do let us know. Because of the way the US movie industry works, the only place it's really possible to stream movies with any quality of service is the US.

LoveFilm tries, bless it, but the film selection available to stream is pretty thin and the quality is a massive disappointment too. We're going to blame those evil pigs in the film business for their deliberate shenanigans and foot-dragging.

In the US, Netflix is about to start streaming 1080p video to the PS3, with other devices getting access to a 720p stream. Which sort of invalidates our blaming Hollywood somewhat, although we're still going to push forward with a xenophobia angle. That's right Hollywood, you clearly hate the British. Is it because of the Carry On films?

Result: It's a flippin' US win, isn't it

When it comes to mobiles, the US is arguably leading the way -- after all, it's the birthplace of the iPhone.

But that doesn't cut it for us, frankly. Here in the rain-soaked UK, we have better mobile phone networks, much better coverage -- this island is tiny, so it would be embarrassing if we didn't -- and far lower costs.

We get Internet access included in our contracts, plus copious text messages and a number of voice minutes that even the most tedious teenage girl couldn't yap her way through. And, for the most part, you can get all that for £25 per month.

We've also got GSM, which allows us more flexibility to switch phones -- using a SIM card -- than the CDMA carriers in the US. America has some GSM carriers too, but not as many.

Sure, our service providers might owe £6bn in allegedly unpaid tax, or refuse to admit they don't know what the word unlimited means, but the UK still has an advantage over the US in mobile phones.

Result: In spite of O2 and Vodafone, a UK win


Well colour us surprised if the UK didn't emerge victorious! We may have worse teeth -- we prefer to call them 'natural' -- and aircraft carriers that will float magnificently upon the waves, unencumbered by actual aircraft, but we do have the upper hand in technology. At least, we do in this article, with its cleverly selected items.

So there, United States. We may have a special relationship, but we suck harder than you, our mobile phones are better and our digital TV is brilliant -- if you exclude the programming, which is a bit heavy on boring soaps and provincial reality TV for our liking.