While it's impossible to account for every conceivable variable when testing a device, having offices around the world affords CNET the unique opportunity to, at the very least, get an idea of how different networks in different countries can affect a device's performance. We chose the iPad as our first test guinea pig.
We tested the cellular speed of Apple's new iPad in four different cities: San Francisco, London, Singapore, and Sydney.
The first test used the Speedtest.net app to test theoretical download speeds measured in megabits per second. The country whose iPad achieves the highest number wins the test. OK, I guess you can't really "win" a test, unless it's a con-test!! Yeah, so this wasn't just a test, but also became a friendly competition between countries.
Ah, but synthetic benchmarks -- where theoretical maximums are sometimes easily achieved -- are one thing and real-world tests, something completely different.
To get an idea of real-world performance, each territory downloaded the same YouTube video. The first country to buffer the entire movie (as indicated by the light gray bar) won the second (con)test.
We used Verizon's 4G LTE network to test in San Francisco, but didn't actually test in front of the Golden Gate Bridge as the service in that particular area was pretty crappy. We instead found an area that gave us full bars and tested there.
Unfortunately, the iPad isn't compatible with 4G networks in every country and alternative networks had to be found. In Singapore we used M1's HSPA+ network. London went with Vodafone, and Telstra's Next G network powered the tests in Australia.
We understand that these tests didn't account for all the thousands (or likely, millions) of variables one could encounter when using these devices in said countries; however, it does make for a fun and interesting way to provide you guys with at least an idea of what to expect from these networks when taking your iPad abroad. The opportunity for national bragging rights is kind of bonus.