Is The New iPad Faster In Australia?

We don't get a proper 4G experience for the new iPad in Australia, but we do get the promise of faster dual channel HSPA+ data connections. How well does this promise hold up? Gizmodo Australia hits the road to test out the real world results. While the new iPad carries a 4G designation on its box, the 4G frequencies it's seeking aren't compatible with any commercially available Australian 4G networks, and that's likely to be the case until at least 2015. What the new iPad does offer is dual channel HSPA+, a technology we've seen in a few other devices such as the HTC Velocity 4G -- although that's a phone that does work on Aussie 4G as well.

Is speed enough?

The issue of whether to upgrade or not upgrade if you're an existing iPad user is a tricky one, but the promise of faster data speeds does add a small incentive. That promise is no good if the data speeds you actually get don't happen in real life, so with that in mind, I set out to test the new iPad's HSPA+ chops.

Test parameters

For the purposes of this test, I used the same SIM (supplied by Telstra) across two iPads. One new (3rd Generation) iPad, and one original generation iPad. Why not an iPad 2? Simply because the iPad 2 I had access to was the Wi-Fi only version; you can't add a SIM card slot with a stanley knifeā€¦ although that would be an impressive hack if anybody braver than me is willing to try it.

The micro SIM was placed into each iPad in turn, and the Speedtest.net app used to determine a rough ping, download and upload rate. As with anything wireless there's a degree of variability at play; to minimise this each test was run three times and then averaged. It wasn't so much a question of raw speed in any case; I was more interested in the difference that dual channel HSPA+ could bring to an iPad owner, in much the same way that I tested 3G vs 4G recently.

First of all, I tested within Gizmodo's Sydney offices:

Device Average Ping (ms) Average Download (Mbps) Average Upload (Mbps)
iPad 95 0.48 0.22
iPad (3rd Generation) 54 2.37 0.02

Hmm. Not so good on either front, although the new iPad is quicker. Our offices are where stray bits of mobile signal go to die, though, so I headed outside to Circular Quay itself. A busy tourist location and still within the CBD, it's a good challenge for any mobile signal.

Device Average Ping (ms) Average Download (Mbps) Average Upload (Mbps)
iPad 195.6 3.29 0.21
iPad (3rd Generation) 77.33 7.28 0.08

Results were better for the new iPad, although that upload figure is still pretty woeful; despite Apple's claims this is indeed a better consumption device than it is a creation one!

My last Sydney CBD stop was on the steps of Town Hall station. A note for anyone who wants to do this kind of work: People look at you funny when you're fiddling with a Micro SIM removal tool on the steps of a public building.

Device Average Ping (ms) Average Download (Mbps) Average Upload (Mbps)
iPad 187 1.61 0.2
iPad (3rd Generation) 118 2.81 0.35

Again, signal was somewhat hard to come by -- and I'd deliberately chosen busy parts of the city at busy times of the day to simulate this -- but the new iPad bested the original.

Heading north, I tested in Hornsby; well out the hustle and bustle of the city.

Device Average Ping (ms) Average Download (Mbps) Average Upload (Mbps)
iPad 192 3.03 0.24
iPad (3rd Generation) 178 3.5 0.55

In a more suburban setting, the new iPad was still performing well.

A quick interstate trip also afforded me the chance to run some tests in Victoria. This involved heading out to Sydney Airport, so I tested there as well.

Device Average Ping (ms) Average Download (Mbps) Average Upload (Mbps)
iPad 219 3.87 0.22
iPad (3rd Generation) 79.6 15.54 0.82
Telstra USB 4G 38 33.67 16.99

The signal at Sydney Airport was the best I hit, hands down -- although being there at 6am undeniably played a part in that. For the purposes of comparison, I fired up a 4G Telstra USB Modem connected to the Macbook Air to see how a comparable 4G device might fare under the same conditions. The Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G would be the obvious tablet competitor, but it had gone back to Samsung, so the USB was the next best comparative tool I had.

In Victoria, I tested at Broadford Raceway; not exactly a central business district, but as close to a regional test as time and availability afforded me.

Device Average Ping (ms) Average Download (Mbps) Average Upload (Mbps)
iPad 264 0.73 0.04
iPad (3rd Generation) 150 3.74 0.44

Again we're back in slow speed territory, but the new iPad is outpacing the old by a significant margin, and the margin's really what I'm interested in here.

My last planned test was to be at Melbourne Airport, but there I hit a snag. Testing on Thursday afternoon at 5pm, I was unable to get any kind of data signal on either iPad, the 4G USB connection or even my own phone. All around me sat frustrated businessmen; I clearly wasn't alone in wanting some data connectivity and getting none.

Device Average Ping (ms) Average Download (Mbps) Average Upload (Mbps)
iPad Did Not Finish 0 0
iPad (3rd Generation) Did Not Finish 0 0

As such, technically speaking, Melbourne airport delivered the only dead heat in my tests -- but it's not the kind of result anyone would actually want, and a reminder that wireless can be incredibly variable.

What's the verdict?

It's pretty clear from these figures that the new iPad does deliver a faster data experience -- which should equate to quicker web pages, smoother video streaming for services like Moshcam, and faster data downloads generally -- but only as long as the data signal holds up.

It's faster than the original model, and some of the figures are extremely good, but it's still heavily beaten by the results I achieved with the Samsung Galaxy Tab 8.9 4G. Finally, Telstra -- could you arrange for just a bit more data signal out at Melbourne Airport?

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