WiMAX Performance

When I reviewed the original Sprint EVO 4G I came away unimpressed with the carrier's WiMAX deployment in Raleigh, NC. Speeds were inconsistent at best and peak performance wasn't that much better than what I could get on AT&T's HSPA network. A year later, consistency is still an issue. Speeds vary wildly from only a couple hundred Kbps all the way up to several Mbps, even while remaining stationary!

Just yesterday I encountered a several hour period of time (across multiple towers) where I couldn't get more than 200Kbps down on either device. These complaints may be limited to the Raleigh, NC area but it's still something worth investigating ahead of any purchase.

When the network is behaving properly however, WiMAX is worlds better than Sprint's EVDO. Around here I max out at 800Kbps on EVDO and average south of 500Kbps. WiMAX at least gets me north of 1Mbps and sometimes a lot higher.

The EVO 3D and Photon 4G vary drastically when it comes to performance on WiMAX. The EVO 3D uses a Sequans SQN1210 WiMAX solution while the Photon 4G uses a chip from Beceem (now Broadcom). In areas with good signal the EVO 3D generally delivers higher performance. I ran nearly 50 speed tests on both phones at the exact same time at the exact same location (even varying which hand I held each device in). The results are below:

Downstream there's a pretty big difference between the EVO and Photon. While the Photon 4G maxed out at around 5Mbps, the EVO 3D could hit 9Mbps on WiMAX - the fastest I've ever seen on a WiMAX device in Raleigh. Admittedly the 8 - 9Mbps numbers were rare, but the EVO did consistently better than the Photon when it had good signal strength.

Unfortunately the EVO 3D has a difficult time holding on to a weak WiMAX signal. I'm around 1.5 miles away from the nearest WiMAX tower but only the Photon can consistently hold onto its signal from here. Even driving over to my parents' house which is nearly at the half-way point between me and the tower isn't enough for the EVO 3D to stay connected consistently. There are a lot of trees in Raleigh and quite a few of them are between both houses and the tower. WiMAX has notoriously bad signal propagation characteristics as a result of its very high frequency (2.5GHz). All of that considered, the Photon still holds onto a WiMAX signal better than the EVO 3D - at least in my experience.

I don't have an activated EVO 4G on hand, but if things didn't get worse in the past year for WiMAX reception at my house I'd go as far as to say that the EVO 3D isn't as good as its predecessor when it comes to staying on WiMAX at the fringe.

Because of the EVO 3D's inability to remain on WiMAX consistently at my house I wasn't able to complete a single run of our WiMAX battery life test. The Photon completed the test without issue, but the EVO 4G would consistently drop off WiMAX and fall back to 3G. I briefly considered hiding the EVO 4G next to the WiMAX tower for the duration of the test but figured it'd be better not to risk the review sample getting stolen.

Again we find ourselves in a difficult position with these two phones. If you're in an area with great WiMAX coverage, the EVO 3D is the better performer. If you don't have great WiMAX reception where you plan on using your phone the most, the Photon 4G is clearly better.

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  • RaLX - Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - link

    Pentile RGBW blows and it's worse than Pentile AMOLED because at least the latter has great contrast and colors...

    Are yellows in Photon as bad as in Atrix where they look like brown tinted and uncalibrated?
  • JayQ330 - Saturday, August 27, 2011 - link

    you havent seen the photon's screen its not the same atrix or droid x2 screen you might of seen or read of, how about you read another review from engadget, *everyone knows engadget is biased & only love the iphone, but even they couldnt deny the photons great specs* the plastic feel of the photon? the photon is the most solid, high quality & very detailed android phones released. read other reviews than this one , this is the only review where they said nothing good of the photon. quadrant scores of 2900 to 3100 * those are my scores * most websites report 2900 to 3000 & thats witch a qHD screen! also its only a 1ghz dual core saving much battery & its rgbw pixels save more than 40% battery than average lcd & more than 70% compared to amoled plus. another thing about the screen it seems to be a newer version of samsungs rgbw pentile tech *yes samsung makes that screen* because its not pixelated, no ghosting effect & the colors are better than super lcd while its contrast & blacks are comparable to super amoled..i owned a galaxy s so i know. even ifag sites reviewed the phone & said that the screen is second only to the retina screen which means allot coming from them. you cant see the pixels especially in blacks thats how good the contrast is & its not a washed out black its ink darkness. besides the resolution & not having a virtual keypad that takes up half the screen space because of its higher res screen which is better for any app that you need to text in & any app period. super lcd is already up there with amoled plus do your research before becoming emotionally attached & being worst than ifan boys. besides the tegra 2 is a better more efficient soc than the exynos want proof? look at all the quadrant & antutu scores they're all overclocked to 1.5 ghz! & a droid x2 with half the ram higher resolution and android 2.2 gets higher scores in antutu in graphics & only 200 less points in quadrant. a and heres a better one the galaxy R with its 1 ghz tegra 2 soc gets 3600 in quadrant while the 1.2 ghz exynos gets a 3400 in quadrant! 200 mhz more & still gets less? i guess the lower resolution screen wasnt enough to beat the galaxy R? seriously like a phone for what it can do not what your emotions tell you to do, that a girls job. Reply
  • Alchemy69 - Wednesday, August 17, 2011 - link

    With the Samsung Galaxy S II just around the corner why choose either? Reply
  • IKeelU - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    [Im]patiently awaiting Galaxy S II review... Reply
  • anindrew - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    Exactly! Samsung is supposed to have a big announcement/press release on August 29th. Considering the image they're using for the event has the Roman Numeral II on it and the fact that Samsung's CEO made a statement about the GS2 being released by the end of August, it seems that the GS2 will be released in the very near future.

    As a Sprint customer who is eligible for a new phone in October, I'm planning to get the GS2 rather than either of the two phones in this review. I'm looking forward to seeing a review of the GS2 on anandtech, especially if it compares the performance on each network. The phones should be nearly identical hardware-wise.
  • jnads - Thursday, August 25, 2011 - link

    Because Samsung software support blows.

    The Moment never got Froyo, and got EOL'ed after less than a year. The Intercept got EOL'ed and won't get Gingerbread.

    The Galaxy S phones _STILL_ don't have Gingerbread 8 months after it was released.

    Do you really want a Galaxy S II, knowing you'll never see Android Ice Cream?
  • g1011999 - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    The two cores share a "512MB" L2 cache but have a dual-channel memory interface. Reply
  • Anand Lal Shimpi - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    Fixed! Thank you :)

    Take care,
  • Vishnu NS - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    In the second paragraph, on the last line, you have written "the two cores share 512 MB of L2 cache...."

    A good read as always...!!
  • jjj - Thursday, August 18, 2011 - link

    no WIFI perf or even specs ? Reply

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