- Marques Brownlee, also known as “MKBHD,” is one of the most popular tech reviewers on the planet with over 9.2 million subscribers on YouTube.
- Brownlee recently visited Providence, Rhode Island, to test 5G using Samsung’s $US1,600 5G-enabled Galaxy S10 Plus.
- While he was happy to see incredibly fast download speeds on his phone, he noticed lots of inconsistencies with 5G and pointed out several drawbacks to the technology.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
5G, the next-generation wireless network technology, is everywhere right now.
Carriers around the US like Verizon, T-Mobile, and AT&T are advertising their new 5G networks. There are also a bunch of new smartphones with 5G-enabled variants: There’s the Samsung Galaxy S10 Plus 5G, the Galaxy Note 10 Plus 5G, and the OnePlus 7 Pro 5G. The LG V50 Thinq, Moto Z3 and Z4, and several Huawei phones also have 5G versions.
5G is exciting. But it’s not ready yet.
Marques Brownlee is one of the most popular tech reviewers on the planet – for good reason. His videos are well-made and straightforward, and he’ll often demonstrate real-world applications to argue for why a new technology is worth buying into or skipping altogether. One of his latest videos, where he visits a city to test 5G for himself, is a perfect example of his direct approach cutting through the noise.
Brownlee visited Providence, Rhode Island – the closest city to him that supports 5G – to see whether or not the hype around 5G is warranted, and whether it’s worth buying into right now. He purchased a brand-new, $US1,600 Galaxy S10 Plus that supports 5G for this trip. What he found when he got there was really interesting: While peak download speeds were off the charts, connectivity wasn’t perfect, and there are a lot of actual, physical barriers that 5G must overcome before it can become ubiquitous.
Brownlee drove to Providence, Rhode Island, since it’s the closest city to him that supports Verizon’s growing 5G network. He bought a Galaxy S10 Plus 5G to test it out.
As is the case with many of the first 5G cities, Providence isn’t fully covered just yet. Only small pockets in the city have 5G nodes available.
Brownlee found an area close to Brown University that had a few 5G nodes at the top of a light pole, which is where he did most of his testing.
For his first test, Brownlee stood directly underneath the 5G nodes.
The top of his phone changed to reflect he was being covered by the 5G network.
His first speed test was off the charts. Using the SpeedTest app from Ookla, Brownlee got download speeds well over 1 gigabit per second.
Using a different speed test, from Fast.com, Brownlee actually got over 2 gigabits per second.
YouTube videos loaded instantly, with no buffering.
He downloaded a whole episode of “Stranger Things” to his phone in four seconds!
The story changed, however, when Brownlee walked halfway down the block and stopped around the corner of a building.
Download speeds were significantly slower just around the corner — about one-sixth the speeds he was getting when he stood directly under the 5G nodes.
As Brownlee demonstrated in his real-world test, physical barriers can impede the signal for 5G, which operates at a different frequency than 3G or 4G. While 5G is super fast, it can’t travel long distances, or pass perfectly through obstacles like trees, walls, or buildings.
That means you can be on the same street as a 5G node, but if you don’t have an ideal line of sight between your device and the hub, your signal will be weaker, and speeds will be degraded.
Brownlee said he was frustrated with the inconsistency of the network, which would repeatedly bounce between 4G and 5G.
The speeds weren’t bad by 4G standards, but considering how close he was to the 5G nodes, with his expensive 5G phone, it’s easy to understand the frustration. 4G speeds are but a tiny fraction of what’s possible with 5G.
No matter where he stood, though, upload speeds couldn’t match the impressive download speeds, even in ideal conditions. “My dream of uploading an 8K YouTube video in five seconds, or going live streaming high-resolution VR, are not possible yet,” he said.
Battery life and temperature were two other concerns Brownlee had with his phone specifically. He said the Galaxy S10 Plus was “warm” throughout testing, even when he was only watching YouTube videos, and said that four hours of testing killed about 50% of the battery life off his phone.
Keep in mind: Every city and every network will behave differently, as carriers are rolling out more nodes in more cities all the time, and some of Brownlee’s issues could be specific to the phone model, and Verizon network, he was using to test. But based on his experience, Brownlee said he “wouldn’t spend extra money on 5G, right now, in 2019.”
The simple fact is, given the limitations of 5G, telecommunications companies and carriers will have to build and install hundreds, if not thousands or millions, of little 5G nodes around every city in order to cover the whole area. And that’s going to take a ton of money, and a whole lot of time – likely years.
Brownlee compared 5G to folding smartphones in 2019: “Clearly not ready yet, but when you use it, and you get just the right use case and you’re at just the right space, you get this amazing little glimpse into the future that you wish was ready for right now because it’s so great. But it’s not. Currently, the cons outweigh the pros.”
I highly recommend watching Brownlee’s entire explainer for 5G, which includes his trip to Providence and his analysis of the other pros and cons about using 5G in a city where it’s available.
You should also check out Brownlee’s YouTube channel.
What do you think of 5G? Have you tried it yet with one of your current devices, or do you plan on buying a device that supports 5G within the next year? We’d love to hear from you. Shoot me an email at [email protected]
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