Two years ago, when I tried out the original iPhone, I was successful in using it in a local large park, a couple miles from my home. So, I knew when trying out the Pre and the 3GS, I needed to make a return trip and test the speed and browsing from a friendly picnic table. One reason this is a good location is the presence of a cell site atop a nearby water tower just south of the park. Cell service in the park is generally very good.
So, what did I discover? For starters, both phones showed 5 bars and the EV/3G indicators on. I fired up the browsers and loaded the iconic NYTimes.com Web site, and got timings of 28 seconds on the Pre and 21 seconds on the 3GS. I also loaded GasBuddy.com, a site I visit every day. Again the 3GS bested the Pre 16 seconds to 33. I also ran several mobile speed tests (downloading a random file) from DSLReports.com. Here it got more interesting. On the Pre, I got speeds (in kbps) of 444, 654, 685, and 229. On the 3GS, the results were: fail, 804, 989, 215, fail, fail. So, while it achieved higher speeds at times, the iPhone (on AT&T) also failed to connect half the time!! This is similar to the experience that PC World got in it's tests, (wherein AT&T failed to connect about 1/3 of the time.
This was a quiet Friday night with hardly anyone in town! What would happen when the circuits are busy? The AT&T network seems shakey, at best.