Which is the fastest US network? It's complicated

Smartphones and tablets are faster and more capable than ever, but without a similarly speedy internet connection – usually LTE – they're still hamstrung. Unfortunately carrier maps are generally more interested in breadth of coverage than quality, hence third-party testing has stepped in to help answer the question of "Which US carrier is the best?" As you might expect, though, the results are complicated.

Overall, Verizon's LTE network takes the top spot in the PC Mag tests. Visiting thirty cities across the USA to check out the four main carriers for mobile data performance, the testing logged 20,000 miles and 90,000 data cycles to figure out which network worked best in each area.

It's that variation between areas which makes things tricky, of course. Verizon's broad LTE deployment means that it takes the top spot for the US overall, with wide coverage outside of the main cities helping push it to the top.

Overall, Verizon's LTE network saw average download rates of 19.6 Mbps, and upload rates of 9.3 Mbps.

Individually, though, the answers aren't so clean-cut: in short, it very much depends on where you live or work. In San Francisco, for instance, T-Mobile's LTE network and fast HSPA+ coverage outside of that meant that it was the best option. It managed 26 Mbps downloads and 11.8 Mbps uploads, on average.

Go to New York, however, and Verizon keeps the crown: in fact, T-Mobile LTE there was in the same ballpark as in San Francisco, but Verizon's XLTE delivered a whopping 31.1 Mbps down and 17.1 Mbps up, on average.

In short, having a recent phone with support for the fastest 4G technologies, and doing some homework on which network is strongest, looks to be the best path to mobile nirvana. Verizon and T-Mobile looking undoubtedly the strongest for most, however.