Google Samsung Galaxy Nexus Review

Another quarter, another superphone. This time it’s the Google Samsung Galaxy Nexus, with its pimped out 4.6” 1280×720 Super AMOLED display and the tasty Ice Cream Sandwich update to Android. How does it stack up to the recent competition, you might wonder, read on to find out!

I’ve had this shiny device in my hands for a little over a week now and find myself somewhat disappointed. To give you context, I had been the proud owner of a Samsung Galaxy S2 up until Wednesday last week and passed that down my family tree. I’m kind of regretting that decision.

There is no question that the Galaxy Nexus possesses what can only be described as an amazing screen. It’s bright, vivid, and sharp as they come. However, for those of us who are highly aware of the pentile layout’s shortcomings, it is not perfect. If you have no idea what pentile is, the image below might help clear things up. Essentially, the pentile matrix is a different way of arranging the sub-pixel types and is easier to mass produce. Unfortunately, a downside is that it can create visual artifacts that are unpleasant. The resolution is so high on the Nexus that it is hard to see these artifacts, but they do nevertheless exist if you look close enough.

The speed of the Nexus is one of my main gripes. It sports a 1.2GHz TI OMAP processor along with a PowerVR SGX540 GPU. These are both sub-par when compared to the specs of the Samsung Galaxy S2. As a result one might expect a minor speed decrease. However, the higher resolution of the Nexus actually means that the GPU needs to drive more than twice as many pixels. Let me be clear – the Samsung Galaxy S2 is butter smooth. The Galaxy Nexus is NOT. It stutters and it lags, it takes too long to load contacts and web browsing can be slow if the page is large.

The camera is also not that great. The zero shutter lag is a nice touch, but it’s hard to take a sharp photo – you need to hold it perfectly still. The flash also produces unnatural colors – every person I’ve photographed in low light ended up looking a sickly alien green! Comparing this camera to the SGS2, there is no contest. The SGS2 produces beautiful images, sharp, colorful, and the flash does a good job. Keep the S2 if you have one!

The loudspeaker is too soft, but otherwise sounds good. Call quality has been just fine, and I feel like I’ve been experiencing less missed calls than with my S2.

Battery life has been decent – better than my SGS2, but not amazing. Basically, I need to have it plugged into the car charger when I drive around during the working week otherwise it might not make it to the end of the day. However, I make close to 2 hours of calls daily, use the navigation constantly, have it syncing to 5 email accounts and browse the web on it in the morning. All things considered, even when I don’t have access to a charger during the day it usually holds up pretty well.

The Ice Cream Sandwich update has been a long time coming. It brings together many of the new features Google developed for their tablet OS, Honeycomb, and unifies the OS under one banner. Ice Cream Sandwich is the best part of the Galaxy Nexus. It’s pretty, it works well, and it makes the whole experience feel far more polished. It’s the little things, like an old-school television CRT switch-off animation when you power off the phone. Or the full-screen high resolution image of a person when you make or receive a call from them.

From a functionality perspective, it sometimes seems a case of two steps forward, one step back. Certain useful features that should be there are not there. For example, something simple like a number auto-complete when you type a number into the keypad is missing (this could have been a vanilla Android thing, correct me if I’m wrong).

The browser has some cool features, like opening a new page in another tab in the background, and auto-syncing your bookmarks with Chrome. However, it suffers from the occasional incorrect formatting of pages and reloads pages far too often when you multi-task away to another program and then back again.

A few little bits under the hood:

- Multitasking is done well and shows you a preview of what’s running in tabs, which you can flick away to close for good.

- The battery app within settings gives you a good idea as to what’s causing battery drain. Unsurprisingly the bulk is eaten up by that enormous screen, followed by voice calls.

- There’s a cool data usage management app within settings that lets you set a warning limit and a hard limit on data usage for your mobile. A great feature for those of us who don’t have unlimited data.

If you have the Samsung Galaxy S2 and have been thinking about “upgrading”, don’t. If you have anything else, you could do worse than to consider an upgrade. However, my feeling is that the next wave of smartphones is only just around the corner. I wouldn’t be surprised to see an SGS3 or a newer, better HTC phone near the end of Q1 next year. If you can’t wait, however, this is definitely not a bad phone. It has its shortcomings, but it’s built well, looks good, and if you’re a little patient it should do you just fine!

Related article: How to root your Samsung Galaxy Nexus

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