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Samsung Galaxy Nexus - Screen, Touchscreen and Browsing

Andrew Williams

By Andrew Williams



Our Score:


The Samsung Galaxy Nexus is the first Android phone to get close to matching the tremendous pixel density of the iPhone 4. The higher a screen's pixel density, the sharper images tend to appear - a boon for reading, browsing the web and playing high-end games.

Samsung's Galaxy Nexus uses a completely different type of screen from the iPhone 4. It features a Super AMOLED panel, an advanced take on standard OLED that melds the touchscreen layer with the display, allowing for a thinner screen element.


The key benefit of OLED screens is that they do not use a traditional universal backlight, using light-emitting pixels instead. Black parts of the screen can maintain much purer black levels than standard LCD alternatives. OLED therefore offers fantastic contrast, resulting in vivid colour reproduction. The lack of a backlight becomes particularly prominent in low light, where the luminescence of a traditional LCD screen is clearly noticeable.


In the dark the difference is clear

The Super AMOLED panel isn't without its own set of issues, though. Colours are oversaturated, and while this isn't immediately apparent when flicking through the menus, you will notice the difference in familiar games and web pages. There's no way to alter the colour tone within the phone's software. Apps like Voodoo Screen Tuning let you fiddle with this yourself, but a root of the phone is required. If you're not a pretty serious Android scholar, you'll have to live with this oversaturation.

Colour shift is apparent throughout too, and is impossible to get rid of. Tilt the phone to the left or right and whites take on a blue/green tint that you wouldn't see in IPS panels. Each type of screen has its own set of benefits and drawbacks, however, and this is ultimately a superb screen that easily beats the S-LCD displays of the similarly-sized HTC Sensation XL and XE.

Its key feature is its alarmingly high resolution - full 720p or 1,280 x 720. That's 921,600 pixels, 50 percent more than the iPhone 4S and almost two-and-a-half times as much as the Nokia Lumia 800.

Galaxy Nexus 1

A macro shot of the RGBG Pentile sub-pixel array

Although it features a Pentile Matrix sub-pixel layout, which we found reduced sharpness and clarity in the Samsung Nexus S and Motorola Droid RAZR the high resolution here mostly quashes the problems it can introduce. Pixels here only have two sub-pixels rather than the usual three, but there are so many to go around here, you have to look hard to tell.

With 316dpi pixel density, it has the "Retina Display" effect of the iPhone 4S - where you can't discern individual pixels in normal usage. The Pentile screen does leave its mark, though. There's a very slight texture to block white areas, which is the sub-pixel layout in action. This can be lessened by upping the brightness, but this will naturally have a knock-on effect on battery life.

Maximum brightness is great, but the automatic brightness setting - which uses the light sensor on the front to judge ambient light levels, altering the screen intensity to match - is a touch dim. This is a common tactic in AMOLED phones, as it will increase battery life. Although not absolutely perfect, this is the best 4.6in Android phone screen we've seen to date, and by quite a large margin.

Galaxy Nexus 10

The touchscreen layer is - naturally - capacitive, and can sense up to 9 points of contact at once. It's beyond reproach, as it should be on a £500 phone.

Ice Cream Sandwich comes with new browser software. It's rather different from the Android 2.x browser - much closer in look and feel to the tablet Honeycomb edition. This is a part of the phone that's strongly affected by the lack of soft keys. To access the main menu here, you scroll up to the top of the web page, which brings up the address bar that also houses the menu button. Functionality-wise it's similar to previous editions, with some neat extras. There's a "request desktop site" mode, which banishes mobile sites whenever possible, and a button to save pages to view offline.

Galaxy Nexus 2

Tiny text? Still clear

The incredible screen resolution also boosts the quality of the browsing experience. When zoomed-out to a level where text would usually devolve into a blocky mess, even minute characters remain readable. Interestingly, text reflow, where passages of text are re-formatted to fit the width of the screen, has been made manual. During normal scrolling, text will roll off the edge of the screen - as in iOS - and only reformat itself once you double-tap. Those used to the aggressive text reflow of Android 2.x may find it hard to get used to, but this more relaxed approach suits the large, high-res screen to a "T".

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Dark of Day

December 15, 2011, 11:55 pm

Sorry to be a dork but you refer to the "gorilla glass" screen; I understand it's been confirmed that it doesn't use the trademarked Corning Gorilla Glass. In the performance section you mention "dual core phones running honeycomb" did you mean tablets or gingerbread? Android 4.0 looks fantastic but software aside the phones hardware is hardly much of a step forward from a Galaxy S2. To me it feels like the last phone of 2011 tech not the first of 2012. Will be languishing in quad core dust before we know it..I'm bitter you see because I want to buy a nexus they just wont build one I'd pay for.


December 16, 2011, 4:45 am

I don't follow the smartphone market closely, but I assume the Nexus is competing with; amongst others, the new iPhone 4S. Your review states that at the same GBP 499, the iPhone comes with 64GB of storage compared to 16GB in the Nexus. Despite your very positive review, I still come away with the feeling that the Galaxy Nexus is a bit pricy.

Dark of Day

December 16, 2011, 7:25 am

I should have sourced https://twitter.com/#!/Corning/status/128803261749805056


December 16, 2011, 1:39 pm

@Dark of Day Mixing up the terms Honeycomb and Gingerbread is something I've done more times than I care to admit - a bug I hope will get fixed once I get a firmware update. I'd say you certainly don't have to upgrade from the S2 - better screen but the S2 still holds up very well. Just won our phone of the year award too. A problem with Android is that because power upgrades mean much less than they do on iOS, thanks to the less tenacious dev scene, it can feel as though we've hit a plateau. I personally still question what meaningful improvements quad core processors will add in phones.


December 16, 2011, 3:31 pm

Unfortunately the iPhone 4S is not that cheap. The 16GB 4S costs 𧺫, while the 64GB version is a whopping 𧽳.

Glenn Gore

December 16, 2011, 3:40 pm

So what I'm getting from the review is that you're getting a 16 GB phone for the price of a 32 GB iPhone 4S, with a worse camera, while in the interest of thinness, it sacrifices a battery adequate to power the phone for more than one day, actually much less I am sure if you are using the 4G version. Best have several spare batteries on hand and charged up. I think I'll pass.


December 16, 2011, 3:53 pm

It's actually the same price as a 16GB iPhone 4S, rather than the 32GB edition. The camera is worse, but the buyer's comparison between an iPhone or Android device needs to be about much more than just hardware. They are completely different experiences.

Jawad Mateen

December 16, 2011, 9:50 pm

@MilleM I didn't read the whole review but if it says the 16GB Nexus Prime costs the same (𧺫) as 64GB iPhone, no, not in this world... The 64GB iPhone is... wait for it... 𧽳 from Apple store. So yeah, in it's own right the Nexus Prime maybe pricey, or not but compared with the iPhone it's the same for the same amount of storage...


December 24, 2011, 5:40 am

So as an owner of a Galaxy Nexus, I have to admit that I am somewhat underwhelmed. I'm not sure what all the hype of Android is all about. Whilst the device is really light, the gentle curved display is gorgeous, the specs are insane and this is Android as Google intended, the package lacks in the spit and polish that Cupertino offers. ICS is not very intuitive with the "menu" options appearing in inconsistent places and the multi-tasking soft key being visible within the browser - I've often tapped it thinking that it will show the open tabs. Some elements of the OS are great - I do think that the multi-tasking aspect works very well and widgets are inspired. The browser is super quick and the support for Adobe Flash is a bonus (though I've actually yet to make use of it). However, my main gripes so far are that the so called "freemium" apps are littered with adverts which are so very annoying; the battery life is not so good either - I don't think I've been able to go a day without having to reach for the charger. The camera quality is severely lacking with images appearing heavily pixelated (1080p - that's a joke, right?). A case of specs over substance. Oh and 16GB - puh-lease! Google Music does work wonderfully with all of the equaliser settings in the right place and the management of music is so much easier than having to be chained to iTunes. Video playback quality is pretty good too. I could go on, but in short, what I've found here is that the Galaxy Nexus is not greater than the sum of its parts which is disappointing. Ultimately, I'm worried that Android will go down the path of Windows Mobile / Pocket PC: highly customisable but massively fragmented with inconsistent implementations. I hope I prove to be wrong. I think will have a look at Android at the next point release. For now, I'll be listing my Galaxy Nexus (any takers?!), I think I'll give Windows Phone 7 a go or head back to my old 32GB 3GS and the iOS walled garden. ort3~rating = 7/10

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