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Samsung Galaxy Nexus review

Andrew Williams

By

Reviewed:

Awards

  • Recommended by TR

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Samsung Galaxy Nexus
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Summary

Our Score:

9

Pros

  • Amazingly sharp 720p screen
  • Android 4.0 software is great
  • 1080p video recording
  • Excellent performance

Cons

  • AMOLED display not flawless
  • Non-expandable memory
  • All-plastic frame

Key Features

  • 1,280 x 720 pixel Super AMOLED display
  • 16GB internal memory
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich OS
  • 1080p video recording
  • 5-megapixel camera with LED flash
  • Manufacturer: Samsung
  • Review Price: £499.99

The Nexus series is the royal family of Android, used to show off the system's new moves at each major update - although, like every royal family, its genetics are all a bit skew-whiff. Once, Nexus phones were made by HTC, now by Samsung. And this time, with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, the popular "Galaxy" tag has been brought in, to further de-purify the bloodline. The Nexus series gets about a bit, basically, and claims of the Nexus series's special status are often spurious. But the Galaxy Nexus has one thing to shout out, loud and proud. It's the first phone to ship with Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich.

This is the version of Google's OS that reunites the two sides of Android, following the great tablet vs phone split of 2011, at the release of Honeycomb. Royalty, civil war and dual-core processors - it's all about the drama in Android town.

Google is obviously not going to back the fortunes of Ice Cream Sandwich on a dud, and there's no mistaking the Samsung Galaxy Nexus for anything but a top-notch high-end phone. It has a dual-core 1.2GHz A9 processor, 16GB of internal memory and a huge, high-res 4.65in Super AMOLED screen - featuring almost as many pixels as a 10.1in tablet like the Samsung Galaxy Tab 10.1.

Aside from its sheer size, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus doesn't emanate its high-end cred in its body that much. There's no metal bodywork here - it's all plastic and glass. Although once the king of the shiny black finish, Samsung has opted for calmer-looking metallic grey here - similar to that of the original Google Nexus.

Galaxy Nexus 1

Most of the back of the phone is dominated by a dimpled battery cover. Aesthetically, it's not going to please the lovers of all things smooth and shiny - and it feels flimsy when removed to boot - but it ups the friction of the device. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus doesn't feel as though it's constantly in danger of slipping out of your fingers, unlike the otherwise impressively built iPhone 4S. And thanks to its plastic body, it weighs just 130g.

Galaxy Nexus 5

The non-slip finish, close-up

That's light, and probably lighter than you'd expect a 4.65in-screened phone to be. Samsung claims it is 8.9mm thick - roughly on-par with the thinnest smartphones - but this blooms out at its bottom to just over 1cm. Do we care? Absolutely not, because it's partly this well-rounded booty that makes the Nexus feel more comfortable in-hand than super-slim phones like the Motorola Razr. It also helps the phone to seem merely large rather than ridiculously huge, although for some 4.65in is always going to be too big.Galaxy Nexus 3

The one fancy part of its outer bodywork is entirely subtle. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus's toughened glass front is very slightly curved, bending upwards towards your mouth by a degree or two at the bottom. Many may not even notice it, as the large size of the phone makes it subtler than on the similarly-curved Google Nexus S, but it's there. It's also a beautifully serene expanse, with only the earpiece breaking its surface.

A microUSB charging slot and the 3.5mm headphone jack are on the bottom, and there are volume and power buttons on the sides. Samsung (or perhaps Google) has given special thought to docking with the design here - bottom-loading the power and audio jack makes designing a basic desk dock easy. Also surface contact connection points are to be found on the right edge where they're used to connect to a variety of further docks. The connections make it really easy to dock the device, yet provide both audio and power connections. Four dock accesories are currently available; a landscape oriented desk dock, a portrait HDMI dock, a car mount with audio and power port extenders and a battery charger. The latter isn't stricty a dock but rather a holder that also can store and charge a spare battery - a rather innovative idea. Sadly none are included in the standard retail package, nor in our review sample package.Galaxy Nexus 4Galaxy Nexus 5

What are we missing connectivity-wise? There's no dedicated video output, although the microUSB socket can output video easily enough as it is an MHL port. This stands for Mobile High-definition Link, and means the port can output 1080p video and up-to 7.1 audio with the help of a £20 adapter - making it a great alternative to a microHDMI socket. Less easy to remedy is the lack of a microSD card slot. The Samsung Galaxy Nexus comes with 16GB of internal memory - enough to install Angry Birds hundreds of times over, but not a great deal if you want to add an extensive music collection and a decent selection of videos. There's no way to get around it, short of resorting to streaming music and video services - a perfectly viable option for much of the time but it certainly has its limitations still, given carrier's data limits and the patchiness of good phone signal.

Carrier pricing updates & information supplied by WhistleOut

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.

MilleM

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

Andrew_TR

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.

Andrew_TR

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.

Andrew_TR

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...

ort3

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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