[Review] Samsung Galaxy Nexus (Verizon 4G LTE) [Video]

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Meet the Galaxy Nexus (Amazon), Google’s latest flagship Android device that’s manufactured by Samsung. What’s so good about it? For starters, it has a 1280×720 resolution display, which is unseen until the Galaxy Nexus, and will also be seen in most smartphones in 2012. Another (and more major) thing is that this is the first shipping phone to run Android 4.0 “Ice Cream Sandwich”. Is this phone worth the $299 contract price? Maybe not, and I’ll explain more throughout this post. Don’t forget to check out our video review at the bottom of the post.

Specifications

The Galaxy Nexus is no slouch when it comes to specifications, although they’ll be outdated when 2012′s slew of smartphones are released:

  • 4.65″ 1280×720 super AMOLED display (non-Gorilla Glass; slightly curved)
  • 1.2GHz dual-core CPU
  • 1GB RAM
  • 32GB of internal storage (non-expandable; no microSD slot present)
  • 1850 mAh battery
  • Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich
  • Verizon 4G LTE support
  • 5MP rear-facing camera (w/flash & 1080p video capture)
  • 1.3MP front-facing camera
  • NFC + Android Beam functionality

Packaging/Included Extras

The Galaxy Nexus’s packaging is Verizon branded, and comes with your standard set of things, including the Galaxy Nexus, several user manuals, a USB cable, and a USB wall charger. No HDMI dongle or anything with the Galaxy Nexus, unlike its slightly older brother, the Galaxy S II.

Fortunately, you do get a Samsung-branded headset. Quite surprisingly, it’s not too bad. You won’t get any differently sized eartips, which is a bit of a disappointment. The audio quality is acceptable, and should be fine to most people when it comes to listening to music, videos, and taking/making phone calls.

Design

The Galaxy Nexus is a beautifully designed smartphone. The phone is slightly bigger than we would’ve liked, and it can be somewhat difficult to hold depending on the situation. The overall appearance of the phone is very pleasant to look at, and the dark-grey accents make the phone look professional and rugged. It’s also quite light.

There are no physical (or touch-sensitive) button at all on the front of the device. Your usual set of Android buttons are now built-in to the operating system. Right below the screen is where you’ll find a very subtle LED activity indicator light. The top of the phone is where you’ll find the 1.3MP front-facing camera, earpiece, and various sensors.

The volume rocker is on the left side, while the power button is on the right. Unfortunately, there is no dedicated camera button, which is a huge disappointment.

At the top of the Galaxy Nexus, you’ll find nothing, while at the bottom, you’ll find the USB port, bottom microphone, and 3.5mm headset jack.

The back of the phone has a textured back panel that isn’t as grippy as the one found on the Galaxy S II. The 5MP camera (with flash) is housed in the center at the top of the phone. The small speaker opening is at the bottom.

After taking the back cover off, you’ll find the LTE SIM card slot as well as the 1850 mAh battery. As mentioned earlier, this phone does not support microSD expandability, as 32GB should be plenty of space for most people.

Build Quality

While most of the phone is made out of plastic, it’s safe to say that the overall build quality of the Galaxy Nexus is very good. It should be able to withstand a number of moderately tall drops without much worrying, although the non-Gorilla Glass display may be the weakest part of the device.

Display

The high-resolution true-720p Super AMOLED display provides for vibrant colors and crisp text. Unfortunately, when you’re viewing photos or watching videos, colors may look over saturated. For instance, when watching videos with humans in them, their skin will look noticeably redder than they should, making the video rather annoying to view. I honestly wouldn’t use this phone for frequent media playback.

As mentioned a few times earlier, the display does NOT feature Gorilla Glass. Because of this, it’s rather easy to scratch the glass. The curved glass also makes it more fragile than completely flat glass.

Performance

The 1.2GHz dual-core CPU paired with the 1GB of RAM provide for fairly speedy performance. Opening most applications is pretty fast. Although, it doesn’t seem as fast as the Galaxy S II running Android 2.3 Gingerbread. This is most likely due to the rather early release copy of Ice Cream Sandwich. I’m assuming (and hoping) that an update to the operating system will result in more optimized performance. Android’s various animations were very mixed, as some animations were perfectly smooth, while some weren’t.

Web browsing is very fast when loading mobile-optimized pages. When loading pages that are meant for desktop viewing, scrolling and zooming in (with 2 fingers) may be a bit sluggish. Adobe Flash doesn’t come pre-installed, which we find to be a great thing. After installing Adobe Flash from the Android Marketplace, loading pages with Flash content did take a noticeably longer amount of time to open. Even then, scrolling and zooming was even more sluggish than without Flash. Flash isn’t really needed on a smartphone, so I believe it’s best to leave it uninstalled.

4G LTE support through Verizon is quite good. Most of the time, we were able to get at least 12Mbps down and 8Mbps up. Our maximum was about 16Mbps down and 10Mbps up. As always, these sorts of things depend on your area and amount of congestion with others.

Call & Speaker Quality

Calls were crisp and clear on both ends. The earpiece on the front of the Galaxy Nexus isn’t as loud as other devices, so we recommend using a headset.

The speaker provide for very clear voice and music quality, and gets pretty loud. Even at the maximum volume, audio isn’t distorted at all.

Camera Quality

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The rear-facing 5MP camera is able to take fairly nice looking images at full resolution. Low-light performance is fairly good as well. The shutter lag that plagues most Android smartphones is basically non-existent with the Galaxy Nexus. We really would’ve loved to have had a dedicated camera button somewhere on the side of the device.

As for the 1.3MP front-facing camera, it’s perfectly sufficient for self-portraits as well as video calls using Skype or Fring.

Unfortunately, the 1080p video recording isn’t too good (see our sample video embedded below). The camera records at 24FPS instead of the standard of 30FPS, which makes for a fairly choppy video. Colors aren’t very accurate, and compression is easily visible. The audio quality is also quite poor.

Battery Life

The 1280×720 display paired with 4G LTE support result in very poor battery life. You’ll find various battery life tests in the screenshot gallery below. You’ll be lucky to get through a day of moderate use, especially if you plan on taking advantage of the 4G LTE data speeds.

Software/Included Apps

Unlike AT&T’s Android devices, the Galaxy Nexus for Verizon only includes just 2 of their applications: My Verizon, and VZ Backup. Even if you don’t plan on using these applications, Android 4.0 will now let you hide pre-installed applications. You still can’t completely remove them without a root, but it’s nice to be able to at least hide them from your apps list. This can easily be done in the completely redesigned Settings application, and then in the Apps menu.

Android 4.0 includes a number of enhancements and design changes when compared to Gingerbread. The UI is more intuitive, and more easier to navigate. The graphics are more pleasing to the eye and professional looking. We covered Android 4.0 in a little more detail in our review video below.

Conclusion

While the Galaxy Nexus is nice on paper, it isn’t in actuality. The software can be really sluggish and slow at times, which can ultimately be frustrating. The display is nice, but it’s not the best. Video recording quality is sub-par, and so is the very poor battery life.

While most of the cons can probably be fixed with a software update, we’re going to recommend people to stay away from this phone unless they really want something with a large 1280×720 display right this second. The Galaxy Nexus’s biggest feature is its biggest letdown.

2012 will be filled with many smartphones with similar specs, so we highly recommend everyone to wait a few months before planning on buying a high-end device.

Samsung Galaxy Nexus, $299 – Verizon | Google

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