Speakerphone and Audio

The Nexus 4 has a small vertical notch cut out of the back glass for its speakerphone port. The unfortunate part is that when the Nexus 4 is laid display-up like I always place phones for testing under our digital sound level datalogger, it is quite muted since there is no gap in the cavity for sound to escape through.

Speakerphone Volume - 3 inches Away

With the phone raised, however, the Nexus 4 turns out to be decently loud, which matches my subjective impressions using the device for Google Navigation over the past few days.

Noise Suppression

The Nexus 4 has a pair of microphones for noise suppression both when on calls, and also for the increasingly important task of reducing noise on ASR (Automatic Speech Recognition) workloads like Google Now. I believe the Nexus 4 is using Qualcomm’s Fluence for this task, which is an adaptive beamformer system.

Google Nexus 4 - Noise Rejection by AnandTech

To test its efficacy, I turned to the industry standard babble track and ramped volume in front of a pair of speakers to 94 dBA (very loud) and then back down while recording the mobile-terminated end of the call on my PC. I should note that when I run these tests I always originate and terminate the call on the same mobile operator (in this case T-Mobile) if possible.

The Nexus 4 does a pretty decent job at canceling noise on my test call. The Galaxy Nexus noise rejection performance quite honestly never was that spectacular, and getting better noise filtering is going to be an increasingly important part of the speech recognition battle on these platforms.

Audio

Inside the Nexus 4 is a Qualcomm WCD9310 audio codec, which we’ve seen in other devices like the MSM8960-based Galaxy S 3s and a few other phones. Measuring sound quality is probably the number one requested addition to our reviews, and still is a rather nebulous thing to measure at times. For this I worked together with the ever-awesome François Simond (@supercurio) to measure sound quality on the Nexus 4 using RMAA on my desktop equipped with an ASUS Xonar Xense sound card.

Subjectively the Nexus 4 doesn't sound terrible to my ears on a pair of SE535s and listening to music at half volume or less. Objectively however the results are less than awesome thanks to a combination of things. First, audioflinger is set to 48 kHz which results in software resampling causing artifacts for 41.1 kHz source material. Second, there appears to be different modes that the Nexus 4 switches into depending on your volume level, and the frequency response plots show these different plots at the number of different volume levels we tested. We're going to update with some thoughts from Francois about the Nexus 4 soon, for now I think the Nexus 4 sounds ok at least when it comes to the most glaring of things — I couldn't detect any background hiss or whine as the SoC changes states, which is a huge percentage of what I normally wind up hearing on smartphones. 

Cellular, Wi-Fi, GNSS Conclusions and Final Thoughts
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  • zeroidea - Wednesday, November 14, 2012 - link

    It's Tucson, AZ!

    They must have been taken a few weeks ago (a lot of the streetcar construction downtown has been completed)
    Reply
  • DukeN - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Brian, are you able to verify if the material is actually rubber? This would be a serious issue for many users, including some in my family with severe latex allergies. Reply
  • PeteH - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Wow, that didn't even occur to me, but it could be a real problem. It's not like latex is an uncommon allergy either, so hopefully Google or LG thought about that and used something other than rubber. Reply
  • Rits - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Its rubberised plastic. Shouldn't be a problem at all to latex-allergic folks. Reply
  • PeteH - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Not doubting you, but do you have a source? Reply
  • Rits - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Previous LG devices that had the same material were latex-free. There is no reason this one would deviate. But, you could always email LG/Google for an official confirmation. Reply
  • MadMan007 - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Should have used a dual core CPU with a decent GPU. Quad core is a waste in phones because overall it hurts battery life more than it helps certain usage models, and if there's so much throttling what's the point.

    Does Android do thread parking? Do these CPUs have per-core power gating?
    Reply
  • JohnnyL53 - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    Throttling may not be an issue in the real world in terms of a noticeable affect and may just show up in benchmarks. In other words, who cares what the benchmark performance is if its at such a high level it's not perceptible? What I never see explained is how far apart do you need to get before you can distinguish one device's performance from another. Granted on most of the tests the iPhone far outpaces any other phone, but is it even noticeable? Are we just talking bragging rights, future proofing, etc? Reply
  • name99 - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    The value of a faster CPU on a phone, for normal people, right now, is that the phone feels snappier. So, for example, an iPhone5 feels perceptibly faster than an iPhone 4S not because computational tasks take 1 minute instead of 2 minutes, but because a dozen small things take .1 second instead of .2 seconds.

    From this point of view
    (a) thermal throttling is no big deal, and I personally have no problem with it. It was a good idea when Intel started it years ago (to the accompaniment of a massive chorus of whining) and it would be a fine idea to have it as built into an ever wider selection of phone chips.

    (b) quad-core remains a solution in search of a problem. Maybe one day it will have value; maybe it has value for games (which I don't care about). But for the way I and my crowd use phones, it has no value yet.

    (c) the present collection of benchmarks are largely useless because they do NOT track this essence of snappiness which is what most people mean when they say a phone is "fast". Yes, if you're a developer writing demanding code you care about very particular aspects of the phone --- perhaps you care about the memory bandwidth, or the FLOPs, or the random flash write performance. But for most people, what matters is the snappiness. Existing benchmarks are a poor proxy for that feeling, and I do wish the serious blogs could do better.

    Right now all we have is this lame sniping like 12 yr olds: "My Nokia feels fast", "Oh yeah, well my Samsung feels even faster", "Well my iPhone feels fastest of all". And regardless of your feelings about Apple, if you support Team Android or Team Windows, you should be pushing for snappiness benchmarks because that is one of Apple's great strengths --- they don't care about, and don't optimize for benchmark numbers, they optimize for snappiness, and buyers do appear to be aware of and notice this. As long as the non-Apple market is forced to compete on these "overt" benchmarks as ways for each vendor to differentiate themselves and show their technical superiority, what will be optimized for are benchmark numbers, NOT user feel and snappiness.
    Reply
  • Zink - Tuesday, November 13, 2012 - link

    I think with a DSLR at 60 FPS and editing to synchronize individually recorded videos it would be possible to do accurate side by side comparison of app responsiveness and web page loads. With a bit of video analysis, graphs could be made comparing performance down to the frame and FPS in animations measured.

    You could even do this on the go for a real world performance comparison. A normal day of use could be simulated by walking/commuting around your city and setting up a tripod in an apartment, on the sidewalk, inside an office building, at the bar etc. Then run several tests on each phone where you get the phone out of your pocket like normal and open a web page, post a comment, take a photo etc. all while the screen is on camera. Several similar tasks could be averaged into a single category score for a bit better repeatability.

    With proper analysis of the resulting video a pretty damn accurate comparison of the whole cellular, hardware and software system could be made. Basically the ultimate benchmark measuring user phone performance. I've seen some well done side by side comparisons but never in depth or with good numbers along with the video.
    Reply

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