The Galaxy Nexus - Hardware and Aesthetics

The evolution of Google’s Nexus line is an interesting one. Each year, Google choses both a silicon partner and an OEM to make a unique hardware archetype which it caters a specific build of Android to. We’ve now seen three Nexus handset designs from two OEMs and three silicon vendors - the Nexus One (HTC and Qualcomm’s QSD8x50), Nexus S (Samsung and Samsung’s S5PC110 ‘Hummingbird’), and today the Galaxy Nexus (Samsung and TI’s OMAP4460).

Looking at the hardware of those three handsets gives a great survey of the course the Android ecosystem has taken over the last couple of years. The Nexus One started things out with a 3.7” LCD, capacitive buttons, and hardware trackball. Nexus S then removed the trackball, added a curved 4.0” display, and ditched the microSD card slot. The Galaxy Nexus continues in that direction, increasing display size to 4.65” and resolution to 1280x720, and finally removing the capacitive buttons all together. Instead, the Galaxy Nexus uses a 96 x 720 region at the bottom of the display to visualize the navigational buttons, a move that has the consequence of also keeping the display interaction area aspect ratio close to that of WVGA.

It’s interesting to see how many of the design motifs set by the original Nexus One still have been thoughtfully preserved on the Galaxy Nexus. The notched chrome ring around the camera aperture has continued as a thread for three generations, as has the overall lightly rounded shape. The Galaxy Nexus also retains the chin from Nexus S backside where the speakerphone port and primary cellular antennas are located. In addition, the volume rocker, power/lock button, headphone jack, and primary microphone position from the Nexus S is unchanged.

The Galaxy Nexus’ backside is no longer the extremely slippery and scratch prone plastic that the Nexus S (and original Galaxy S) adorned, instead it’s a textured, lightly soft touch material. I’m always surprised by how much of a difference changing the backside texture makes on the overall in-hand feel impressions I come away with, and in this case it’s a major positive change. It’s clear that this is an evolution of Nexus more than a huge departure from what’s come before - if anything the Galaxy Nexus is like a larger, thinner, more refined Nexus S.

We’ve taken a look at both the CDMA/LTE (codename mysid/toro) and the GSM/UMTS (codename yakju/maguro) Galaxy Nexus variants.

The two differ beyond just the air interfaces they support slightly in the physical department as well, though the two share all the same other features (SoC, display, camera, etc.). The CDMA/LTE Galaxy Nexus is ever so slightly thicker than the GSM/UMTS Galaxy Nexus, though the difference is enough to be perceptible.

In addition, the two have the same exterior “titanium silver” color, no doubt the differences we saw earlier can be attributed to the difference between renders and the real deal. The other small detail is that the two use very different, non-interchangeable batteries - the GSM/UMTS variant uses a 6.48 Whr battery, the CDMA/LTE version gets a slightly larger 6.85 Whr battery. Both of these include the NFC antenna patterned the outside surface of the battery, just under the sticker. 

Other than those subtle differences, Samsung has done a good job masking the challenges which underlie having two superficially similar phones with different cellular architectures. The two variants do feel different in the hand, but the difference isn't dramatic. 

Physical Comparison
  Apple iPhone 4S Samsung Galaxy S 2 Samsung Galaxy Nexus (CDMA/LTE) Samsung Galaxy Nexus (GSM/UMTS)
Height 115.2 mm (4.5") 125.3 mm (4.93") 135.5 mm (5.33") 135.5 mm (5.33")
Width 58.6 mm (2.31") 66.1 mm (2.60") 67.94 mm (2.67) 67.94 mm (2.67)
Depth 9.3 mm ( 0.37") 8.49 mm (0.33") 9.47 mm (0.37") 8.94 mm (0.35")
Weight 140 g (4.9 oz) 115 g (4.06 oz) 150 g (5.3 oz) 135 g (4.8 oz)
CPU Apple A5 @ ~800MHz Dual Core Cortex A9 1.2 GHz Exynos 4210 Dual Core Cortex A9 1.2 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 OMAP 4460 1.2 GHz Dual Core Cortex-A9 OMAP 4460
GPU PowerVR SGX 543MP2 ARM Mali-400 PowerVR SGX 540 PowerVR SGX 540
RAM 512MB LPDDR2-800 1 GB LPDDR2 1 GB LPDDR2 1 GB LPDDR2
NAND 16GB, 32GB or 64GB integrated 16 GB NAND with up to 32 GB microSD 32 GB NAND 16/32 GB NAND
Camera 8 MP with LED Flash + Front Facing Camera 8 MP AF/LED flash, 2 MP front facing 5 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1080p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing 5 MP with AF/LED Flash, 1080p30 video recording, 1.3 MP front facing
Screen 3.5" 640 x 960 LED backlit LCD 4.27" 800 x 480 SAMOLED+ 4.65" 1280x720 SAMOLED HD 4.65" 1280x720 SAMOLED HD
Battery Internal 5.3 Whr Removable 6.11 Whr Removable 6.85 Whr Removable 6.48 Whr

 

Settings & File Transfers The SoC - TI's OMAP 4460
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  • Brian Klug - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Interesting. I originally picked S5K4E5 family as being the likely choice - as it's the BSI equivalent, and though that was what was inside until I decompiled/dug around inside the ducati-m3.bin file as noted in the review.

    You'll see numerous references to "S5K4E1G" and none for "S5K4E5" which is the BSI version. EG:

    "CSI.COMPLEIO¿F¿MSP.NEW_SENSOR¿S5K4E1GA¿F¿S5K6A1GX03¿MSP.NEW_LENS¿F¿VM149C¿MSP.NEW_CSICSI2A¿FCSI2B"

    It could very well be BSI since they've x-rayed it.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • tom5 - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Official Samsung site says SGS II has quad band 3G and Galaxy Nexus has penta-band 3G, so there's a difference in GSM connectivity:
    http://goo.gl/gvIWV
    Reply
  • Stas - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    I appreciate the thoroughness in this review, Anand.
    Interesting, however, how I find so many things about the software completely irrelevant to someone who just can't leave things vanilla. Browser performance and features, launcher scrolling, screenshots, on-screen keyboard, etc. None of those things are in their original Android form on my phone (SGS2). Some issues have been addressed by Samsung, some by XDA developers, some by myself. As a result, I believe I have the perfect phone on the market (for me). Reading every section of this article, I kept finding myself thinking, "Heh, my phone doesn't have that problem," or, "Mine does that even better," or, "would suck to have that phone instead of my Galaxy."
    I always thought advancement in tech = replacing devices sooner. However, after reading this review, I have no desire whatsoever to replace my current phone with the new flagship. I always get that feeling when I read a video card review, CPU review, SSD review, etc. But I feel like my phone lacks nothing, and I will stick with it for a long while. Customizing and tweaking software to your own taste, making it feel just right is the most important aspect of an electronic device that provides so much interaction. I guess that's why I almost feel handicapped on a stock Android phone or, especially, iPhone. The devices just feel so clunky and unrefined.
    Thank you, if nothing else, for helping me see a different perspective on things :)
    Reply
  • Lucian Armasu - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    1. Can you re-check and confirm if swiping tabs off in the task menu, actually KILLS the apps, or it just takes them off the list? Because I've heard before that it doesn't kill them.

    2. The battery tests, especially the Wi-Fi ones, were they done with 3G and LTE on?
    Reply
  • silow675 - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    "At 720p, which happens to be the GN's native resolution, the OMAP 4460 is a bit faster than Tegra 2 but not significantly so. The more important thing to keep in mind is just how much faster Tegra 3's GPU is by comparison"

    I don't understand this remark. The chart that's posted for the 720p offscreen renders don't have a Tegra 2 device. In the RightWare charts the Galaxy Nexus scores much more than "a bit faster" than the Tegra 2 devices. And to my knowledge no Tegra 2 smartphones are offered at native 720p resolution.

    I also checked the AT Bench database and couldn't find any Tegra 2 benchmarks to compare. Do you guys have some unposted numbers?
    Reply
  • RobElk - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    You guys do a great job. Love the attention to detail in your review. Thanks. Reply
  • DrKlahn - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    I found this comment interesting. I have had the phone since launch day (VZW) and have yet to notice any lag hitting the virtual buttons. Perhaps I am just not as sensitive to it or some other process on your test phone is affecting it. I have got the phone to lag doing some very intensive tasks on occasion, but it's very infrequent. My chief complaint has been the volume which I remedied with a free app (Volume+ with the +2 setting). Otherwise I give the phone very high marks. I have no real desire to root or tinker with it yet, the stock experience is excellent. Reply
  • peokuk - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    for the font comparison, why not 'the quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog'? using cat and jumped leaves out the letters 'g' and 's'...
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_quick_brown_fox_j...
    Reply
  • DanSmith - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    No one has actually said it yet so I will. Good review guys, in depth and informative as always.
    Thanks for your hard work.

    Dan
    Reply
  • DanSmith - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Actually, someone already has! Seems the internet is not completely populated by haters. :) Reply

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