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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  • jamyryals - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    I liked this review very much. Do a video wrap up of the CES experience! Reply
  • HangFire - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    Anand,

    Are you using 2.2 era data for Thunderbolt battery life in the graph, or are you using modern Gingerbread data? The Thunderbolt has come a long way in managing battery life since introduction.

    HF
    Reply
  • Brian Klug - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    HF,

    Yeah, we're using the initial launch performance of the HTC Thunderbolt here. Unfortunately HTC wanted that phone back, so we can't test with the newer updates. This is one thing we're working on changing this year.

    -Brian
    Reply
  • lewchenko74 - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    I moved from an iphone 4 to the Galaxy Nexus... and there are issues that are not listed in this review.
    My only previous Android phone was a HTC Hero, which I rooted to 2.1 after no carrier support (Orange in the UK suck). Im happy with ICS in general.. but the phone itself has 2 really annoying major flaws which have happened to me on many occasion ...

    1. The random turn off problem.

    2. The random mic turning off mid call problem.

    Both are discussed quite a bit on sites like androidcentral.com and xda-developers.com forums, and seem to be happening to MANY (see the forum pages yourself) people, whether you have a GSM version, US phone on all versions of ICS. Swapping out hardware for a different phone is not solving the problems, and whilst infrequent for me , they happen to other people far more. (and not at all to some people..)

    In other words... Either ICS has a couple of critical bugs, or the hardware is at fault (or the firmware)..

    Both issues are apparently acknowledged by google as well.... yet seem to be getting little to no publicity. BGR.com recently reported the random turn off problem with the Nexus.

    So well done on the thorough review, but I wish somebody had warned me about these issues.

    I dont regret switching from the iphone 4 (screen was too small, and the lack of customisation was frustrating.. and the 4s was such a major dissapointment)... the Galaxy Nexus is a phone with serious problems (hopefuly ones that can be resolved with updates).

    Links to the forum pages of the issues :

    http://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id=...
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1...
    http://forum.xda-developers.com/showthread.php?t=1...
    http://forums.androidcentral.com/samsung-galaxy-ne...
    Reply
  • B3an - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    These both seem like a very common issue. Pretty serious problems too, not exactly something small. Disappointing to see no mention of this in the article. Reply
  • anandtech pirate - Thursday, January 19, 2012 - link

    really? you guys, a tech site, uploaded a 480p quality video in 2012? sigh.... Reply
  • tipoo - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    Ah yes, if I can't see every follicle in his beard the review loses all its informativeness! lol Reply
  • Nevod - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    Very weird battery life measurements.
    Judging by Wi-Fi hotspot and Talk time, Wi-Fi and cellular basebands are comparable in efficiency to other modern devices. Advantage over SGSII seems to be proportional to battery.
    Cellular web browsing time is quite good. Yet so low Wi-Fi browsing time - looks like it goes into some "hunger mode", like not caching anything when on Wi-Fi.

    Also, there is an option in ICS browser to invert colors, switches black and white , probably to extend battery life on OLED screens, as, well, sites usually have white backgrounds and that's not very nice to battery. Would be interesting to see tests of battery performance on inverted colors.
    Reply
  • Bytales - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    Please Anandtech, if you have the posibillity, make a review of Galaxy Note Reply
  • Artifex28 - Friday, January 20, 2012 - link

    You should use some curtains to kill the early reflections from concrete walls. :) Reply

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