Saturday, December 24, 2011

[REVIEW] Galaxy Nexus

What did I think was a worthy replacement to my Nexus one? Another Nexus of course!
Time to move on
As much as I loved my N1, it was becoming too dated to last much longer as a smartphone. It’s served me well, but its not really fast enough nor does it have the capacity to run everything I need. The same can be said about Android in general, having a phone OS and tablet OS just meant more fragmentation. While I think SOME choice and variety is good, it becomes a problem when we hit compatibility problems, lack of updates… etc.
All round upgrades!
With the Galaxy Nexus, I finally thought this phone was a worthy successor. The Nexus S didn’t seem like a large enough jump in terms of everything, its seemed more like a 3GS, a refinement rather than complete overhaul. The Galaxy S2 is a good phone with strong hardware, but Android needed a bit more than Touchwiz. The Galaxy Nexus however, is.  It runs newer hardware: Dual core, HD screen and NFC (available on Nexus S and SGS2) and newer software: Android 4.0, Ice cream sandwich (ICS)
Many OEMs have said their latest phones will get ICS, but most will get them next year, the Galaxy Nexus SHIPS with it. Have a look at the complete spec sheet, it is in the top tier somewhere (I’d say up there with SGS2 and iPhone 4s).
_IGP6260The phone itself is quite large, I’d be lying to say it isn’t. But, it’s not so large that you can’t fit it in a pocket (I don’t have skinny jeans, don’t know how those will do). You will need to get used to the size though as one handed use is pretty hard, but not impossible.
Unfortunately, the chassis of the phone is not encased in metal, rather just plastic with metallic finish. Realistically, if this was encased in metal, it would be heavy. The Sensation XL which is about the same size with metal is about 30 gram heavier. Having said that, even though its is large, it doesn’t feel heavier than the N1, probably because the weight is distributed over a larger area.
Otherwise, the build quality is nice. It’s sturdy and definitely doesn’t feel flimsy like the Galaxy S did. The metallic finish makes it LOOK good (It looks like the same colour as the N1), but some people might prefer the more premium feel of glass and metal on the iPhone. It does have a nice clean, curved minimalistic front. When off, the whole front is basically all black. The curve really doesn’t do much, but its a nice subtle touch that differentiates it to a large black screen.
_IGP6332The reason the front is all black is basically because the front now has no buttons. It’s all screen and only when the phone is powered on are there navigation buttons to use. It’s time to praise the AMOLED technology here, as the black around the navigation (any part of the screen really) is REALLY black. On the N1, blacks were definitely darker than the LCD counterparts, but the screen overlay made it highly reflective. The navigation buttons work well, and glow blue when pressed. Touch response is really fast, the N1 feels almost primitive.
_IGP6330The screen as a whole is great at medium to high brightness. Colours are vibrant and contrast is high. Clarity is also higher due to the high resolution and minimal reflectivity. Since S-AMOLED fuses the touch panel and screen together, the screen appears to be really close to the top of the surface. The screen is also subtly curved, which makes it both unique and nice to use.
The same cannot be said at lower brightness though. I have found the screen to produce grainy overlay when the screen is dim. Not only that, there seems to be a tendency for the screen to have green or pink tinges on the screen. It’s not obvious unless  you look for it, kinda like the yellow blotches on the iPhone 4 earlier on. I’m not sure if this will fade over time or if a fix is coming. However, having the screen at 50% brightness seems to work well in all conditions and the noted cons are almost unnoticeable, still I’m going to send this one back it is under warranty to fix after all. I’m also a bit concerned about how well the navigations buttons ages, many AMOLED screens are prone to burn in over time.
I know that MP isn’t everything, but seeing how well the Xperia Arc does with a 8MP camera (as well as SGS2 and iPhone 4s), I would have liked this to have 8MP too. Having said that, this camera is still very impressive. The camera app is much improved and there are a lot more useful options: Panorama, funny faces, face recognition, filters… I think that’s about it.
An impressive feature (I’m not sure if this is software of hardware based) is the zero shutter lag. The camera is really fast and I think the only limit to it is how fast you can repeatedly press the button. You also have instant access to the camera from the lockscreen, so its a very very quick task getting a photo. Don’t get too happy spamming the button though, ironically, this takes pictures so fast, its easy to get things out of focus. So let’s have a small showdown between the two Nexuses (both stock settings, using touch focus):
Indoor, well lit:
N1, on the left, GN on the right for all images.
The GN took a more realistic image, it was that bright on my desk. You might notice that the GN seems a bit blurred, I think I might have moved the phone while taking it. The N1 tends to underexpose the image in bright conditions. This helps keep some detail, but in most cases (like this one) its not what the action thing looks like.
Indoor, poor lighting
This image is quite interesting. Again, the GN seems to be out of focus (or at least it focused somewhere else) The red rose seems much sharper on the N1, and colours seem more realistic on the N1 in this picture. However, the GN manages to get more light under the same conditions: you can see the dots of the cupboard more clearly.
Outdoor, medium lighting
When I took the picture on both cameras, the sky looked more like the one on the GN. The N1 does a decent job at getting details of the clouds, where as the GN seems to get less details (I wonder if its due to the slightly different location of clouds?). The pink halo problem seems to be evident on the N1 in this picture, but funnily enough, the GN seems to have a slight yellow tint (which I personally prefer over pink, its less obvious). I’d give the second image to the N1 though, it was able to get more contrast in the clouds and more details in the trees.
Outdoor, low to no light
I didn’t actually take these photos at the same time,/day but since they are similar in content, hopefully this can help for comparisons sake. Ummm, they both take night photos well, there isn’t too much noise in them (I’ve seen worse). The GN to me seems to handle low light better, I can tell what the photo is even if there is no flash, even if the quality isn’t spectacular.
Overall, I think both cameras are good. The GN has a slight edge, cause its quick and in general handles low light better. One thing I would like to fixed, is an option to enable image stability by default. As much as I like snapping ten pics in one second, I would like to settle down sometimes to take a better shot. Its currently hard to take well focused shot because… it’s too fast XD. I’d still give the upper hand to photography to other phones though, this one isn’t AS good, but it’s suffice.
I’m not sure HOW fluid IOS is, since I haven’t used their devices over long periods of time. But I think the Galaxy Nexus (GN) is close to if not equal in terms of fluidity.  It’s stable, I haven’t had any problems with apps crashing or the phone crashing.
Gingerbread (GB) seemed much better in terms of design than Froyo, but I personally thought their colour scheme wasn’t consistent enough. Green for icons and notification and orange over scroll was a bad clash of colour in my eyes. I liked the way they made things with sharp corners in GB, things looked more solid and professional. It’s nice to see they developed on this idea more in ICS, the colour consistence and sharp corners are everywhere, making it look like Windows Phone… Which might not be a bad thing, cause I always thought WP7 looked nice.
ICS manages to be pretty AND fast. Previous versions of Android only seemed to do one well only. Swiping is fluids, there is minimal lag and everything runs real fast. Things are heavily improved and even native apps have got a nice refresh:
Gmail looks much tidier and again, its made to look consistent with ICS theming. The calendar app supports pinch to zoom, allowing you to see more or less of your schedule and calendar.Youtube also has had a refresh and the high resolution screen has no problem watching HD in portrait like the N1 did. There are plenty other apps like messaging and contacts that got updates too. The keyboard is vastly improved, I don’t need to double check my typing as often. (I was going to put screenshots in here, but my GN is sent off to repairs ATM, I’ll update this later on)
A newly added feature is the multitasking button. Press it and a list of all recent apps will be shown. Swiping them hides the task, but doesn’t necessarily close them (I’ve notice some do, but it’s app dependent). It’s very handy and works with no lag at all. Speaking of this button, the navigation buttons are adaptive, meaning they look and do different things in different apps, sometimes they hide (for full screen) others they turn to dots (a feature I believe inherited from HC?).
Everything in ICS is SO much better now. I would say its EASIER to use than IOS but, if you spend the time with it, it has a lot of potential. As for battery life, it seems decent, I get around a day of medium usage, I might be able to squeeze out 2 days at most with normal usage. However, if you are willing to turn off… Everything, it can last for ages I’d assume. I’ve left my N1 unattended for 5 days now and its still on.
I really like this phone =D EDIT: After I sent the GN back for repairs, I noticed how much slower the N1 is… and how much better the screen was on the GN… I miss it a lot…


Christopher Tan said...

You should change your occupation to "Tech expert". LOL.

Carmen Nguyen said...

Dude, too much reading here. lol. I think I'm just a person who likes the looks of a phone.. lol, not so much of a checking out the tech specs person.

Carmen Nguyen said...

and yes, the GN is really pretty. hehe

Mylifeasacomic said...

@Chris, nah, just enthusiast :)

@Carmen, I'm getting a case for it :D

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