Well, we’ve finally got our hands on the new Nexus S 4G from Samsung for Sprint. Since we didn’t review the first Nexus S for T-Mobile, we’ll be cover this as a new review. When the Nexus S first launched back in December of last year the device, while not being Dual-Core, it was the premier Android device, offering some great features that we’ll be discussing here. So without further ado, the Nexus S 4G review.
The Nexus S 4G is a “Pure” Google device much like its predecessor, the Nexus One, by HTC. The Nexus comes pre-installed with the Android 2.3.3 (aka Gingerbread) but as soon as you start up the device it immediately prompts you that a new update is available, thus bring you to the current 2.3.4 Android version.
The Gingerbread OS offers some well needed and demanded features like an improved keyboard, where the keys are spread further apart to make typing easier without accidentally hitting other keys. Much like Froyo did for Eclair, Gingerbread again boosts performance of the OS increasing overall speeds. There is also a modified user interface (UI) that is more appealing and slightly darker with a new color scheme. There are more blacks and greens overall, which coincidentally provides better battery life (due to the darker nature and less strain on the display).
Because the device is “Pure” Google it comes void of any of Sprint’s or Samsung’s software (bloatware). It does how ever come pre-installed with Google’s own apps, like YouTube, Voice, Navigation, Books, Earth, Maps, Gmail, Search, Places, Tags and Talk. So if you want apps like Facebook, Twitter, Foursquare or Angry Birds then you are going to have to go to the Android Market and download them all.
The speed of the OS is blistering (even on a 1GHz Processor), coming from an HTC EVO 4G running Android 2.2 to the Nexus is like going from a Camero to a Porsche 911 Turbo, while its not quite a Ferrari, it’s still amazingly fast. Right now the Gingerbread OS is proving to be the best form of Android and most refined. While Honeycomb certainly looks great (to some) it still has some issues and bugs (as does any OS) but still doesn’t feel as finished as Gingerbread.
Samsung’s 1GHz Cortex A8 (Hummingbird) processor runs this device without even the slightest hiccup. The phone is extremely responsive and snappy when bringing things up, refreshing and load-/playing games. While the device is running at the same processing speed as the EVO, their is no comparison, the Nexus’s Hummingbird wasted the EVO’s Snapdragon in every test I threw at them. Sure there are some phones with dual-core processors coming out, but this phone is no slouch and would keep up even if it does come in 2nd or 3rd place amoung them. Plus, the re-assuring thought that the Nexus S will get Ice Cream Sandwich almost right away is enough for me.
The Nexus S 4G is without a doubt, the sexiest looking Android phone currently on the market, aside from the Galaxy S II. The phone’s shape is contoured to match the shape of your face so that when you using it, it feels comfortable as opposed to a flat block. The overall design is probably the first phone to rival Apple’s iPhone 4 in terms of pure aesthetics. While it doesn’t use the high-end materials like metal and glass all over; it does use deep black plastics under the display so that when you look right at it, it looks like a solid black front. Even the standard Android buttons are not visible until the phone is in use, giving it a very high-end look. The back of the phone is plastic that is easy to pop off to change the battery. The NS is also a thin device until the bottom of the phone where it bumps out to give the user a place to grip the phone and again adds in some design appeal. Also located on the back (aside from the Google and Samsung branding) is the 5MP camera (2560×19020) and LED flash. You cant miss the camera as the opening is probably over a ¼ of an inch and has a shinny chrome rim. The power button is found on the right side (towards the top) of the phone and acts as the sleep button as well. The volume rocker is on the left side of the device, just slightly lower than the power button. On the bottom of the phone is the MicroUSB port and 3.5mm headphone jack. That’s about it for the exterior of the device, it is very minimalistic.
Probably the most impressive feature on the Nexus S is the display. The NS rocks a 4” Super AMOLED WVGA curved glass display at 480×800 resolution and 235ppi. The screen is also coated in a anti-fingerprint coating and while it won’t completely get rid of fingerprints, it does a great job of keeping them to a minimum. Next to the front ear speaker, to the left, you’ll find (under the glass) two proximity sensors. To the right you find the VGA (640×480) front facing camera for video chatting. As for the display itself, it is brilliant, bright with extremely rich blacks. If you are not used to a Super AMOLED display it may take a day or so to become fully comfortable staring at it. When compared to my EVO after a few days use, the EVO screen seemed to be a faint white or washed out and had less vibrant colors. Some other great hardware packed into this device are a 3-axis gyroscope, accelerometer, a digital compass and finally a Near Field Communications (NFC) chip. The NFC chip is a chip that allows the device to speak to other electronics, much like Bluetooth, but the two devices must be much closer together, aproximately within 2-4 inches. This technology will allow users to transfer music, movies, files and even use their phone as a digital wallet, and pay for things at the counter with just a swipe of their phone.
Over all the build quality is excellent but the back “snap-on” casing could be a little more rigid. But I never found myself complaining about it. I like the overall weight of the phone as well, it doesn’t feel to light to be cheap or to heavy to be cumbersome.
First off and let me say, this is no EVO 4G. The Nexus S 4G is heads and tails above the EVO when it comes to battery life. The Super AMOLED screen comes into play with this as does Gingerbread and the Hummingbird processor. When I used the EVO as my everyday device, the 4G was always turned off, unless I was somewhere waiting for a period of time and wanted a faster connection to surf the Internet, but I also had to make sure I’d be able to charge immediately afterwards. The Nexus, since I’ve had it, has had the 4G turned on the entire time and I’m getting over a day’s use with maybe a little charging in the car to and from the office. I do a lot of web surfing, tweeting and foursquare, not to mention text messaging, which seemed to kill my EVO the most.
So when it comes down to battery life, the Nexus is by far the best 4G phone on Sprint.
This may actually matter to some of you, as this is a phone after all. The call quality of the Nexus is probably the most average thing about the device. That is to say, it’s on par with just about every phone I’ve used. You will occasionally get some static or choppiness in some calls, but that could be just how it received the call from the other end. It doesn’t seem to happen often enough to consider it a problem, it just happens with every phone. So I can honestly say, I don’t think anyone will be concerned with the call quality. As for the speaker (when using it for calls), it too is clear and loud. I actually found myself turning it down, but that could just be because the other person is being a loud mouth.
This was honestly the biggest concern I had about the Nexus compared to the EVO (since I owned that one). It meant I was stepping down from an 8MP camera to a 5MP camera. I had to remind myself that megapixels don’t mean better or clearer images, it simply meant, “larger images.” The iPhone 4 has a 5MP camera and is by far superior to that on the EVO and just about any other cellphone currently on the market. So when I started to test the camera, you can say I was pleasantly surprised. While they aren’t iPhone 4 quality, they are, in my opinion on par if not slightly better than the EVO’s 8MP pictures. It all comes down to the sensors and HTC is not known for using the best camera sensors. So while the Nexus is not a complete replacement for your point and shoot, it will get the job done and I think you’ll be happy with the end results. Below are some sample pictures:
The video camera capabilities (720 x 480 video resolution) are not quite as good as they could be, but they do an okay job. I still would use my point and shoot camera for better quality videos that really mean something to me, but the Nexus will do well for those spur of the moment videos you need to take and all you have is a cellphone. The video camera capabilities are in no way a deal breaker for me. This phone does so much, better than a lot of Android phones for me to pass on it because of less than great video recording.
Front Facing Camera (FFC):
The Nexus S 4G’s FFC camera (VGA (640×480) is just about what you’d expect from current generation FFC camera’s. They are nothing spectacular, but they do allow you to have a great video chatting experience. I used the FFC on the Nexus as well the video chat program, Tango, to chat with my wife via her iPhone 4. When we compared the screens side by side, there was hardly a difference in the quality of either device. So while it may not be what you would use to take pictures to hang on your wall, it will suffice when you need to chat with someone via video.
Since I’ve picked up the Nexus S 4G a few days ago, I’ve been pleasantly surprised. Sure this isn’t a next-gen phone, as the bigger, badder, dual-core devices are soon arriving, but the Nexus S 4G is a great looking phone with a snappy processor, a clean, pure build of Android and a decent camera. It has a great display and NFC technology to help future proof the device. It will probably be a year or so before the device becomes “truly” dated but by that time (roughly december) there will be a 3rd Nexus.
At some point you need get over the fact that you are never going to have the latest and greatest device, because no matter what you buy today, next week it will be old news and outdated. With the Nexus phones, you can at least fall back on the notion that you will have updates faster than any other phone, so that will help soften the blow when you realize that your phone doesn’t have a quad-core 3.5Ghz Processor, 25.5 MP camera and 500GB harddrive and a 1440×900 display (by the way, I’m being facetious).
In the end, I’m thoroughly enjoying the Nexus S 4G over my EVO 4G and look forward to a good few months until my “true” upgrade is available, in fact I may just hold out till December for the Nexus 3.
Also, check back with us as we do a full video review of the Nexus S 4G, which should be up this weekend.