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Nexus 4 Review: How Does It Compare to the Galaxy Nexus?

Steven Blum (translation)
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After a long, long wait, a Nexus 4 finally arrived by mail this morning and I couldn’t wait to open the box. The joint project between Google and LG is a device I’d long anticipated. Seeing one in the flesh, I have to admit that this is one classy device. But is it worth your heard-earned Benjamins? Read on for our full review.

Design and Details

Press photos of the Nexus 4 made me a bit skeptical about the back casing. All those sparkles seemed more reminiscent of an 80s glam rock band than an elegant smartphone. But now that I’ve been playing around with the device all day, I can assure you that the sparkle effect is very subtle and can only be seen in direct light. I really like it, and it is certainly a more interesting design than a continuously black backing.

The other details do not disappoint. The edges of the device are slightly rubberized, keeping the Nexus 4 firmly centered in the palm of your hand. The buttons on the sides have a silver finish which lend the device an elegance, even if everything is made out of plastic. In our test model, however, we noticed that the ON / OFF button wobbled ever-so-slightly. While not a big deal, we just thought it should be mentioned.


Nexus 4 on top, Galaxy Nexus on the bottom

Yes, the device – in pictures – looks similar to the Galaxy Nexus. But when you’re holding it, it truly feels like an entirely different device. The materials are of a higher quality and it feels like a lot of care went into its design.

Display and Speakers

Unlike my Galaxy Nexus’s AMOLED display which features a PenTile matrix, the Nexus 4 features an IPS display. This was a smart decision by Google: the colors look strong, but not over-saturated, and whites popped much better. On the Galaxy Nexus, white always looked more like light gray. Blacks were also rich and dark.

Sound quality was excellent. Whether a ringtone, notification or music, sounds are much clouder and clearer than on the Galaxy Nexus. You won’t ever have to worry about missing a call.

Camera

On paper, the Nexus 4’s 8MP back-shooter beats the GNex’s 5MP easily. When it came to taking photos, too, I was able to take photos with more colors which offered a sharper picture with more detail. Here’s a comparison. Can you spot the difference:

Above: Galaxy Nexus. Below: Nexus 4

But the front-facing camera, unfortunately, appears to take a step backwards. Noise is tronger and the overall picture is rather blurry and pale. See for yourself below.

Left: Galaxy Nexus. Right: Nexus 4

The new camera also has an HDR mode, allowing you to shoot vivid photos using a high dynamic range. Of course, I’ve also created a quick comparison of this feature vs. the phone’s standard mode. Here are two shots taken at dusk:

Above: without HDR. Below: with HDR.

Technical Data at a Glance:

  • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro, 1.5 GHz (Quad-Core)
  • Display: 4.7 inch, 1y280 x 768 pixels, IPS, Gorilla Glass 2
  • RAM: 2 GB
  • Memory: Optional 8 GB or 16 GB, not expandable
  • Camera: 8 MP (rear), 1.3 MP (front)
  • Size: 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm
  • Battery: Lithium-polymer, 2100 mAh
  • OS: Android 4.2
  • NFC, Bluetooth
  • Micro USB, HDMI SlimPort
  • WLAN 802.11 b / g / n

Operating System:

The pre-installed version of Android 4.2 has its own quirks, bugs and flaws (well-documented here) but despite everything, the system on which it runs is very snappy. I have always thought that my Galaxy Nexus was smooth as butter, but this phone is smooth as silk (and silk beats butter, because it’s more expensive and luxurious). Whether switching between homescreens, multitasking or flipping through a photo gallery, there are no stutters whatsoever.

To read more about the general improvements made to Android 4.2, click here.

Memory:

The LG Nexus 4 I bought came with 8GB of memory, only 5.67 of which is actually usable. So many customers may strongly consider spending an extra $50 for more memory. For me, it would be well worth-it, since there is no option for expandable memory on this device.

Conclusion:

The Nexus 4 is a great device, despite a few shortcomings – like its sub-par front-facing camera, lack of expandable memory and somewhat plain design. But if you can put up with that, you get a stylish phone at an unbeatable price. For me it is clear that it’s time to retire the Galaxy Nexus and use this phone exclusively. The upgrade to the camera, display and speakers are reasons enough. But the almost ridiculously low price makes it a truly irresistible purchase.


Pros:

  • Stylish design.
  • High attention to detail
  • Reasonable price
  • Display
  • Speakers
  • Rear Camera (especially HDR mode)

Cons:

  • Front camera
  • No removable battery
  • Memory not expandable

P.S. We’ll let you know about battery life just as soon as we’ve tested it.

All photo: Nico Heister / AndroidPIT

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Comments

Write new comment:
  • Baron Tankhe Nov 22, 2012 Link

    Can't wait to hear about the first time it breaks down. Good luck with the multiple LG's you'll be receiving.

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  • Patrick R. Nov 22, 2012 Link

    I always had reservations about LG's quality... I guess only time will tell.

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  • PatPion Nov 22, 2012 Link

    Hey guys.

    Listen, I've been following your blog for some time. And I don't want to be mean, just realistic as I'm also into the blogging scene. Your blog has really taken huge strides backward in the last 3-6 months.

    You recently celebrated your 2 millionth member, but I see less and less comments every month. I hope you guys take into account what your readers say, because ultimately we are your revenue.

    This is once again a bad review, which has become common place in recent times. There's no way you can call this a 'full' review.

    I assume that's something you decided to do intentionally because of readers? You sacked your best writer (Eric) and hired some tools. I think you have lost the identity of your blog, and its painful to watch.

    Please let me know your comments on my thoughts. I would love to know if it is worth while for me to return.

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  • Mike Boyd Nov 23, 2012 Link

    It really doesn't matter to me if Google failed this launch, the nexus 4 is THE phone Ihave been wwaiting for...for a long time. Add in exquisite design, rock bottom pricing, and one sweeet display, not to mention bleeding edge internals, and it doesn't get any better. I'll gladly wait for google to make more of them

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  • Steven Blum Nov 23, 2012 Link

    Hey PatPion,

    It's an initial phone review, so we covered the camera, operating system, design, display, speakers, cost, etc. No, we haven't had to phone long enough to post an exhaustive review, but these are our initial thoughts. As you know, Google sent these out SUPER late, and we didn't receive our test unit until 2 days ago. We thought it was more important to post something rather than to make our readers wait for the whole enchilada. If there was something we missed, let us know, but responding generally that our writers are "tools" doesn't really help the situation. Nonetheless, thanks for your honest feedback.

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  • PatPion Nov 23, 2012 Link

    That is what I initially thought, but in the post the writer says it's the full review.

    Sorry about the 'tools' remark, I didn't really mean it. :-) Was just frustrated with the direction the blog is going.

    You can see my mail address I subscribed on, right? Would you mind sending me a mail, would like to discuss this and more with you. I tried using the site's email functionality to mail the posters, but it says I've made my maximum replies for the day, when I haven't made any.

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  • Anna F. Nov 23, 2012 Link

    There is no way the Nexus 4 has a better display than the Galaxy Nexus. The Galaxy Nexus has a Super AMOLED Plus display which can display TRUE black (each pixel emits its own light so black pixels simply emit no light at all); IPS displays don't do that right? Judging from the pictures, the Nexus 4's screen is backlit and since it has soft buttons on that screen I'd say it's a no-go for me..

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