Google Nexus 4 Android 4.2 Smartphone Review

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Google Nexus smartphones are usually somewhat special in their own way. Not only do they ship with the latest and greatest Android has to offer, but they also usually offer a glimpse into the future of the Android platform. Take the Galaxy Nexus for example. Not only was it among the first phones to ship with a large, 720p display but it also did away with physical buttons in exchange for virtual keys and brought a new interface to the table as well. Fast-forward to today and we have the all new Google Nexus 4, with similar looks but some major updates under the hood.


With a single unbroken piece of Gorilla Glass up front, the Nexus 4 looks very clean and it offers a nice change from the buttons and branding you'll see on most other smartphones. It has a unique finish on the back side of its casing.  The phone has a series of dots below the glass surface which reflect light randomly and displays a beautiful, sleek aesthetic. On the other hand, you do need to be mindful that there is an awful lot of glass all over the Nexus 4.


We had no issues with scratches or cracks, but it probably wouldn't take much of a drop to cause damage. At 9.1mm thick it's not the thinnest phone out there, but with soft touch plastic running around the edge, the phone feels good in the hand. It's slightly wider and shorter than most phones of this size which gives you a bit more width to the keyboard while still allowing you to watch full HD 720p videos. There's no MicroSD card slot, which is a bit of a disappointment, as the Nexus 4 is only available with 8GB and 16GB of storage. With a few high-end games and an HD movie or two, available space will go fast.

 

The Nexus 4 is launching with Android 4.2, which retains the Jelly Bean name but still gets some welcome improvements. The camera app has been totally redesigned with a much simpler interface that allows you to change settings by tapping then moving your finger over any of the options. It's a bit confusing at first but once you get the hang of it, it's a much faster way of doing things. You'll also find a new Gesture Keyboard that works like Swype and can speed up your typing, a Quick Settings menu to give you quick access to enable Wi-Fi, airplane mode, GPS and a redesigned lock screen.  The new lock screen gives you quick access to the camera, as well as allowing you to add widgets to check things at a glance without unlocking your phone. As a relatively minor update to the OS, one of the more surprising things is just how fast the Nexus 4 is. No matter how fast you fly through the interface, you'll rarely, if ever, run into any lag or slowdowns.



Its screen is a 4.7" IPS panel with a native resolution of 1280x768. It lacks some of the saturation of the AMOLED screen on the Galaxy Nexus but it's still among the best smartphone displays out there, with good viewing angles and improved brightness. There's no Pentile layout to worry about here, so text and images remain nice and sharp. You do lose some screen real estate most of the time, however, thanks to the on-screen Android keys. That said, at least they disappear at times when they're not needed; for example when watching video.

Under the hood you'll find a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core processor clocked at 1.5GHz with Adreno 320 graphics and 2GB of RAM along with either 8GB or 16GB of storage and a 2100mAh battery.


To test the CPU we used Linpack, which gave us some interesting results. As the S4 Pro is basically a quad-core version of the dual-core Snapdragon S4 that's found in most of the highest performing phones like the Galaxy S3 and DROID RAZR HD, the Nexus 4 should have done better here.

SunSpider focuses on CPU performance, as well as how well the browser (in this case Chrome) handles Javascript. Here, the Nexus 4 delivers results right on par with other Snapdragon S4 powered devices, which isn't a surprise as the extra two cores really don't have room to stretch their legs in this test.



Thanks to the Adreno 320 graphics, the Nexus 4 delivers the best results we've seen yet in GLBenchmark. As a complex graphical benchmark that simulates a high end game running at 1080p, the Snapdragon S4 Pro SoC in the Nexus 4 easily pulls away from other Android phones and narrowly edges out the iPhone 5.


For the HotHardware Battery Test we set the phone to refresh a webpage with a mix of graphics, text and Flash media every three minutes, with the display at 50% brightness and Wi-Fi turned off, leaving the phone to rely on mobile data for the entire test. Here, the Nexus 4 does reasonably well but lands solidly in the middle of the pack. In real world usage, the phone was able to make it through a moderate day of mixed media consumption and communications, watching a few YouTube videos, checking email and Twitter frequently and making a few phone calls and texts. It would have been nice to see a larger capacity battery included but for most people, the Nexus 4 should get you through the day.



The Nexus 4 sports an 8 megapixel camera capable of 1080p video along with an LED flash. This is a huge improvement over the Galaxy Nexus and right on par with most high end smartphones. You'll find good saturation and nicely detailed images. However, low light performance is far behind what you'll find on the Nokia Lumia 920.

  

   

The Google Nexus 4 delivers excellent performance, the latest stock Android 4.2 OS and solid build quality, all at an unbeatable off-contract price. The lack of official LTE will be an issue for some people, but on the whole, the Nexus 4 stands among the best smartphones on the market right now.

  • Fast Interface
  • Good Screen
  • Excellent Off-Contract Price
  • No Official 4G LTE Out of The Box
  • Lots of Glass All Around
  • Average Battery Life

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Comments

Comments
rapid1 one year ago

I may like the Galaxy Note 2 but these also make a great impression. The one thing about the direct Google units is while being pretty much TOL hardware wise when there dropped is they upgrade way faster as well as bare upgrade OS wise way sooner than all the second party units. If you have a 2 year between upgrade wait like most your likely to see 3 OS's or versions anyway and almost guaranteed 2. One thing that totally gets me on the Nexus 4 is that it is LG. GOOGLE owns Motorola and there stock phone is an LG how does that make sense, and it is not even that I don't like LG, it is just that I wonder why really it is not a 100% stock unit. I mean if you own an smart phone OEM why use another party????

RWilliams one year ago

"If you have a 2 year between upgrade wait like most your likely to see 3 OS's or versions anyway and almost guaranteed 2."

This to me is one of the greatest perks as well. I find it a little insulting (I don't expect many to agree with me) that you can purchase an expensive phone one year, and it can't be updated to the latest OS the next. That's kind of a problem when a lot of people aren't in the habit of updating their phones on a rarely basis. The upside this generation though is that 4.2 really doesn't add a whole lot like 4.1 did.

Also, this phone... I want it. Good review Austin!

Dorkstar one year ago

The lack of a micro SD card is disappointing, but the lack of LTE is a no go.  If you do anything other than make calls and text, I think LTE is essential in buying a phone in today's market.  However, LTE was actually discovered on this phone.  Apparently it lays dormant inside the phone, and will only work in the US on T-Mobile's LTE network once they get it operational.  So, if you really want this phone, you can always wait for T-Mobile get's their LTE band 4 off the ground and see how it all plays out.

acarzt one year ago

I have this phone and it is PLENTY fast on t-mobiles network as is. I see 5mbps down which is plenty for the things most people do on their phones. It's not the fastest... but that download speed is plenty to stream videos, music, etc.

The phone is awesome, I love it. No complaints. :-)

rapid1 one year ago

Actually I have always wondered whats the point of LTE. My data moves fast enough anyway at the most things take a couple of seconds to download most files for a smartphone are Kb mainly with some Mb but on the lower scale. The lack of a Micro SD I do not like as I use 32Gb Class 10 cards and already won them. Oh and I use data all the time as far as it goes. When I see that Verizon commercial with the different graphs I always imagine him saying with our LTE speed we can charge you for full data this much faster on Verizon :)

Dorkstar one year ago

[quote user="rapid1"]

Actually I have always wondered whats the point of LTE. My data moves fast enough anyway at the most things take a couple of seconds to download most files for a smartphone are Kb mainly with some Mb but on the lower scale. The lack of a Micro SD I do not like as I use 32Gb Class 10 cards and already won them. Oh and I use data all the time as far as it goes. When I see that Verizon commercial with the different graphs I always imagine him saying with our LTE speed we can charge you for full data this much faster on Verizon :)

[/quote]

I live in Dallas, which is obviously a large city with a lot coverage and a lot of users.  Before I had LTE youtube videos and such loaded, but sometimes I'd have to wait for things to buffer.  Since getting LTE, everything loads faster then it does when I'm on wifi at the house.  Three times I week I probably turn off wifi and just use LTE in the house because it's that much faster.  It's just one of those things you don't really appreciate until you have it.

dugwood2 one year ago

I agree with most of what you say. The lack of a microSD is absolutely a deal breaker for me. I download a lot of apps and some HD movies. 16 GB is not enough memory. BTW, most app/games on google play are well into the MB range and some are over a GB. "Asphalt 7" is over a Gig and a lot of the games I download have additional files that have to be downloaded after the initial install. Most of them are 200MB and up. Many have been over 700MB.

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