Galaxy Nexus review: the sweetest aftertaste

Design

In many ways the Galaxy Nexus looks like a love-child between the Nexus S and the Galaxy S II. The front is completely dominated by a curved display with not much else, similar to the Nexus S, while the back is beautifully textured by Samsung to feel similar to the Galaxy S II line of devices.

At first I wasn’t sure that the curved nature of the device would actually have that much to do with the comfort, but in actual fact it’s really quite clever. The Galaxy Nexus is the single most comfortable phone I have ever tried for making calls, and the shape fits perfectly in the hands without the 4.65” display feeling overbearing.

One problem I do have is that the bump and tapering give an illusion that the device is thicker (and thinner) than it actually is. The top end is quite thin and the curves on the side make it feel even thinner, but the bottom is occupied by an unnecessarily large bump. I do admit that the ridge on the back due to the bump makes it easier to hold, but it’s massive and ruins otherwise beautiful curves.

Other features of the device I really like. The power button on the right-hand side is an absolute must for a phone of this size, and I’m glad that Samsung (as usual) has included it in the right place. The volume buttons on the other side are also in a perfect location. They are further down than you would expect, but this means that in a normal holding position you won’t accidentally press them.

The speaker on the back of the device is in a good position right at the bottom and is out of the way of obstructive fingers. The camera is also in a good spot and looks great in its place. I’m not quite sure that the 3.5mm headphone jack on the bottom is the best spot: I prefer the top, but looking at it, it wouldn’t be possible to put it there because the top is too thin.

There might be some minor annoyances with the design, but honestly I don’t care at all. I love the design of the Galaxy Nexus: no unnecessary branding on the front, fantastic textured back, curved design, massive display and little else to ruin it all. You’ve got to thank the Google-Samsung collaboration for another fantastically-designed Nexus device; cheers guys.

Note: The LTE Galaxy Nexus is slightly thicker than this HSPA+ version, but most other design elements remain identical

Display

Now the actual size of the display on the Galaxy Nexus is 4.65”, but as the buttons are included on the screen rather than having separate capacitive buttons, the actual usable screen space is closer to 4.3”. The benefit of having buttons on the screen is that you can make them disappear for certain apps, such as the video player, to utilize all the available space while still keeping the actual phone quite small.

The display itself is quite impressive, as you would expect if it’s packing a 1280 x 720 resolution on a Super AMOLED panel. I am aware that this the supposedly worse PenTile subpixel RGBG matrix as opposed to the better RGB Stripe, but at this pixel density the arrangement of the subpixels is essentially irrelevant as your eyes will not notice the difference.

There really is nothing to complain about the display on the Galaxy Nexus. It’s big when it needs to be, and because it’s a Super AMOLED it’s simply beautiful. Once you experience the eye-popping colors, rich, deep blacks and stellar vibrancy and contrast you won’t want to go back to your standard LCD-type display. The pixel density is also outstanding: you won’t be seeing individual pixels at all without a magnifying glass.

I also noticed that Samsung have fixed the white balance so that pure white is no longer blue tinted. With the display on the Galaxy Nexus, whites are very white; at full brightness a white image on the Nexus makes my computer’s desktop display looks much warmer (as in, slightly tinted yellow). This just goes to show the advancement of AMOLED displays are countering the problems found on earlier displays in the original Nexus One and Nexus S.

At times the Super AMOLED display can be hard to see in direct sunlight, but it’s actually better than a standard LCD display as I believe the Super AMOLEDs include a special layer that reduces the effects of incoming light to make the display easier to see. It’s not exactly eInk quality for reading outside, but it does an alright job.

I think you would find it hard to hate the massive Super AMOLED display, as Samsung have done a fantastic job choosing and implementing a great quality screen. In fact it’s hard to remember a Samsung product with a poor display; items like my Galaxy S, the Galaxy S II and the Galaxy Note I recently reviewed all have superb display qualities.

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