Galaxy Nexus review: the sweetest aftertaste

Performance & Battery Life

The Galaxy Nexus sets itself up to be a decent performer. Under the hood you get 1 GB of RAM along with a TI OMAP 4460 chipset: a 1.2 GHz dual-core ARM Cortex-A9-based processor, a PowerVR SGX540 graphics processor and pentaband HSPA+ radios. This is all helped by the fact that Android 4.0 is hardware accelerated, meaning the GPU will help out rendering the interface.

As a result of the great software/hardware combination there is no operating system lag at all. None. No mystery lag that I heard people whinging about close to the announcement. Everything is so incredibly smooth it deserves a commendation, but honestly I was expecting nothing less than smooth considering the hardware.

Along with no lag in the operating system I experienced no lag in any apps I tried. The browser was the fastest experience I have ever witnessed on any Android phone, again due to improvements on the hardware and software side. It only struggled on super-image-intense sites like The Verge, but then again it was better than I have ever seen it on a smartphone. Multitasking is also incredibly fluid, with a huge amount of apps remaining “open” without performance or battery life degradation.

Gaming performance is fairly good, although I was sceptical that the older PowerVR SGX540 graphics would be enough to power intense games at the 720p resolution necessary for the display. I use a SGX540 on a regular basis in my Galaxy S and it’s no slouch, but suffers in games like Dungeon Defenders where I have seen other GPUs (like the Adreno 220 and Mali-400 MP) excel.

However, it looks like the chip first released in 2007 is still holding up when alongside a dual-core chipset and 1 GB of RAM. All the games I tried with moderate graphic levels ran fine, but judging by the benchmarks below I wouldn’t exactly say it’s a graphics powerhouse.

Now for the usual synthetic benchmarks, starting with SmartBench 2011 to give an rounded processor performance number. The Galaxy Nexus scores quite well, beating the 1.2 GHz MSM 8260 in the HTC Sensation and the 1 GHz Tegra 2, but falling behind the Exynos. Also worthy of note is the performance difference between 1 GHz and 1.2 GHz OMAP 4 series chipsets: a 20% higher clockspeed only yields 7% better performance according to the benchmark.

When it comes to running the graphics benchmark GLBenchmark 2.1 there is good news and bad news. The bad news is the SGX540 is the slowest GPU in a dual-core chipset today. The good news is that despite having to render 140% more pixels, the results show it’s only 4% slower than the Galaxy S. That means the other components are really helping out to ensure the GPU isn’t left behind.

Comparing it to other devices, it’s 12% slower than a Tegra 2 and 27% slower than the Adreno 220; it’s not really in the same league as the Mali and SGX543MP2. As the Tegra 2 is quite capable of delivering good graphics and the Galaxy Nexus is only slightly slower, I wouldn’t be too worried about the Nexus struggling in games. However if you’re a heavy gamer looking for a graphics superpower I would look towards an Exynos 4120 device like the Galaxy S II or Galaxy Note instead.

Despite all this power you get a reasonable battery life from the Galaxy Nexus. With the usual amount of moderate usage, involving around an hour of texting, several hours accessing data for web browsing and social networking plus some camera usage and light gaming, I achieved 32 hours on battery before it required a charge.

With more intense usage I would imagine it would need charging every night, but as I achieved a good two days (effectively as you pull off the charger one morning and don’t return it until the following night) I would say the battery life is quite good. With full-blown gaming or video watching my estimates would place the battery life around the usual 6-7 hour mark, but I didn’t fully measure this.

Note: The Galaxy Nexus with LTE will have slightly different battery life due to the higher power consumption of accessing LTE towers and larger battery included.

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