Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Review: Google Nexus 4 by LG

The Nexus 4 is Google's fourth smartphone under their Nexus lineup, and this time it’s courtesy of LG. As a refresher, devices launched under that brand comes with stock version of Android. It doesn't come with any manufacturer or carrier customizations. In fact, Google dubs Nexus devices as 'Pure Google' devices.

Google Nexus 4 by LG Philippines

Having the 'Pure Google mark, those devices are always the first to receive the newest Android updates. We all know how frustrating it can be to wait for such. Back to the Nexus 4, let's see how does it stand up with the competition.

PART 1: Hardware and Construction

“The mostly glass composition gives the device a really solid and premium feel on it.”

The Nexus 4 is composed of glass on the front and back. The build quality is not really something you would expect on a smartphone with a P24,990 price tag. The mostly glass composition gives the device a really solid and premium feel on it. It's like you're holding an iPhone 4S in your hand. There are also small details with crosshair-like pattern on the back glass which reflects light when held at a certain angle and gives it an elegant look.

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On the front, there's the 4.7-inch IPS Gorilla Glass 2 screen. The screen looks crisp and sharp just like the other smartphones having the same screen size with HD resolution. The viewing angles are so good that anyone beside you can peek at the screen. Up top is the earpiece and the 1.3 Megapixel front-facing camera to the right of it. The LED notification light is located below the screen, with no navigation buttons in sight – they are all on screen now.

The 8 Megapixel camera sits completely flush on the back, with the LED flash being the only part that protrudes slightly. A cut-out on lower right of the glass back gives way for the speaker grille, which often gets blocked when you put the device on a surface.

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A sort of rubbery material and a metallic-looking plastic chrome encompasses the sides of the Nexus 4. On the top, there's the 3.5mm headphone jack and the secondary microphone. Moving to the right side, you'll see the power/lock button. On the bottom part, there's the microUSB port and the primary microphone. Finally, there's SIM card tray and the volume router on the left side.

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The overall feel and build quality of the device is really solid except for the power and volume buttons which sometimes feel a bit flimsy.

PART 2: Software

“It’s boring and awesome.”

As we probably all know, the Nexus 4 runs stock Android — Android 4.2 Jelly Bean that is. It comes with the features that only Google has developed, with no extra customizations from the manufacturer, which is LG, or from the carriers.

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Google made the Android 4.2 Jelly Bean much simpler than those with custom skins. The home screen and app drawer is very basic and offers only the basic customizations like adding wallpaper, widgets, shortcuts, or folders.

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They also revamped the notification center. You can now swipe your two fingers over a notification to view more details and do quick actions, for example, share a screenshot, snooze an alarm, or reply to a tweet. Google also added shortcuts to the settings, which can be easily accessed by tapping the button on the upper-right part. However, that’s basically they are — shortcuts. It would have been nice if they are actually toggles and not just a shortcut.

Google Now
Some people refer to Google Now as Android’s version of Siri. The thing is, actually, Google Now has so much more than what Siri can do. Aside from voice commands like launching apps, sending text messages, or call a contact, Google Now also aggregates, at your will, various information like weather forecast from where you are, traffic information to your workplace, nearby photo spots, flight information from your Gmail account, event information, package status when you receive an order confirmation on your email, and many more. It really puts the things that you need or want to know in one place.

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Gesture Typing
Google has also integrated a built-in gesture typing on the keyboard, allowing you to quickly swipe your finger over letters to type a word. It works quite well so long as you type in English.

Google Nexus 4 by LG Philippines

After using the phone for two weeks, what I can say is it’s both boring and awesome. I wished it had the TouchWiz UI instead. Yeah I know I’m weird but I don’t complain, after all, this is a Nexus and that’s just my opinion.

PART 3: Performance

“Smooth as a butter.”

The Nexus 4 has a Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro quad-core CPU partnered by a 2GB RAM. And with the Project Butter, introduced on Jelly Bean, everything is just as smooth as a, well, butter.

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Browsing though websites on Google Chrome is fluid, without any hiccups. Playing Temple Run 2 and other graphic-intensive games like Dead Trigger is a pleasure without any lags at all. You will not really see any app going slow or force closing with the hardware it has.

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Surprisingly, the Nexus 4 gave a slightly lower scores compared to the other devices with the exactly the same configuration it has. It got 14,341 on AnTuTu and 4,621 on Quadrant synthetic benchmark apps. But don’t take this scores, they’re just numbers which do nothing after all. Just like what I said, the performance of the Nexus 4 is almost excellent.

Battery Life
When it comes to battery life, I had mixed results on the Nexus 4. Despite having a 2,100mAh, it still struggled with coping up with power most of the time. With a moderate usage, that’s minimal calls, Wi-Fi and mobile data on, a couple of minutes of gaming, and moderate web browsing, the Nexus 4 managed to last only a little over 6 hours. I recommend that you always bring your charger or an external battery pack if you’re always out and want to survive an entire day with your phone especially this doesn’t have a removable battery.


PART 4: Camera

“Photos are not that sharp and lacks color and saturation.”

Even the Nexus 4 has an 8 Megapixels camera, it doesn’t mean it always take good photos. Most of the time, photos are not that sharp and sometimes lacks color and saturation. The photos sometimes look washed out. If you are taking photos in a well-lit environment, you might get some good results, but don’t expect the same in dark places where the photos can get quite noisy. Check out the sample shots below.

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The Photo Sphere feature may look fun at first. But fun doesn’t translate to nice outputs. Using it requires you to pan the device in a 360 degrees direction and results look like a poorly arranged puzzle most of the time. If you can get the device on a tripod, you may get good results. Here’s a sample in JPG format.


The Verdict

“The phone to look for if you want premium build quality, stock Android, and timely OS updates.”

The Nexus 4 is as nice as it gets. Its build quality truly screams premium and something a flagship phone should have. The features of Android 4.2 Jelly Bean are enough to satisfy a normal user. For those accustomed to other devices with custom skins, it might take a little while before you get used to stock Android. But it’s really just a matter of preference.

The performance is also on par with other flagship Android devices, with no major lags or even force closing of apps. While the performance Is good, it’s battery life offers the opposite.

Priced at P24,990 (or $329 if you can get one from the US), this is the phone to look for if you want these things together: premium build quality, stock Android experience, and timely OS updates.

The good
Premium and very solid build quality
Excellent viewing angle of the screen
Fast performance
Stock Android
First to get OS updates

The bad
So-so battery life
Camera is not that good

LG Nexus 4 E960 Specifications and Features
4.7-inch IPS display with 1280x768 (WXGA) resolution
Corning® Gorilla® Glass 2
8 Megapixels main camera, 1.3 Megapixel front
8GB or 16GB internal memory
Qualcomm Snapdragon™ S4 Pro CPU
Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n
GSM/EDGE/GPRS (850, 900, 1800, 1900 MHz)
3G/HSPA+ (850, 900, 1700, 1900, 2100 MHz)
Wireless charging
SlimPort HDMI
Android 4.2 Jelly Bean OS

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