Google Nexus 4 review: Royal road

GSMArena team, 07 December 2012.
Pages: 123456789101112

Google Now shows what virtual assistants should be like

Google Now was first introduced back in Jelly Bean 4.1 and is definitely one of the most interesting additions in the OS. Simply put, it's Google's version of a personal assistant. Google Now is in the same neck of the woods as Apple's Siri, but it learns constantly from your daily routines.

It's accessed by swiping up any of the three persistent navigation buttons at the bottom and gives you short overview of information it believes is relevant to you right now. Going to work in the morning? Google Now knows this and lets you know there's a big traffic jam on your usual way to the office, so it offers you a re-route.

It can interpret a lot of things from your search history as well. If you've been searching for, let's say, your favorite football team, Google Now will prepare a card showing you the next match the team is playing and will provide you score updates once the game begins.

LG Nexus 4 E960 LG Nexus 4 E960 LG Nexus 4 E960
Google Now is getting better

In Jelly Bean 4.2, Google Now has become even smarter and, if you allow it, can scan your email for upcoming flights, deliveries or restaurant reservations and let you know when they are due. There are also numerous kinds of cards like birthdays (yours and those of your contacts) and what distance you've walked in a particular month. The last one could definitely feel creepy for some users, but it's easily turned off from the Google Now settings menu.

Google has also integrated Voice Actions. They can handle stuff like sending messages (SMS or email), initiating a voice call, asking for directions, taking a note or opening a site. Google Now can also launch apps, check and manage your calendar and look for nearby places of interest and stuff like movie openings in theaters.

One big advantage of Google's Jelly Bean is that the voice typing functionality doesn't require an internet connection to work. You can enter text by speaking anywhere you can use the on-screen keyboard - be it the Messaging app or a note taking app - without the need for a data connection as long as you have pre-downloaded the needed language packs (and those only take about 20-25MB of your storage per pack).

Making voice typing available offline also made it faster as it's not dependent on your connection. What's even more impressive is that the transition hasn't cost it anything in terms of accuracy.

Synthetic benchmarks

The Google Nexus 4 is based on the LG Optimus G and as a result features the same monster quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro processor. Each of the four Krait cores is clocked at 1.5GHz and considering the 2GB of RAM and the Adreno 320 GPU, the Nexus 4 should easily ace our usual array of benchmark performance tests.

We've performed a battery of benchmarks on the Nexus 4 and pitted it against some of the top smartphones currently available on the market.

First up was BenchmarkPi, which tests the calculative performance of the individual processor cores. Surprisingly, the Nexus 4 posted a pretty shocking time here, ranking last. We can only assume that it's some issue that the benchmark itself has with Jelly Bean 4.2 as the Optimus G comes on top.

Benchmark Pi

Lower is better

  • HTC One X+
    280
  • LG Optimus G
    285
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    305
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    330
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    350
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    359
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    362
  • Google Nexus 4
    431

Linpack gives the multi-threaded performance of the S4 Pro CPU a run for its money. The Nexus 4 once again failed to match the performance of the Optimus G and was even beaten by the Galaxy Note II.

Linpack

Higher is better

  • LG Optimus G
    608
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    214.3
  • Google Nexus 4
    213.5
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    189.1
  • HTC One X+
    177.7
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    175.5
  • HTC One X
    160.9
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    141.5

AnTuTu is an all-round benchmark and here, the Google Nexus 4 excelled, taking the top spot. We don't know if that's just a coincidence or not, but AnTuTu is the only app to get an update after Jelly Bean 4.2 was released. Perhaps it was simply the only one that was optimized for the the latest Android version.

AnTuTu

Higher is better

  • Google Nexus 4
    15146
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    13562
  • HTC One X+
    13519
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    12288
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    11820
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    11633
  • LG Optimus G
    11226

Things weren't as rosy in Quadrant, which is another all-round performance test. The Nexus 4 got pitiful 4 thousand points, which isn't as good as one might hope for with this kind of raw power.

Quadrant

Higher is better

  • HTC One X+
    7632
  • LG Optimus G
    7439
  • HTC One X
    5952
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    5916
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    5450
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    5170
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    4814
  • Google Nexus 4
    4567

Next up is an array of GPU-stressing benchmarks, in which the Nexus 4 got on to a flying start. GLBenchmark Egypt off-screen tests show the GPU's RAW power while ignoring the screen reolution. The Nexus 4's Adreno 320 got a good 26 fps, slightly beating the Mali GPU's inside the Galaxy S III and Note II. The result was once again lower than that of the Optimus G, but that's easier to explain - Jelly Bean and its Project Butter is more taxing on the GPU than ICS.

GLBenchmark 2.5 Egypt (1080p offscreen)

Higher is better

  • LG Optimus G
    29
  • Apple iPhone 5
    27
  • Google Nexus 4
    26
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    17
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    15
  • HTC One X+
    12
  • HTC One X
    9

We used SunSpider, BrowserMark and Vellamo to examine browsing performance. The Google Nexus 4 scores brought more confusion here, as the smartphone was always well off the pace of the Optimus G and on two of the three occasions came last. Confusion, because the smartphone's Chrome browser is actually pretty quick and we didn't notice it to be worse than any of its competitors, let alone by that kind of margin.

SunSpider

Lower is better

  • Samsung Ativ S
    891
  • Apple iPhone 5
    915
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    910
  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    972
  • HTC One X+
    1001
  • Motorola RAZR i XT890
    1059
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    1192
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1312
  • LG Optimus G
    1353
  • Google Nexus 4
    1971

BrowserMark 2

Higher is better

  • LG Optimus G
    2555
  • Google Nexus 4
    1794
  • Nokia Lumia 920
    1774
  • Nokia Lumia 820
    1760
  • Samsung Omnia W
    1632
  • Samsung Galaxy S III (JB)
    1247

Vellamo

Higher is better

  • Samsung Galaxy Note II
    2418
  • HTC One X (Tegra 3)
    2078
  • Samsung Galaxy S III
    1641
  • LG Optimus 4X HD
    1568
  • LG Optimus G
    1522
  • Meizu MX 4-core
    1468
  • Google Nexus 4
    1310

So, while this is the first time in a while now when a Google Nexus stands at the top of the Android mountain hardware-wise, the Nexus 4 didn't really turn out to be the benchmark champion that we expected.

It could be a driver issue as Google didn't have all that long to optimize the chipset for the Jelly Bean 4.2 platform or a matter of the benchmark developers optimizing their software for the new Android release.

If the real-life experience is anything to go by, it's more a case of the latter as the Google Nexus 4 is a blazing fast smartphone. Hold-ups were absent throughout the interface and there was no lag to speak of either.

We did notice thought that the Nexus 4 tends to get somewhat hot when used continuously, though. There are many reports on the web on the smartphone reducing its performance when it reaches a certain temperature and we are still running some tests to find out more about it. We'll publish our findings on this page in the following few days.

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