Samsung Google Nexus S review: Royal droid

GSMArena team, 11 February, 2011.
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Basic retail package

The retail box of the Nexus S is identical to that of its predecessor. The obvious omission is an android-branded pouch but it still has everything you’d need: a USB charger, standard microUSB cable, headset, and a quick start guide.

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The Nexus S unboxed

It’s unfortunate that Google didn’t supply a carrying case. It’s not a cheap phone by any means, and cutting back the accessories will not go down well with users.

Google Nexus S 360-degree spin

Although the Google Nexus S is based on the Samsung Galaxy S, there are slight differences in the form factor, mainly due to the characteristic curve of the display. Measuring 123.9 x 63 x 10.9 mm, the Nexus S is a bit taller and thicker than the Galaxy S, but in fact handles better.

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The Nexus S compared to the Samsung Galaxy s and the Apple iPhone 4

Despite those extra few millimeters here and there and the increased weight of 129g, pocketability hasn’t been compromised.

Design and construction

To begin with, the Google Nexus S isn’t a precise replica of the Galaxy S – though the resemblance is obvious. To us, it’s a definite step forward in design. This is due to the special Super AMOLED Curved Display, which Google are so proud of. The 4.0” glass covering the display is slightly curved to improve usability.

It’s the subtlest of shapes, but the screen is nicely curved. As a result, the Samsung Google Nexus S is more comfortable to hold and have calls on.

The Super AMOLED capacitive touchscreen is beautiful. The blacks are remarkably deep and everything is crisp and sharp. Viewing angles are impressive. As for the sunlight legibility – it doesn’t disappoint either. It won’t let you down if you fancy e-book reading.

The responsiveness of the capacitive touchscreen is top notch. The Nexus S reacts to even the slightest of touches.

A minor difference from the Galaxy S can be found in terms of screen protection. Gone is the Gorilla glass and it has been replaced by a regular glass with an oleophobic coating. Not very useful against drops or scratches, but it makes sure the inevitable fingerprints on the display are easy to clean off and not as nasty.

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The gorgeous Super AMOLED display on the Nexus S. Sunlight legibility is a thing of the past.

The typical Android controls (Back, Menu, Home and search) are capacitive and located below the display. We don’t know what made Google change the button layout compared to the Nexus One, but as long as it works, it’s fine.

The capacitive keys are as responsive as the screen itself. They react to the gentlest touch and have impressively smooth and precise haptics. Gone is the trackball of the Nexus One, and that’s hardly a surprise since the phone isn’t manufactured by HTC.

Above the display you will find the earpiece, two hidden sensors (proximity and ambient light) and a front-facing VGA camera for video calling.

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The capacitive keys • front-facing camera, earpiece and sensors at the top.

Both sides of the phone are very clean and feature only one button at a side. On the left is the volume rocker, while the Lock/Power key is on the right.

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Volume rocker on the left side • Lock/Power combo key on the right side.

There’s little going on at the top too – it’s virtually button-less. At the bottom is the mouthpiece, the standard microUSB port, which is used both for charging and data connections, and the 3.5mm audio jack.

Featureless top area • The microUSB port, the mouthpiece and the 3.5mm jack at the bottom

At the back of the Google Nexus S there’s a 5 megapixel camera lens along with a LED flash to help you take those tricky low-light shots. The loudspeaker grill is nearby.

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The back of the Google Nexus S

Popping the back cover out unveils the 1500mAh battery and the SIM compartment. The battery is quoted at 6.7 hours of talk time, with a standby time of 17 days in 3G mode (scaled up to 14 hours of talk time and 29.7 days of standby in 2G networks). The Nexus S has no microSD memory expansion, the 16GB of built-in storage is all you get.

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Bellow the battery cover resides a generous 1500mAh battery

The Google Nexus S is good looking and solidly built. Ergonomically, the device is well thought out and can easily be used with only one hand, despite its big 4.0” screen. The impressive Super AMOLED screen is undoubtedly a key asset of the Nexus S. However, not all of the units will have it – as it turned out on some markets the Google Nexus S will come with S-LCD.

The downsides of the Nexus S are pretty much the same as in the prototype – the Samsung Galaxy S. The phone could’ve had a more premium finish to justify the price tag. The all-plastic body is alright, but not spectacular. Some metal could’ve done wonders for the feel of the device. Not to mention the downgraded imaging capabilities.

All in all, the Nexus S is a step up from the Galaxy S but hardly a match for the superior materials HTC used on the Nexus One.

But that’s on the outside – inside we’re about to experience Android 2.3 Gingerbread.

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