LG Nexus 4 - Coming of Age

Launch SRP: S$668

Performance

Performance 

The Nexus 4 is one of the three Android smartphones in the market that is equipped with the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 quad-core APQ8064 processor. The other two smartphones are the ASUS PadFone 2 and LG Optimus G.

Featuring a similar CPU architecture as its predecessor, the APQ8064 processor has four synchronous CPU cores which can be independently controlled for maximum efficiency. As seen in the review of the PadFone 2, the APQ8064 processor took the lead with a chart-topping score of 7404 in the Quadrant benchmark.

Hence, we were very eager to see if the Nexus 4 can match up to the PadFone 2 and the other Android flagship devices. For those who are unfamiliar with the Quadrant benchmark, it evaluates the CPU, memory, I/O and 3D graphics of Android devices. In this comparison, we put the Nexus 4 up against the PadFone 2, HTC One X+, Samsung Galaxy S III LTE and its predecessor, the Samsung Galaxy Nexus.

How the Phones Stack Up
Device LG Nexus 4 ASUS PadFone 2 Samsung Galaxy S III LTE HTC One X+ Samsung Galaxy Nexus
CPU Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
quad-core 1.5GHz 
Qualcomm Snapdragon S4
quad-core 1.5GHz
Exynos 4212 Quad
quad-core 1.4GHz
NVIDIA Tegra 3 quad-core 1.7GHz TI OMAP 4460
dual-core 1.2GHz
GPU Adreno 320 Adreno 320 Mali-400MP 12-core GeForce PowerVR SGX540
RAM 2GB 2GB 2GB 1GB 1GB
OS Android 4.2 Android 4.0.4 Android 4.1 Android 4.1 Android 4.0

 

Oddly enough, the Nexus 4 scored the lowest among the leading Android smartphones in the Quadrant benchmark. The similarly spec'ed ASUS PadFone 2 was able to keep its throne despite running on Android 4.0.4. Stranger yet is the fact that the Nexus 4 running on the stock Android 4.2 lagging behind its rivals with customized user interfaces to handle.

As you should know by now, benchmarks do not usually reflect the real world usage performance and this is very true for the Nexus 4. In actual use, the device felt lightning fast in its operation with no signs of slowdown or lag. Apps and windows jumped with life the moment you tap on them, making it seem as though the Nexus 4 is brimming with power waiting to be unleashed.

The user experience is definitely a step up from that of other top Android smartphones we've reviewed so far. After using the Nexus 4 for two days, we had to agree with Google - the Nexus 4 is indeed its snappiest smartphone yet. 

 

Multimedia Performance 

The increase in screen size (from 4.65 to 4.7-inch) is almost negligible, but the key change is the display technology used. The previous three generations of Nexus phones use AMOLED displays, which typically deliver vibrant and rich colors. For the Nexus 4, it is equipped with a Super IPS+ display.

You can expect the same level of sharpness and accurate color reproduction on the Nexus 4 as on the PadFone 2. It also incorporates the use of Zerogap Touch technology to make text and graphics seem closer to the screen. Similar tactics are used on the HTC One X/XL/X+/Windows Phone 8X (branded as optical lamination) and the Nokia Lumia 920.

When it comes to storage capacity, the Nexus 4 falls short of the competition. Available only in 8GB and 16GB models, the Nexus 4 does not have a memory card slot to increase storage space if you are looking to load your music library or videos onto the device.

Out of the box, the 16GB Nexus 4 comes with about 12GB of memory space which should suffice for mainstream users. For those who need more storage space, you may have to consider the Samsung Galaxy S III LTE as it has a microSD card slot that supports up to 64GB cards.

One of the most criticized aspects of the Nexus 4 is its lack of 4G LTE connectivity. As the flagship bearer for Android, Google should have made the Nexus 4 compatible with LTE networks around the world. Granted that different telcos deploy a diverse range of spectrums, we wondered why Apple was able to achieve this feat with the iPhone 5 while Google couldn't. Want to know Google's stand on this? Quoted below are some excerpts from an article by The Verge

The Verge -  Android head Andy Rubin calls the lack of LTE a "tactical issue," and cites cost and battery life as major concerns with devices that have to support multiple radios. "A lot of the networks that have deployed LTE haven't scaled completely yet -- they're hybrid networks [...] which means the devices need both radios built into them," he said.

While some people are able to tweak the Nexus 4 and force it onto an LTE network, the device is found to only support Band 4 LTE. This means that users in Singapore will not be able to enjoy 4G LTE connectivity as the telcos operate on Band 3 (1800MHz) and Band 7 (2600MHz). Below are the screenshots taken on the Nexus 4 with a 4G SIM card:

The only consolation is that the Nexus 4 supports HSPA+ downlink speeds up to 42Mbps. We did a quick test of its connection speed outdoors using the Speedtest.net app, and compared it with the Apple iPhone 5 and Samsung Galaxy Note II.

 

New Camera User Interface

Android 4.2 also brings an overhaul to the camera interface on the Nexus 4. From the looks of it, Google strives to keep the user interface as simple and clean as it can. Users switching from HTC or Samsung devices are going to be on a slight learning curve as they try to navigate the new camera interface on Android 4.2.

Speaking of Photo Sphere, it is a cool, new feature that allows you to take photos in any direction to create incredible, immersive photo spheres. People who use Street View on Google Maps should be familiar with the end results of Photo Sphere. Below is a simplified process of taking a photo sphere using the Nexus 4: 

To start Photo Sphere, you need to align the blue dot in the centre of the circle. Once in place, the camera will snap a photo and you can aim the camera in any direction. The blue dot will guide you to estimating the extent of overlap needed. Align the blue dot in place and the camera will take another photo. Repeat this process until you have reached the target scope, and hit the shutter button on screen. Photo Sphere will automatically stitch up the photos together. Initially, photo spheres will look weird as it requires practice to master the technique. 

After the final image is created, you can view it in the Gallery where a Photo Sphere icon will appear below it. Tapping on it will activate a 3D-like animation where you can pan or zoom on the image itself. If you tap the image again, the Photo Sphere will automatically pan the image from the beginning to the end.

 

Imaging Performance

The Nexus 4 has an 8-megapixel rear autofocus camera with LED flash and a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera. HTC and Apple have been devoting much resources into imaging performance for the past year, and we were equally interested to see if LG did the same. 

 

 

Battery Mileage

Our standard battery test for mobile phones includes the following parameters:

  • Looping a 800 x 480-pixel video with screen brightness and volume at 100%
     
  • Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connectivity turned on
     
  • Constant data streaming through email and Twitter
Test Phones Compared
Specifications/Device LG Nexus 4 ASUS PadFone 2 Samsung Galaxy S III LTE HTC One X+ Apple iPhone 5 Samsung Galaxy Nexus
Processor
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz
  • Quad-core 1.5GHz
  • Quad-core 1.4GHz
  • Quad-core 1.7GHz
  • Dual-core 1GHz
  • Dual-core 1.2GHz
Display Size
  • 4.7-inch
  • 4.7-inch
  • 4.8-inch
  • 4.7-inch
  • 4.0-inch
  • 4.65-inch
Display Type
  • Super IPS+ LCD
  • Super IPS+ LCD
  • HD Super AMOLED
  • Super LCD 2
  • IPS LCD
  • HD Super AMOLED
Display Resolution
  • 1,280 x 768 pixels
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels 
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
  • 1136 x 640 pixels
  • 1,280 x 720 pixels
Dimensions
  • 133.9 x 68.7 x 9.1 mm
  • 137.9 x 69 x 9mm
  • 136.6 x 70.6 x 8.6mm
  • 134.36 x 69.9 x 8.9mm
  • 123.8 x 58.6 x 7.6mm
  • 135.5 x 67.9 x 8.9 mm
Weight
  • 139g
  • 135g
  • 133g
  • 135g
  • 112g
  • 135g
Battery
  • 2,100mAh
  • 2,140mAh
  • 2,100mAh
  • 2,100mAh
  • 1,440mAh
  • 1,750mAh

 

If there's one area that Google and LG needs to improve (drastically), it's the battery performance. Just like the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, we were disappointed by the poor battery mileage of the Nexus 4. Aside from the Galaxy Nexus, the Nexus 4 has the lowest battery uptime (6 hours) among the phones of its class.

It is even more annoying and puzzling to see the Nexus 4 falter in this aspect despite having almost similar specs as the ASUS PadFone 2, which lasted three and a half hours more. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Nexus 4 has the second highest power consumption at 1.33W behind the HTC One X+ (1.43W).

In the Portability Index where each device is assessed on its ability to balance battery mileage with its size and portability, the Nexus 4 didn't fare very well due to the fact that it is the heaviest (139g) of all phones compared and its battery stamina dragged it down further.

During normal usage conditions, the Nexus 4 had difficulties lasting through the day. If used moderately, we were able to last through a day. Having said that, intensive usage of the Nexus 4 would drain the battery faster and like many phones today, the back panel felt warm after prolonged usage. Perhaps, the battery performance may improve after a few battery cycles. We will monitor the issue and update this section if there are any new findings.

8.5
Design
8.5
Features
9
User-Friendliness
9
Performance
7.5
Value
9
The Good
Lightning fast Android 4.2
Attractive price point
Good build quality
Great design
The Bad
Below average battery life
Subpar imaging performance
Lack of memory card slot
No LTE