Samsung Nexus S: Performance

January 31, 2011 by Jen Edwards Reads (72,679)
Editor's Rating

Ratings Breakdown (1-10)

    • Service, Warranty & Support
    • 9
    • Ease of Use
    • 10
    • Design
    • 8
    • Performance
    • 8
    • Value
    • 9
    • Total Score:
    • 8.80
    • Rating 1 to 10, top score 10


Under the hood, the Samsung Nexus S is powered by a 1 GHz Samsung Cortex A8 Hummingbird processor. It is extremely fast, carrying out my every desire almost immediately. The only slowdowns I noticed were network related (more on this point later).

Android OS 2.3 — sometimes better known by its code-name: Gingerbread — includes a number of small improvements throughout that leads to a better overall experience. There are more options on calendar appointments, and the new copy and paste scheme is truly delightful.

Google Android OS 2.3: Cut and PasteA simple tap on a word brings up the text markers, and you can move them to the beginning and the end of what you want to copy by sliding them to the proper spot on the screen. The word or phrase is then automatically copied to the clipboard. I love the new method, because it is so much easier to use and so much more precise than what previous versions of Android could offer. No more worries about random spaces or punctuation marks getting in the way because it is now much easier to copy exactly what you want.

Some Nexus S users have complained about some troubling glitches — random reboots, text messages being sent to the wrong contact, and some graphical issues with icons on the homescreen. I haven’t encountered any of those problems on this test device, but enough users have complained that it seems likely these aren’t isolated issues.

Unfortunately, call quality on this device is very poor. One of my test subjects likened it to “a tin can connected to a tin can” and another said that I sounded very tinny and distant. In both cases I could hear them on the other end very well, they just had problems hearing me. It wasn’t due to background noise either, because none of my callers were able to identify exactly what was going on the background (construction, children at a playground, a nearby fountain, or a busy street).

I don’t have a great deal of experience with T-Mobile, so this could be a network issue, but I live in a major city and tried the phone inside and outside of my office, at home, and while I was out shopping, with notable voice quality issues each time.

Samsung Nexus S with Google Android OS 2.3Wi-Fi and Bluetooth work great, though I’m not too happy about the new Wi-Fi settings screen. When you join a new network you don’t get the quick and simple user name and password box anymore; that area is farther down and requires scrolling past security certificates, etc. to access. I’m not sure why Google decided to rearrange things to make it more difficult to join a new network, but at least it’s the sort of thing you usually do just once when you set up the phone.

The email and web browsing experience is also great, as I have come to expect on Android devices. Reading my Gmail or navigating from page to page on the Web is fast, with smooth scrolling and a rich experience.

There aren’t any social networking apps included, but you can get Facebook and Twitter clients on the Android Market, most of them for free.

The Samsung Nexus S has all of the standard PIM apps that you would expect to find on any Android phone, including calendar, contacts, clock, calculator, and a News & Weather app that provides the local weather forecast and all of the top news and sports headlines.

Gingerbread brings some enhancements in this area, most notably with the addition of guests/invitations in the calendar app and time zone support for appointments. The new appointment interface is much cleaner than before, and more attractive.

The new features in Google Maps 5.0 with Navigation are quite impressive. Multi-touch allows you to use two fingers to explore 3D maps, dragging up and down to tilt and twisting to rotate the map. There’s a compass mode that reorients the map to the direction you’re facing, and improvements to map caching with offline rerouting means that you won’t lose your way even if you lose your data connection. I like being able to choose between driving, biking, walking, and public transit directions, and I was perfectly directed on each of my test trips.

Samsung Nexus S with Google Android OS 2.3There is no Microsoft Office compatible software included with the phone, such as QuickOffice, but if you receive a Microsoft Word or Excel document as an email attachment you will be able to view it with the built-in ThinkFree Write Mobile or ThinkFree Calc Mobile. There are also more productivity apps available on the Android Market.

The Android OS music player will keep you entertained listening to your favorite tunes. The external speaker will is capable of extremely loud volumes if you desire, with a minimum of distortion. Plus, there’s a video player if you want to transfer TV shows or movies you get off the Web. Just keep in mind that 16 GB storage limit I mentioned earlier.

The included YouTube client showcases web videos quite nicely, with full screen viewing and good sound quality.

Since the Nexus S is sold as an unlocked phone, you won’t find all of the games and demos you typically see on phones that have been more heavily customized by mobile carriers. I downloaded a few games from the Android Market and found that my usual favorites like Jewels and Sudoku played well, with no stuttering or lag and with bright vivid colors.

Samsung Nexus S with Google Android OS 2.3If you have some time to kill and want to play games or watch videos, the Nexus S can definitely handle your mobile entertainment needs.

The Nexus S has two cameras, one on the back that takes five megapixel still photos and can capture video as well, plus a VGA camera on the front for video calling.

The five megapixel camera takes excellent photos, even under difficult lighting conditions, and I’m impressed with the level of quality and detail I was able to capture.

White balance, flash, scene mode, focus mode (including macro), and exposure are all easily adjusted by tapping on the screen, though I was disappointed by the lack of any sort of zoom capability.

The only other issue is with action shots, as demonstrated by my photo of cars speeding by on a busy street. You might be able to capture some sports shots if you’re lucky, but you may end up with some blurring or may miss the shot if the camera isn’t able to work fast enough to keep up with you. It works best for portrait and landscape shots, so if you’re planning to take lots of kid or pet shots this might not be the best cameraphone for you.

Battery Life
You won’t have to worry about running out of juice with the Nexus S, because it seems to go on and on forever. I can get three days of relatively heavy use out of it, with Wi-Fi on, taking shots with the camera, constantly checking my email, and watching two or three YouTube videos each day.

You should certainly be able to make it through the day without having your phone go dead during your evening commute, and you might even be able to get away without packing the charger on a weekend trip.



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