Google Nexus S Review: Great expectations

The Nexus S is Google’s latest flagship Smartphone to run the search giant’s Android operating system. Released on December 16th in the US and shortly after in Europe, it received many mixed reviews, some denouncing the phone for being less than expected and others praising it as the best Android device yet. All the commotion makes it tough to know if the Nexus S is actually any good.

Great Expectations Yield Great Disappointment

When rumor of the Nexus S first hit the internet, speculation was all over the place. There were “confirmed” specifications claiming it had Samsung’s dual-core Orion processor along with 1080p video recording capabilities, some 6-billion Megapixel camera, and an integrated teleporter. Ok, I may have exaggerated on those last two, but needless to say, people were expecting an awful lot.

When it finally launched, it was revealed that the Nexus S wasn’t much more than a Galaxy S (a six month old device) with an LED flash and front facing camera. To make matters worse, the Nexus S has no microSD slot (relying on just 16GB of internal memory), and it can’t even record in 720p. The immense let down resulted in boycotts and bad mouthing in forums and reviews all over the internet.

People were so angered by its apparent lack in progress that they failed to realize that, despite being based on a six month old platform, the Nexus S is arguably the most powerful Android Smartphone available. Its CPU may be slightly outclassed by HTC’s Desire HD, but its video processing core is currently the pinnacle of the Smartphone world.

What the Nexus S has to Offer

The Nexus S has all of the features you’d expect from an Android Smartphone; like full-fledged web browsing (with Flash 10.1), over 250 thousand apps, and fully customizable experience. Despite all of the mudslinging, the Nexus S has plenty to offer. As Google’s latest development platform, would you expect anything less?

Hummingbird Processor – Samsung’s Hummingbird processor may be six months old, but it still offers the most powerful combination of general and graphics processing. In fact, it has the fastest video processor currently on the market.

“Pure Google” – No slow custom interfaces or carrier restrictions, and get your updates directly from Google. The Nexus S is Google’s new development platform, so Android is optimized specifically for it, giving it the potential to outperform even those fancy Dual-Core phones coming out later this year.

Android 2.3 Gingerbread – Gingerbread is the latest version of Android, complete with integrated internet calling, improved keyboard, smoother UI, and tons of optimized code for an overall faster device.

4-inch Super AMOLED Screen – One of the best screens on the market with vivid colors and advanced power saving, and 4 inches is an excellent size; not too big, not too small.

Front Facing Camera – Video chat with friends and family on or off of Wi-Fi.

5MP Camera with Flash – Even at only 5MP, the Nexus S’ camera takes quality photos and works exceptionally well in low light conditions for a cell phone camera.

16GB Internal Storage – The Nexus S’ internal storage is significantly faster than an external SD card.

Factory Unlocked – It works on any GSM network, though limited to 2G speeds on some, such as AT&T.

What the Nexus S is Lacking

While a lot of the negative commentary about the new Nexus S was exaggerated conjecture, a few actually had some merit.

No Dual-Core CPU – Even though dual core CPUs are not yet available on the Smartphone market, it didn’t stop people from complaining that the Nexus S has a single core Hummingbird processor.

No 4G – Many people were hoping for at least HSPA+ compatibility with 21Mbps data rates, but the Nexus S is HSPA only, topping out at 7.2Mbps.

No MicroSD Slot – Hard to believe, and Android device with no expandable memory, but it’s true. You’re limited to the built-in 16GB of storage. On the plus side, it is much faster than microSD.

No 720p Recording – It seems to be another step in the wrong direction, but the Nexus S can only record at 480p resolutions, at least for now. An update could potentially change that.

The Bottom Line

There’s no question that the Nexus S is among the most powerful Android Smartphones on the market, but as a single core device lacking 4G capabilities and expandable memory, it really comes down to just how future proof it is. The Nexus S will definitely keep up with all of the new devices up until the end of 2011, but if you’re considering a two-year contract, you might find it just a bit underwhelming for that second year.

Editor in Chief alaTest.com : Arie Struik

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