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Google Nexus 4 Review

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Pure, unadulterated Android.  That has been the promise of the Google Nexus 4 since its first reveal last year, and it remains the closest thing to perfect one can find in an Android device to date.  This elegantly-styled, richly-stocked mobile device has been the best-kept secret of mobile tech for many months, and it only recently became widely available on demand.  Starting at $299 directly from Google Play, unlocked and without contract, it leads the pack with the lowest price and best feature offering currently available.  It is Android as its creators intended, and we’re here to explore its mystique.

The Google Nexus 4, as pictured, is elegant to the eye and fingers alike.  It is surprisingly lightweight, totaling 139g naked without accessories or cases.  Its ends are smoothly curved, its face is a glossy piano black, and its rear side features a texture that sparkles subtly in the light.  A power/lock button on one side and a volume control on the other are the device’s only buttons, while the front and rear panels are entirely uncluttered.  It measures about 140mm by 69mm, enough to fit a large screen that measures 4.7-inches from corner to corner.

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The Nexus 4’s screen is a step ahead of the current Retina Display of the Apple iPhone 5.  It boasts 1280×768 resolution with a best-in-market 318 pixel density.  Colors are rich, contrasts are well-defined and apps seem to float above the background with precise pixel definition.  It is a joy for watching videos, viewing images, exploring the web and video-chatting with friends.  Our first instinct was to want to protect such a fine display with an aftermarket shield, but the Nexus 4 is lined with Corning Gorilla Glass 2 to handle that protection for us.

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Under the hood, the Google Nexus 4 is powered by a lightning-fast 1.5GHz quad-core Snapdragon CPU.  Videos don’t skip frames, apps don’t hesitate to respond, multi-tasking is a breeze– after days of heavy use, we haven’t been able to challenge the Nexus 4’s processor to lag even a bit.  This might change as Android evolves and new apps are released in the future, but as of now, we have zero complaints.

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The Nexus 4 is available with 2GB of RAM and either 8GB or 16GB of storage.  There are no expansion options for additional storage, and this has given pause to some potential Nexus 4 buyers.  Some users demand the ability to add more storage and use their mobile devices as on-the-go media/document storage.  While this is not a problem for our uses, this should be taken into account for those that would quickly burn through 8GB or 16GB of storage.

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The Nexus 4 also features a pair of cameras for photography/video recording and Google Hangout-powered video chatting.  The front-facing camera is located on the upper right, capturing images and video in 1.3MP resolution.  The rear-facing camera features an 8MP sensor, an LED flash and an evolved Android camera app.  It captures high-resolution images with flash, HDR-capability and the new Photo Sphere panorama technology.  It can hold its own against most other mobile devices on the market, but may be a slight step behind the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the iPhone 5 in overall image quality.

One of the most intriguing factors of the Google Nexus 4 is its unadulterated Android 4.2 “Jelly Bean” OS.  It has been the only device to offer the “Jelly Bean” OS in 2013, while that may change in the near future from a Samsung competitor.  This is Android as Google intended it– no manufacturer/carrier skins or alterations, no bloatware, no nonsense.  It’s just simple, elegant Android in its best iteration to date.  In addition to the updated camera, it features the latest in Google’s native app suite and a newly refined virtual keyboard with its own take on Swype.  We’ve been using physical QWERTY keyboards on our last two Android devices (the G1 and the G2), and this was a nearly seamless adjustment.  Voice input has also been refined, we’ve only had to correct one spoken word in nearly 50 test messages so far.

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The most noteworthy aspect of the Google Nexus 4 is its price.  It is available directly from Google Play starting at $299 for the 8GB model, and it currently includes a free bumper case.  This is especially attractive to T-Mobile users, given that this carrier recently changed their plan offering to a basic, contract-free system.  If one wishes to avoid paying a monthly fee to secure a phone, they can save a hundred or two and buy a phone outright.  This brought us to the Google Nexus 4, and so far, we couldn’t be happier.

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The Nexus 4 is currently the leading Android mobile device on the market, boasting a class-competitive feature offering and a class-leading price.  Some users who demand expandable storage may opt for another device, and some may be bothered by Android’s new lack of Flash support.  For the common user like us, however, this may be the best mobile device to date.  While the rest of 2013 will bring phones that compete with or best this phone’s technical offering, the value for the price is likely to stay unchallenged for the rest of this calendar year.  As we said above, this is an elegantly-styled, richly-stocked mobile device, and you cannot do better for the price.

[photography: Mike Payne for TheCoolist.com]

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