Samsung Galaxy S2 HD LTE vs Samsung Galaxy Nexus: Technology for the Gods

December 3, 2011
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Not everyone is buying the Galaxy Nexus’ hype, folks – and for good reason. Despite it being proclaimed by many a prominent blog as the best Android phone to date, and likely the best smartphone ever – the Galaxy Nexus has a contender that few realize. Created by none other than the same company that brought us the Galaxy Nexus, the original Galaxy S, and this years best selling Android phone, the Galaxy S2, Samsung appears to have created a true Galaxy Nexus killer in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S2 HD LTE.

A seriously upgraded version of the best selling Android phone of the year, the Galaxy S2 HD LTE, as you will see below, is packing specs that not only match the Galaxy Nexus, but best it in several critical areas as well. Is it worth holding out for? Is it worth buying off contract? Read on below to find out as we put these two smartphone titans to the test to see which one emerges from the ring as the victor. Regardless of what you will read below – remember that each phone represents the pinnacle of current phone hardware, and are safe bets either way.

Software

There’s incredible demand to get Android 4.0 on today’s devices, both old and new, and for good reason. Ice Cream Sandwich is really a huge upgrade, both from a design perspective, a usability perspective, and from pretty much every perspective that matters. With millions of lines of revamped code underneath the hood, Google really pulled out all the stops on this one. The all-new animations give it a significantly better look and the feel is much more intuitive. You can drag icons on top of one another to create folders. You can resize widgets, and you can multitask with ease. While very few have actually had the chance to spend serious time with it – all that have, have come away seriously impressed, including us.

That being said, there remain serious questions. How will existing apps function on it? What about emulators, hacks, and other things of merit? Since we are dealing with an entirely new beast, it’s likely that a lot of stuff Android enthusiasts are used to dealing with wont work the same anymore. However, the number of developers at XDA are growing, and the focus is all on Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich right now.

The number of improvements are stunning and The UI is vastly improved. Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich isn’t a minor upgrade to Android; it’s an entire generation apart.

For more on Ice Cream Sandwich, check out our section on it here.

Processor

Family / generation Model Number Technology CPU Instruction Set CPU GPU Memory Technology
Snapdragon S3 MSM8660 45nm ARMv7 1.5GHz Dual-core Scorpion Adreno 220 Single-channel 333MHz ISM/266MHz LPDDR2
OMAP 4 OMAP4460 45nm ARMv7 1.2GHz Dual-Core ARMCortex-A9 PowerVRSGX540 @384MHz Dual-channel LPDDR2 memory controller

Make no mistake, both devices are incredibly powerful, and the software advantages inherent in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich  on the Galaxy Nexus shines through. However, hardware-wise, the Galaxy S2 HD LTE is a slightly more powerful device. As far as the processor goes, you can expect roughly 10-15% faster performance on the Galaxy S2 HD LTE, but the software advantage of the Galaxy Nexus will make it feel faster. Still though, the Galaxy S2 line is slated to receive the update to Android 4.0 sometime in late Q1 2012, so if you can hold out, you will have a faster device at the end of the day. Also, pay little attention to the benchmarks above, as they don’t reflect real world performance, and can be altered very easily.

So why didn’t the Galaxy Nexus get bleeding edge hardware? Well, it’s likely due to lack of availability for the numbers that the big G expected the Nexus to sell in, and Google”s engineers were likely also drawn to the OMAP for its use of a dual-channel memory controller. Android’s advanced multitasking translate into a data hungry experience. This means that data is constantly being tossed in and out of active memory, and this is definitely a strength of TI’s OMAP parts.

Samsung was planning on putting its latest 32nm Exynos 4212 into the Galaxy S2 HD LTE but due to the time limitation of the chip availability, were forced to opt for QualComm’s Snapdragon S3. All things considered this is an unfortunate thing, as the Exynos lines of SoC’s is faster, but not enough to make a substantial difference against the Galaxy S2 HD LTE.

Either way, it’s a toss up folks. Both are incredibly powerful devices, and will not disappoint. The hardware acceleration built into Ice Cream Sandwich will certainly make the Nexus feel faster in the hand, and at the end of the day, both devices will feel virtually identical.

Camera

The software differences inherent in Android 4.0 Ice Cream Sandwich will result in a better, significantly faster picture taking experience, complete with 1080p video recording. Google has taken its camera software a few steps further in Ice Cream Sandwich, and now allows for taking panorama photos, using live effects, and auto-uploading to Google+

Despite the lower megapixel count of the Galaxy Nexus, it still takes great pictures. The software advantages really do come through, and if you are looking for a faster, snappier shooter right off the bat, the Nexus is the way to go. Still, if you can hold out for a few months, we are confident the S2 HD LTE will win this round at the end of the day.

Sample Photos

5MP Galaxy Nexus on the left 8MP Galaxy S2 HD LTE on the right

Dimensions

Galaxy S2 HD LTE: 129.8 x 68.8 x 9.5mm, 130.5g  (4.60oz)

Galaxy Nexus: 135.5 x 67.9 x 8.9mm, 135.0g  (4.76oz)

The Galaxy Nexus is slightly bigger, and slightly heavier, despite having a smaller battery. At this stage in the game, it makes little to no difference. One of the most important aspects to its build is the fact that it has a slightly curved display, which actually makes a substantial difference in hard-to-view situations, like direct sunlight outside, and in other brightly lit environments. Both are actually quite pocketable, holdable, and so forth. It’s really up to you here. Additionally, the Galaxy S2 HD LTE is slightly thinner too, and is packing more expandability via its SD Card slot.

Display

Macro shot of HD Super AMOLED Plus 720p display of the Galaxy S2 HD LTE

Galaxy S2 HD LTE: 4.65-inch, 1280 x 720px, 316ppi, Super AMOLED HD, Gorilla Glass
Galaxy Nexus: 4.65-inch, 1280x720px, 316ppi, Super AMOLED HD, Fortified Glass – Not Gorilla Glass

Both devices are home to the exact same display, which, in a word, is absolutely stunning. If you thought the Super AMOLED Plus display of the Galaxy S2 was good – wait until you see this one. Their is one gripe amongst display purists though – and that is the additional of a pentile matrix, which does result in text appearing pixelated from time to time. Remember, these devices are packing resolution that is much, much higher than the crop of current devices available, so it’s a win-win for all consumers!

Video

Samsung Galaxy S2 HD LTE 

Samsung Galaxy Nexus 

Battery Life

Battery life on the Galaxy Nexus is reputed to be quite excellent, despite what the screenshot above will lead you to believe. Super AMOLED displays do a marvelous job of displaying incredibly rich, dynamic colors that literally pop off the screen. Ask anyone that owns an AMOLED device – you are literally spoiled with saturation and pure blacks. Movies, pictures, and media all display wonderfully, and will keep you entranced. Despite this, they are subject to one inherent limitation – displaying white. As more and more people  spend time on the web on their mobile device, the most demanding color for the display to produce, they too will notice a fairly rapid decline in battery life.

Additionally, these are extremely powerful devices. Playing any graphically intense games for prolonged periods will also result in a fairly steady drop off of battery life as well. And finally, as both devices are running on LTE networks, streaming video and other media will also suck the life out of these  devices. With devices this powerful comes a price folks. These are literally more powerful than the computers of just a few years ago, and even though both are packing large, and thankfully, removable batteries, they will still last only as long as you let them. Still, both will have more than enough juice to get through the day with moderate to heavy usage.

The Galaxy S2 HD LTE willcome a 1850mAh battery which is 100mAh over the Galaxy Nexus, which has a 1750mAh battery.

Conclusion

Galaxy Nexus

pro’s

  • Always first to receive the most updated exclusive new OS
  • shutter-lag free camera
  • LED notification
  • soft capacitive buttons
  • curved display, which assists in brighter environments and direct sunlight
  • overall build quality seems a little better, according to those with experience with both
  • cheaper than GSII HD LTE, if you opt for the subsidized paths soon to come from Verizon, Rogers, and other NA Carriers

cons

  • Lower quality camera for both front & rear cam
  • very dated GPU
  • average CPU
  • no Gorilla Glass
  • no SD card slot
  • no USB MHL

Galaxy S II HD LTE

Pro’s

  • higher clocked in-house CPU
  • decent GPU SoC
  • More expandability via SD card slot
  • MHL (HDMI charging via newer generation HDTV’s)
  • Gorilla Glass
  • LTE
  • bigger battery
  • slightly lighter and smaller
  • higher megapixel count on front and rear camera’s

Cons

  • older OS for at least 3 months
  • Korean import
  • Most likely will not function as its LTE connectivity is meant for Korean carriers only, but will be released with matching frequencies on Bell, Rogers, ATT & Verizon in the near future.

This is arguably the most difficult comparison I have ever done. On one hand, i’m craving some hands on time with the Galaxy Nexus, and want to make it my own. On the other hand, the advantages in areas of critical importance, namely camera quality, processing speed, battery life, and the fact that I can add additional memory to the Galaxy S2 HD LTE make it a winner in its own right.

All things considered, the software advantages of the Galaxy Nexus put it into a class of its own as well. Both have the same display, while the Galaxy Nexus is lacking a Gorilla Glass display, making it more prone to scratches which really hurt any device owner in the long run. Still, with a direct pipeline to Google, the Galaxy Nexus will always be the first to receive software updates from the big G, so if you are a Google purist, and always  want to have bleeding edge software updates faster than anyone else, this device is the one to get. If you can put up with a wait of a few months, or have the savvy to root the device and tinker with the latest builds from XDA, then I would heartily recommend the Galaxy S2 HD LTE.  For those feeling the Galaxy Nexus, remember that it too will have a ton of support and customizability down the line if only because there’s going to be lots of developer support for this particularly delicious device.

Oh, and finally, there’s one thing I almost forgot. Chances are if you are looking at this, then you’re on the bleeding edge too. The Galaxy Nexus is a remarkable device, and is arguably the best smartphone in the world. That being said, from a hardware perspective, it, and the soon to be realized Galaxy S2 HD LTE are likely to be eclipsed entirely by the next generation of quad core devices set to hit the market in early 2012. If you can hold out for these, and if you already have an awesome device like the Galaxy S2, HTC Sensation, or any of the current crop of dual core devices near you right now, then these could be the devices for you to hold out for. The performance of Tegra 3, and other competing equivalents truly represent a huge leap forward over current hardware, and if you are thoughtful in your adoption of cutting edge technology, then you might want to hold out for these.

And so, dear reader, what say you? The research that went behind this article literally sucked the life out of me. I’ve got a Galaxy S2, and am quite happy with it. The prospect of greater resolution and faster processing is tempting though. What will you be doing with your dollars this holiday season? Transformer Prime perhaps? Galaxy Nexus in your sights? Let me know in the comments, and thank you for reading this article, and for visiting Android Authority.

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