By Joe Levi | November 28, 2011 5:28 PM
I’ve recently used both the Motorola Droid RAZR and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus as my daily driver — the smartphone I use every day. I’ve written articles about both and have been very impressed with each one.
Apparently our readers have been fairly impressed with them as well — so much so that many of you have contacted me personally asking which of the two devices I’d recommend. Since I’m sure many of you have the same question, let me take this opportunity to compare the two devices so you can better answer the question: Droid RAZR or Galaxy Nexus?
Before we begin, the device I’ve been using is the GSM/HSPA+ version of the Galaxy Nexus — which doesn’t (and can’t) run on the Verizon network. However, if rumors hold, the CDMA/LTE version of the Galaxy Nexus should be fairly similarly spec’d, and hopefully available in just a few weeks. To make things easier, I’ll compare the two that I’ve actually had in-hand.
The Droid RAZR comes equipped with a 1.2 GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU, a PowerVR SGX540 GPU, 1GB RAM, and Gingerbread.
The Galaxy Nexus comes equipped with a a 1.2GHz dual-core Cortex-A9 CPU, a PowerVR SGX540 GPU, 1GB RAM, and Ice Cream Sandwich.
Although almost identically spec’d, the two phones run different OSes, which does make a difference: ICS is built with GPU hardware acceleration built-in. In practice, the devices feel like they perform about the same.
Benchmarking utilities tell a different story, but as many of our readers have been quick to point out, raw benchmark scores don’t necessarily tell the whole story.
Theoretically, the phones should get the same speeds when connected to the same networks. Differences between 4G HSPA+ and 4G LTE are primarily location-dependent. When tethered to the same WiFi network both phones were astoundingly fast, reaching speeds of 17-20Mbps down and 5Mbps up with low latency.
Storage is the first major difference between the two smartphones: the RAZR comes with 16GB internal storage and an additional 16GB sdcard (which you can upgrade); the Galaxy Nexus comes with 16GB internal storage (though the LTE version is said to be coming with 32GB), but doesn’t have an sdcard slot, so you’re stuck with whatever the phone comes with.
Even with books, maps of North America, and a whole bunch of music on either phone, I haven’t been able to fill 16GB yet. I’m not going to go on the record to say that “no one will ever need more than 16GB”. If you want to use either phone to hold more than a few movies, for example, that 16GB will fill up very, very quickly.
Result: Droid RAZR
SIZE AND WEIGHT
Both phones are very slim, within a couple millimeters of each other. Honestly, the RAZR “looks” slimmer simply because it’s mostly flat. Both phones “feel” like they are equally thin, though the LTE version of the Galaxy Nexus will reportedly be slightly thicker and a little less “curved” on the back.
At 150g, the LTE version of the Galaxy Nexus will weigh a bit more than the RAZR’s 127g. The difference between the RAZR and the 134g GSM Galaxy Nexus wasn’t noticeable.
If we judge this comparison by impressions and experience, the Galaxy Nexus leads because its curves feel much better in-hand than the RAZR. If we judge by raw numbers, the RAZR wins. For this comparison, we’ll split the difference and call it a tie.
The RAZR runs Gingerbread (Android 2.3) whereas the Galaxy Nexus runs Ice Cream Sandwich (Android 4.0). Although Motorola has promised an update to the new version of the operating system “within six weeks”, we’ve often seen similar promises stretched — or even broken.
Even if Motorola makes good on their promise it’s not likely their update would be a “clean” version of ICS like the version on the Galaxy Nexus. Most hardware vendors like to “differentiate” their handsets from their competition by replacing the launcher and other core apps (dialer, contacts, calendar, etc.). Personally, I find the practice disagreeable.
Result: Galaxy Nexus
The screens on the two phones are another major point of differentiation. The RAZR has a great qHD screen, whereas the Galaxy Nexus a beautiful 720p HD screen.
Result: Galaxy Nexus
The Droid RAZR has an 8MP camera, the Galaxy Nexus only 5MP. Honestly, unless you’re going to be printing the resulting images you probably won’t notice the difference. Both phones are capable of 1080p HD video recording.
Battery life seemed about the same on both phones with the Galaxy Nexus edging it out just a bit in my experience.
Call clarity was about equal, though I prefer the sound of GSM calls to those on Verizon’s CDMA network.
The Galaxy Nexus has a barometer (for faster GPS fixes) and NFC features (but no Google Wallet app), the RAZR doesn’t. However, since neither of these is being widely used (yet), I didn’t feel awarding points here was appropriate.
The RAZR’s battery is not end-user replaceable, unlike the battery in the Galaxy Nexus. That’s a deal-breaker for some of you, but not for others, so I’ll just mention it here so you can weigh that information for yourself.
When talking about availability, since the RAZR is a US CDMA/LTE smartphone, which is essentially limited to the United States. That having been said, the RAZR is available now on the Verizon network.
The only version of the Galaxy Nexus currently available is the carrier-agnostic UK version (GSM/HSPA+). This phone works equally well on either T-Mobile and AT&T, again in the US. The LTE/CDMA version of the Galaxy Nexus (which will work on Verizon) isn’t slated to be available for another few weeks (hopefully no longer than that).
Since this article is better described as “should I buy now or wait for later”, I’m not giving availability points for either phone.
Based on my comparisons, the Galaxy Nexus and the Droid RAZR are in a dead-heat. Both are fast. Both are thin. Both should be considered a welcome upgrade to the phone currently in your pocket.
The deciding factors you’ll need to weigh are more personal preference than cut-and-dry.
If having a user-replaceable battery is a necessity, your choice is the Galaxy Nexus.
If having a user-upgradable sdcard is a necessity, your choice is the Droid RAZR.
If having the thinnest device around is more your style, your choice is the Droid RAZR.
If running the latest flagship phone with the latest operating system is what you’re after, your choice is the Galaxy Nexus.
If you need a phone that works on a GSM/HSPA+ network, your choice is the Galaxy Nexus.
All the above are one guy’s opinion. I’m interested in yours! Did I miss anything in the comparison? Which phone will you be picking, and why? Let us know in the comments!