LTE/CDMA Face-off: Samsung Galaxy Nexus vs Galaxy Nexus Radios vs Motorola Razr Maxx
If there is one major weakness that I have experienced with the Samsung Galaxy Nexus, it is weak radios. Prior to the 4.0.4 release, the GNex radios were major fail. Since Samsung is also the manufacturer of the Galaxy S III, there is a valid concern if the Korean manufacturer has conquered its CDMA/LTE demons. Along comes the Verizon Samsung Galaxy S III, and one of the questions on everyone’s lips is “How are the radios on the Samsung Galaxy S III compared to the Galaxy Nexus?” Who wins in a Galaxy S III vs Galaxy Nexus vs Razr Maxx radio battle?
Keep in mind that this is a totally unscientific test, and I used phones that I had on hand to use as points of comparison. I did the same tests in an LTE area, but I didn’t have my camera with me, but I want to let you all know that the results were just about the same as the 3G results that I achieved below. The CDMA/LTE Galaxy Nexus uses a VIA Telecom CBP7.1 CDMA2000 baseband modem, connected to an antenna structure that supports dual-band CDMA2000. This is the same modem used in the Droid Charge, and has been shown time and time again to be a very weak radio, with bad handoff to LTE / CDMA and having a very hard time staying on LTE when it does lock in. That’s one of the reason that I run with a Wilson Electronics Sleek 4G-V booster in my car.
- Phone 1 is a Samsung Galaxy Nexus running Jelly Bean, and 4.0.4 radios. Baseband I515.10.V.FC04 / I515.FC05. Build: Vicious Jelly Bean V3
- Phone 2 is a Samsung Galaxy S III running totally stock software ICS 4.0.4
- Phone 3 is a Motorola Razr Maxx running totally stock ICS ICS 4.0.4
Samsung Galaxy S III vs Galaxy Nexus
In all the tests, the S III did better than the Nexus, in fact the difference was usually significant. The difference was sometimes as large at 25 dBm, but usually was around 20 dBm. In the photo below, the S III is on the left, with -63 dBM. The phone on the right is a Galaxy Nexus, and it is running at -83 dBm. This was pretty typical of the two phones. Running into a store I lost my 4G when I put my phone into my pocket in the back of the store by the milk. When I stepped outside to see if the S III had regained 4G, I got to see the display flip over to 4G as I pulled the phone out of my pocket. The handoff from 3G and 4G is very fast and wasn’t a problem at all. Overall I was very impressed with the Samsung Galaxy S III’s radios. Speedtests were a bit faster on the S III, but I wasn’t getting very consistant results on either phone. Sometimes I would get 8 Mb/s down other times 19, so I wasn’t able to say that one phone was faster than the other. Overall the S III shows that it has a very strong radio, and has overcome many of the problems that Samsung had with the Galaxy Nexus.
Galaxy S III vs Motorola Razr Maxx
For me, the phones that Motorola make have always had the best reception. Going back to the Motorola Droid X, I’ve always envied my friends and family that had Motorola phones, locked boot loaders not withstanding. So when my wife was up for an upgrade recently, I got her the Droid Razr Maxx. The Maxx radios are really good! There have been many occasions when I am on 1X or no signal and have to use my wife’s phone to look something up. In my eyes, the Razr and the Razr Maxx are the strongest phones on Verizon’s lineup in terms of signal strength, so it is the gold standard by which to measure the Samsung Galaxy S III.
As you can see in the shot above, the difference between the Razr Maxx on the left and the Galaxy S III on the right are much closer to each other than the Galaxy Nexus was. While the S III didn’t quite match the signal strength of the Razr, it was not more than 5-6 dBm off. So while the S III didn’t quite match up to the best that Verizon has to offer, the differences between the two are small enough that it didn’t seem to make all that much difference in real world use.
The Nexus however, just has a weak radio. There’s an excellent technical writeup here about the specifics of the radios in the GNex. There just doesn’t seem to be much that can be done about the hardware limitations of the GNex itself. While this writeup did paint the GNex in a bad light, the Verizon Galaxy Nexus is an excellent phone and with Jelly Bean, there are many across the world that are falling in love with Jelly Bean. While it might not help the GNex too much now, it’s good to know that Samsung is heading in the right direction when it comes to radios. Now if they could only do something with that horrible app drawer…
When the USAF dropped this New Jersey boy off in Louisiana, he had no idea that the fun was just beginning. John has turned wrenches on jet engines in a Combat AGE team, raided Molten Core in the day, pwn n00bs in Battlefield 3, and can speak iOS and Android.
John has a BS degree in Culinary Arts, and is working on a Master’s in Education. Married and a father of 4 boys, John gets his screen name, Broadwayblues, from the NHL team the New York Rangers, loves the NY Giants and admits that he likes the NY Mets too. He cuddles his Galaxy Nexus at night.
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