Update: Checkout our Samsung Galaxy Nexus review.

Update 2: Checkout our Motorola Droid Razr Maxx Review.  That said, it turns out the Razr Maxx is a better phone despite what we initially wrote below.

When I think of the best Android smartphones, there are only three variants that come to mind. Samsung’s Galaxy S II phones, Motorola’s Droid Razr, and the Samsung Galaxy Nexus. The first has so many different models it’s frightening, across all carriers but Verizon in the US, but both the Droid Razr models and the Galaxy Nexus are for Verizon only (the Nexus will soon come to Sprint).

Thing is, there can be only one. The Nexus offers the latest in Android software while the Droid Razr Maxx, one of the newest Android smartphone to date, packs the biggest battery in any handset you can find anywhere. So who walks away the winner for your hard-earned moolah?

Size

Both the Razr Maxx and Galaxy Nexus are large phones. The Maxx has a 4.3″ screen but is as big as most 4.5″ screen phones. Meanwhile the Nexus has a whopping 4.65″ display, and a curved back panel. The Nexus is thinner but curved, and the Maxx is thicker but square. In the hand, both are easy to hold and comfortable to use, though the Maxx has a giant bezel and simply feels larger in the hand than it actually is.

Winner: Galaxy Nexus, which is slightly bigger but thinner and more comfortable.

Appearance

The original Droid Razr looks excellent, as does the Razr Maxx. The Maxx is a little pudgier, and while that doesn’t take away from it’s front profile, it loses a lot of that original sexiness when viewed from the side. The Galaxy Nexus, however, thanks to it’s curved shape and very thin and sleek look, is very good looking.

Winner: Galaxy Nexus, which just looks cosmetically better.

Display

Both the Razr Maxx and Galaxy Nexus use the same type of SuperAMOLED technology for their displays, but the significant difference is in actual display resolution. The Maxx belies its name with a 960×540 display, while the Nexus has a full 720p (that’s 1280×720) panel. The latter is larger, but even then it’s more dense, thus providing better picture quality for both reading and viewing media.

However, I’ve spent plenty of time with the Maxx and really do like the display. The only downside to it is the lack of resolution. 960×540 just isn’t a lot of screen real estate, especially on a 4.3″ display.

Winner: Galaxy Nexus, with a bigger, higher density display.

Operating System

The Galaxy Nexus ships with Android 4.0, and will be receiving first dibs on updates until a new “Google phone” is chosen, and even then will receive the first support until it’s eventually phased out of production. The Razr Maxx, however, is still running Android 2.3.6, and won’t see an update to 4.0 for at least another month or two, though Motorola has promised that it’s working on the update. Even if it had Android 4.0 today, it wouldn’t be a stock version (though Motorola’s overlay is pretty great), and won’t receive updates nearly as fast as the Nexus. But for anyone interested in buying either phone, the big thing to remember here is that the Maxx just doesn’t have Android 4.0, and there’s no date for when it’ll get it.

Winner: Galaxy Nexus, which will receive updates faster, and actually has Android 4.0 today.

Processor

While both phones seem to have the same processor, the big difference between the two is the operating system. And that poses a slight problem. The Galaxy Nexus edges out ahead of the Maxx, but only slightly, and that’s with Android 4.0. That means as soon as the Maxx receives Android 4.0 it will likely smoke the Nexus in performance.

Then again, the biggest reason for that performance boost over the Nexus is the Maxx’s smaller display resolution. Because it doesn’t have as high density a screen, the Maxx doesn’t have to work as hard because it puts less on the screen than the Nexus can.

Winner: Tie, because they have the same processor and each is better in some ways, averaging to a tie.

Storage

This one’s easy: the Razr Maxx has upgradeable memory and 16GB of included memory. The Galaxy Nexus has 32GB of built-in memory but it isn’t expandable.

Winner: Droid Razr Maxx, because the Maxx has expandable memory.

Wireless Connectivity

Both run on the same LTE network and have nearly identical Wi-Fi reception. However, Android 4.0 is significantly better at handling Wi-Fi networks (meaning logging into them, staying connected, logging out) than Android 2.3, so until the Maxx is upgraded, this one goes to the Nexus.

Winner: Galaxy Nexus, thanks to faster Wi-Fi switching through Android 4.0.

Camera

The camera is the only area where both the Razr Maxx and Galaxy Nexus are both lacking. The former has an 8MP 1080p shooter, while the latter is 5MP and 1080p. Both have decent cameras, though they aren’t the best. The Galaxy Nexus takes shots very quickly thanks to Android 4.0 (meaning the Maxx will eventually have that capability as well), though the quality is equal on both.

Winner: Razr Maxx, with a higher megapixel rating and a soon to be faster camera with the Android 4.o update..

Battery Life

The Razr Maxx has an industry-setting 3300mAh battery. It’s lasted over 3 days of continuous use for me (albeit without extensive use). It just goes on and on, like the energizer bunny. And the Nexus? It barely lasts a day. So what if it has a removable battery and the Maxx doesn’t. The Maxx lasts so long it actually gets annoying. That’s the kind of battery life a smartphone should have.

Winner: Droid Razr Maxx, with the largest smartphone battery ever used.

Carriers

Today, both phones are available in the US exclusively through Verizon. That’ll change in the near future as the Nexus comes to Sprint this spring. And the Maxx? As long as it’s the Droid Razr Maxx (which it’ll always be), Verizon will keep it as an exclusive. So if that isn’t your carrier and you don’t feel like switching, at least you can wait for the Nexus to come to Sprint.

Winner: Galaxy Nexus, which will be available for Sprint in the near future.

Price

Both the Galaxy Nexus and Razr Maxx cost $300 plus a 2-year contract. Frankly, it shouldn’t be like that. The Nexus has been out since November and should be cheaper, while the Maxx is brand new. Not only is it new, Verizon chopped off $100 for the traditional Droid Razr (sans excellent battery), so it’s a win-win. However, score isn’t determined by how things should be, but how they are or will be. So this one’s a tie.

Winner: Tie, same price.

Overall Winner

By points alone, the Galaxy Nexus takes the prize, even with double points added to battery life. However, with Android 4.0 on the Maxx, while the score won’t change significantly enough to make the phone better, it should make you seriously consider which phone is right for you.

The Nexus may be the most advanced phone, but most of us don’t need, or even want that. We want something that works well and lasts long, and that’s what the Razr Maxx is: an excellent smartphone with the best battery of any smartphone out. So if you spend hours on end on your phone, you just have to ask yourself one question: is it better to be with a slightly better phone that’s completely discharged, or a slightly worse phone that’ll last twice as long and get you through the day no matter what.



James Pikover

 
Spawned in the horrendous heat of a Los Angeles winter, James was born with an incessant need to press buttons. Whether it was the car radio, doorbells on Halloween or lights, James pushed, pressed and prodded every button. No elevator was left unscathed, no building intercom was left un-rung, and no person he’s known has been left un-annoyed.