Nov 16 AT 10:55 AM Nick Gray 61 Comments

Nexus 4 vs HTC DROID DNA – benchmark showdown


To say that the Nexus 4 and the HTC DROID DNA are currently the hottest Android phones would be a huge understatement. Google’s having a hard time keeping up with demand for the Nexus 4, and the 5-inch 1080p display on the DROID DNA almost seems too perfect to be real. While there’s a huge difference in design and software, the HTC DROID DNA and Nexus 4 are pretty similar on the inside. Both phones and powered by a quad-core 1.5 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon S4 Pro processor and have 2GB of RAM. On the software side, the Nexus 4 is running stock Android 4.2 while the DROID DNA is loaded with Android 4.1. and HTC Sense 4+.

We know most of you would cheer for the Nexus 4 if these two phones were to battle to the death, but is the Nexus 4 really a better phone? While the internal specs of the two devices are identical, the Nexus 4′s main advantage should be its stock Android 4.2 software, devoid of any manufacturer tweaks or bloatware that can slow the system down. The HTC DROID DNA, on the other hand, comes with Sense 4+, a notorious systems resource hog. But how do the two phones compare when put through a series of standard benchmark tests?

The HTC DROID DNA comes out on top.

antutu-nexus4-droid-dna quadrant-nexus4-droid-dna smartbench-nexus4-droid-dna vellamo-nexus4-droid-dna nexus4-vs-htc-droid-dna

That’s right. HTC’s new flagship phone with its 5-inch 1080p display somehow manages to best the Nexus 4. But how is this possible? Shouldn’t the Nexus 4 running stock Android beat a competing phone running an older version of Android with a custom UI? In theory, yes. But there’s a bit more at play here.

According to a few tests performed by AnandTech, the Nexus 4′s performance during benchmark tests is compromised due to thermal throttling. It turns out that the Nexus 4′s software is able to identify when the processor is working too hard and is able to modify the clock speed in an effort to reduce power consumption. AnandTech was able to confirm their theory by taking the Nexus 4, putting it inside a ZipLock bag and throwing it into a freezer to run a second set of benchmark scores, which produced much better results.

So is the HTC DROID DNA more powerful than the Nexus 4? It’s hard to say. If you live in Minnesota and plan on using your Nexus 4 outside when it’s -18° in the middle of February, you’ll probably be able to match the benchmark scores from the HTC DROID DNA. Unfortunately, -18° days don’t come around that often. In the real world, the thermal throttling of the Nexus 4 will always allow the DROID DNA to score higher benchmark scores. But does that really matter? Benchmark scores only give us a baseline for the maximum performance output of a phone under a very specific set of circumstances.

The numbers say that the HTC DROID DNA is more powerful than the Nexus 4, but does that make it a better phone? That’s up to you to decide. What do you want more? Stock Android directly from Google or the world’s most amazing display?

Source: DROID-Life

Nick is a tech enthusiast who has a soft spot for HTC and its devices. Nick joined the Android and Me family in the summer of 2010.

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  • Ardrid

    Benchmark scores are completely synthetic and, largely theoretical. They’re also heavily influenced by optimizations in the software. In other words, they’re not really all that important. Who cares if the Nexus 4 scored less than the Droid DNA? At the end of the day, the only thing that matters is how your phone performs in real world use. If you don’t perceive any lag or slowdown in your daily usage of the phone, that’s all that matters.

    • pekosROB

      The last part is all I really care about for my smartphone. Yes I want the latest and greatest, but I don’t care how the benchmarks compare to the competition as long as my phone handles everything I throw at it.

      • triangle

        Totally agree, but I also need battery life, especially if you can’t replace the battery. I’m not sure that this is going to have the stamina that most people need given the processing power that that screen requires.

    • Nate B.

      Never been more right. You need a thousand likes

    • Nick Gray

      That’s why I said “Benchmark scores only give us a baseline for the maximum performance output of a phone under a very specific set of circumstances.”

      Most people will not be able to notice a significant performance difference between the Nexus 4 and DROID DNA. The only time the DNA may have the real advantage is when you’re playing graphic heavy 3D games for a long period of time. It would be interesting to see if the Nexus 4′s frame rate suffers when playing games like ShadowGun.

    • jamal adam

      I agree, numbers can only tell you so much. If the smartphone works and has no performance issues than the benchmarks become irrelevant.

    • Joel

      I just want to start off by saying that I agree with you Ardrid – 100%

      However what if these scores had been flipped, and the Nexus was the one scoring consistently higher than the DNA? Would we then be so dismissive of the scores? or would we embrace the results with open arms?

      Also, while the function to limit consumption and speed is brilliant, I shouldnt have to throw it in a ziploc bag and use the freezer as a toggle button for ‘on and off’. Im in South FL and so ill never experience those low temps – so am I going to have to root so I can control the over/underclocking of my processor to make sure I get the full use out of its potential all the time?

      Again, I couldnt care less about the benchmark scores but since they basically have the same innards – that Margin is way too big to simply dismiss – Imo.

      • Ardrid

        I would personally take the same approach regardless of who the “winnder” was. What’s interesting here is we know that thermal throttling is the primary reason for these results. We also know what the S4 Pro is capable of based on the Optimus G. What I’d be interested in seeing, once people get devices in their hands, is whether that thermal throttling kicks in during ordinary use or gaming and whether it has an impact on perceptible performance. At this point, the only time reviewers have noted it is when running extremely stressful tests. If the thermal throttling has an impact on daily use, then the benchmarks carry more weight. If it doesn’t, then the benchmarks are nothing more numbers.

    • DroidSamurai

      It’s not just the scores. There must be a reason why Google/LG decided to throttle the speed of the phone. Maybe they just couldn’t make the phone stable w/o that. If so, the life span of the phone becomes questionable because even though they throttle the phone, make no mistakes, it will still run hot — how would that affect the phone in the long run is an unknown.

      • Ardrid

        The basic reason is that every modern chip has a thermal threshold that exists to prevent the device from overheating and causing permanent damage to the chipset. It’s hard to know why this phone seems to be hitting that threshold when others (Droid DNA, Optimus G) based on the same SoC aren’t.

        I haven’t compared dimensions but I don’t believe the Nexus 4 is drastically different from the Optimus G. The excess heat could be related to the choice of materials used to create the shell but, again, the Optimus G is using the same materials and doesn’t have the problem. One thing the Nexus 4 lacks is the Optimus G’s eco-mode, which would presumably regulate chip speeds and temperature. Not having that feature might be why the Nexus 4 throttles where the Optimus G doesn’t. It’s hard to know without a deep dive into the hardware/software of both devices though.

        I wouldn’t worry about long-term impact on the phone though. These chips are designed to withstand stress that goes beyond the typical thermal threshold.

  • pekosROB

    Shouldn’t that read “Fortunately, -18° days don’t come around that often” instead? Lol

    Surprised at the results, but it totally makes sense.

    • Nick Gray

      Not is you want the Nexus 4 running at optimal speeds more often.

  • jamal adam

    “If you live in Minnesota and plan on using your Nexus 4 outside when it’s -18° in the middle of February, you’ll probably be able to match the benchmark scores from the HTC DROID DNA.”

    Perfect, I live in MN and can try it out at -18°, when i get a Nexus 4. One of the many benefits of living in MN lol

    • Nick Gray

      We should meet up and actually give this theory a try. Would make an interesting video.

      • jamal adam

        We should. Only problem is that I probably won’t get one till like new years day, maybe later.

  • JhonnyQ

    Also i’m guessing a software update might fix this issue and make them go par-to-par.

    • Nick Gray

      I think Google did this on purpose in an effort to optimize battery life. That being said, ROM developer will probably figure out a way to make it “thermal throttling” a user configurable setting.

      • Homncruse

        Physics would agree with you. It’s a pretty novel idea, building functionality into the core system like that when it was previously only achievable via root apps. It would be nice if it was configurable for the power users like most of us though.

        • Nick Gray

          I’d say that will happen with custom ROMs for the Nexus 4. I’d imagine that most Nexus 4 power users will be flashing a custom ROM at some point.

  • Hom0ncruse

    final nail in the coffin for HTC

    • navdeep

      i have to agree. I am a HTC user for the last 3 or 4 years. But, seems like HTC just does not understand the value of Battery Life. Its sad, very sad, but I have to agree that its doom coming soon.

  • PhoenixPath

    AnandTech. AnandTech….

    …not AnanTech.

    • Nick Gray

      Thanks for catching the typo.

  • Simer

    Hey i live in Minnesota!!!! fast benchmarks, here i come!! :) just got my shipping email confirmation!!

    in reality, nobody is going to be holding their phone out with a benchmark score on hand in case someone says “my phone is faster than yours”! come on guys! nexus 4 is crazy crazy crazy fast!

    • Jed

      Hi how was the nexus 4 so far? How much was it? Does google play store added sales tax? Pls reply. I’m planning to buy one

  • BigCiX

    They both have their advantages as I see it. If I could combine these two phones like Volton I’d take the Nexus’s 4 software (quick updates as well) with DNA’s screen and Beats Audio.

  • NasLAU


  • ronakg

    I think 4.2 is also playing a role here. I’m really disappointed by its performance on my Nexus 7. It has become laggy and stutters everywhere during scrolling. Apps take more time to respond too.

    Waiting for a 4.2.x update real bad.

    • tony

      I agree my performance has gone down add well. Let’s see what happens.

      • Alberto Rocha

        try wiping the phone, i have a theory that will help greatly. just save all your apps with titanium backup

  • aranea

    The idea of lowering clock speed to lower power consumption is great. In the end we all want longer battery life but given that this is stock Android I would love to see an option to disable it. There is one for screen brightness. Why shouldn’t there be one for cpu speed.

  • Homncruse

    The DNA also has the advantage of being an unlocked GSM device, apparently:

  • JayVGee

    I’ll take ‘Stock Android’ please.

  • inviolable

    All I know is I don’t have my Nexus in my hands. If I could run a benchmark on that, it would jump off the charts.

  • Dnar56

    HTC beasts on LG’s sorry ass yet again.

  • Raptor

    hahaha that’s hilarious. Two years ago when i’ve reasoned for 1080p cellphones absolutely same braindead morons were downvoting like no tomorrow. ROTFLMAO

  • dreamdoggy22

    The DNA CURRENTLY has root. I will be pleasantly surprised if it STILL has root upon release. As soon as Big Red gets wind of the unlockable bootloader, which they probably already know, it will be locked up tight just like the did with Inc 4g. I hope I am way off base, but with VZW’s bootloader history I’m guessing it will be patched prior to sale. Again, I hope I’m wrong.

  • dardata

    I suspect Verizon users have no choice but to get the DNA as the N4 is incompatible with Vz network. Sucks to be you guys! AOSP is way better than a molested and sodomized version of Android, regardless if AOSP get inferior benchmark scores – which are not indicative of real world performance anyway. I’ll be licking Key Lime Pie from my fingers while DNA users are still praying and cursing to the Verizon lords for an update.

    I’ve had my Nexus 7 for only a couple months and already received 2 updates – 4.1.2 and now running the awesomeness of 4.2.

    Reasonable price non subsidized high in phones are here and Im taking advantage of it!

  • John Patrick

    Never thought I’d say this but with only 16GB ‘on-paper’ storage on both of these phones I’m gonna say PASS. What good does the latest OS or shit-hot performance do, when both phones are crippled in terms of what you can store on it. I got used to the whole no memory card thing when I got my 32GB GNex … but this is just stupid.

    • RocketDroid

      I agree, I’ve got 96 GB on my Galaxy Siii and never have to worry about what apps I am installing or how many pictures or videos I take. 16 gb is just not enough space.

      I have a 16 gb Nexus 7 and have had to remove games from it due to the limited space. It’s frustrating.

  • Chris Lewis

    Interesting comparison as the DNA is only on Verizon and the nexus isn’t ever going to be on Verizon

  • RonWeez

    I know this is off topic but I’m trying to see if a moderator notices my post and wants to report that the Nexus 7 is beginning to receive the 4.2 update. I got mines

  • mattcoz

    It’ll be interesting to find out if the throttling is a matter of software or hardware. When custom roms come out for the Nexus 4, could this throttling be disabled or modified in any way?

  • Bruce Le

    On androidpolice, they tried to freeze the Nexus 4 and run the benchmarks while frozen in the freezer and it did not affect the benchmarks results at all. Something else must be at play here, since every review have said how incredibly fast and responsive the phone feels, yet why don’t the benchmarks reflect that?

    • marvin

      because benchmarks were never a great way of tellin how the phone will perform in real world usage. I have Samsung and HTC phones that can score more than 3000 on quadrant yet it is nowhere as smooth as the Galaxy Nexus w/c only scores 2,000 on stock rom.

  • Nathan D.

    Doesn’t matter because in real world application, you don’t see the difference.

  • shiv patel

    hey I also agree the number of bench marking score . all time new updates thanks buddy for sharing such a wonderful updates… check out this for more…..

  • marvin

    judging from different reviews and videos about the Nexus 4 and the droid DNA, the Nexus 4 is snappier and faster in almost all the task thrown at it. It’s very obvious, the response time you get from the droid DNA is slower than the Nexus 4. The Verge for example said it is nowhere near the smoothness of the Nexus 4.

    My point is, benchmarks are never a great way of telling how a pone will perform. I had phones that can score almost 4,000 on quadrant but it is far from the smoothness a stock Galaxy Nexus will give you.

  • maung

    Some of those numbers cannot be true results. My T-Mobile galaxy s3 running stock JB runs way better those numbers for both devices and running cm10 ROM gets even better result without overclocking whatsoever. Those numbers are bogus, seriously. Example, on my vellermo html5 test, stock jb gets me 1750+ every time and cm10 gives me 1900+. There is no way in hell nexus 4 gets 954. Plus , on quadrant, my phone gets 5950+ and nexus 4 gets 4870???

  • bellken

    I don’t think it is the numbers that make the Droid DNA a better phone. The fact that the Droid DNA is LTE eabled, is what makes it better to me.

  • smeghead68

    benchmark scores are fun to look at but I would only buy a phone based on real world reviews.

  • kyogoku

    I’ve enough of HTC. They released new device more often then they update the old one.

  • lars

    I think i have said this before but anyway. Benchmarks are good for a number of things: if The ui on your phone is lagging you should really try another phone thats just not really an issue anymore and while i get The faster CPU=faster ui thought, its just not The case. The userinterface performance is dependent mostly on programming and very very little hardware. That said there is a hudge gap in graphical performance and visuals on games and apps running Android. Most people think a game like nova or predators are The bedst Android can do, if you look at polygon count and texture fillrates, games like horn, massefect infiltrtor and shadowgun are far past that and will nede a beter GPU and CPU to run. And lets be honest you are not going to sit around all day looking at The ui only.

  • HumbertoH

    I still like the nexus 4, I’ve never liked the futuristic UI on Motorola phones.

  • paladaxar

    I wish Google would come out with some sort of benchmarking tool that we could rely on a bit more than these 3rd party apps that seem to be all over the board in their scoring/reporting.

  • dutrak

    HTC with stock android FTW