I’ve been happily using a Nexus 4 for the past year, so when Google recently announced its successor – the Nexus 5, I was eager to get my hands on one. Thankfully I didn’t have to wait too long. I ordered a 16GB black model the day it was released, which I received just a few days later. Having used it heavily for a week, here’s my review.
Look & Feel
When I first took the Nexus 5 (again built by LG) out of its box, the first thing that struck me was the sleek, understated design. The sparkly glass back found on the Nexus 4 has been replaced with a curved soft-touch matte plastic, which is embossed with a large Nexus logo.
Besides making the phone less likely to slide around on smooth surfaces, the plastic back also makes it considerably more robust. The only drawback to this change, at least with the black model, is that the back is prone to picking up dust and grease marks. But it’s a minor complaint.
While the Nexus 5 doesn’t quite have the elegance of smartphones such as the iPhone 5S and the HTC One, it’s still a very attractive looking device – I personally prefer its design to that of the Nexus 4. And although the case is now completely plastic, it feels surprisingly solid in your hand.
Continuing with the design changes, the Nexus 5 sports a 5-inch screen, compared to 4.7-inches on the Nexus 4, making it a slightly taller device. However, measuring 8.59 mm thin, and weighing in at 4.59 oz (130 g), the Nexus 5 is both slimmer and lighter than its predecessor, with the reduction in weight being noticeable.
The location of the ports and buttons remain the same as on the Nexus 4: volume rocker on the left, audio jack at the top, power button on the right, and Micro USB at the bottom. What has changed, is the position of the speaker grill. On the Nexus 4 the grill is located on the rear of the device, but on the Nexus 5 it’s at the bottom, which has a slight drawback. While holding the phone in landscape orientation, I sometimes find my hand blocks the audio.
The screen of the Nexus 5 looks super sharp, and it should do, too. With a resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels (445 ppi) it’s amongst the highest currently available on any smartphone. When placed side by side with the Nexus 4 and its 1280 x 768 pixel (318 ppi) screen, it looks crisper. And thanks to the addition of the latest iteration of Corning’s toughened glass technology, Gorilla Glass 3, it should also be pretty durable too.
Once again, Google have opted to use an IPS display, meaning colors don’t quite have the vibrancy of the OLED and Super AMOLED varieties used on other company’s smartphones. But personally, I think colors can sometimes look oversaturated on those screens.
Performance & Power
The Nexus 5 boasts a 2.26GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU, a 450MHz Adreno 330 GPU, and 2GB of RAM. In terms of performance it’s right up there with the very fastest Android phones currently available. While the Nexus 4 is no slouch, the 5 does feel faster in all areas – apps launch almost instantly, and I’ve not experienced any lag whilst browsing through the phone’s interface.
As you would expect, it can easily cope with the most intensive Android games. So far I’ve mostly been playing Riptide GP 2 and Asphalt 8: Airborne, and I’m happy to report that both run extremely well.
With regards to power, the Nexus 5 has a 2,300 mAH battery (non-removable), which according to Google will offer talk time of up to 17 hours and internet time of 8.5 hours on Wi-Fi, or 7.5 hours on 4G/LTE. Although the Nexus 4 wasn’t really noted for its battery life, I always found it to be pretty good, and so far I have no complaints about the 5 either. It easily lasts more than a day of general use.
Like the previous generation Nexus, it features wireless charging via the Qi standard. Google has announced that it will be releasing a new charging pad, but until that arrives, you can opt for one of the many third-party options available.
The Nexus 4’s rear camera didn’t exactly earn rave reviews, so how does its successor compare? While the camera remains 8-megapixels, a couple of new features – optical image stabilization (OIS) and HDR+, help to deliver better results, with the former helping when it comes to taking photos in low light conditions.
Here are some photos I took with the Nexus 5:
Overall, the new Nexus is definitely better at taking photos, and given the right conditions, it’s capable of decent results. Don’t expect it to be able to compete with the likes of the iPhone 5s though.
If you ‘re wondering about the front camera, it’s 1.3-megapixels – the same as last year’s Nexus, which is a little disappointing, but adequate.
Connectivity & Storage
Unlike last year’s model, the Nexus 5 has support for 4G/LTE, with two different models catering for the various regions and bands. Unfortunately, my part of the UK doesn’t have 4G/LTE coverage yet, so it’s not a feature I will be using any time soon. Continuing with connectivity, the device has dual-band 802.11ac WiFi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC (Android Beam), SlimPort, DLNA and USB OTG.
Moving onto storage, the Nexus 5 is available in two different configurations: 16 or 32GB – a welcome upgrade over the Nexus 4, which was available with 8 or 16GB. Unfortunately, as with the previous generation, it doesn’t have an SD card slot, so there’s no opportunity to expand the storage.
Android 4.4 KitKat
As you would expect from a Google phone, the Nexus 5 comes installed with the company’s very latest OS: Android 4.4 KitKat. I’m not going to cover every single feature of the new software in this review, but here’s a few of them.
App icons are significantly bigger in KitKat, which I personally prefer. The only downside is that some of them look a little blurry.
You can easily add new home screens by simply grabbing an app and dragging it to the rightmost part of the screen. In addition, home screens can be rearranged by long-pressing the background of the launcher, and then long-pressing each pane.
Instead of swiping up from the home button to access Google Now, you can also reach it by swiping left from the main home screen.
The Messages app found in previous versions of Android has been replaced with Hangouts, which combines both SMS and MMS.
If you’re a fan of the latest version of Google’s Gmail app, you will be pleased to learn that the default Email app now has the same look and feel.
The phone app has been updated with a few new features. The main screen includes frequently called contacts, you can search nearby places, and it includes caller ID.
Like Motorola’s Moto X, the Nexus 5 has touchless controls. After saying “OK Google” from the launcher, you can issue commands to set alarms, make calls, check the weather, schedule meetings, play music etc. Unlike the Moto X however, you can only issue commands from the launcher. It ceases to work when the screen is locked or off, making it a little less useful.
Although I’m probably not going to use touchless controls all of the time, I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how well they work. One thing to be aware of if you live outside of the US though – you can only use them if you switch the language setting to ‘English (United States)’.
With the Nexus 5, Google has produced an outstanding smartphone which offers a number of significant improvements over last year’s model, and represents excellent value for the money. I definitely recommend it.
You can buy the Nexus 5 in either black or white from the Google Play store. The 16GB version is priced at $349, and the 32GB version is priced at $399.