- Android 4.4 KitKat is excellent
- Stellar hardware
- Great camera w/ OIS
- Clunky design elements
- SMS via Hangouts is awkward
- Stock Android still playing catch-up
The Google Nexus 5 represents a number of firsts for the company’s mobile family and promises to deliver more to customers than any Nexus device before it.
High contrast styling
The design story of the Nexus 5 is one of two halves. For starters, you have a piano black, gloss frontage, which is fairly unimaginative, save for the earpiece which colour matches the model of Nexus 5 you’ve gone for, whether that be black or white.
The bezels along the sides of the display are nice and thin, but above and particularly below it’s surprisingly large and thick, which makes the phone look at little bit bulkier than it actually needs to be. Along the sides there are also ceramic hardware controls that offer a satisfying click when pressed, as well as a microSIM tray on the right-hand side.
The back however is far more interesting, especially in white as its matt appearance offers a nice contrast to the glossy front, what’s more the soft-touch finish looks and feels particularly pleasant. With the ‘Nexus’ logo inlaid in a landscape orientation, you also get the sense that Google wanted this phone to be used for enjoying media and for its camera, which sits in the top right, when holding the phone in such an orientation.
The screen itself is a 4.95-inch Full HD IPS panel that is absolutely stunning and it really can go toe-to-toe with the best of them in the market right now. Colours are punchy and vibrant, albeit perhaps not quite as eye-popping as say, the HTC One’s LCD3 panel, but it’s certainly close. You also get decent viewing angles, a good level of maximum brightness to cope with outdoor viewing and the fidelity of text and app icons is also fantastic.
KitKat tastes better than Jelly Bean
A significant portion of what makes the Google Nexus 5 so unique is the user experience, and that is primarily as a result of the fact that it’s the only device to currently run the latest version of Android, 4.4 KitKat.
For starters, the classic Roboto font has been swapped out for Roboto Condensed, closer to the likes of the HTC One and icons are also noticeably larger, which actually makes it easier to tap them on that large 5-inch screen, great for those with smaller hands.
Holding your finger on the homescreen finally brings access not just to wallpapers, but widgets and Google settings too, leaving the apps tray free to simply display apps. Google Now has also moved home, with the ‘swipe up from home button’ gesture still bringing you to the main Now screen in addition to a simple swipe to the right from your primary homescreen.
Many apps too have received a revamp, with a smarter dialler that can pull local business information and prioritise your most popular contacts as well as Google Hangouts, which now integrates SMS and MMS functionality into the same app. The execution of this isn’t particularly elegant right now and it’s clear that Google’s having to work hard to entice users to really embrace Google+ and its surrounding services. For a more in-depth look at KitKat click here to see all of the features that it offers.
The usability of the phone is enabled by a stellar set of internals. Just as with LG’s own G2, the Nexus 5 uses a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor, clocked at 2.26GHz, which is more than enough to provide a smooth user experience. As such, the 5 copes well with Full HD video recording and playback, as well as being able to provide a great 3D gaming experience.
There’s also 2GB of RAM and as with every previous Nexus handset, both the 16GB and 32GB model lack microSD expandability, partly in an effort to push users towards Google’s Play Movies and Play Music apps no doubt.
Another first for the Nexus 5 is that the Snapdragon 800 chip also features an integrated LTE modem; meaning the Nexus 5 is the first internationally available 4G-capable Nexus phone. Not only do you get superfast performance, but also superfast browsing functionality when you’re out and about. Connectivity beyond this falls to NFC in the back and wireless charging, just as we had with last year’s Nexus 4, which LG also created.
Battery life is respectable for the 2300mAh cell inside, which can see you through a day of general use and perhaps a little further if you’re careful.
The imaging side of things is a significant step up from the Nexus 4’s 8-meg unit. The camera UI remains minimalist, which won’t be to everyone’s taste, but the imaging quality has unquestionably shot up. There’s an 8-megapixel rear-facing camera that features the same OIS technology as in the LG G2. This means that snaps look crisper and clearer in all manner of shooting environments, produce significantly better results than previous Nexus devices in low lighting conditions and even without the LED flash, we were still getting very usable shots.
What’s more, the addition of an HDR-mode is a welcome inclusion as shots, although slow to take, come out looking fantastic. There’s also Full HD video recording and with the ‘auto-awesome’ feature of the new Google Photos app, it’s easy to filter and tweak snaps and video to give it some extra photographic flare.
Sure noise is of course noticeable in darker conditions, but this camera really is comparable to the likes of the iPhone 5S and some of the higher resolution flagships out there such as the G2 and Nokia’s Lumia range.
One, G2, S4 or Nexus 5?
LG has produced the first truly balanced Google phone in the Nexus 5, with great internals and a camera to be proud of. For the most part the additions that KitKat brings to the table are most welcome, although it’s clear that Google is trying hard to pushing its services into the faces of Android users, whether they like it or not.
As with every Nexus device the real kicker is if you’re able to buy it directly from Google. The 16GB model is just £299 and the 32GB model, just £339, which is an amazing price when you consider the hardware and software combination on the table, something you’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere for the same money.
If you’re not sold on the idea of stock Android, the HTC One offers one of the most well-rounded alternative Android experiences, LG’s own G2 has an improved camera, the Samsung Galaxy S4 gives you expandable memory plus a removable battery and of course the iPhone 5S brings its premium iOS experience to the table. All that being said, right now the price/power combination the Google Nexus 5 offers is unrivalled.