Nexus 5 Review

Whilst I may be fashionably late to the Nexus 5 review party, this is definitely the best time to arrive. Everyone else is a little tipsy on the initial offerings, so now it’s my turn to sample everything else (and some of the same… obviously).

Having just upgraded from the Nexus 4 to the Nexus 5, you can safely assume I’m an Android fan, but I’m also a regular user of pretty much every type of device there is through my work as a Web Developer. So if you’re reading this, I hope you find it useful.

The Nexus 5′s specs (which you’ve no doubt seen already…) are pretty impressive:

  • Processor: 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 CPU
  • RAM: 2gb
  • Screen: 4.95 inch Full HD IPS screen (445 pixels per inch)
  • OS: Android 4.4 KitKat
  • Camera: 8mp rear-facing with Optical Image Stabilisation, 1.3mp front-facing
  • Weight: 130g
  • Dimensions: 137.84 x 69.17 x 8.59mm
  • Battery: 2,300 mAh
  • Price: £299 for the 16gb model

Aesthetics

A phone’s aesthetics are quite often the most important part nowadays, and there are some fantastic looking phones out there. The iPhone’s appearance has had nothing more than the most subtle changes for a good few years now – to be honest, that’s all it’s needed!

Like the iPhone, the Galaxy S4, and just about every other recent phone, the Nexus 5 has had some fairly unimaginative changes compared to its predecessor. The shimmering glass back has been replaced with a rubberised plastic, the slightly curved screen has been dropped for a typical flat Gorilla Glass 3 one, and the thickness and weight have been dropped a little. Ultimately, the phone feels stronger, and has a more industrial aesthetic about it. In some ways, it almost looks like a prototype – it just looks slightly rugged and has no particularly distinguishing features. It’s a very modern and safe trend. In many ways, the Nexus 5 looks, and feels, quite similar to the HTC One, even despite the HTC One’s aluminium frame.

If anything though, the minimalist aesthetics help to accentuate the sheer brilliance of the screen. Pragmatically speaking, a 445ppi screen is just unnecessary – the human eye can’t really perceive that many pixels – but it really does look fantastic. The slight UI changes have helped as well, but more on that in a bit.

Performance

With a 2.3GHz processor and improved graphics, the Nexus 5′s performance is pretty darn good! There’s no point me posting benchmarks – you can see them all over the place online already – the important thing is how fast the phone feels, rather than how fast it is. In both cases, it’s fast… really fast. Enough said really.

Camera

Let’s be honest, the Nexus 4′s camera was a bit of a disappointment – something had to be sacrificed to keep the phone so affordable after all.

The Nexus 5′s is definitely better! Still, it’s not perfect. For your standard photo-taking needs, the Nexus 5 is more than sufficient. But it won’t compare to the likes of the Galaxy S4, HTC One, or the iPhone 5s. Personally, I’d put it more or less on par with the iPhone 5′s camera performance if you get the settings right – perhaps slightly behind it.

Battery

In a word: decent. I won’t lie, I was concerned about this one. With a Full HD screen and 0.8GHz clock speed increase, a meagre 200mAH battery increase compared to the Nexus 4 really didn’t seem like much. But honestly, the battery life seems to be pretty much the same.

In day to day use, the battery life is easily enough. Over the past 12 and a bit hours (between leaving for work at 8.40am and now at 9pm), my usage has been:

  • WiFi on at all times (but mobile data switched off)
  • Two tube journeys reading a book on it
  • Intermittent web browsing and website testing at work
  • Email and social media push notifications turned on, with a little bit of usage with all of them
  • Some texts and a few minutes of phone calls
  • Taking a couple of photos

And the battery is at 60%. Perfect really.

Operating System / User Interface

The Nexus 5 is a showcase in many ways for the latest version of Android. Android 4.4 KitKat has only some very minor changes compared to version 4.3.

Firstly, everything feels… larger. That’s possibly partly the screen, but there are some clear changes to make better use of space. The software buttons and notification tray are now translucent with a slight gradient coming from the screen edges, so your chosen background completely fills the screen, creating the illusion of more space. The App Drawer has been altered as well – there are no longer buttons to navigate directly between apps and widgets, clearing up some more space for icons, and the grid is now 4×5, instead of 5×5. There are some minor icon changes here and there as well.

Google Now can now be reached by swiping to the far left home screen, as well as swiping up from the bottom of the screen. The voice control can be activated from outside of Google Now as well simply by saying “OK Google” (but you have to set the language to English US for this to work).

To be honest, those are the most noticeable changes. The more important thing about Android 4.4 is the performance improvements. The idea is that the OS requires far less RAM, which seems to ring true. With my usual suite of apps running in the background, the RAM usage is a good 100 – 200mb less than it was on my Nexus 4 running Android 4.3.

Verdict

This is an incredibly good phone, especially for the price. I’d even rate the Nexus 5 above the almost identically spec’d Galaxy S4 (except for in the camera department), and considering the contrast in prices, that’s pretty exceptional. You’ll get a better camera on the likes of the iPhone 5S or the Galaxy S4; its build quality surpasses the Galaxy S4, but not that of the likes of the HTC One (or indeed the iPhone 5 and 5s).

Ultimately, if you want an absolutely top of the line device, I’d point you to the HTC One or iPhone 5s - both of which have excellent specs and fantastic build quality - but if you want a more affordable device that has made some compromises - in the places they can afford to be made - then this is definitely the one to go for.


Posted: November 6th, 2013
Categories: mobile, reviews, tech