Google Nexus 5 in-depth review - A tasty treat from Google, and a great smartphone at the price

Look and feel

The Google Nexus 5’s design is in keeping with the Nexus lineage, but there’s nothing to distinguish it from any number of generic Android devices.

 

Ease of Use

Usability is at the forefront of this smartphone - from improved search to Google Now's boosted functionality, the Nexus 5 is on hand for every informational occasion.

 

Features

Android KitKat puts Google services at the forefront of everything - refreshed voice search, improved dialler with search integration, and Hangouts incorporated into the messaging app, it's all here.

 

Performance

Lightning-quick execution of tasks is enabled by the Nexus 5’s quad-core Snapdragon 800 processor and streamlining of Google's mobile platform. Lag? Forget about it.

 

Battery life

An admirable performance from the 2,300mAh power cell sees the Nexus 5 creep into a second day's use without requiring a charge, so long as you don't spend five hours streaming video and music.

 Google Nexus 5 Review - A tasty treat from Google, and a great smartphone at the price
4

Review by Sunetra Chakravati,11/11/2013 10:24:28 AM

9

out of 10

Performance

6

out of 5

Look and feel

8

out of 5

Ease of use

8

out of 5

Features

7

out of 5

Battery life

Pros:

Android KitKat; Super-swift quad-core 2.3GHz processor; Lack of manufacturer overlay; Improved search integration

Cons:

Pedestrian design; Lacklustre camera performance; Some software glitches

Anticipation around the next iteration of Android had been building for an age with the false start of Key Lime Pie turning out to be a mere incremental update dampening excitement levels earlier in the year.

 

The coming to light of a bizarre tie-up between Google and Nestle to bring us Android KitKat soon put paid to that however and the unveiling of the Google Nexus 5 heralds the mobile-buying public's first chance to sample the eagerly awaited OS. Does this LG-produced vessel of 'pure' Google have what it takes to persuade consumers to part with their hard-earned? Read on to find out...

 

LG Google Nexus 5 review 

 

Understated aesthetics outshone by OS 

 

Those of you who are familiar with the Nexus lineage will know that their modus operandi is to showcase fresh-off-the-production line Android variants, so it's understandable that external aesthetics take a back seat. That's not to say that prior Nexuses have been bland - the sparkly, disco-flecked rear of the previous model springing instantly to mind - but it's safe to say that the likes of Apple, Sony and HTC with their metal and glass build materials have little to worry about.

 

The first thing to strike you about this device is its lack of anything particularly striking, if that makes sense. From a distance, the Nexus 5 could be any generic Android device - its black plastic frame and form-factor are pedestrian to say the least, but it's when you get up close that the quality begins to shine through. The way LG have made use of the available space on the front fascia is to be commended with the 5-inch IPS display almost qualifying as edge-to-edge, and only the slimmest of bezels between the screen and the device's perimeter.

 

LG Google Nexus 5 review 

 

Round the back, the understated vibes continue with the token 'Nexus' branding embossed and running the length of the rubberised rear panel with only the tiniest of LG insignia sitting at the foot of that. The smooth expanse of the back is punctuated only by the mounting that houses the 8-megapixel camera and the miniscule LED flash below it, although the camera module does noticeably stick out, spoiling the sleek appearance a little.

 

Along the edges you’ll find the volume rocker and power on button, constructed from a ceramic material which gives them a quality feel. Oddly though, LG has seen fit to position the speaker grilles on the bottom edge of the phone, meaning that performance can be compromised depending on how you hold it. HTC BoomSound this is not. Measuring up at 138 x 69, the Nexus 5 is slightly longer than its predecessor, but at just 130g it seems that LG has pulled out all the stops to cram in a wealth of high-end tech without producing a bulky handset.

 

LG Google Nexus 5 review

 

Screen star

 

A 5-inch 1920 x 1080 resolution HD screen, coated in Gorilla Glass 3 for durability, is the order of the day. Thanks to a 445 ppi (beating the Nexus 4's 320ppi from a 720p display), visuals are impressive. The new, minimalist Android interfaced is showcased well, but it's when viewing video and gaming that the screen's prowess comes into its own.

 

Colour saturation is spot on and images are clear and well defined, and although some criticism has come the way of IPS technology - albeit from display tech pedants - about the viewing angles offered, we found no such problems here. Text heavy webpages look sharp as do app icons but it's when handling moving images that this display excels -Angry Birds Star Wars and Netflix are our time-fillers of choice and both looked fantastic, from the detail on space rocks to the crags in Walter White's face.

 

LG Google Nexus 5 review

 

Have a break, have a new version of Android...

 

First things first: Android 4.4 KitKat is not the break of a new dawn, and those expecting a massive sea change in the way the Android OS shapes up may well be in for a disappointment. KitKat, rather than presenting something totally new, merely takes existing features and polishes them up, adding the odd bit of Google-powered functionality and pushing search to the fore.

 

This is no more evident than in the new omnipresent search bar - no matter what screen of the UI you're on, Google's 'omnibox' is always there ready and waiting. Voice recognition has been suped up too and you can now simply intone "Ok Google" from the homescreen to call it into action. Search has also been combined into the dialler, so that now you can begin typing in the name of a company or business and be served results within the very same interface, regardless of whether you have the firms saved as a contact or not. Calling them is achieved by taping on the desired result.

 

LG Google Nexus 5 review

 

Visually, KitKat doesn't represent much of an overhaul although there are a few sanzzy new transitions thrown into the mix, many not dissimilar to those found within HTC Sense 5.0 UI. The blue-ish 'Holo' theme of Android Jelly Bean has been replaced with a cleaner, more white affair and Google Now has undergone a similar transformation. App icons are slightly larger and a tad starker/cleaner too.

 

Elsewhere, the new platform manifests itself in a number of subtle ways - from the incorporation of SMS messaging into your ‘Hangouts’ app, through to streamlined cloud integration that supports other services aside from the token Google Drive. Photo editing options have been spruced up too and the Gallery app now offers an array of post-shot filters, while the on-screen keyboard has been updated to include revised long-press menus and ‘space-aware gesture typing’. This doesn’t quite offer Swype levels of functionality, but means that you can insert a space by dragging your finger to the spacebar without lifting it from the touchscreen. As we said, this reimagining of Android is more evolution than revolution, but the changes are welcome all the same.

 

LG Google Nexus 5 review 

 

Snap to it

 

The camera set-up on the Nexus 5 is the same as that on the previous model – an 8-megapixel main lens supported by a 1.3-megapixel front-facer. Not quite in the same league as Nokia’s latest or even troubling Samsung and HTC’s flagship snappers, but megapixels aren’t everything and a decent photo can still be had. Just ask iPhone 5 owners.

 

That said, the photographic chops of the Nexus 5 do leave quite a bit to be desired, with exposure suffering in situations that aren’t perfectly lit. Noise has a tendency to creep into shots, especially those taken indoors, and images can look washed out on occasion.

 

LG Google Nexus 5 review 

 

KitKat sees the camera app itself given a makeover and it’s now cleaner and more minimal in terms of on screen options – the only thing layered over the viewfinder are touch-to-focus and shoot mode options with others only brought up by long-pressing the screen. Zooming can prove quite a task though as users are expected to pinch-to-zoom as when viewing a web-page, which is quite fiddly when holding the phone one handed.

 

A HDR+ plus mode does go some way towards making up for a distinctly average camera performance however. This works by taking a bunch of images in quick succession and pasting the best elements of each together to form one pixel-perfect photo. The gimmicky ‘Photo Sphere’ mode is supposed to take a series of snaps and then allow you to stitch them together to form a spherical planet-like image (much like Google’s StreetView cars do), but we couldn’t get it to produce anything other than a greying blob.

 

LG Google Nexus 5 review

 

Bit of a goer

 

LG claims that this device will provide users with 17 hours of talktime, although we get the impression that these estimates are made assuming that no other functions on the phone are used. Thankfully for those who like squeeze out every last drop of juice from their handset, the Nexus 5 performs well under general use.

 

We managed to make it last in to a second day without having to recharge and that was after quite a lot of video capture and playback, a couple of hours of Twitter and email and the odd stint of gaming. Granted, heavy downloaders and streamers of music mightn’t fare so well, but a device foregoing the nightly charge is a rarity these days.

 

LG Google Nexus 5 review

 

Verdict

 

In the Nexus 5, Google and LG have conspired to produce a competent if not awe-inspiring device that admirably showcases the new Android KitKat OS. Whilst Android 4.4 itself isn't anything to write home about particularly, the incremental improvements and integration of search functionality across the platform are welcome.

 

Add in lightning quick performance enabled by the 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 CPU and turn a blind eye to a slightly lacklustre camera and the Nexus 5 is probably the best Android device available in this price range.