Google Nexus 5 Review: A Fast, Affordable Phone With LTE For All

Does The Nexus 5 Raise Expectations?

The Nexus 5 represents an interesting turn of events for Google and Android. At $350 off-contract, it provides the same performance as premium devices selling for twice its price. This means that the Nexus 5 offers a whole lot of power in reach of the average consumer. Indeed, the Nexus 5 beats two of the most expensive phones on the market (the iPhone 5s and LG G2) in a few key performance benchmarks, and largely matches them in most every other comparison. Now, all of that would still be impressive if the Nexus 5 was a $600+ phone. But at $350 off-contract, it's downright amazing.

The lack of expandable storage and a slightly smaller, non-removable battery might bother some. But we think that most folks will agree that the massive cost savings far outweighing these shortcomings.

Even with the known issue of this specific retail Nexus 5, where it fails to turn heads in certain benchmarking tools, it is nonetheless a remarkable device. We pushed about everything we've ever bought on the Play store through it, and for the most part it’s been a breeze, despite the lower-binned version of the SoC.

The Nexus 5 marks a watershed moment for Google. The company is no longer content with releasing mid-range handsets, or high-end devices with glaring compromises. It’s no longer about pushing up the middle. The Nexus 5 is a high-end device with a mid-range price tag. Having that amount of gaming and media consumption power in your pocket is sometimes quite thrilling. In fact, we found ourselves often remarking at little things, like the fluidity of video conferences, or YouTube content, or at how smoothly games run, or simply how subtle and charming the notification light is.

And that's just the vanilla experience.

The Nexus 5 is backed by an active and open community of enthusiasts who are scrambling over one another to release mods, ROMs, tools, games, themes, and tutorials to help you on your way to a more personalized experience. Within a week of the device being released, there were already custom ROMs available. As of this article, we're running our Nexus 5 unlocked with MultiROM, and are happily bouncing between Cataclysm and nightly builds of Omni. Despite our tinkering, the phone rarely (if ever) crashes or randomly reboots. Sure, living on the bleeding edge isn't always 100% stable, but in the case of this device and its eager, continually-expanding community, you won't be alone if you choose to reside there.

And if you don't want to test out ROMs or mods and endlessly geek out, standard Android 4.4.x KitKat is also pretty amazing in its own right. In many ways it feels like the promises of Ice Cream Sandwich and Honeycomb are finally coming to light, and the Nexus 5 is the first device that’s really central to that experience. So, even if you stay locked, unrooted, and unmodded, your experience will be something unique to the Nexus 5, even if that's just a comforting blinking blue notification light seemingly appearing out of nowhere on the display.

To that end, the Google Nexus 5 blows right past the value-oriented focus of our Smart Buy award to take Tom’s Hardware Elite recognition. This award is typically handed to the best-of-the-best. But in this case, you get the exclusivity of high-end hardware with the value of a Smart Buy winner. Talk about a home run for Google.

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  • guvnaguy
    Nice review. I think the whole $600-700 price for an off-contract phone is pretty much theft anyway, when the phones cost <$300 to make. Kudos, Google.
  • MoulaZX
    The Nexus 5 is extremely susceptible to thermal throttling which this article seems to gloss over or entirely miss.

    Yes PVS scores do indicate something. They indicate the efficiency of a chip at a given frequency. The lower PVS numbers will heat up faster, and thus be at the optimal 2.23Ghz frequency less often, thus giving the perceived impression of being significantly slower.

    I have a Nexus 5 myself, same PVS scoring (1). Running Antutu in my hand, and I'll score 22,000 - 23,000. However, out of curiosity, I rest the phone on an AC vent for 15 minutes, started the Antutu benchmark while leaving it there, and managed to score 29,500. All results easily and consistently repeatable. And my phone has never been unlocked/flashed. 100% Factory ROM, 4.4.2.

    The issue purely heavy thermal throttling under heavy sustained loads.

    In day to day operations though, it is absolutely flawless, and felt ever so slightly snappier then my previous HTC One (M7). Still incredibly happy with this device, and the only one I have never felt the need to unlock and flash silly. My only gripe was Camera issues, but the 4.4.2 update resolved those problems.
  • MoulaZX
    Duplicate post. Disregard.
  • shahrooz
    I just bought mine wainting for it to arrive xD
  • beetlejuicegr
    So a friend bought Nexus 5 and i bought his nexus 4 for me. Really happy with it even if its a last year's mobile. Economy crisis in Greece just won't give me space to buy Nexus 5 :P. Nexus phones are always on the the top list in quality and especially on price/quality mark. It is just that the way google sells them in Europe that is incompatible with the mentality of mobile buyers here. I bet my right thumb :P that if they had few actual shops inside shopping centers in Europe that they would sell like crazy. Now that i think about it, they know it, they just let other mobile companies for this, for android dominance perhaps? Just like what IBM did with PC and DoS? All were awed to see my Nexus One just when it was released few years ago, which i still have and still works fine, i doubt if an iphone or any 600+ $/euro mobile can survive that long right?
  • beetlejuicegr
    Oh and to add, this heating throttling might be annoying if it is used on a warm country like Greece i guess? Can the article elaborate on that? (room temperatures vs performance)
  • davidjan
    Great phone. N4 doesn't support OTG. But N5 supports. So can use Meenova MicroSD reader to add its storage:
  • cypeq
    I'd love to get 'USA price' on this devices... it is 450 Euro here
  • clownbaby
    I finally pulled the trigger on a Nexus 5 and am upgrading my trusty old GNex. The unpolluted android system is by far the most underrated aspect of the Nexus devices. Paired with a crazy enthusiastic development community, Google offers a device experience that can't be had for any price by other manufacturers. To all of this, top end quick hardware is just icing on the cake. I would take a Nexus device with half the performance of an Iphone or Galaxy 4 just for the software environment.
  • yasamoka
    The LG G2 does not have a microSD slot. Only the Note 3 does out of the 3 handsets mentioned in the article.
  • the1kingbob
    Great article. One thing I would like to see is comparing the ~$350 N5 to other phones of equal price from apple and android. Like to see what a GS3 and a iP4S can do against it.
  • chazzmatt
    The Nexus 4 was NOT the first "bleeding edge" Nexus smartphone. So, was the Galaxy Nexus (aka gen 3 Nexus), made by Samsung for Google. Released at end of 2011, had 4.65" 720p HD display, dual core 1.2GHz CPU, 1GB RAM -- and NFC. The Verizon models had LTE. It was one of the first Androids with HD display and had many of the attributes of the Galaxy SIII, released by Samsung a few months later. Yes, those were VERY much cutting edge specs at the time.
  • ballerslife
    Err, bit late for a review. The phone came out november
  • RooD
    I love my nexus 5, much nicer than my galaxy nexus. I like it more than my wife's S4 and the money I save from being off contract will pay for the phone in the 2 years I'll keep it.
  • Zachasaurs
    wow smartphone companies are bathing in money this is the price of a budget gaming pc why would you pay this for a phone? you could but 3 good tablets instead or a pc or laptop
  • Zachasaurs
    wow smartphone companies are bathing in money this is the price of a budget gaming pc why would you pay this for a phone? you could but 3 good tablets instead or a pc or laptop
  • koolkei
    cloud based storage is all good and fine..... ON MOST OF THE 1ST WORLD NATION...but when they brought it on to the third world nation, our internet just sucks. 1mbps DL and 0.15 mbps UL (that's bit not byte). what are you gonna accomplice or store with that speed here? not to mention the price and the limited bandwidth. a micro sd card is WAY faster and WAY cheaper in the long run here.although i understand why they are doing this, it's just not really gonna work in places where the internet infrastructures are still way behind. btw, where i live, we still struggle to get 3G speed. yet korea is already 4G LTE, and so close to 5G, so they got minimum every day average 3G LTE at least right? and i believe 3G for america and england
  • unsivilaudio
    Hilarious they left out the Moto X out of this review comparo, let alone this test; given the claims of superior battery it has made.
  • chazzmatt
    Well, Moto X is mid-tier specs, not top tier like the Androids with Snapdragon 800 and 1080p. Why should they mention phones like the Moto X?
  • unsivilaudio
    Anonymous said:
    Well, Moto X is mid-tier specs, not top tier like the Androids with Snapdragon 800 and 1080p. Why should they mention phones like the Moto X?

    They mentioned the Nexus 4, which is right alongside spec-wise with the Moto X; also its probably to the 2 most compared phones out right now.