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Does The Nexus 5 Raise Expectations?

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

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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