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

Product 360: Look And Feel

Body And Soul

The Nexus 5 is an attractive handset in either black or white. Its slim and sleek design is reminiscent of a sports car or speedboat: fast lines and smooth curves. It drops the the glassy feel and bulk of its predecessor, the Nexus 4, and instead adopts something more akin to a luxury gloss and suede aesthetic. It really does seem to be hinting towards a modern premium vehicle: glossy window with a nice soft touch.

While its nearest cousin is the LG G2, Google's Nexus 5 is quite a different device, stylistically speaking. For one, it's a little over one-fifth of an inch smaller. And where the G2 has straighter lines, the Nexus 5 has curves.

Viewed side-by-side, the Nexus 5 is definitely shorter by a small amount, but it also appears thinner. There are a few factors governing that. Externally, the Nexus 5 has a slightly smaller screen and longer, more arched head and chin pieces. The Nexus 5 also carries a substantially smaller battery (2300 mAh versus the LG G2's 3000 mAh power source). Hence, it's both thinner and lighter.

We love the Nexus 5's balance. There's a definite sense of purpose to its weight in-hand. While the soft-touch back feels grippy, it is a bit of dirt magnet, especially around that lovely Nexus etched text. This can become mildly unsightly and grubby in the white model, so a case is recommended.

Staying at the back of the phone, the camera does protrude enough to leave the handset slightly off-center when lying face-up on a flat surface. Sure, it’s a minor complaint, but it'll probably annoy the perfectionist in you to some degree. Again, we recommend a case to deal with this issue as well. That's going to make the Nexus 5 larger, sacrificing some of its speedline design, but this is true of all phones, and the protection is well worth it.  

Pushing Buttons

A volume rocker is located on the left side of the phone, with the power button and micro-SIM card slot on the right, almost perfectly equidistant of one another.

This makes the phone easy to palm in either hand. Holding onto it with your left, the thumb controls volume, while power is manipulated by the forefinger. In the right hand, fore and middle fingers manage volume, and the thumb handles power. It’s a nice design that works well no matter which hand is favored.  

Early reports suggested that some devices had buttons that wobbled under normal use. While this issue manifested for some early adopters (to the point that a redesigned Nexus 5 has already been spotted in the wild), our device held up to some rather strenuous usage.

Future's So Bright

The 4.95” 1080p IPS+ LCD display is fantastic in almost any lighting condition, and the Gorilla Glass 3 pane shines up easily with an anti-scratch cloth. With the slider at 75 percent, it's bright enough to view outdoors in daylight. Even at its lowest setting, the screen is bright enough to read at night. At that minimal output, monochrome content looks better than colors due to some loss in color variance.

Happy Talky

If there's any one aspect of the design that disappointed us, it was the solitary speaker located at the bottom of the phone. It's not unclear or overly quiet; it’s just a little tepid and squeaky. This is absolutely fine for talk radio or classical music, but not so great for listening to modern tunes.

The earpiece is fantastic, as is the mic array. In fact, we’re not afraid to say that they’re both nearly faultless, and a pleasure to use for both general phone communication and VoIP apps like Skype. Kudos to LG and Google for getting this right when so many other “premium” devices don't.

Overall, the Nexus 5 provides a pleasurable audio experience that is only slightly marred by a single lackluster speaker.

What’s In The Box?

Spartan is the word that comes to mind when looking at what’s included. A microUSB cable and five-volt, two-amp LG-branded wall adapter come bundled. There’s not much else, aside from a simple user guide and some folded cardboard. The box itself is small and themed to suit the stock Android 4.4 KitKat wallpaper. This is where costs were cut, and frankly, we’re totally fine with that. Headphones might’ve been a nice addition, but really, they are readily available at reasonable prices elsewhere.

Accessories

Google only offers three accessories for the Nexus 5: two cases and the company’s own branded Qi wireless charger.

The $30 rubber bumper case is pretty simple and comes in four colors: black, gray, red, and yellow.

The other choice is a more traditional QuickCover case at $50. It’s also made by LG, and is only available in black or white.

As with the Nexus 4 and 7, the Nexus 5 supports the same Qi-style wireless charger. Just rest the phone on the charger pad and power is delivered via the magic of inductive power transfer. The wireless charger is a nice option as Qi-style chargers go, but it is currently only available in the U.S.

So, we know how it looks and feels, but how does the Nexus 5’s software experience differ from other KitKat devices?

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55 comments
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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.
    8
  • 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.
    5
  • MoulaZX
    Duplicate post. Disregard.
    -4
  • shahrooz
    I just bought mine wainting for it to arrive xD
    0
  • 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?
    0
  • 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)
    0
  • davidjan
    Great phone. N4 doesn't support OTG. But N5 supports. So can use Meenova MicroSD reader to add its storage: http://goo.gl/2iJ6gf
    0
  • cypeq
    I'd love to get 'USA price' on this devices... it is 450 Euro here
    -1
  • 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.
    0
  • yasamoka
    The LG G2 does not have a microSD slot. Only the Note 3 does out of the 3 handsets mentioned in the article.
    0
  • 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.
    -2
  • 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.
    0
  • ballerslife
    Err, bit late for a review. The phone came out november
    2
  • 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.
    0
  • 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
    -5
  • 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
    -4
  • 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
    1
  • 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.
    -2
  • 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?
    2
  • 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.
    -1