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.


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?