Nexus 5 Review
Check out our hands-on video review of the Nexus 5!
We’ve waited for it for months now, and finally, after all the rumours, leaked specs and images, we have our hands on the Nexus 5. And to be quite honest, it’s the first time that I have been this excited about a new Android phone in some time!
And as a Nexus 4 owner myself, you can expect to find lots of comparisons with the Nexus 5’s predecessor!
So will the Nexus 5 match up to my expectations?
Let’s launch straight in to the build and appearance of the Nexus 5. It has a 5-inch display which is noticeably larger than the Nexus 4’s 4.7-inch screen. If we’re already into the Nexus 4 comparisons, you’ll notice as soon as you turn on Google’s latest device that the Nexus 5’s display is so much sharper and brighter than the Nexus 4, mainly due to its 445 pixel per inch (ppi) density.
Another noticeable difference between the two Nexus devices is their rear casing. You might have remembered just how much of a fan I was of the Nexus 4’s glittery holographic back, which seemed to glisten in the light, though there’s no sight of this on the Nexus 5.
Instead, users can choose from either a black or white smooth polycarbonate casing embedded with the familiar Nexus branding. Although I personally prefer the Nexus 4’s design, I think that the plain rear-side of the Nexus 5 does make it look more of a serious-looking device.
Yet another key difference between the Nexus 4 and 5 is their dimensions. The Nexus 5 is Google’s slimmest and lightest Nexus device to date, measuring in at just 8.6mm thick and 130g in weight, despite having a slightly larger screen that its predecessor.
As a result, the Nexus 5 is really comfortable to hold for prolonged periods of time, and doesn’t feel at all bulky like some other 5-inch devices out there, such as the Sony Xperia Z.
One last improvement which I’m key to note is the fact that Google has relocated the Nexus’ speakers to the base of the device. One real pet hate for me is having to turn my phone on its front in order to get clear audio, and while Google hasn’t gone as far as HTC’s dual frontal speakers, it’s still a considerable step forward.
And while I’ve heard of a few user complaints regarding the Nexus 5’s camera lens, which protrudes ever so slightly from the back of the phone, I didn’t find that it inhibited me in any way when sliding it into my pocket or bag.
Under the hood, the Nexus 5 offers a whole range of improved specs, including a quad-core 2.3GHz processor, 2GB of RAM and either 16GB or 32GB of internal storage. We’re a little surprised that you can’t insert an SD card into the Nexus 5, though considering there’s only £40 difference between the two models, it’s not out of reach for users to opt for the 32GB option.
Phone Set Up
Another key factor for me getting so excited about the Nexus 5 release was getting to grips with the new Android KitKat (4.4).
Although until September we were expecting to see the Android update codenamed Key Lime Pie, various leaks had given us an insight into Android’s new and improved features.
And in terms of the user interface, not all that much has changed. Like with the iOS update, Google has made its icons a little more vibrant, as well as increasing their size in order to make the most of the Nexus 5’s 5-inch screen. You can also access the Nexus 5’s camera from the lock screen, which is great if you’re in a hurry to launch the snapper.
As mentioned above, Google has tried to embrace the trend of large-screen phones, and has made Android 4.4 even better to experience on the latest handsets. On launching an app, whether it’s a game, movie or book, KitKat automatically gets rid of your notifications bar and control buttons, allowing you to get on with whatever you’re doing without being interrupted or distracted.
This is a particularly great feature if you use your phone to read books, as Android 4.4 makes the device much more like a dedicated e-reader.
I also found that this feature improved the movie watching experience as well, as you could get rid of all the black bars surrounding the video, making your movie take up the entirety of the Nexus 5’s 5-inch screen.
Being a stock Android device, Google has also done away with separate messaging apps, instead replacing your usual SMS icon with Google Hangouts. Although I was a little sceptical of this at first, the app does collate all of your messages from different contacts, whether it’s via Google Hangouts or SMS, into one, easy to access location, which I found useful.
Another cool feature of Android 4.4 is the new settings option; by holding your finger down on the home screen’s background, you can manage your wallpaper, widgets and settings without having to manually go into settings, then display or apps etc.
As with most stock Android devices, the Nexus 5 doesn’t offer a huge array of additional built-in features which aren’t associated with the Android operating system.
In many ways, the most notable feature of the Nexus 5 is its focus on Google Now.
Although the Nexus 4, and other Android devices, has access to Google Now, the Nexus 5 has made the app a permanent feature, accessible by scrolling to the far left of your home screens.
Google Now essentially personalises your phone, giving you the information that you need at a glance. For example, by launching Google Now, you can get a glimpse of the weather forecast in your current and home location, as well as getting an up to the minute traffic report for your commute home from work.
The app also allows you to set and view reminders to ensure that you keep up with your calendar, as well as keeping an eye on your favourite sports teams’ results with a simple swipe.
Tap & Pay
However, Google has included the Google Wallet app on the Nexus 5, allowing users to make the most of its ‘Tap & Pay’ feature. At present, this only works with 4.4 devices (which shouldn’t be a problem as soon as KitKat spreads to other Android devices), and allows users to pay for things just by tapping the phone against a reader at a till.
Although we’ve heard a lot about NFC and wireless payments, it will be interesting how the ‘Tap & Pay’ feature will catch on amongst the Android community.
Camera & Video
The Nexus 5 features an 8 megapixel rear-facing snapper, which I was initially surprised at. With most top of the range device sporting 13MP cameras (including the LG G2 which the Nexus 5 is modelled off), I half expected the Nexus 5 to follow suit. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by the quality of the Nexus 5’s camera, which is an improvement on that of the Nexus 4.
Although the only camera feature which is different from the Nexus 4 is the HDR+ mode (which, presumably is better than the normal HDR mode), the Nexus 5 offers an all-round set of impressive features when compared to most other Android devices.
|Normal Mode||HDR+ Mode|
For instance, there’s Photo Sphere, which essentially takes a 360° panoramic photo, allowing you to scroll forwards and backwards, up and down, to get a true 360° view of a scene. This is a great way to bring your photos to life by making them interactive, which is something you don’t get with other Androids.
The Nexus 5 also offers an Auto mode, a video mode, and a panoramic mode, enhancing the range of photos and videos that you can create with your handheld companion. You can also edit all of your photos with an impressive range of pre-set filters, Instagram style, similarly to the Nexus 4.
As with most smartphone cameras, the proof really is in the pudding. And luckily, the Nexus 5 impressed me in the camera department.
As mentioned above, I was a little concerned about the phone’s 8MP lens, but my fears soon melted away when I realised how crisp the Nexus 5’s photos emerged. Comparing the camera quality to the Nexus 4, which also offers an 8MP snapper, the Nexus 5 produced much brighter and sharper images, especially with the front facing cameras as you can see in the gallery to the left.
The only disappointing thing that I noticed about the Nexus 5’s camera, when directly compared with the Nexus 4, was its zoom.
|Nexus 5||Nexus 4
Although the phone has the capacity to zoom in really closely to objects, the photos at full zoom were slightly blurry, and nowhere near as sharp as the Nexus 4.
I was really disappointed with the battery life of the Nexus 4, so this is one feature which I was really keen to test out.
On paper, the Nexus 5’s 2300mAh battery looks better than the Nexus 4’s 2100mAh cell, though this isn’t always the best of indicators when testing out the battery span on our smartphones.
Obviously, the more you play around on your phone, the most juice it will drink up, but by launching a few apps, taking a few photos and updating Google Now to our own preferences, the Nexus 5 used up 10% of its power.
When we watched a 7 minute movie clip, the battery then dropped by 2% and again by a further 9% after streaming a 30 minute show on catch up TV, which I didn’t think was too unusual.
Also, one feature which I feel Nexus devices really miss out on is a power saving mode. Although you have the option of switching off the apps which use the most juice (by accessing the battery tab from your main settings), there’s no power saving mode which will automatically turn your screen brightness down and close unnecessary apps when your battery levels get critically low, as on other Android phones.