Nexus 5 review

Reviews 7 Nov, 2013

The Nexus 5 smartphone packs a 4.95in full HD display, 4G connectivity and a £299 starting price.

£299 SIM-free or free from £21 per month
Great value; High-quality screen; Android 4.4 KitKat;; 4G support, Smooth performance;
Average camera; No micro SD card support
The Nexus 5 is the pound-for-pound the best value handset available on the market. It delivers excellent performance and has a vibrant full HD display but is not perfect. LG has understandable had to cut costs in the camera department and there's no way to expand physical storage.

The Nexus 5 smartphone has landed - packing Android KitKat 4.4, high-end components including a full HD display and a tantalising £299 SIM-free starting price.

LG continues with the manufacturing duties, and the firm has made a several changes to the internals and the design of the handset.

Goodbye Glass 

The fifth generation smartphone has a 4.95in full HD display made from Gorilla Glass 3. This is bigger than the 4.7in 720p screen on its predecessor. However, the Nexus 5 manages to be 9g lighter, than its predecessor with a weight of 130g.

The biggest difference to the design is the removal of the glass back. LG has switched to a toughened polycarbonate shell. This change in material is welcome as the speckled glass-backed on the Nexus 4 was difficult to grip and prone to scratching/cracking. 

Nexus 4 (with glass) on the left and Nexus 5 (with polycarbonate) on the right

Google has no doubt pushed for a consistent design across its Nexus range. The Nexus 5 has identical branding to the Nexus 7 2013 tablet, despite being manufactured by LG and Asus, respectively.

The rear camera on the Nexus protrudes from back of the device so this means it cannot rest flat on a surface. This is a minor annoyance, but not quite as pronounced as the bulge on the Nokia Lumia 1020.

The loudspeaker has been moved to the bottom, which makes a huge difference. On the Nexus 4, the speaker was on the rear and sound alerts were directed into a table or straight into your leg (when in your pocket), making them hard to hear.

The ear speaker now has a circular design, and is pronounced on the white model. You might find the white, rounded speaker on a black bezel resembles a pulsating white notification light when glancing at the device and might fool you into thinking you have a message.

It’s early days but we are concerned that the white model may be prone to staining. It is worth noting that the colour choice affects the rear of the device. If you opt for a white model the front bezel will still be black, creating a two-tone design, again reminiscent of the Nokia Lumia series. The Nexus 5 is also available in black.

The one thing we miss is the rubberised sides as the handset does feel slippery without them. But overall, the Nexus 5 looks like a premium device and has a solid construction.

Have a break, have a KitKat (4.4)

The Nexus 5 is the first smartphone to ship with Android 4.4 KitKat. This OS brings a wealth of enhancements and is optimised to work best on this handset.

You get the feeling Android programmers had the beautiful Nexus 5 screen in mind when designing KitKat. Visual flourishes like the transparent on-screen menu buttons and full screen album art on the lockscreen take full advantage of the 4.95in. 
Some of the most useful business features include:

  • Quick Office -  the redesigned app comes pre-installed, providing support for documents, spreadsheets and presentations on the move. It's good for reading docs/making quick edits and we like the tight integration with Google Drive too. 
  • Enhanced Caller ID - when you receive a call from a number you don't have saved as a contact, Google will attempt to identify the caller based on local listings sourced from Google Maps. It hasn't helped us to identify half a dozen nuisance calls we've received though.
  • ‘OK Google’ - Exclusive to English users for now, the Nexus 5 is always listening for the voice command 'OK Google' when on the home screen or within Google Now. This allows you to carry out hands-free searching or tell the device to play music. Speech recognition still requires work, and it's not practical for use in public environments.
  • Revamped email - the default e-mail app has finally been updated and now resembles the Gmail app. It features the slide-out UI and gestures for archiving and deleting e-mails. But it's missing the 'fit to screen' mode which was added to the Gmail app a year ago so there's work to be done. 

Overall, Android 4.4 is a step in the right direction for the operating system but is an incremental update rather than a redesign.


OS: Android 4.4 'KitKat'

Processor: 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 Series Quad-core

RAM/Storage: 2GB; 16GB/32GB internal

Screen: 4.95in (1920x1080) 445 ppi

Connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/nc, microUSB, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, 3.5mm headphone jack

Other: GPS, Gyroscope, Accelerometer, Compass, Proximity/Ambient Light, Pressure, Hall

Bands: US GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, CDMA: Band Class: 0/1/10, WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19, LTE: Bands: 1/2/4/5/17/19/25/26/41
Rest of World: GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz, WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8, LTE: Bands: 1/3/5/7/8/20

Camera: 8MP rear-face with Optical Image Stabilizer and LED Flash; 1.3MP front facing

Battery: 2,300mAH built-in

Size: 69.17 x 137.84 x 8.59 mm

Weight: 130g

Disqus - noscript

On my N7 I doubled the 32Gb capacity to 64 with an OTG cable and a micro USB drive, cost £20. Is this not an option on the N5?

I LOVE these reviews and how Apple biased they tend to be:
This review's "Cons" are: Average camera; No micro SD card support

The iPhone 5S has the same resolution camera, and no micro SD card support (because it's an iPhone), and yet neither are mentions in the "Cons" section, doesn't that seem strange?

For the storage, with Android 4+ you are NEVER limited by what's in the phone - you can get a host cable and plug in a flash drive, meaning that you have "unlimited" storage if you carry several flash drives you can never run out of storage... A host cable on eBay costs around £1, a 16GB flash drive costs less than £8, a 32GB drive costs around £10, so for less than £15 you can over double the cable :-P

Then again, since it's not made by Apple, you'll count those as disadvantages, because the iPhone can't use a host cable and plug in external storage!

Hey Phil,

Thanks for your comment. The camera on the Nexus may have the same resolution as the iPhone 5s, but as we pointed out the camera controls are fiddly and at present there's a software problem with shutter lag. We accept your point that the iOS devices do not have external support but in case of the iPhone you can get built in storage of up to 64GB.

Like you pointed out you can plug a flash drive in Android devices, BUT are the majority of people actually likely to do this?

On another note the review clearly points out that the Nexus 5 is the best value device on the market.

Tech Ed, IT Pro

Does this mean that all future device reviews that can use microSD cards, especially the 64GB ones, will have a "Pro" of "can have larger storage than the iPhone, which is limited to 64GB"?

If you don't like the camera app on the Nexus 5, here's a strange idea, install one of the MANY free ones on Google Play, and that will fix the "camera controls are fiddly" issue.

For the external storage on Androids, the more reviews that point it out, the more users who will know that it's capable of doing it, but since the iPhone CAN'T do it, you probably won't mention that other phones CAN... rather like the screen resolution comparison where you say that you can't tell the difference between 441PPI and 326PPI, while I can CLEARLY tell the difference between my Xperia Z's screen and an iPhone retina display - if you want a really easy way to see the quality, put on a full HD video, especially something like The Hobbit, and it'll blow your mind!