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Friday, November 8, 2013

Google Nexus 5 Review

After much anticipation and waiting, The Nexus 5 is available for purchase on the Google Play Store. The Nexus Line pushes the boundaries of what is considered to be a high end Android device while at the same time strives to keep the retail cost down. This unlocked behemoth starts at $349 and consists of some of the best specs we have seen to date. But is it any good? Is it worth dropping Verizon and heading over to AT&T, T-Mobile, or Sprint?

This is the Google Nexus 5.

My Video Review


The Nexus 5 is a very solid device. It doesn't do anything fancy in terms of looks. It has a plastic build very similar to that of the Google Nexus 7 (2013). It has a matte finish on the sides and back and has a glossy bezel on the front. The front is covered in a sheet of Gorilla Glass 3 and it all feels nice to the touch. I’m glad they went with a matte finish instead of a glossy one as the matte finish feels nice and leaves no fingerprints. The now iconic Nexus logo is centered vertically along the back of the phone as it was on the Nexus 7. The phone is very light coming in at 130 grams and feels good in the hand. The ceramic buttons feel strong and click very well. I feel as if the power button is just a little too high up but it doesn’t bother me as much as I thought it would.

The microphone and speaker are on the bottom of the device with the microUSB port between them and the 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top left of the device.The two identical grill openings of the mic and speaker make it seem like there are stereo speakers on the device but each one serves a different purpose. On the front you get a 1.2 megapixel camera for selfies and Google Hangouts, a small circular speaker grill for calls, and a small LED notification light on the bottom bezel. The LED is located in the same place as the Nexus 4 and Nexus 7 and glows white when active. The ever handy Light Flow app works great and is able to change the LED to various colors. And finally an eight megapixel camera is located on the top left of the back with a large ring surrounding the lens. A single LED flash is located right below. The camera ring looks nice and gives the Nexus 5 a unique look when compared with other devices.

It won’t turn too many heads with its looks but it is a good looking slab of technology. After all, this is only meant to be a window into Android 4.4 KitKat. Available in white and black colors as well as 16GB and 32GB configurations, its all a pretty standard affair for smartphones in 2013. As for standard features, it wouldn’t be a 2013 flagship without…

1080p Screen at 445 pixels per inch.

The best feature on this phone is one that you will always be looking at. The 4.95 inch screen is gorgeous. It looks great and produces great colors. While not as dark and over saturated as AMOLED screens, I find the screen on the Nexus 5 produces a great balance of color and light. The IPS screen just screams clarity and again reminds me of the screen on the new Nexus 7. Reading is a delight and videos look great. The software buttons recess when reading or watching a video as well as the notification pane. I find the screen size to be good as it really becomes a 4.7-4.8 inch screen due to the on screen buttons but give you that extra space back when viewing media content and games.


The 8 megapixel camera is just good. Not great but good. It can take good shots and great video but it is clear that there are better phone cameras out there. There are times when the shots are good and then there are times when they are not as good as they should be.

“I just took a good shot. Why is it off now?”

Luckily for me, I usually take two to three shots to get the moment just right. The camera is good for those shots with friends and family to upload to social networks. Video can be shot in 480p, 720p, and 1080p and the results are great. One downside was that the phone seemed to pick up wind noise on the microphone.

I really wish Google had gone all out on the camera and really put in something that will get outstanding results. I assume there were compromises when making the Nexus 5 so affordable but its a shame the camera had to be one of them.


The Nexus comes with Google’s all new Android 4.4 KitKat. The successor to Jelly Bean, which introduced Google Now and Project Butter, aims to make Android a much more stable mobile OS. Kit Kat is all about performance stabilization. The OS and pre installed apps are much smaller in size and take up less RAM. Marketed as the mobile OS for everyone and everywhere, Kit Kat aims to be in every phone possible, regardless of low end specifications.

The OS still feels like stock Android but with a few changes. Gone are the blue accents of the icons in the notification pane. Instead the icons are now white and pop well over the black notification bar. On the home screen the bar is actually translucent and makes for a much more natural home experience. It  The home launcher is replaced with Google’s new Experience launcher which consists of three home screens with Google Now taking the leftmost spot. The interface is much cleaner and the icons are much larger. Having Google Now quickly accessible on the leftmost home screen is similar to HTC’s Blinkfeed but I find Google Now much more useful. Some of the app icons have changed and look much better.

Expanding the number of homescreens proved challenging at first since there was no option to do so as in other phones. Kit Kat makes it much more intuitive by having to drag an icon to the rightmost or leftmost part of the screen in order to jump to a new homescreen. It proved challenging as I must have missed the explanation and I had to learn another way of adding a home screen. Long pressing on a home screen lets you now change your wallpaper, rearrange homescreens, and add widgets.

Since Google Now is active on your home launcher it makes sense that a quick voice launch is always active when home. Saying “Ok Google” quickly launches Google Voice search similar to that of the Moto X. Unfortunately, this is only available when on the home screen and not when in other apps or when the phone is locked.

The lock screen remains the same except for two new additions. An up arrow is located in the middle of the lock screen at the very bottom, to remind users to launch Google Now. A camera icon is on the bottom right indicating the quick access to the camera app. As you touch it the camera slides out slightly showing you the quick launch. You finish by swiping left and the camera app is opened.  Lock screen widgets return here as well.

Specs, Performance, and Battery Life

The Nexus 5 is powered by Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM. The processor is the successor to the 600 found in the HTC One and Galaxy S4.  It is one of the few top of the line Android phones with the Snapdragon 800 at the moment and it shows. It is fastest device I had the pleasure of using. There are no lags or stutters. Everything loads quickly and installs fast. Multitasking is fast and efficient with on screen buttons and the standard 2GB of RAM handles everything quite nicely.

All the basic radios are included like Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, and LTE. The inclusion of LTE, which was unfortunately omitted on the Nexus 4, is a great change and brings the Nexus 5 up to par with all the other smartphones. Nearly every band is supported and every major US carrier supports the Nexus 5 except for Verizon. Coming from a Samsung S3 HSPA+ on T-Mobile, I jumped from 6mbps to 17mbps. Signal has also been better and the combination of the Snapdragon 800 and LTE results in an excellent browsing experience.

Wireless charging is also included and is as useful as you want it to be. I use a Samsung Qi wireless charger and it is very convenient to place my Nexus 5 down when I get home and and switch over to my Nexus 7. It charges pretty quickly as it restored 25% in 40 minutes via Qi.


Battery life has been good. Google and LG bump the internal non-removable battery from 2100mah in the Nexus 4 to 2300mah in the Nexus 5. Over the course of a charge cycle I was able to get a good full day out of the Nexus 5. You will be charging this phone every night but I don’t think you will be looking for your charger halfway through the day. The phone uses little to no power during standby as shown in the battery graph.

I was able to get 4 hours of on screen time before hitting 10%. My day consisted of Twitter, Gmail, Hangouts, Reddit, 30 minutes of Youtube, Listening to the entire Marshall Mathers LP2, reading Pocket, The Verge, Grantland, and various other miscellaneous tasks. I am satisfied with the battery life but I always will think that more is better. I do like the idea of being able to wireless charge when I am home using my Nexus 7 and having a fully charged or close to fully charged phone when leaving the house.


The Nexus 5 is a great device that improves a great deal from the Nexus 4. The screen is gorgeous, the processor is blazing fast, and the inclusion of LTE was much needed. Android 4.4 Kit Kat is a step in the right direction for Google and I look forward to Android’s improvements in the future. The Nexus 5 comes in 16GB and 32GB configurations priced at $349 and $399 respectively. This is an absolute steal for a device of this caliber and makes my recommendation of the Google Nexus 5 that much easier. While the battery life could be better and the camera should have improved more than it did, the Nexus 5 is worthy of being your daily driver. With a great screen, fast processor, and quick and easy updates from Google, The Nexus  5 will give you the best overall experience Google Android has to offer. Just remember that along the way a few compromises had to be done in order to keep the price low.

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