Google Nexus 5 Review

I’m not going to lie; I’m a huge fan of Google’s products – and that includes the Nexus, which is probably why I dropped my Nexus 4 for the Nexus 5 in just 9 months. Of course though, that is not without rational reason: the Google Nexus 5 packs a top-tier Snapdragon 800 CPU, much improved cameras with OIS, a 1080p IPS LCD display, 4G LTE & Android 4.4 KitKat, all of which are enough to tempt me into buying in.

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I got my unit off the Google Play Store for $349, 16GB & white, exclusive of shipping fees. For that price, I just added a little more from my old phone to get the upgrade, but for the local market, we guess it’s going to be available through different means – exclusively through Smart, probably through LG’s retail stores or through the gray market. Either way, it’s going to be significantly pricier than Google’s initial mark. With high-end specs, the Google Nexus 5 is still something worth looking at even with the higher price, but is it worth buying?

Design & Construction

The unit that we have is the white version, labeled as something like a panda, a zebra or a stormtrooper – which looks very stunning. Unlike the black version, the sides here are glossy plastic – but glad to say they aren’t the flimsy type; we don’t think you’ll be making any mistakes by choosing either color. They’re extremely flat and it starts to curve going to the back. When you hold the phone, you get a very premium feel as the matte back, the shiny sides & the front glass blend together perfectly.

Google Nexus 5

The whole design of the Google Nexus 5 isn’t new really; the 2nd gen Nexus 7 & the Nexus 10 already hosts the horizontal ‘Nexus’ branding on the back which is also placed on almost the same feeling material, and it’s great (not a fingerprint magnet, sturdy & classy). LG’s branding is also found behind and the protruding camera adds an elegant touch by being highlighted with a contrasting black. Apart from those, a few subtle elements were added in too such as the ceramic buttons & the white circular earpiece. They’re small but they do create big differences in the experience.

Google Nexus 5

Google keeps the front side of their Nexus devices very plain: all black even on the white versions, flanked with the earpiece, the camera, the sensors & the notification LED. That’s it.

In a nutshell, the Nexus 5 packs one of the most polished designs we’ve seen. In addition to that, it’s very light & premium to hold. If there are any flaws with it, they’re probably the plastic sides that may be prone to scratches and the protruding camera on the back that might get damaged when you set the phone down on its rear – you can easily solve those with a case.

Display

The Nexus 4’s screen isn’t the best, but it worked well enough for me in the past 9 months. Thing is, the moment I powered the Nexus 5 on, the 1080p IPS LCD display spoiled me. I felt like the room got a little bigger and like I was living in a cave for so long. I immediately compared it to my Nexus 4 and it made me notice the tint, the lack of vibrancy & the pixels on the Nexus 4’s display. The Nexus 5’s 5-inch display is beautiful, well saturated, sharp & realistic. Viewing angles were expectedly wide too.

Google Nexus 5

As you can also see in the screenshot below that everything is reproduced accurately. Everything pops and the blacks are almost as deep as an AMOLED’s. The transparency of the notification bar & the on-screen buttons also aids in making the display a highlight. To cut short, this is one of the most amazing displays I’ve seen in a while.

OS, Apps & UI

Running Google hardware is Google software. In our Nexus 5, Android’s already updated to Android 4.4.2 KitKat which brought in big camera improvements & bug fixes. It’s expected to receive future updates first as well, so that’s really nice to have.

Google Nexus 5

We already covered Android’s latest version many times and we’ve even compared it to iOS 7 using our Nexus 4. The new stuff here though is in Google’s new launcher – where Google Now is just right there to the leftmost part of your homescreen. Icons look very fun & Google-y if we are to describe it, and the rest of the apps are pure and unadulterated. KitKat brought the sun to Android’s Tron theme.

If you’re not a fan of other manufacturers’ ecosystem & bloatware, you’re going to enjoy the Nexus 5’s software no doubt. The only things we miss from other skins & launchers are the ability to hide apps in the app drawer & the camera software, but more on that later.

Performance & Benchmarks

The Nexus 4’s Snapdragon S4 Pro CPU is already fast enough for me, even for gaming – that’s why I wasn’t much excited over the speed bump when I got the Nexus 5. Anyway, it got weirdly low scores on our usual benchmarking apps: 17,012 on Antutu, 8,044 on Quadrant & 58.2 on Nenamark.

BENCHMARKS

I’ll be honest; I’m not a believer in benchmarks. For me, when something packs a quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro or better, I won’t even bother checking the scores. However, since the Nexus 5 got low scores, I think I need to justify my claim of it being a speed demon so I benchmarked it using 3Dmark. What did we get? Well, the app says Ice Storm & Ice Storm Extreme was too light for the device, indicating we maxed out, so we had to run it without limits – 17,596.

3DMARK

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With the extremely fast internals & stock Android, we don’t think you’re going to be stuttering with the Nexus 5.

Camera & Multimedia

The main reason why I was compelled to upgrade was the camera. The Nexus 4’s camera is too crappy for me and the Nexus 5’s didn’t cease to impress. The resolution is still the same at 8 megapixels, however the optics are drastically improved. I am now able to capture photos in low-light and details there are still easy to make up with. Colors are realistically vibrant & full of contrast while focus and depths of photos were great. HDR+ works really well & the dynamic range was good. The front-facing camera was also improved, but only by a little bit. Because of such increments, I no longer have problems taking my handsome-looking late night selfies or my food for Instagram – if I even do that.

Google Nexus 5 Manila

Below are shots I’ve taken with the Nexus 5. You’ll see that it starts to get grainy on in low-light, but it still gets enough detail others can’t. I included some shots that aren’t professionally taken such as my cup of coffee, but I figured since a lot of people do such shots, maybe some of you may find it useful.

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Video on the other hand is another major highlight. Optical Image Stabilization works wonderfully which made me much more productive in this field. In fact, I took a short music video already with it, along with another YouTube video & the recent Gionee Elife E6 Hands-On. To confirm that this device can record sharp & vibrant video with continuous autofocus (not to mention mind-blowing sound quality), you can look through our sample video below – brightly in the mall & in the dark dawn of a noisy New Year’s Eve:

Like we mentioned above in the OS, UI & Apps section, we miss different camera software. Google simply provides us with minimal control just as usual – nothing changed except for the HDR+ mode. Other than that, Google was not too kind to provide us with prettier toggles, 60FPS video & tap-to-focus.

Google Nexus 5

The Nexus 5’s speakers are found on the bottom part of the phone. Seemingly, it looks like they are flanking the micro USB port but actually, they aren’t. Only the left speaker grille is for the speakers while the other one is for the microphone. They’re not very loud, but they aren’t weak either. I didn’t notice that much of a difference from the mediocre speaker on the Nexus 4 except for the placement so there aren’t much problems here.

Call Quality, Connectivity & Battery Life

I’ve taken so many calls on the Google Nexus 5 already, and the circular earpiece didn’t pose that much annoyance really. You just have to place it directly in front of your ear and you’ll be having a very good conversation because of the sound quality & the amazing microphones.

With my Nexus 4, I was able to connect to the weak WiFi signal even when I’m upstairs and it was all stable. With my Nexus 5 however, it became much harder to maintain the connection. I could still connect, but if I move around by just a little bit, I’m going to have a hard time reconnecting. Sadly, my SIM is not capable of connecting to 4G LTE so I’m not currently able to test that.

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When I sold my tablet, I became a very heavy smartphone user; I turned to it for internet browsing, watching movies & gaming – all of which I prefer doing on larger screens. Before the day ends, my Nexus 4 is probably sitting on the desk already, charging. With the Nexus 5, I have a little bit more than that, but that’s it. With a 1080p display to power & a Snapdragon 800 CPU, a 2,300mAh battery won’t get you that far, especially if you add 4G in the mix. Nevertheless, it still gets me through the day with good conservation.

As for our battery test, we looped video on the Nexus 5 with 50% brightness & volume and it got us 6 hours & 30 minutes in before draining a full charge. Good enough, but it could definitely be better.

Conclusion

Despite having a steeper price tag here in the PH, the Google Nexus 5 proves to be worth it. For $349, it’s god-like and for Php20k+, it still kills. The Google Nexus 5 is exclusively available from Smart with a suggested retail price of Php22,495 for the 16GB model (also free on Smart UnliData Plan 1500).

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The Google Nexus 5 is a great phone, and polishes upon Google’s last steps – the Nexus 4 & the past versions of Android. It has one of the most powerful sets of hardware & it’s also a step ahead of the Android crowd because of its up-to-date software. Battery life, the speakers & camera software could be better though, but that’s not to say it’s bad – it’s just something currently offered already in the competition. Apart from those, the Nexus 5 does it for me. 9 months in, I gave up my Nexus 4 because of the camera that just can’t compete. 9 months into 2014, I’m not sure if I can let go of the Nexus 5 that easily.

Google LG Nexus 5 specs:
4.95-inch Tru-HD IPS+ LCD display @ 1080×1920 , 445pi
Gorilla Glass 3
Qualcomm MSM8974 Snapdragon 800 2.3GHz quad-core
Adreno 330 GPU
2GB RAM
16GB, 32GB internal storage
WiFi 802.11 b/g/n/ac
Bluetooth 4.0 LE
GPS w/ aGPS support
NFC
HSPA+, 4G LTE
8 megapixel camera with LED flash, OIS
Full HD 1080p video recording
1.2Mp w/ front-facing camera
Android 4.4 KitKat
Li-Ion 2,300mAh battery
130g (weight)
137.8 mm x 69.2mm x 8.6mm (dimensions)

What we liked about it:

  • Awesome 1080p display
  • Blazing fast CPU & graphics
  • Low-light camera performance
  • Great for video capture
  • Microphone sound quality is amazing
  • Thin, light & premium design
  • Clean & beautiful stock Android KitKat
  • Instant Android updates

What we didn’t like about it:

  • Mediocre battery life
  • Speakers could be better
  • Camera software is uninspiring; no 60fps video despite hardware
  • Plastic on the white version is prone to scratches / material on the black version is prone to fingerprint smudges

Bob Freking occasionally contributes articles to the website. He is a UST Graduate of Commerce & Business Administration, Major in Marketing Management, and a full-time Sith Lord with three dragons.

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