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Google Nexus 5 review

 Review: November 2013  

Rating: 5 stars

In a nutshell: The LG Nexus 5 is Google's flagship smartphone for 2013, powered by the new KitKat flavour of Android and offering unbeatable value for money.

Today's best buy: Google Nexus 5X 32GB from Laptops Direct (£302.97)



The Google Nexus 5 has been released just in time for Christmas 2013 and showcases the all-new Android KitKat operating system.

Design & looks

The Nexus 5 has been built by LG for Google. It's the biggest Nexus phone so far, and at the same time the slimmest. Measuring 8.59mm thin, it's just half a millimetre thicker than the Samsung Galaxy S4 and it weighs the same, at a pretty lightweight 130g.

The looks of the Nexus 5 are quite plain and restrained. A matte plastic casing gives it a simple look, similar in some ways to the iPhone 5s, but without the premium materials and design flair that make the iPhone so desirable. Similar in some respects too to the LG G2, but without the rear-mounted buttons of the G2, the Nexus 5 uses conventionally-placed buttons along its edges. Overall, it's a nicely-styled phone that delivers a big screen in a reasonably-sized lightweight form factor. It's available in a choice of Black or White and there are custom-designed cases available in a variety of colours.

The screen measures a whisker under 5 inches (4.95 inches) and is a Full HD 1920 x 1080 display with a pixel density of 445 ppi. The screen uses IPS technology to deliver pleasing colours and wide-viewing angles. It lacks the super-bright saturated colours of the Samsung Galaxy phones, but is easy to read outdoors in sunlight. This is one of the best screens available on any phone and is on a par with the Galaxy S4 or Sony Xperia Z1.

Have a break, have a KitKat!

Yes, what has Google done, naming its latest operating system release after a chocolate biscuit? Whether you like KitKats or not, this is the most polished and powerful release of Android yet, although we wouldn't say it was Earth-shatteringly better than Jelly Bean. The OS has been polished and optimised a little, and there are a few new features worth mentioning here.

We like the new Japanese Emoji emoticons available directly from the KitKat keyboard. There are new camera features too, which we'll discuss in more detail below, and overall it's a welcome refresh, although nothing like the wholesale changes introduced by Apple in iOS 7.

Another advantage in choosing the Nexus is that it will receive the very latest updates from Google as soon as they become available.

Top performance

When it comes to the interior hardware, everything is top drawer. The processor is the latest Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, a quad-core monster clocked at 2.3GHz. This is the fastest processor currently available on an Android phone, making the Nexus 5 almost equal to the iPhone 5s, and equal to the Sony Xperia Z1 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3. The 2GB of RAM and the KitKat OS also help to make this thing fly.

Graphics are uber-fast as well, thanks to the new-generation Adreno 330 GPU running at 450MHz.

The built-in memory is either 16GB or 32GB, depending which version you buy. There's no microSD card slot, so the memory is not expandable. This makes the 16GB version look too cramped in our opinion. The average user will exceed 16GB, and so we would strongly advise you to opt for the 32GB.

HDR camera

The 8 megapixel camera may not sound special, but it comes with two interesting extras. The first is optical image stabilisation, which compensates for shaky hands and long exposure times in low lighting. This definitely makes a difference in low lighting, as longer exposure times can be used to capture more detail.

The other interesting feature is the new HDR+ mode available in Android KitKat. This automatically captures a series of shots and combines them to generate a single image. This feature helps to reduce graininess and generate more shadow detail.

Overall, this is a "good enough" camera, not something special. The relatively small sensor, average-sized lens and just 8 megapixels of raw resolution all count against it, despite the best efforts of the HDR+ mode. If you want a camera that can truly impress, you'll need to look elsewhere.

In video mode, the camera can capture 1080p Full HD footage, and the optical image stabilisation here helps to eliminate the handshake that plagues so many amateur videos.

A front-facing camera can be used for selfies or video chats.


The Nexus 5 is a 4G phone supporting a wide range of LTE bands. It's also compatible with 3G and 2G networks, with support for HSPA and a wide range of frequencies.

The device handles dual-band Wi-Fi for extra fast data downloads. Also present is Bluetooth 4.0, microUSB and a 3.5mm headphone jack. NFC support is here, with KitKat providing improved NFC support.

Battery life

The battery has been upgraded from the Nexus 4 to a 2330mAh capacity. This is perhaps another area where the Nexus lags behind other high-end Android phones. For instance, the LG G2 is fitted with a 3000mAh battery.

Nevertheless, the Nexus 5 is good for 7 hours of web browsing. Heavy users may find that the phone struggles to make it through a full day of use, although lighter users should have no problems as long as they get into the habit of nightly charging.

One bonus feature of the phone is that it supports wireless charging via a suitable charging dock.

Conclusion - as good as it gets?

If you want to find a difference between Apple and Google, look no further than the Nexus 5. While Apple is intent on pushing prices ever higher and extracting the last penny out of every customer, Google seems intent on driving down prices wherever it can.

The Nexus 5 is up there with the best of the 2013 Android flagships from HTC, Samsung and Sony, and yet it's priced like last year's model. The simple, slim design helps to reinforce the fact that this is a value product, intended to be affordable not exclusive. Think Ford, not BMW. Yet it could just be the ideal Christmas present with its perfect cocktail of 5 inch Full HD screen, super-fast processing power and all-round performance.

Battery life is a concern, as is the lack of expandable memory, and the camera isn't the best on the market, but for overall value for money, it's impossible to beat the Nexus 5.

Google Nexus 5 features include:

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Google Nexus 5 user reviews

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Average rating from 9 reviews:

Reviewed by Chris W from UK on 30th May 2014
Nexus 5 is a superb phone but lacks two important features:

1. No FM radio

2. No OTG (On the Go) facility to allow the use of a USB/microUSB memory stick to store pictures and other files.You can buy a Play store app but it is clunky in transferring files to & from the phone's memory.For a phone with a fixed memory this is an important omission.

Reviewed by rob from ireland on 3rd Dec 2013
bought the white 32 on google play. the volume is rather low you would miss a call very easy. battery life is not great either i certainly wouldnt call it a 5 star phone due to some isues that will hopefully get fixed via firmware update. the screen is pretty good but not as good as the s4 or htc one but then its much cheaper and you get what you pay for. not really impressed with the nexus 5 at all hence 4 stars if they fix the volume and sort the battery drain out then it would be a great phone if not then ebay here it comes

Reply by rob from ireland on 4th Dec 2013
update on my review i had to send the nexus back as the notification led lights stopped working. will be getting a refund its a pity as i really wanted the pure android firmware

Reply by JustinL from UK on 11th Dec 2013
Google has addressed both the camera and volume issues with 4.4.1 and now 4.4.2, the speaker volume is far louder and the camera more responsive and better quality. No complaints from me now, makes it even better value for money.

Reviewed by Oli from UK on 11th Nov 2013
Had my Nexus 5 for around a week and I can definitely recommend if you're looking for something high quality for a reasonable price! It's fast - web browsing and flicking between apps is lightning fast. But 4g doesn't start on my network until Dec so I can't comment on that.

Some reports say the battery is bad but tbh, all smartphones are pretty weak in the battery department. I'm a fairly standard user - I browse the web, make several calls a day and a bunch of texts, maybe play a game for a bit and take some pics, I have easily got 12hrs plus out of the battery each day which is about the same as any other smartphone I've ever used.

Call quality is excellent, the keyboard for texting is a good size and options to customize massively make this a great phone.

My gripes include the fact that editing contacts and deleting them is a bit fiddly. The phone is almost too light, but thats just me - and those with smaller hands may find it a bit testing on the thumb, go play with one first if you can.

Other than that, you won't regret grabbing one of these! A+

Reviewed by Andy from UK on 11th Nov 2013
A great phone. Screen resolution is superb. The only complaint I have is that the Android update is hardly any different. I still think the OS is simple. Rather unimaginative. I strongly recommend downloading Nova Launcher - allows great customisation to the home screen and draw. The camera is excellent. Design is simple but looks smart. For just 29 a month with unlimited data and texts you cannot go wrong. Far better value than any iPhone on the market.

Reply by Thing from UK on 11th Nov 2013
I'll also recommend Nova launcher (see below!) If it works on the Nexus 5 any where near as good as on the Nexus 4, it is without doubt a must have. Also must haves are Power Toggles (homescreen switches for EVERYTHING) and Light Flow for the notification LED. They are quality apps which help make Android on the Nexus line of phones quite amazing.

Reviewed by richard from Uk on 8th Nov 2013
Just got my nexus 5 am upgrading from ace2 so as would be expected. A vast improvement. For me my only complaints. are the keys on the side that are sharp and feel a bit unfinished but then you have to think of the price of the phone other than that I do like the plain looks its very fast the. os is easy to use coming of a Samsung I am using a 3 wifi dongle and the phone is far faster than. My ace2 I chose. The 32 gig direct from the play store that quoted me 2-3 weeks for delivery but it came in 4 days I can't believe how. They can. Do a phone of this spec for the price I am happy to be a ford user am not a badge. Junkie I am going to spend the £200 I saved over buying the. I phone and buy a nexus 7 tab

Reviewed by Chris from UK on 7th Nov 2013
Great phone - Just replaced my Galaxy S4. The battery life on the Nexus 5 seems much better, getting 5 hours screen on time!! The camera is ok, not quite up to the S4 standard but the difference isn't that great. Have just discovered the scene modes - set it on party mode and it looks great. The phone is lightening quick, and I believe better than anything else out there.

Reviewed by Mike from UK on 5th Nov 2013
Got mine a couple of days ago. Very solid all round; by far the best screen I have ever owned, I can't really imagine screens actually getting better. Fast and responsive (so far... and hopefully it wont do a Nexus7 and grind to a halt in 6 months). I can't really think of a downside; I dont use my phone solidly to browse for 10 hours or anything, so the battery seems great. The photos look great, but again I am not using it as a point and shoot replacement so maybe some people might want better performance here.

All in all it is about a billion times better than anything else available on my budget. Even the Xperia SP/ G4 mini are more expensive and on paper dont even come close.

Reviewed by Stu from UK on 5th Nov 2013
Got mine yesterday to replace my old HTC Desire and, as you'd expect, it's a fantastic upgrade. No problems so far but wish it had the option to use the phone type keyboard for texting. Also I haven't yet found how to quickly turn data on and off.

Oh, and it's "top drawer" not "top draw".

Reply by S21 from UK on 5th Nov 2013
Thanks for the correction, Stu!

Reply by Chris from UK on 5th Nov 2013
Speaking of drawers, is there a way to create folders in the app drawer? I've got dozens of apps and not being able to sort them by category is frustrating after using a Samsung handset. Thanks.

Reply by Stu from UK on 6th Nov 2013
Another minor gripe is that as far as I can tell ringtones are limited to the ones that come with the phone, so I can't annoy people with Z-Cars or PIL.

Reply by BossC from UK on 7th Nov 2013
To Stu,
If you have, or install, ES File Explorer then when you select "Ringtone" in the sound settings it will allow you to navigate to and choose any sound file...

Reply by Stu from UK on 8th Nov 2013
Hi BossC, I was about to say brilliant thanks very much but unfortunately, even though it allowed me to select a sound file, it would not actually use it.

Reply by Thing from UK on 11th Nov 2013
Chris, to get folder organisation in your app drawer, you'll need to download another homescreen launcher. I've used the absolutely superb Nova launcher on my Nexus 4 almost since day one. It runs as sweet as Google's original (possibly even smoother and faster) yet adds loads of extra features and functions. Get the free version, and if you like it, pay for the pro version to unlock all the features. It is simply brilliant. And I'll agree with the above comment about ES File Explorer too, a very high quality app.

Reviewed by bryan pang from malaysia on 4th Nov 2013
i was using Google nexus so far so good but sometimes really hang if u open too much apps i love it this google nexus 5 =D i wish to have one again present from santa cross =D

my Google Nexus is awesome because i lost my bag so i lost my phone Google Nexus so now i change samsung galaxy but i wish to get one more google nexus =D

Reply by p from uk on 4th Nov 2013
You make no sense

Reply by Thing from UK on 11th Nov 2013
Yes they did. They used to have an original Google Nexus and liked it apart from it hanging when a lot of apps were open. They love the look of the Nexus 5 and want one from Santa Claus as a Christmas present. They lost their original beloved Google Nexus after misplacing their bag and bought a Samsung Galaxy to replace it, but wish to get another Nexus phone, the Nexus 5. Wasn't that hard???

Reply by bryan pang from malaysia on 18th Nov 2013
"Thing" my comment clearly makes no sense

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