Google’s Nexus smartphone line is the perfect vehicle to show off new versions of its mobile platform, in this case, Android 4.4 KitKat. The Nexus 5 also happens to be an impressive chunk of hardware for the money. Starting at just £300 for the 16GB version, this is easily the best phone you can get in this price range. Let’s take a closer look.
The majority of the Nexus series have been understated, almost “plain” devices, and if the Nexus 4, with its sparkly glass back, could be considered a departure, then the Nexus 5 is a return to normality. In other words, the Nexus 5 is no beauty queen. The front is pure glass and the back is polycarbonate in a choice of white or black. Beyond the colour, there is also a difference in the finish; the white version is glossy, while the black is coated in a grippable soft-touch material.
This is a fairly big phone at 137.9 x 69.2 x 8.6 mm, but it doesn’t feel unwieldy, and that’s partly thanks to the comparatively light, 130g weight. There’s a big camera sensor, with the flash below it on the back, as well as a huge Nexus logo. You’ll find the speaker grill on the bottom edge. The back cover doesn’t come off, so there’s a SIM card tray on the right spine with a ceramic power button above it. Over on the left you’ll find the volume rocker, also ceramic. Up top there’s the 3.5mm headphone jack.
It feels like a premium device, but it’s definitely understated.
The 4.95-inch display with very little bezel around it is the star of the show. It has a 1,920 x 1,080 pixel resolution and boasts an impressive 445 ppi. It looks crisp and bright.
Inside the 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor provides plenty of power. There’s also an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. Combine that with Android 4.4 and performance is very fast and very smooth.
You can choose between 16GB and 32GB of internal storage. The extra 16GB will cost you £40. There’s no microSD card slot.
The main camera is an 8-megapixel shooter with an LED flash, OIS (optical image stabilisation) and HDR+ support. It can record 1080p video, as you’d expect. The camera is capable of capturing some great shots, but it’s slow to launch and slow to focus, so real world results are frequently disappointing. This might be fixed with a software update. There’s also a 1.3-megapixel front-facing camera.
The battery is rated at 2,300mAh and the Nexus 5 lasts around a day with normal use. The likelihood is that you’ll need to charge it up every night, just like the vast majority of smartphones on the market.
You won’t be disappointed with the connectivity as the Nexus 5 does support LTE (unlike the Nexus 4). It also has NFC, Bluetooth 4.0, dual band Wi-Fi 802.11a/ac/b/g/n, and DLNA covered.
Ultimately the Nexus 5 is intended to showcase Android 4.4 KitKat. The latest release of Google’s mobile platform is not a major update, but it does bring enough changes to make it feel quite different and there are definite improvements. The UI is less intrusive, the notification bar is translucent and elements retreat to give you the full screen for whatever you’re doing.
The best mobile assistant around, Google Now, is more accessible than ever, just swipe to the right, or say “OK Google” on your home screen and there it is, ready to deliver answers , directions, or whatever else you might need.
General performance and navigation is impressively smooth and zippy. There are also a few other new features, including the new Hangouts app, which can handle texts, instant messages, voice and video calls. There’s also a direct printing option, a new Quickoffice app for working with documents, and a smarter caller ID.
You can get frustrated at the battery life and complain about the shutter lag on the camera, but there’s no escaping the fact that the Nexus 5 is incredible value for money. You could spend another £200 and not get that much more for your money. There are also some great contract deals available. The best we’ve spotted so far is £17 per month on Orange via Phones4u.
If you’re pushed for cash, but you don’t want to compromise too much, then the Nexus 5 is the perfect opportunity to pay less without straying too far from the cutting edge.