The Google Nexus 5 has unsurprisingly become one of the hottest sellers this holiday season. LG’s second attempt at building a Google phone has proved to be even more successful as the handset is flying off the shelves rapidly, and for good reason. The Nexus 5 offers a pure Android experience without any unnecessary bloatware, along with incredibly powerful hardware that will easily stay relevant for the next two years or more. We’ve already done an extensive first impression on the Nexus 5, followed by an interesting shootout between key 8MP shooters in the market. Today, we’ll be putting together our final take on the device after having used it for over a couple of weeks. Is this the best Android device out there right now? Let’s find out.
Design and Build
The Nexus 5 is one of the better built Nexus devices and while it’s not as reassuring as the Galaxy Nexus, it’s a notch above the Nexus 4. LG has ditched the glass panel for the rear and has gone with a simpler, rubberised texture. This allows you to grip it better and is nicer to hold. It’s light weight at just 130g and fairly slim at just 8.6mm in depth. We also love the minimalistic design and the fact that LG has consciously stayed away from chrome trimming. The Nexus 5 looks similar to the G2 because it’s modelled around that handset. However, where the G2 is full of flowing curves, the Nexus 5 is more flat and block-ish. This ties in well with the overall Nexus design language as the refreshed Nexus 7 bears a similar design.
We love the new minimalistic design choice
The buttons take their usual place around the handset and have good tactile feedback. The power button feels a little fiddly but apart from that, we don’t have any complaints. There are two grills at the bottom, flanking the microUSB port. One is for the speaker while the other hides the microphone. The earpiece is interestingly designed as well. Rather than a horizontal slit, we have a circular mesh.
Overall, the Nexus 5 is a big improvement over its predecessor when it comes to aesthetics and build quality.
The earpiece and power button on the side
The brand new True HD IPS+ display is just what the Nexus 5 needed to stand out. It’s also Full HD and is protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass, which makes it a tough cookie to crack. Sun light legibility is good although the screen is a bit reflective. Colours and viewing angles are really good and the high pixel count of 445ppi gets rid of any jagged edges on icons or text. The Nexus 5 also happens to be the launch platform for Android 4.4 KitKat. We’ve already covered the new features of 4.4 here and in the video above as well, so we won’t dive too deep into that now. Despite minor changes, KitKat still manages to look fresh and new.
The new improvements aren’t merely cosmetic however as Android simply flies on the Nexus 5. Without the burden of another cosmetic layer, the Snapdragon 800 really gets to stretch its legs. The phone is incredibly responsive and there’s so much untapped power in the handset that it begs you to push it to the limit. You can easily switch between an intense 3D game to browsing the web without any lag or delay, it’s that fast. With all this speed, also comes a lot of heat. The Nexus 5 gets warm pretty quickly once a couple of cores fire up.
This is definitely an anomaly that’s restricted to our unit
Coming to the benchmarks, the unit we tested was from the initial batches that rolled out in the US and for some reason; the device consistently posted very low scores across benchmarks when compared to other Snapdragon 800 handsets. We’ll be testing the unit sold in India as well very soon and will update this article accordingly.
The music player has undergone a few cosmetic tweaks and looks a lot slicker than before. With the Cowon EM1s plugged in, the Nexus 5 delivers very good audio quality and the volume goes pretty high. You’ll mostly have it at around 75 percent, which is perfectly audible even in noisy environments. Of course, it also helps to have good IEMs that give you a good seal. The audio quality is good right out-of-the-box and we didn’t feel the need to turn to the equalizers. The loud speaker isn’t great however and could have been louder. Users of the first batch of Nexus 5s seemed to have faced many audio issues. In fact, the speaker on one of the Nexus 5’s in our office just died one day. This particular handset was from the first batch that rolled out in the US so we hope LG has rectified these issues before bringing it to India. Out of the 32GB of onboard storage, there’s 26.7GB that’s available to the user.
Media playback is good despite the limited features
Full HD video playback is smooth and the colours and viewing angles are really good. The large screen also makes a good canvas for catching up on TV shows while travelling. MP4 and MKV videos play just fine but other formats like AVI, FLV, WMV don’t play with the default player.
The Nexus 5 is an LTE-capable phone but it most likely won’t work in India due to the different bands. It also supports quad-band 3G and GSM bands. Other connectivity options includes dual-band Wi-Fi ‘ac’, Bluetooth v4.0, GPS and GLONASS, USB OTG and wireless charging. The speedy processor makes browsing and navigation a real breeze. Google Search also works extremely well and easily recognises our Indian accent perfectly. Search is also now integrated into the dialler so you can now call up restaurants for take-away or reservations by just typing their name. Call quality is very good through the earpiece even in noisy environments.
The new dialler search makes take-away menus obsolete
Many will be disappointed by seeing the ‘8MP’ tag in the specifications box but don’t let that fool you. Compared to the 8MP snapper on the Nexus 4, the sensor in the Nexus 5 is a vast improvement. In fact, we’ve proved that it easily beats the iPhone 5c as well, which is priced a good Rs 10,000 more. The UI is very similar to the previous Jelly Bean release but the Nexus 5 gets an exclusive new feature called HDR+. This works well when you have uneven lighting on your scene. The camera app takes a while to fire up and then getting it to focus is another couple of seconds before you can actually take the shot. This lengthy process should be shortened very soon with an update from Google. Image quality on the other hand is very good even for indoor shots.
Familiar JB camera UI
Very good depth of field
The HDR+ mode in action
Video recording maxes out at 1020p and the frame rate is a steady 30fps. The Optical Image Stabilisation (OIS) onboard does help a little but not as much as Nokia’s implementation.
This has been another sore point for most Nexus devices and sadly, continues to be the case with the 5 as well. In our initial outing with the phone, we barely got about 7-hours with regular usage. This included some gaming, videos and mail and chat constantly connected on 3G. After a couple of weeks however, the battery life has actually gotten better. We are now seeing around 17-18 hours of the same usage pattern. These tests were performed on the US version of the Nexus 5. We’ll update this once we run our loop tests on the version sold in India very soon.
Verdict and Price in India
The Google Nexus 5 is available on the Play Store for Rs 28,990 for the 16GB model and Rs 32,990 for the 32GB model. At these prices, it’s hands-down the best value-for-money, flagship droid you’ll ever find and even more so if you can source one from the US. But is it the best Android smartphone? Definitely not. The Sony Xperia Z1, LG G2 and even the Samsung Galaxy S4 are much better Android smartphones as they offer more features and better performance right out the box. If you’re only looking for the best Android experience and timely updates are of utmost importance to you, then look no further than the Nexus 5. Google’s current offering gives you a powerful chipset, the promise of updates for the next two years, improved camera sensor, a gorgeous screen and most importantly – no bloatware. However, if you want to be spoon fed and have your phone know when you’re looking at it or take it for a swim, then the aforementioned alternatives will fulfill those needs abundantly.