Nexus 5 Review: Is this the new killer Android?

For hardcore Android enthusiasts, the Nexus line of smartphones and tablets have long been considered the purest and truest incarnations of the Android operating system. Since its inception nearly three years ago, however, we’ve seen the brand transform from such humble beginnings to a truly competent smartphone capable of taking the big players of the consumer smartphone scene. Here, we take a look at Google’s latest flagship smartphone and try to answer the question we’ve all been dying to ask: will this finally be Google’s killer smartphone for the masses?

Nexus 5

Specifications

Before going in head first on this review, let’s first take a look at the Nexus 5 spec sheet and see just how much of a monster smartphone this is.

Attribute

Value

Connectivity

GSM 850 / 900 / 1800 / 1900

CDMA 800 / 1900

HSDPA 800 / 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 / 900

LTE 700 / 800 / 850 / 1700 / 1900 / 2100 / 2600

GPRS/EDGE/WLAN

Bluetooth 4.0 with A2DP

NFC

microUSB 2.0

Dimensions

137.9 x 69.2 x 8.6 mm

130 grams

Display

HD IPS Plus Capacitive Screen, 16M colors

1080×1920, 4.95”, approximately 445 ppi

Corning Gorilla Glass 3

Memory

16/32GB internal memory

2GB RAM

Imaging

8MP Primary Camera, autofocus, optical image stabilization

1.3MP Secondary Camera

HD Video Recording, Geo Tagging, Touch Focus, Face Detection, Photo Sphere

Operating System

Android 4.4 KitKat

CPU

Quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400

GPU

Adreno 330

Sensors

Accelerometer, gyro, proximity, compass, barometer

Battery

2300mAh Li-Po battery

Design and Build Quality

As detailed in the table above, the Nexus 5 is the very first smartphone in the world to come with Android 4.4 KitKat preinstalled. It is a 5” smartphone co-developed by Google and LG, as was the case with the previous generation. A rather big smartphone even by today’s standards, the Nexus 5 compensates through its rather creative shape and lightweight formfactor. Despite only weighing 130 grams, and being very thin at 8.6mm, the Nexus 5 feels very well built and solid, although quite honestly, it still lacks the premium feel and quality of the iPhone.

Nexus 5

The buttons of the Nexus 5 are ergonomically placed on the sides, two speaker grills are situated near the phone’s microUSB port and the primary camera surrounded by a large plastic ring graces the back side. A multi-colored LED light is embedded at the bottom of the screen and serves as a notifications indicator. The 4.95 inch 1080 HD display is a joy to look at, with colors not overly saturated and having just the right balance of brightness, accuracy and crisp. Pixel density is also very good at 445 pixels per inch.

Internal Hardware

In terms of imaging capabilities, the Nexus 5’s camera, rated at 8MP, is quite capable of taking outstanding pictures given the right shooting condition. Such is not the case in all real life situations, however, which leaves the camera to perform poorly in a number of high-speed and low-light scenes. Google, fortunately, says this will be fixed in the upcoming software update of KitKat, though when is that remains to be a question.

Under the hood, the Nexus 5 packs a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor clocked at 2.26GHz. It also has 2GB of RAM, an Aderno 330 GPU and options for either 16GB/32GB of internal storage. Adding all these up, the specs of the Nexus 5 is easily one of the baddest nowadays.

Nexus 5 KitKat

KitKat

With Android 4.4 KitKat, the latest update to Google’s mobile OS, the Nexus 5 is indeed a showcase platform for the company’s latest innovations and improvements in the mobile front. KitKat shows off a very nice UI refresh, moving away from Android’s rather gloomy past with a very bright and lively design. White is very dominant all throughout the operating system, as well a light and flat feeling popularized by Microsoft. Navigation is fluid and more fun than before, with search being tightly integrated all througout. Google Now is accessible via a left-swipe from the main home screen, and Google Voice Search is readily available via “Okay Google” command. Keywords can now be searched in the phone’s dialer screen, and a unified file picker is now available to let you manage your cloud-based files in one central location.

If you are to use KitKat for the first time, you’ll be quite surprised (in either a good or bad way) that Hangouts, Google’s native chat app, is now the central messaging app for both SMS, MMS and, well, Hangouts. We have to warn you though that the implementation for this is still rough as we found that the current version generates separate SMS and MMS conversations for the same user. Although just a little bit of annoyance, such problem might lead to a number of confusions for some end users.

Nexus 5 Price

Conclusion

With the right balance of power, price and design, the Nexus 5 should be proud to be labeled as Google’s current flagship smartphone. Retailing at only $349 for the 16GB version and $399 for the 32GB version, the handset is very appealing for those looking for a budget friendly smartphone that is insanely powerful at the same time. Shipping with Android 4.4 KitKat does not hurt either. However, with a few problems in imaging and in Hangouts, the killer Android status of the Nexus 5 is in question.

Is this the baddest Nexus smartphone of them all? Sure. But is the Nexus 5 the Android camp’s newest king of the hill? Close, but not quite. Maybe next year with the Nexus 6?

Check out the Nexus 5 and full list of Nexus 5 accessories available from Amazon.com.

Images are from Google Nexus 5.

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