Budget brilliance – getting hands-on with the Google Nexus 5
When the Nexus 4 was launched last year, it immediately became one of our favourite handsets, thanks to its impressive tech specs, great performance and ultra-competitive price.
A year on, and its successor, the Nexus 5 has finally arrived, but can it live up to the high standards set by the Nexus 4? Our test team get hands on, and find out whether it was worth the wait.
First impressions are fairly positive – the Nexus 5 isn’t the most beautiful smartphone out there, but it isn’t bad looking either. The flat glass back of the Nexus 4 has been replaced with a rubber case – which makes it easier to grip, and brings the handset in line with the new Nexus 7 in terms of look and feel.
It’s a fairly plain, simple and function design – especially compared to the class leaders like the iPhone 5S and HTC One, but build quality feels good. Both the case and the Gorilla Glass 3 screen are extremely scratch resistant and durable, and the buttons feel sturdy and responsive.
The downsides are that the back is very prone to fingerprinting, which makes the handset feel a bit grubby after using it for a while.
Display & camera
Whilst the Nexus 4 screen was pretty good, the Nexus 5 features a brilliant 5-inch screen with a 1920 x 1080, 445ppi, full HD display which put’s it on par with the top handsets.
In practice, the screen is great – text is clear and sharp, photos are crisp and videos are smooth. Colours are excellent, and less saturated than some more premium models like the S4, which helps to ensure that the screen feels more natural, and visuals are less intrusive.
The main camera on the Nexus 5 is a perfectly respectable 8MP, and whilst there are better smartphone cameras out there, it takes decent enough pictures thanks to a bright flash and built-in image stabilisation. There’s also a fairly basic 1.3MP camera on the front, which is serviceable, but won’t be winning any awards for clarity.
Tech specs and performance
Look under the bonnet, and you’ll find a super-powered 2.3GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, quad-core processor, backed up by 2GB of RAM!
This is extremely impressive, especially when you consider the price of the handset, and makes the Nexus 5 one of the most powerful smartphones on the market. It also translates to fantastic real-world performance, with the Nexus 5 more than capable of handling anything you can throw at it.
Multitasking is smooth, it eats up games, and delivers smooth, lag free and responsive operation in everything it does. Going forward, it should be more than capable of handling the next generation of apps and games with ease.
The Nexus 5 runs the latest version of Android, 4.4 “Kitkat”. Whilst the stripped-down OS may be too basic for some, we think it is elegant in it’s simplicity, and the best Android update in some time.
Visually, it’s similar to previous iterations of the OS, but it’s much slicker, and includes a range of handy improvements that make it more sophisticated without making it harder to use.
Notable improvements include an embedded Google search bar on every page, predictive search, enhanced voice commands and functionality, and a better phone dialler.
Most of the improvements are evolutionary, rather than revolutionary, but they combine to create an OS that is accessible, and intuitive to both existing Android users and those new to the operating system.
Battery life & storage
With a superfast processor and HD screen, you’d be forgiven for assuming that battery life on the Nexus 5 wouldn’t be great – in reality, it’s more than enough for a day’s regular use.
The 2,300mAh battery is allegedly good for 17 hours of talk time, but in practice, you’ll probably need to charge it up once a day if you’re using the Nexus 5 to check on your social media profiles, listening to music or streaming video.
Storage wise, you get the choice between a 16GB and a 32GB model, double the capacity of the Nexus 4. The larger model is only an extra £40, and definitely worth springing for if you like to play a lot of games, or store a lot of media on your handset.
Unfortunately, there is no microSD slot, which means you can’t expand the capacity any further.
Should you buy it?
Despite a few flaws, the Nexus 5 is the absolute best smartphone you can buy for the money.
A market-leading processor, full HD display, decent design and new KitKat operating system means that it can compete with much more expensive handsets, and at less than £300 – it’s a real bargain.
Whilst the Nexus 5 doesn’t boast quite the same range of features as more premium models from Apple or Samsung, it does everything that most people want from a smartphone, and it does it well.
What to get your hands on a Nexus 5? Head over to Xpango, where you can get your Free Google Nexus 5!