Nexus 5 review

8 Nov 2013

Top performance and top value - the Nexus 5 is our new A-List smartphone

Price when reviewed 
300
Buy it now for 
5

If the Nexus 4 was a breakthrough for Google's smartphone brand, the Nexus 5 could well be the model that sees it stride ahead of the rest of the market. Why? Because it takes a successful formula and adds improvements all round, yet retains the big draw of the original – a very reasonable price. See also: the 11 best smartphones of 2014.

The 16GB version of the Nexus 5 costs only £299, undercutting the SIM-free price of all its near rivals – the Samsung Galaxy S4, the HTC One, the iPhone 5s and the iPhone 5c – even though some have been on the market for more than six months.

However, there's nothing cut-price about the design or specifications. The Nexus 5 is not as glamorous as its predecessor, but it can certainly hold up its head. In fact, the design of the Nexus 5 is similar to the recent Nexus 7 tablet, with a matte-black, soft-touch plastic rear, the Nexus branding emblazoned in large letters and a camera lens housing that protrudes ever so slightly.

Nexus 5

It doesn't have the premium feel of the HTC One or the iPhone 5s – and it isn't the slimmest around, at 8.9mm – but there's nothing cheap or nasty about this phone. There's Gorilla Glass 3 protecting the LCD on the front, which means it should resist scratches and drops better than most, too.

Display

The Nexus 5 has a 4.95in IPS display with a resolution of 1,920 x 1,080 and a pixel density of 445ppi. Yet, despite the large screen, LG – the device's manufacturer – has managed to limit the size of the phone to the extent that it doesn't feel bulky in the hand at all.

In terms of quality, the screen is excellent. It isn't as richly saturated as the AMOLED panel on the Galaxy S4, but its top brightness – 508cd/m[sup]2[/sup] – is far better, which leads to better readability in bright sunlight, and the contrast ratio of 888:1 ensures images, video content and graphics all look their best.

The HTC One has a higher maximum brightness and a slightly better pixel density, but to all intents and purposes, the phones are neck and neck.

Internals, performance and battery life

However, the Nexus 5 motors ahead of its two big rivals when it comes to hardware grunt. Inside the Nexus 5 is a quad-core, 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 CPU – the same processor found in the lightning-fast Samsung Galaxy Note 3 – and it's coupled with an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM. With the new Android KitKat OS on board, navigating the operating system and browsing the web feels super-slick.

Nexus 5

It's a combination that delivers superb performance in benchmark tests, too. You can see a quick comparison in the table below, but to summarise, it's faster than both the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One in most areas, and it shines when tasked with demanding gaming titles such as Asphalt 8: Airborne.

Battery capacity isn't as high as that of the Galaxy S4 – 2,300mAh compared to 2,600mAh – and it showed in our test. We carry out a series of typical smartphone tasks over 3G in one 24-hour period and note the capacity remaining at the end of that time, and the Nexus 5 lagged behind its rivals, with 50% remaining on the gauge compared with 60% for the HTC One and Samsung Galaxy S4.

That means, as with most modern smartphones, you'll need to charge the Nexus 5 every day. However, you may need to plug it into the mains at the beginning of the evening; the Samsung and HTC might make it to bedtime.

Cameras

Oddly, the Nexus' turn of speed doesn't translate to the device's 8-megapixel camera. It's reasonably quick to fire up – and you can launch it from the lock screen with a quick left-swipe of the camera icon – but it can take up to three seconds from pressing the onscreen shutter button to image capture, which is a pain.

Details

Price ex VAT £250
Price inc VAT £300
Cheapest price on contract Free
Contract monthly charge £22.00
Contract period 24 months
Contract provider mobilphonesdirect.co.uk
Overall rating 6
Features & Design 5
Value for Money 6

Battery Life

Talk time, quoted 17hrs
Standby, quoted 12 days 12hrs

Physical

Dimensions 69 x 8.9 x 138mm (WDH)
Weight 136g
Touchscreen yes

Core Specifications

RAM capacity 2.00GB
Camera megapixel rating 8.0mp
Front-facing camera? yes
Video capture? yes

Display

Screen size 4.95in
Resolution 1080 x 1920
Landscape mode? yes

Other wireless standards

Bluetooth support yes
Integrated GPS yes

Software

OS family Android

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