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Nexus 5 review

Verdict

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

Review Date: 8 Nov 2013

Reviewed By: Jonathan Bray

Price when reviewed: Free, on a £22.00 per month, 24 months contract.

Buy it now for: £274
(see more store prices)

Overall Rating
6 stars out of 6

Features & Design
5 stars out of 6

Value for Money
6 stars out of 6

Performance
6 stars out of 6

PCPRO A-List

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.

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/m2 – 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.

Nexus 5 - performance results

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.

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User comments

"The one black mark against the Nexus 5 is the absence of a user-replaceable battery or a microSD slot. However, as reported on teardown site iFixit, the rear panel can be removed far more easily than most."

This is the main reason I got the Siii so it is a deal breaker for me while decent rivals offer it.

By tech3475 on 8 Nov 2013

Well, i got the nexus 4 8gb on runout at £160.Now going to add the Kingston Mobilelite Wireless unit for unlimited storage at £40.As for the battery issue.I can get replacement batteries on Ebay for £20 if mine goes.So all in all, no real problems.I would say therefore that the Nexus 5 16GB should be ideal ,as soon as replacement batteries are available for that device.

By Jaberwocky on 8 Nov 2013

I'll get a Nokia

Three seconds is way too much shutter lag.

By tirons1 on 8 Nov 2013

Useless with a ...

poor and non-replacable battery. End of.

How can you A-List such a fundamentally flawed phone? When will smartphone makers learn that sexy form factors, quad-core CPUs and all the bells and whistles in the world are all entirely pointless at 8pm when it runs out of juice!? Not while the "reputable" IT press keep giving them gongs, that's for sure.

I'd have hoped substance would be valued over style here. Half a cm thicker and a little heavier would mean the continued ownership of a phone rather than a svelte brick after 8pm.

By brendan on 8 Nov 2013

Steady on @brendan old chap...

For me, the battery life, lack of microSD slot and slow camera mean I wonder why it was reviews quite as favourably, so in that sense I agree with you, but you can't take single factor that's important to you and just say 'end of'.

All of those issues drove me towards the S3 which I'm still happy with 2/3 of way through my contract. On the other hand, the phone is really slow especially when switching apps, and so faster processor, more main RAM, no Android customisations and frequent OS updates which encourage you to start from a relatively clean slate would all be much appreciated...

As we've all read the whole review which covers all the Pros and Cons, whether it ends up on the A list or not seems less important?

By Cantabrian on 8 Nov 2013

I have to say I too am a little surprised the Nexus 5 has made it on the A list. Mine arrived on Monday and while I am very pleased with it over all, it does have some issues which would have made me think twice.
The biggest of these is the screen, which is why I am really shocked to see it described here as ‘great’. It’s extremely soft with very drab colours and disappoints every time you wake the phone. A 720p OLED would have been the much better choice, but here we are again with headline grabbing numbers taking priority over actual quality.

The other problems people are having with the phone (battery and memory card support) are frankly a non issue. Lack of a SD card slot two years ago would have been a deal breaker, but today with cloud services so embedded in our daily lives and data costs far more reasonably priced (notice I didn’t say cheap), 32gig of local storage is more than sufficient for the majority of us.

As for the battery, I’ll admit it’s a little disappointing that it’s not ‘officially’ removable. But again, in the real world, is this actually going to affect many readers of PC Pro? I suspect most people will replace their phones every 18-24 months and in that time you shouldn’t see any degradation in performance. It will be the poor sod on eBay that buys it from you that will have to worry.

By Paul_ on 9 Nov 2013

I have to say I too am a little surprised the Nexus 5 has made it on the A list. Mine arrived on Monday and while I am very pleased with it over all, it does have some issues which would have made me think twice.
The biggest of these is the screen, which is why I am really shocked to see it described here as ‘great’. It’s extremely soft with very drab colours and disappoints every time you wake the phone. A 720p OLED would have been the much better choice, but here we are again with headline grabbing numbers taking priority over actual quality.

The other problems people are having with the phone (battery and memory card support) are frankly a non issue. Lack of a SD card slot two years ago would have been a deal breaker, but today with cloud services so embedded in our daily lives and data costs far more reasonably priced (notice I didn’t say cheap), 32gig of local storage is more than sufficient for the majority of us.

As for the battery, I’ll admit it’s a little disappointing that it’s not ‘officially’ removable. But again, in the real world, is this actually going to affect many readers of PC Pro? I suspect most people will replace their phones every 18-24 months and in that time you shouldn’t see any degradation in performance. It will be the poor sod on eBay that buys it from you that will have to worry.

By Paul_ on 9 Nov 2013

Cantabrian

Battery performance becomes the be-all-and-end-all factor when it's insufficient. When it's switched off the Nexus 5 is no longer a phone at all. This review could have been written in two lines. I went to a music festival this summer and _everyone_ carried a dumb phone. Not because they were scared of theft (can pick one up for

By brendan on 9 Nov 2013

don't know why my comment was cut in half. Censor, please, I'm not criticising PC Pro, I'm criticising the IT press in general. It's called discussion. Please reinstate my original second half, can't remember my exact wording but it was better than this:

By brendan on 9 Nov 2013

Where are we china?

By brendan on 9 Nov 2013

Still no mention of call quality. Why does PCPRO always omit this in a phone test?

By wyson on 9 Nov 2013

Steady on @brendan old chap...

For me, the battery life, lack of microSD slot and slow camera mean I wonder why it was reviews quite as favourably, so in that sense I agree with you, but you can't take single factor that's important to you and just say 'end of'.

All of those issues drove me towards the S3 which I'm still happy with 2/3 of way through my contract. On the other hand, the phone is really slow especially when switching apps, and so faster processor, more main RAM, no Android customisations and frequent OS updates which encourage you to start from a relatively clean slate would all be much appreciated...

As we've all read the whole review which covers all the Pros and Cons, whether it ends up on the A list or not seems less important?

By Cantabrian on 10 Nov 2013

Are we sheep?

People seem to be confused as to what the A list is. To me its nothing more than the opinion of PC pro staff as to what is the best pieces of kit/software around at this moment in time. This doesn't mean we have to agree with them. The review quite clearly states both the pros and cons of the phone and, in their opinion, it deserves being on the A list. Now read the review, make up your own mind and buy/not buy the phone as you see fit.

By cartmellbrowne on 10 Nov 2013

Are we sheep?

People seem to be confused as to what the A list is. To me its nothing more than the opinion of PC pro staff as to what is the best pieces of kit/software around at this moment in time. This doesn't mean we have to agree with them. The review quite clearly states both the pros and cons of the phone and, in their opinion, it deserves being on the A list. Now read the review, make up your own mind and buy/not buy the phone as you see fit.

By cartmellbrowne on 10 Nov 2013

I have to agree

..with the review. Had mine since Monday and it's an amazing phone.

Not sure what @Paul_ is talking about, screen wise, as it's extremely bright and colourful. My Nexus 4 screen was a lot dimmer in comparison.

Yes, the camera isn't brilliantly quick but Google had admitted this is a software problem and are due to push out a fix in the coming weeks.

Battery and storage... well, as said, the battery can be changed if the existing one wears out. No worries. It's just not easily hot-swappable.

Storage, I make use of the Google cloud services so the 16GB version is ample for me.

By artiss on 11 Nov 2013

Complete agreement

I think Jon's review is spot on. The Nexus 5 is a fantastic phone at an exceptional price.

Lack of SD card isn't really a problem these days, given that it's so easy to store stuff in the cloud. My Nexus 5 is the 32Gb model, but I doubt I'll ever use more than half of that.

Battery replacement has two issues - firstly day-long use, but a) the battery in the Nexus 5 *will* last a fairly heavy use day, and b) just shove a cheap QI plate on your desk and you get hassle free top-ups during the day. There's also the issue of replacing the battery when it eventually wears out, but as the iFixit teardown showed, it's VERY easy to get to (and replace) the N5's battery.

The screen is great! As anyone who has seen the latest issue of PC Pro will know, there are still serious issues with AMOLED screens. The N5 might not have the oversaturated colours of some other top-end smartphones, but at least you can read it in sunlight!

If I have one criticism it's the Google-supplied bumper cases. £25? That's just taking the piddle.

By PaulOckenden on 11 Nov 2013

Censorship...

Brendan -
Apologies that your post was chopped in half. I'm not sure why that happened, but it certainly wasn't through any censorship on our part.

We encourage and enjoy the healthy debate in our reviews comments, and only remove those that are blatantly offensive.

To add my contribution to the debate, I'd have to agree that the battery life in modern smartphones isn't ideal, and the Nexus 5 doesn't buck this trend. In fact it's a touch below average.

However, we must review these devices in the context of the market in which they exist. The rival phones don't have stellar battery life either, and don't forget that we have to balance battery life against a multitude of other factors.

And, in this case, with everything else taken into account, particularly the performance, display, regular software updates and the price, the Nexus 5 just edges it.

Regards,
Jonathan Bray,
Reviews editor,
PC Pro.

By JonBray on 11 Nov 2013

@PaulOckenden

I've ordered a Ringke slim case for my Nexus 5 from Amazon - only £9 and the Nexus 4 version for good reviews. Taking a few weeks to turn up, though.

My only concern about constant top-ups via a QI charger would be whether this impacts the health of the battery - anybody any views on this?

By artiss on 11 Nov 2013

@JonBray

I'm seeing less battery life out of the Nexus 5 than the Nexus 4. The screen appears to be the main culprit - it's regularly the biggest single drain, whereas on the Nexus 4 it was much further down the list.

By artiss on 11 Nov 2013

@artiss

I presume you have auto-brightness switched on? It's a lot punchier on the N5 than it was on the N4.

By PaulOckenden on 11 Nov 2013

QI Chargers

@ artiss

i have nothing to add to the debate however I would comment that I have been QI charging my Lumia 920 for the past 6 months and i have not noticed any battery degradation

By nickallison on 11 Nov 2013

@PaulOckenden

Yep, auto brightness is on. I just find it a little too bright.

By artiss on 11 Nov 2013

@artiss

If you turn off Auto-Brightness you should find the battery life is similar to your Nexus 4.

By PaulOckenden on 11 Nov 2013

Nice..

It's an excellent piece of kit, from a hardware point-of-view, anyway.
The camera is also reputedly very very good.

As a latest generation "compact" 'phone its a very good deal, especially compared to Apple's offerings.

Personally I like WP8, so its close, but no cigar here.
Indeed I'd snap-up a Lumia 920 at a similar\lower cost, and tolerate (as I already do!) its being "overweight" and enjoy the superior aesthetics and brilliant OS.

By wittgenfrog on 11 Nov 2013

If anyone cares....

Call quality is quite good, if the ear piece volume is reduced a couple of notches. It distorts otherwise.

Its much better than the iPhone 4, in overall volume and clarity of voice, if not quite as good as a HTC Desire.

Im going to play with it for the next few weeks to see what its like.

By wyson on 12 Nov 2013

@wittgenfrog

I just switched from Windows Phone 7.8 to the Nexus 5. I agree Windows Phone is a brilliant OS, but I found its integration with Bing and lack of upto date apps frustrating. Android 4.4 on the Nexus 5 is so much more information dense, like having Google search baked into everything you do... maps, the dialer, contacts, the calender. (Actually, that could be a disadvantage... sometimes the stuff that comes up on Google now is a bit creepy... its already giving me public transport data to my next appointment)

The apps are only one or two generation behind Apple too, rather than 2,3 or 4 generations behind that I found was typical of Windows Phone. I think a couple of weeks googling will make Android 4.4 bearable too. I hope so. No longer will I have to borrow friends iPhones and Android phones for information on nights out!

By wyson on 13 Nov 2013

Security Issue

Can someone see if it does this for you?...

My colleague has a Nexus 5 but doesn't use any security on the phone bar the standard unlock screen. Now, if he receives a call and lets it ring out it unlocks the phone, something my HTC One doesn't do as it brings up the missed call log on the lock screen. If he sets a pin then it doesn't unlock the phone and brings up the pin screen when the call rings out.

Looks like Google might have bodged up here...

By EddyOS_2K9 on 13 Nov 2013

Security Issue (More)

Seems someone has reported it to Google already...

https://code.google.com/p/android/issues/detail?id
=61902

By EddyOS_2K9 on 13 Nov 2013

Isn't this what this phone is all about ?

Google fix any bugs, update your phone fairly quickly and it's all free !
A good standard phone that is permanently being updated and improved do apple, samsung et al provide this service/product at this price ?
We all know the answer to that don't we ?

By gazzaw4 on 14 Nov 2013

@gazzaw4

Absolutely, but a pretty simple oversight shouldn't have been missed by Google!

By EddyOS_2K9 on 14 Nov 2013

The 16GB version of the Nexus 5 costs only £299

Sadly and most likely due to positive reviews the Nexus 5 is currently selling on Amazon for £380. Shame.

By jamesv1001 on 19 Nov 2013

Is the 'A' list Rating flawed?

The Nexus 5 appears to have achieved its 'A' list based upon the advised budget cost of £299 despite such known flaws as poor battery life and a less than perfect camera. However, I would be grateful if PC Pro could advise where this handset can be bought for the advised £299. Current prices advertised on the web are between £350 to £400. As the actual price is much nearer that of its competition, the 'A' rating obtained needs to be reviewed otherwise the whole of PC Pro's rating system will be considered to be flawed and no longer worth consideration.
Let's see some action on this one please, if only by adding a comment in the Nexus 5 entry in the magazine's 'A' List.

By Bunter on 9 Dec 2013

Did anyone see the Anandtech review of the audio output on the Nexus 5? The left channel is significantly louder than the right at higher volumes. Something music lovers should note. So, to get reach the £299 pricepoint, the audio dac is another compromise along with the camera. The camera is poor. I couldnt believe it when I wanted to take a picture of a building, the Nexus 5 camera decided to expose for the sky rather than the building, resulting in a black silouhette against a grey cloudy background. I've never had a camera do this before.

By wyson on 10 Dec 2013

Considering the likes of the Galaxy S4 and the HTC One are available for around 380 on Amazon, probably less than that if you use a reverse auction site like flubit, I think you are really getting what you pay for and the Nexus 5 isnt the bargain it appears to be on the surface.

By wyson on 10 Dec 2013

25GB Drive Space

How do you claim the extra 25GB of drive space? I have my Nexus 5 setup and linked to a gmail account but my drive space still shows as the free 15GB you get as standard.

By roe1971 on 7 Jan 2014

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