• Editor Rating
  • Rated 4 stars
$349 to $399
  • 80%

  • LG Nexus 5
  • Reviewed by:
  • Published on:
  • Last modified: June 23, 2016
  • Cosmetic Appeal
    Editor: 60%
  • Design & Build Quality
    Editor: 70%
  • Features
    Editor: 90%
  • Function
    Editor: 80%
  • Value For The Price
    Editor: 100%

The LG Nexus 5 is the newest 5″ smartphone from Google running Android 4.4 KitKat.

Introduction

Back in January of 2010, Google branched into the mobile hardware market and debuted their signature line of Nexus smartphones and tablets. Since then, the company has improved upon the designs and refreshed the technical specifications of these Nexus models to stay up to date and offer a competitive product in today's rapidly advancing mobile market.

The new Nexus (manufactured by LG) leaked in late October via multiple sources followed by an official announcement by Google on Halloween which unveiled its November 1st release. This year's model is feature-packed with many of the core components you'd expect in a $700 smartphone offered at half the price with no contract (16GB model). Additionally, the Nexus 5 is also offered in a 32GB off-contact variant priced at $399.

This review will be based on my hands on use of a white Nexus 5 32GB model running on an AT&T wireless plan. I replaced my existing iPhone 5 with the Nexus 5 and have used the device consistently as my daily driver for the past couple of weeks so rest assured, I've had dozens of hours of first-hand experience with the Nexus 5 before writing this review.

Technical Specifications

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For the $350 off-contract price, Google focused on getting the most value on the dollar so they made sure the Nexus 5's specs would not disappoint. Take a look at the comparison below to get a better understanding of what I mean and pay close attention to the pricing of competing models:

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While the Nexus does fall short against its fellow Android devices (listed above) in a few areas such as camera hardware, it is important to remember that Google had to cut corners somewhere to save money and this is just one of those areas. Fortunately, the rear camera matches that of its most popular competitor, the iPhone 5s and the front camera rates slightly higher in terms of mega pixels.

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One of the most notable technical specs is the Nexus 5's screen. Boasting an impressive 1920 x 1080 resolution and ultra-high ppi count, it outranks more competitors like the iPhone 5s, Galaxy S4, Moto X and Lumia 1520 whom are all sold for a much higher price. Both on paper and in real-life the Nexus 5 is a solid contender packing fast speeds, efficient battery life, and the newest, optimized version of the Android OS.

Hardware

Most will agree that the Nexus 5's design isn't all that appealing mainly due to a lack of any distinguishing cosmetic features, but that isn't necessarily a bad thing in my opinion. The front of the device is primarily taken up by the 4.95″ full-HD (1080P) IPS LCD display surrounded by an attractive, thin black bezel. A nice feature about the screen is that it utilizes the latest in Gorilla Glass 3 for optimal protection against the scratches and accidental damage that these devices often face throughout extended use.

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On the top left above the screen, you'll find the 1.3MP front-facing camera and in the top center is the earpiece (speaker). The earpiece color will vary depending on whether you have the white or black model. If you have the black model, the earpiece will remain black thus matching the bezel around it. However, the white model features a matching white earpiece which gives it a nice contrast against the all-black bezel. There are a few other noticeable cosmetic differences between the black and white models which I would explain in more detail, but I think YouTube reviewer Marques Brownlee described it perfectly in this video, so I'll let him explain it:

The panel itself is unbelievably sharp thanks to the ultra-high 441 pixels per inch (ppi). For those of you who aren't aware, Apple's Retina screens have 326 ppi so the Nexus 5 essentially has 25% more pixels in every inch resulting in a sharper looking image in standard situations. When viewing HD video and high-resolution photos, the Nexus 5's screen truly shines providing accurate color representation with vivid contrasts and even backlighting, something any mobile enthusiasts can appreciate.

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The build quality of the Nexus 5 surely isn't the most robust, but is it adequate given the price tag. Like I stated earlier, Google had to cut corners in some aspects to allow for such a low price-point. This resulted in a cost-effective, plastic rear casing instead of a glass or higher-quality material. The white model is more of an off white, but it is appealing to the eye and fingerprints do not show up easily like they do on the black version.

Nexus 5 vs. iPhone 5 – Size Comparison

Software

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Google released their latest version of Android 4.4, entitled “KitKat” to coincide with the release of the Nexus 5. The device was the first to support the new OS, but since then KitKat support has been extended to popular devices such as the HTC One & Galaxy S4. As you'd expect, KitKat runs smoothly and is optimized to offer better all-around performance as well as increased battery life. While the device does take a reasonable amount of time to power on that was the only time I noticed any long load times. Things like multitasking, entering/exiting apps, or mobile gaming are smooth like butter.

Much of KitKat is based around the integration with your Google+ account. This can be a pain if you don't use Google+ often (like myself), but it doable with a bit of tinkering. The default texting app is Google Hangouts which I found to be rather limited causing me to quickly switch it out for an alternative app called ChompSMS (free with ads).

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Since the Nexus 5 was the first and still is one of only a few devices currently running 4.4 KitKat, I thought I may run into issues when using 3rd party apps. Luckily, it seems most major developers have pushed out updated versions of their apps to support the new Android update and there have been very few occurrences were I have run into app issues directly related to KitKat.

Speed, Performance, & Battery Life

Screen Shot 2013-12-10 at 11.59.52 PM

Projected Battery Life For Normal Use (Via Battery Doctor)

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Audio & Call Quality

Prior to switching to the Nexus 5, I had been exclusively using an iPhone 5. It wasn't until I made the swap that I realized how much of a difference there was in call quality. The Nexus 5's call quality is significantly better from my experience and I have been able to hear my call's recipients easier and many of them have also noticed they were able to hear me more clearly.

IMG_8930There is two negative aspects which I have noticed about this phone's audio capabilities. The first being that the speaker system displays voices clearly, but falls short when it comes to playing music. The reason for this is that the speaker is far too cheap to accurately output the typical bass, mids, or treble found within modern music.

Additionally, the maximum volume output is much weaker than competitors such as the iPhone. To combat this issue, I only use the built-in speaker for making phone calls and I simply plug in headphones or connect to an aftermarket Bluetooth audio speaker if I'm planning to utilize the device for playing music. Again, the speaker is one place that Google chose to save money on and it is definitely something I can live with.

Photo & Video Capabilities

The Nexus 5's camera hardware may not compare to the likes of its Lumia competitors, but it gets the job done for the average smartphone user who wants to snap an occasional family photo, show off their latest culinary masterpiece via Instagram, or simply take that embarrassing selfie. The integrated camera software features a multitude of different built-in camera settings including HDR, panorama, geotagging, countdown timers, and much more.

One of the reasons I waited so long to conduct this review was that the Nexus 5's camera software flat out sucked when it was first released. There were issues in terms of exposure, autofocusing, and it lagged horribly when trying to snap a photo. Thankfully, Google was quick to remedy these issues and the newest KitKat update (4.4.2) has solved virtually all these problems in their entirety.

Overall, the photos and videos taken with the Nexus 5's cameras are solid for a smartphone in this price range. While the low light performance is nothing stellar, well-lit environments allow sharp images to be captured and the 1080P video capabilities are sufficiently pleasing.

Sample Photos (Rear Camera)

Sample Video

Conclusion

In the end, I found the Nexus 5 to be a powerful, feature-packed smartphone offered at a bargain of a price tag. While Google was forced to cut costs in a few areas, I think they chose the right places as it is still capable of outperforming most competitors whom are priced drastically higher. After using this device for the past coupe of weeks, it impressed me enough that I plan to use it as my daily device over my iPhone 5 for the foreseeable future.  To put it in short, you won't find more value than what the Nexus 5 brings to the table at this price point and it is by far the best $350 smartphone currently on the market. If you are looking for an all-around solid Android phone and don't want to be tied down to any pesky long-term commitments then the Nexus 5 is surely your best bet.