Review: Google Nexus 5

Review: Google Nexus 5

Despite a few flaws, the Nexus 5 offers impressive value for money and comes highly recommended.

Despite a few flaws, the Nexus 5 offers impressive value for money and comes highly recommended.

Design & display

The Nexus 5 is very unassuming. It's a large, black slab with minimal highlights and it actually does its best not to stand out. It appears as if Google simply wanted the Nexus 5's hardware to blend into the background.

The unassuming design of the Nexus 5 may be unremarkable but it still manages to look and feel impressive. We particularly like the soft, almost rubber-like feel on the back, the ceramic power button and volume rocker, and the earpiece above the screen.

The white model uses a slightly different glossy finish but remains black on the front and sides — we prefer the understated, black look.

The Nexus 5's soft, curved corners are also a highlight, and combined with the rubber-like finish on the back, make the phone comfortable to hold and use despite its relatively large frame.

The large protruding camera lens on the back is probably the most distinctive design feature. However, it means the Nexus 5 doesn't sit completely flat when resting on a desk or table.

Further, the rubber-like finish on the back is not the kindest surface for hiding fingerprints, and the power button on our review unit was loose.

Users with smaller hands may find themselves having to uncomfortably stretch for the power button when holding the phone in one hand.

The single speaker is one of the Nexus 5's real weak points. It's relatively clear, but the overall volume could use a significant boost and sound distorts at higher volume levels.

The Nexus 5 has a 4.95in, full HD display with a resolution of 1920x1080. The colour tones it produces are slightly more neutral when compared directly with the HTC One and the Samsung Galaxy S4, but the screen remains one of the best on the market.

Software & performance

The Nexus 5 is the first device to come pre-loaded with the latest version of Android, now up to version 4.4 and called "Kit Kat".

The biggest addition is the fact users can now swipe from left to right to immediately launch Google Now, though that means the screen left of the main home page can't be used for any app shortcuts or widgets.

Android 4.4 Kit Kat has heavy integration with Google search. The Google search bar is permanently fixed to every available home screen, while saying the voice command "OK, Google" when on any home screen will immediately open the Google voice search function and listen for a command.

Unfortunately, this feature is only available when you have the voice search language set to US English. If you have it set to AU English, the feature is automatically disabled.

Icons are much larger than previous versions of Android in 4.4 Kit Kat and do look crisp, though this also highlights all the apps that have old, pixelated icons in desperate need of a revamp.

Other UI changes include a translucent status bar, while folder backgrounds are white rather than the dark colour Android has long been synonymous with.

Google has removed the ability to add widgets from the app draw on the Nexus 5. These are now accessible by holding down anywhere on the home screen. This new menu also allows you to change the wallpaper and access Google Now settings.

The other major change is the removal of the default messaging app, replaced by Google Hangouts. The latter now handles SMS messages alongside regular hangout chats.

The Hangouts UI may be a little confusing to those used to a regular SMS app, and it's rather odd that the app separates Gmail hangout from SMS messages, even if the messages are coming from the same contact.

The dialler app on Kit Kat 4.4 is a little confusing. It immediately displays favourite contacts as well as your last dialled call, but you need to scroll down and tap the "all contacts" icon to view your whole phonebook.

One real handy feature is the ability to automatically have Google Maps business information appear as caller ID, even if you don't have the contact saved.

The Nexus 5 offers outstanding performance, and is one of the fastest Android devices we've ever used.

he 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor and 2GB of RAM keep things ticking over nicely, while the software itself is smooth and fast during general use.

The Nexus 5 comes with 16GB or 32GB of internal memory, but as with all Nexus devices, there is no removable storage.

Camera & battery life

The Nexus 5 has an 8-megapixel camera with optical image stabilsation (OIS). It also introduces a new feature called HDR+, which uses a burst mode to take a number of photos and then stitch them together.

The results are mixed. While the Nexus 5 is certainly capable of capturing a quality photo, the camera's software is slower to focus than most of its competitors. This becomes an issue when trying to capture fast moving objects.

The slow focus and capture of the Nexus 5's camera is also compounded by an interface that's not intuitive.

The settings arc menu is easy to accidentally bump and isn't well positioned when using the phone single-handedly. There's also an annoying delay when switching to and from HDR+ mode.

For photos without any moving objects the Nexus 5 can certainly produce some impressive photos. It offers an excellent amount of detail, good colour reproduction and little image noise.

Macro shots are the clear highlight: in almost every instance, we were able to capture an excellent close up shot with excellent colours and detail, and a blurred background.

Unfortunately, the Nexus 5 is let down by battery life that's best described as ordinary. In almost two weeks of testing, we didn't manage to achieve any more than 11 hours of use per day.

The screen is the biggest battery drainer, often accounting for close to 30 per cent of use. We couldn't manage more than three hours of screen on time before the battery completely drained.

The Nexus 5 is available now in Australia online through Google's Play Store.

The 16GB model sells for AU$399, while the larger 32GB model is listed for AU$449. The Nexus 5 is also sold on contract plans through Telstra.

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