Google Nexus 5 review: Best low-priced, high-end Android smartphone

Summary:After a week with the Nexus 5, it is clear to me that the hardware is solid, the software is compelling, and while everything is not perfect it is possible to achieve more with some updates.

Google Nexus 5 review: Best low-priced, high-end Android smartphone

I have been living with the Google Nexus 5 for a week and just a couple days ago I thought I was going to return the device . After further evaluation and looking at available smartphones, it is clear to me the Nexus 5 is an outstanding value and there is no way I returning it.

Hardware

The Nexus 5 hardware isn't particularly stunning or unique. I was surprised at how light it was and it gives you the feel that the battery is missing or something. As you carry around in your pocket though, the light weight actually ends up being a nice bonus.

The ceramic volume button (left side) and power button (right side) have sharp edges and the skin of my tender office hands tends to catch on the edges.

There is a single mono speaker on the bottom with the microphone on the other side and an upside-down microUSB port (same as my HTC One) in between. The 3.5mm headphone jack is on the top, just left of center.

There is a funky disc, reminds me of a small vinyl record actually, around the camera lens that sticks out a bit and may actually provide a bit of protection for the camera. A small flash is located below the camera, all on the upper left side of the back.

I like the large Nexus logo on the back of the device, reminiscent of what I see on my 2013 Nexus 7 tablet.

Nexus5Review2

It's a rather squared off device, but the edges are curved nicely. The solid glass front panel is attractive and the bezel on the sides is pretty minimal.

It is nice to have a multi-color notification LED hidden down below the display and now I just need to find apps to set different colors for different notifications.

There have been some complaints about the display being washed out or having other issues, but I honestly haven't seen any of that. I think the display is gorgeous and absolutely love the crispness of the fonts and brightness of the display.

The Nexus 5 flies and handles everything I have thrown at it perfectly. The camera seems slow to focus, but with good lighting it seems to take decent photos outside (couple posted in this article.

Qi wireless charging is something you need to experience to appreciate and now that a couple of my devices have it, I expect all of them to support this charging technology. It is so dang convenient to just drop my device down on a Qi charging pad, especially when the Nexus 5 uses a reversed microUSB like the HTC One.

The pedometer function is great to see in the hardware and now I want Runkeeper to make a life tracking application that lets me use my Nexus 5 to track my daily activity as well as my dedicated periods of running. I am using the free Moves app at this time to track my steps.

Software

As great as the hardware is on the Nexus 5, the real focal point and reason for its existence is really the latest and greatest Android operating system. Android KitKat 4.4 is great on the Nexus 5, for the most part.

As I wrote in my first impressions article , I like the overall look of the design, the new OK Google voice control functionality, the Quickoffice integration, the integrated pedometer functionality, and the pure application launch area.The ability to easily add widgets, folders, and shortcuts with an unlimited number of home screen panels is great for the person who likes to fully customize their Nexus experience.

Immersive mode is great for reading in Google Books, but I want to see it come to more apps too.

The Hangouts unified SMS and Google Talk/Hangouts messages app is a failure at this time. With the same contact, you have multiple discussion threads, depending on the service you are using. This defeats the intent of unification and creates a very clumsy messaging experience. I installed Textra for SMS/MMS and have it setup as the default messaging app in my settings.

Google worked on improving the phone dialer and People app, but it still needs LOTS of work to make me happy. Very few of my contacts now have caller ID images because those people do not have a Gmail account. I used to see changing contact photos through Facebook service integration seen on my other Android smartphones. I'm not sure if Google will update this support, but I don't like how my contact currently appear. Google did integrate smart dialing into the phone app so that is useful and appreciated.

I don't have an HP printer and haven't yet gotten printing to work on my Canon home network printer.

There are reported touchscreen improvements and I find it works just fine.

The camera software frustrates me a bit. It is pretty much what you find on the Nexus 4 and on Google Play Edition devices, but I don't like how you have to tap through all the way to the end to select a setting and then go back through the taps to setup yet another setting. I often accidentally choose a setting and have to go back and make mods.

The camera software is also very basic and doesn't give you any of the advanced functions seen on LG, Samsung, and HTC devices. These include filters, dual camera ability, and more.

Topics: Reviews, Android, Google, Mobility, Smartphones

About

Matthew Miller started using a mobile devices in 1997 and has been writing news, reviews, and opinion pieces ever since. He is a co-host with GigaOM's Kevin Tofel on the MobileTechRoundup podcast and an author of three Wiley Companion series books. Matthew started using mobile devices with a US Robotics Pilot 1000 and has owned over 200 d... Full Bio

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