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.

Usage and experiences

When a new device arrives I am usually all caught up and excited over it to start. I was a bit cooler at first with the Nexus 5 and started seriously considering the LG G2 or Moto X. If the Moto X with Moto Maker ever comes to T-Mobile then I might have to consider it.

I am now all warmed up to the Nexus 5 and the few software issues I have should hopefully be fixed with software updates. It was great to read on Android Central that the speaker may also be improved upon with a software fix in the future.

The camera is a slow to focus and frustrates me, but I am getting used to using it more each day and have been taking some fine pics. I like having the device in my pocket thanks to the super light weight and soft touch feel.

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Pros and Cons

To summarize my experiences of the Nexus 5, here are my pros and cons. The cons I have listed can all be fixed with software updates so if that happens, and I am pretty sure it will for some things, then I would bump up my rating to at least 9.5.

Pros

  • Low price for high end specs
  • Latest internal specifications
  • Newest version of Android OS
  • Super fast performance
  • Solid construction

Cons

  • Average battery life
  • Camera is slow to focus
  • "Beta" version of Android apps (Hangouts, People, Camera)

Pricing and availability

The Nexus 5 sold out rather quickly from the Play Store with a current estimated shipping date 2-4 weeks out. Carrier stores will eventually get the device too, with T-Mobile rumored to have them in towards the end of November.

The 16GB model is priced at just $349 while the 32GB model is $399. These prices are for fully unlocked smartphones with no carrier contract. Some carriers will launch the Nexus 5 under their subsidized pricing scheme at a lower initial price.

If you take an apples-to-apples look at pricing then you will find the LG G2 at $604 (32GB), Galaxy S4 (16GB) at $630, Galaxy Note 3 (16GB) at $704, iPhone 5C (32GB) at $650, and iPhone 5S (32GB) at $750. It is easy to see that $349 and $399 are fantastic prices for the Nexus 5.

The competition

I try to judge phones for their desired market and audience. For example, you shouldn't take away rating points from the Note 3 because it is a large phone. It is designed to be a large phone so that is not a con.

In the same way, there really is no competition for the Nexus 5 other than maybe the older Nexus 4. In that case, the Nexus 5 is easily the better device.

Many of us thought, or maybe just hoped, that the Moto X was going to launch as a reasonably priced unlocked device, but that did not happen and it is priced the same as all other high end smartphones.Thus, the Nexus 5 stands alone in the world of Android. Looking across the mobile operating spectrum, one might consider a low cost, unlocked Lumia device. However, the devices in this price range do not have the specs to compete with the Nexus 5.

Specifications

  • Android 4.4 KitKat OS
  • 2.26 GHz Snapdragon 800 quad-core processor and Adreno 330 GPU
  • 2GB RAM and 16/32GB flash storage memory
  • 4.95 inch 1920x1080 HD display with Gorilla Glass 3
  • 8 megapixel rear camera with optical image stabilization (OIS)
  • 1.3 megapixel front facing camera
  • 2,300 mAh non-removable battery
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi and Bluetooth 4.0 low energy
  • Sensors include proximity, barometer, accelerometer, and gyroscope
  • Dimensions of 137.84 x 69.17 x 8.59 mm and 130 grams (4.59 ounces)

Conclusion

If you plan to buy a Nexus 5, I recommend you purchase the black model. The white one looks attractive with the black front, but the glossy sides, funky white handset speaker grille, and slippery white plastic back take away from the hardware design. With a soft touch back, matte finish edges and a black speaker cover I think the black one is the preferred option.

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If you need a smartphone that will last you more than a day or want one focused on the camera experience, then the Nexus 5 is really not for you. The Nexus 5 is for those who want to test out the latest and greatest operating system updates from Google, those who like to pay full price for their phones, and developers looking to create Android apps.

For the majority of Americans who pay hidden subsidy fees with their wireless plans, you can get a better device from LG, Samsung, Motorola, and HTC through your carrier for half the price of the Nexus 5. I think the LG G2, Galaxy Note 3, Galaxy S4, Moto X, Motorola Droid Maxx, and HTC One are all better devices, in terms of hardware and software experiences.

That said, the Nexus 5 is the best Nexus device made yet and is a great option to consider for the smartphone enthusiast, who are likely the majority of people reading this review.

Contributor's rating: 9 out of 10

Further reading

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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