Review by Andrew Kameka on Monday November 18, 2013.
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Every Nexus smartphone is supposed to represent something important for Android, but not every Nexus smartphone makes sense. The HTC-made Nexus One was a hallmark of technology at the time, introducing a smartphone meant to encourage Android manufacturers to do better. The Samsung-made Nexus S tried in vain to spark the NFC movement, and the Galaxy Nexus was a welcome introduction of Android 4.0 that was hampered by carrier interference. The LG Nexus 4 was pretty but lacked a distinctive reason for being because of its lack of LTE and forward-looking hardware. Which side of the purpose or pointless debate does the Nexus 5 land?
Hardware and Design
Google returned to LG once again to create the Nexus 5, a nondescript slab of technology if ever one existed. Though it resembles the LG G2 in terms of its raw outline, the Nexus 5 lacks the originality of that design. The matte back feels smooth, but the rest of the device has an unimpressive plastic feel that one might find on a manufacturer reference phone.
Volume and power buttons are located at the very top of opposite sides. At the bottom is a micro USB charging port and two speaker grills, though there's only a single speaker that's by far the most disappointing aspect of the Nexus 5. Sound quality for music sounds fine when below maximum volume, but the Nexus 5 is not very loud. When trying to crank up the volume, audio has a harsh cracking sound that ruins the experience. The so-so quality is particularly noticeable on podcasts and a letdown because Android 4.4 is supposed to deliver enhanced audio options for Android devices.
The Nexus 5 earpiece yields better results for decent call quality. It also feels surprisingly light (4.59oz, 130g) despite its large size (137.84 x 69.17 x 8.59mm, 5.43 x 2.72 x 0.34in). Ironically, it lacks the very things that would please users most likely to want a Nexus 5. There's no microSD slot or removable battery, and it lacks an IR blaster even though Android 4.4 adds an IR standard. What's the point of a Nexus if not showcasing the latest features from the latest software? Why ship a phone lacking those highlight capabilities?
A 4.95-inch IPS display is always welcome, especially when it comes with a 1080p HD resolution (445ppi). The Nexus 5 has a bright display that works well indoors and in direct sunlight. The Auto-brightness setting makes things slightly dimmer than they should be, but under manual settings, it looks very good for video and text alike. It also has Corning Gorilla Glass 3 for added protection.
The same Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor found in the LG G2, and just about every other Android device released in recent months, is present in the Nexus 5. The 2.26 GHz quad-core processor, 2GB of RAM, and Adreno 330 GPU form an efficient team that enables very fast performance. And because we all know that Android tends to be smoother when it doesn't involve a manufacturer overlay, it's reliably quick. Unfortunately, it's not as reliable as some other phones. On a couple of occasions, the phone mysteriously froze, the camera crashed, or I had to close and reopen an app in order for it to function properly. Android 4.4 also breaks compatibility with some third-party apps, so be prepared for a transition period until updates smooth things out for a short period of time.
Key Nexus 5 Specs
- 4.95-inch 1080p HD display (445ppi)
- 2.26 GHz quad-core processor
- 2GB RAM, 16 or 32GB internal storage
- 2,300 mAh battery
- Various motion sensors for advanced tracking
- Bluetooth 4.0, NFC, Dual-band Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac
Andrew is MobileBurn.com's managing editor. He is based in Miami, Florida.