Nexus 5 Review: Definitely a Flagship-caliber Smartphone

Nexus 5 Review: Definitely a Flagship-caliber Smartphone

Nexus 5 Smart

Full Review of the Nexus 5

The Nexus 5 is a special Android device because it was jointly built by LG and Google. It sports the latest Android version 4.4.2 KitKat and, as with all Nexus devices in the past, it has first crack at downloading Android OS updates from Google. In the US, Google subsidized the price bring it below Php20,000 through the Google Play Store. Unfortunately in the Philippines there’s no subsidization by Google so it’s more expensive at around Php22,000+. That said, the specifications and capabilities of the Nexus 5 even at that price point is still a very compelling offer! We’ve been using it as our daily driver for more than two weeks now and we’d like to share with you guys our complete review.

>>> SEE ALSO: Smart Offers Nexus 5 at UnliSurf Plan 1500

Google Nexus 5 Spec Sheet

  • 2.2GHz Quad-core Processor, Snapdragon 800
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16GB/32GB Internal Storage, non-expandable
  • 5.0-inch 1080p Display, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • 8.0-megapixels primary camera
  • 2.0-megapixels secondary camera
  • 3G, HSPA+, LTE
  • WiFi, WiFi Hotspot, Bluetooth, GPS/aGPS
  • NFC, Wireless Charging
  • 2,300mAh Battery
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

As you can see in the spec sheet, the Nexus 5 ain’t no slouch. The 2.2GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor combined with the 2GB RAM makes it a screamer. The only disappointed spec there is the non-expandable storage. Everything else looks highly competitive to flagships of all other brands.

Anyway, let’s move on to the full review!

No Frills, Minimalist Design

Nexus 5

The Nexus 5 is a big departure from the Nexus 4 in terms of chassis design and aesthetics. The previous generation Nexus had a superb dual-glass build (front and back) complete with a funky pattern at the back plate. It was sleek, slender, classy, and felt much more expensive than what you paid for it. In short, LG and Google made a conscious effort to put some bling into the device.

That’s no longer the case today. The new Nexus 5 still has Corning Gorilla Glass up front but at the back we have some sort of hard (but smooth) polycarbonate shell the slightly tapers off near the edges. The material is actually very similar to the material Nokia uses with their matte-finished Lumia 1020s. The sides are made from plastic as well with a piano black glossy finish. What we absolutely loved though was how they laser printed the Nexus logo at the center. Looks absolutely sezzy.

Nexus 5 Review g

Along the sides were the usual buttons and ports. Power lock was on the upper right side together with the micro SIM card tray. Trusty volume rocker was located on the opposite side. Both controls/buttons had some kind of glossy ceramic coating which made it feel loose (kinda annoying really). At the top was the headphone jack while the bottom had the micro USB port in between the external speaker grills.

Nexus 5 Review d

At the front we have the 5.0-inch screen with Gorilla Glass 3. The most noticeable element here is the circular receiver grille at the top center. There’s also the front-facing camera and the LED notification light.

>>> SEE ALSO: Google Nexus 5 Unboxing and Initial Review

Nexus 5 Review h

The display quality of the Nexus 5 is fantastic. We get Full HD, 1920 x 1080 pixels. Color reproduction is great and images really pop-out of the screen! It also helps a lot that the bezels along both sides are very thin which gives more real estate for content and less boring black borders.

Over-all in terms of hardware Google and LG really made it a point to be as straightforward as possible with the Nexus 5. That’s not actually a bad thing but some people might misconstrue the simplicity and minimalist approach of the design for being “cheap” which is entirely not the case. They probably wanted it clean and pure, something you can also say with the software since it actually does run the purest form of Android.

Power-packed Performer

Nexus 5 Review

The Nexus 5 scored over 24,000 on the Antutu Benchmark Test*. We were actually expecting it to hit the same level as other smartphones with the Snapdragon 800 processor like the Galaxy Note 3 or the Sony Xperia Z1 which was over 30,000. Don’t think though that there’s a major difference in over-all performance. Thanks to the fact that the Nexus 5 carries pure Android (without the bloatware of other brands) and that it has the latest optimizations of KitKat 4.4.2, the Nexus 5 delivers almost a 99% lag-free Android experience. The only times that we saw lags was when we were switching in between two really graphics and RAM hungry applications (from Dead Trigger 2 to a video editing app).

*Antutu Benchmark is a third party app that measures the different capabilities of the phone (processor, graphics, etc) and gives it a score. It then compares your score to other devices to indicate performance.

Nexus 5 Review f

The processor, RAM, graphics, and the optimizations of Android 4.2.2 KitKat were more than enough to handle everything we threw at the Nexus 5. Since it was our daily driver for more than two weeks we used it heavily for messaging, calling, browsing, social networking, and a lot of HD video playing (been in and out of the country lately). We also got our usual zombie-killing fix from Dead Trigger 2 at the highest settings and we never experienced significant delays or lags even at the more advanced stages when hordes of zombies were all after our brains.

The over-all experience across different apps was also enhanced by the gorgeous 5.0-inch Full HD IPS display. Viewing angles were superb even if we were tilting the phone left and right for some racing apps. Text came out crisp and easy-to-read for messaging and RSS readers.

Nexus 5 Review a

*Please do download the Unbox app for Android. It’s free!

Nexus 5 Review b

So yes folks, the Nexus 5 is worthy and up-to-par with flagship capabilities of other brands. The fun part is that it costs significantly less. Just manage your storage since the base model just has 16GB internal storage that’s not expandable.

A Taste of Android 4.4.2 KitKat

Perhaps the biggest news about software on the Nexus 5 is that it ships pre-loaded with Android 4.4 KitKat. Google has already pushed out two updates since, 4.4.1 and 4.4.2. Both updates were mostly bug fixes that zeroed in on performance and the camera (we’ll get to the camera in a while). Android 4.4 KitKat brings several changes and updates to Android. We’ll go through some of the major ones.

“Ok Google…”

Nexus 5 Review c

The most well-known feature of Android 4.4 KitKat are the changes made to Google Search. This includes the voice activated navigation and command system. Unlike the iPhone where you have to hold down the home button to bring up Siri, all you have to do with the Nexus 5 is to say “Ok Google” and it will fire up the voice navigation app. You can use this for a variety of commands including calls, text, search, reminders, and app launching. In our tests it got what we wanted it to do 70% of the time which isn’t bad. We used this mostly for launching apps and making calls.

One downside is that “Ok Google” seems to only work when you’re in the home screen. That means you’ll have to exit the app you’re currently on to be able to get this to work.

Google Now Baked In to the Home Screen

Nexus 5 Review j

Another major change is that they incorporated Google Now into the home screen. Not as an icon you tap to open, but when you swipe left from the home screen it automatically shows you Google Now. It’s kinda like how HTC does it with BlinkFeed.

Unfortunately we’ve never gotten around to using Google Now. It seemed complicated and cumbersome to use so we rarely used it. We’ll definitely try to spend more time and effort with it though to see if it’s actually useful, lol.

Hangouts as Default SMS Messaging

You will either love or hate HangOuts as a messaging app. Fortunately for us we kinda love it. The user interface is very clean and nice. Unfortunately we rarely get to use it to chat with people over the web. It’s mostly an SMS messaging client for us since for web chat we usually go for WeChat or Facebook Chat.

There are more enhancements brought about by Android 4.4 KitKat but those are pretty much the major ones already. They’re not game changing but they’re welcome additions.

Camera: It Got Better

When we first got the Nexus 5 it was on Android 4.4 KitKat. The camera was just horrible. Focusing took forever and the photos kinda looked washed out. Taking pictures in mid-low light produced terrible pictures as well. It was definitely a camera not worthy of the “Google Flagship” title.

The good news is that the problems were mostly fixable and Google delivered on that with two updates – Android 4.4.1 and just recently Android 4.4.2. Both updates helped the camera performance drastically. The fixed the focusing issue and the color production. Sample shots using the improved camera below.





As you can see the Nexus 5 took pretty decent photos in different lighting conditions. Kudos to Google and LG for responding quickly on this issue! New Nexus 5 owners will be happy to know that they camera they’re getting is up to par with most Android flagships.

Battery Life: The Biggest Weakness of the Nexus 5

If ever we have one issue with the Nexus 5 that’s really bugging us, it’s the battery life. The 2,300mAh battery is just not enough when you’re an LTE junkie like us, hehe. If you’re going to stick to 3G and HSPA+ it will probably be enough to last you through the day but with LTE the battery gets drained so fast (almost iPhone drain fast).

Having come from the LG G2 prior to the Nexus 5, we were very frustrated and disappointed with the battery. With the LG G2 we could power through a whole day thanks to the 3,000mAh battery.

Verdict: It’s a Solid Flagship

Nexus 5 Review e

The 16GB model sells for around Php21,000-Php22,000 via online shops like Kimstore or you can get it under Smart’s UnliSurf Plan 1500. Your first comment would probably be — “it’s cheaper in the US! It’s only $350 there!” Well, we share your pain. It sucks knowing that you can get it cheaper somewhere else. However the fact of the matter is that Google subsidizes it only in the US. In other countries like here in the Philippines we have to pay the full price. If you think about it though and analyze it objectively, the Nexus 5 is still a good buy at the current local price point. It has LTE connectivity, competitive specifications, a decent camera, and the minimalist build actually grows on you.

The only drawback really right now is the battery life. If you can manage that (either by not using LTE all the time and keeping brightness at 30%) then you should get a full day use out of it. If you’re a power LTE user like me though you might want to consider investing in a nice Mobile Power Charger or just go for the LG G2 which packs the 3,000mAh battery pack.

Latest Flagship Reviews

You might want to read our reviews of some of the latest flagship smartphones by other brands below:
Sony Xperia Z1
Samsung Galaxy Note 3
Nokia Lumia 1020



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *