With the launch of the Nexus 4, Google threw an entire bag of spanners into the works of the smart phone world. Not only did it have specs over and above what the other top phones offered, it came at around half the price. In terms of value for money, there was no reason not to buy the Nexus 4.
After months of rumours and leaks, Google shacked up with LG to bring us the Nexus 5. It's got a new sparkle-free design, a larger display with a Full HD resolution and an extremely fast quad-core 2.3GHz processor. Part of the Nexus range, it naturally sports the latest version of Android, known as 4.4 KitKat.
With a starting price of £299, it's more expensive than the Nexus 4, but is it still as much of a bargain?
Should I buy the Google Nexus 5?
Its Full HD display, superbly powerful processor, slim design and brand-spanking new Android KitKat software are all great reasons to swoon over the Nexus 5. Mix in its affordable £299 price, and you've got yourself a sure-fire winner of a phone. It's not only good for its price, it's good even compared to its top-end, pricier, smart phone competition.
It's still more expensive than its predecessor though, which might take the shine off it for some. Its biggest let down though is its camera, which, while easily good enough for Facebook snaps, generally didn't impress and struggled in low-light situations. Some software quirks found in Android KitKat weren't welcome either.
While there are phones that compete on a technical level -- the Samsung Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z1, HTC One and LG G2 all have powerful quad-core chips and Full HD displays -- they all cost more. Their photography skills are more refined however, so it's worth shopping around if you're a shutterbug. If price is a concern though, the Nexus is the phone to go for.
Design and build quality
The Nexus 5 has been given quite the makeover from its predecessor. Gone is the flat, glass back with the sequin sparkles, replaced instead with a curving, matte, rubberised case. The Nexus and LG logos are set into the rubber and the camera unit -- an oddly big circle surrounding a small lens -- sits at the top.
Its design is much more akin to the new Nexus 7 -- it's immediately noticeable that they're from the same family. The lack of sparkle makes it more subdued than the Nexus 4 and I think it looks quite plain. The front doesn't add any interest either, it's just a piece of plain glass, broken only by the speaker at the top -- there are no buttons or branding here. It also ditches the attractive curved glass edges seen on the Nexus 4, with the 5's display cutting off sharply when it meets the body.
Its functional design isn't just a lack of imagination from LG's designers though -- the Nexus range of devices are designed to be reference models, showcasing the latest Android software. As such, money and effort isn't wasted on design. It's a no-frills look that suits the purpose and nothing more.
If you're looking for slick, cutting-edge design, the Nexus 5 isn't for you -- look instead at the metal HTC One. If you're keen on stark, minimalist, understated aesthetics, you'll probably have a soft spot for the Nexus.
It feels fairly sturdy. The rubberised back panel is a magnet for fingerprints, but it resisted a pretty intense scratch attack from my keys, as did the Gorilla Glass 3 screen. How it stands up to months of banging around a pocket next to keys and coins remains to be seen, but it's off to a good start.
The volume and power buttons on the sides are firm and have a satisfying click to them. They have quite sharp edges, but they're at least easy to find when holding it in one hand. The phone's speakers are on the bottom. They're not particularly impressive -- certainly nowhere near as powerful as the Boomsound speakers on the HTC One -- but they're loud and clear enough for quick YouTube clips.
At 138mm long and 69mm wide, the Nexus 5 is slightly longer than the Nexus 4, but it's no wider, even with the bigger screen. It uses very slim bezels around the display, allowing for a larger screen without the body of the phone getting any bigger. It's marginally slimmer too and knocks a few grams off the overall weight. You won't feel at all bogged down with this phone in your pocket.
The Nexus 5 comes in either 16GB or 32GB storage options, doubling the capacity of the Nexus 4, which, at launch, only came in 8GB or 16GB. Given that the Nexus 5 still doesn't allow you to expand the storage with a microSD card, it's good that Google has slapped more storage inside.
SIM-free from Google, the 32GB model only costs an extra £40, which is a small price to pay to double the storage. If you play games like Real Racing 3 or N.O.V.A 3 -- both of which take up gigabytes of space -- or you save a lot of music and videos locally, you'll want to spring for the higher capacity model.
The Nexus 5's 5-inch display has a 1,920x1,080-pixel resolution, making it Full HD. That puts the Nexus alongside the other top smart phones of the moment, such as the Samsung Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z1 and HTC One. It has a pixel density of 445 pixels per inch, casually outstripping its predecessor's 320ppi from its 720p display.
While committed tech fans might be excited by the higher resolution, in reality, it's difficult to tell a whole lot of difference. Icons and small text look incredibly sharp -- as they did on the Nexus 4 -- and high resolution photos and videos on Netflix look crisp. If you get up close to both displays, you can just about notice the improvement in clarity, but for everyday tasks like checking Twitter and sending emails, you won't really notice the boost.
Resolution aside, the Nexus 5's display is bright (when you crank the settings to the max) and it handles colour well. It doesn't quite match the Galaxy S4 for vibrancy, but I actually find the S4 to be slightly oversaturated at times. The Nexus 5 has a more natural colour tone and its viewing angles are good. I fired up my favourite test video Art of Flight and was given bold blue skies, crisp white snows and sharp detail on rock formations on the mountains -- a brilliant display overall.