Google Nexus 5 review

Can the Google Nexus 5 trump the excellent Nexus 4?

T3 Platinum Award
Reasons to buy
  • +

    Incredible display

  • +

    Android KitKat

  • +

    That price tag

Reasons to avoid
  • -

    Average camera

  • -

    OK storage

Why you can trust T3 Our expert reviewers spend hours testing and comparing products and services so you can choose the best for you. Find out more about how we test.

Check out our Google Nexus 5 review to find out whether LG's second Google phone - which could well be its last - cuts the mustard

The Google Nexus 5 might just be the most obviously leaked smartphone since the iPhone 5s, Samsung Galaxy S4 and... now we think about it, most of the flagship smartphones this year.

The difference between these is that actually we had no idea whether Google would replace the Nexus 4, and if it was going to, which company would build the replacement.

Some said it would be Motorola, following the successful launch of the Moto X in the US it seemed more than plausible that the recently acquired company would start doing its parent's bidding and churning out a new brand of Google-shaped smartphones.

But that wasn't to be, instead LG would make one last stand before it passed on the mantle. Leaked by one of Google's own employees at the Android 4.4 KitKat launch, the Nexus 5 quickly became one of the most talked about smartphones in the lead up to the festive season.

Well now it's here, with almost no fanfare (was any needed?) the Nexus-branded smartphone almost immediately sold out, of course the question is, is it worth your cash?

Google Nexus 5: Size and build

There's no dodging this one, the Nexus 5's design is going to instil one of two emotions, the first is quiet approval and the second is complete apathy.

In truth this is somewthing of an achievement over the Nexus 4 which was already pushing the boundaries of minimalist design with the glass back being the only 'bling' in sight.

We like the design of the Nexus 5, it's certainly understated but the moment you hand it to someone you'll see their face change to one of respect, it feels solidly built and despite it being all plastic it's not plastic in the way you'd dislike.

The matte finish keeps it from slipping out of your hands and adds a premium touch . Specs-wise, we're talking hugely minimal changes here, the Nexus 5 is 8.59mm thin, which may not seem like much compared to the Galaxy S4 or the iPhone 5s but it still feels pretty slim.

Weighing in at 130g this is a light phone, and you can feel it, despite all the real-estate you'll have no problem holding it in one hand.

Google Nexus 5: Features

The Nexus 5 is the first smartphone to come sporting Android 4.4 KitKat which means you'll get all the newly announced features including intelligent Caller ID and the new Google Hangouts SMS app.

Most notable though is the overall design and although it may be subtle, KitKat is a move in the right direction.

The translucent menu bar looks great and lets you appreciate the entire screen while small things like the removal of clutter from the apps menu means the whole system feels that little bit more polished.

If we had one complaint it's Google slow but unstoppable march towards integrating Google+ and its suite of other services into every aspect of what you do.

A prime example of this is the new Hangouts app. Google proudly stated that it would now seamlessly integrate your SMS texts with your MMS messages and Google Hangouts.

What it didn't mention though is the interface is very much focused on forcing you to use Hangouts before anything else with Hangouts contacts listed first.

Signing out of Hangouts is possible but it's a pain to find and even when you have the interface still leans towards you activating it again.

Thankfully Google itself has added in an easy way of getting out of this, you can just install your own SMS app, uninstall hangouts and set that as your default.

Google Nexus 5: Screen

The Nexus 5 comes with a 4.95-inch 1920x1080p display with, wait for it, 445ppi making it one of the highest resolution screens you can buy on a smartphone.

Of course pixels are just one part of the story and we're happy to report that the rest has been dealt the same magic touch by LG, it's a stunning display with excellent colour reproduction and great response when playing games and video.

The design of the phone absolutely contributes to the effect. The bezels on the side are minute and you could argue they're pretty small on the top and the bottom as well which means that all your focus will be squarely centered on that fantastic display.

Google Nexus 5: Camera

Sadly all good things can't last, and once again it's the camera that lacks lustre. The Nexus 5 features an 8MP rear-facing camera that boasts optical image stabilsation and Google's new HDR+ feature.

According to Google, HDR+ takes more images than normal allowing for better balancing between contrast and brightness which, in theory, should mean better pictures in low light.

In reality we didn't notice much difference, certainly not a noticeable difference between the competition's which were using standard HDR.

It's not that the images are bad, they're certainly good enough for the digital world, it's more that they suffer from a lot of noise, which makes blowing them up or printing them out a risky task.

Google Nexus 5: Performance

The Nexus 5 sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 800, 2.26GHz quad-core processor along with 2GB RAM giving it almost identical specs to the LG G2.

As in the case of the LG G2 this is also a seriously nippy phone with apps running smoothly, multi-tasking is without any lag and video playback is really smooth.

The Nexus 5 comes in two variants, 16GB and 32GB and while in today's world that's not very much you do get Google Drive for cloud storage and of course Google Music which will upload your entire music library to the cloud for free.

Google Nexus 5: Battery

The Nexus 5 comes with a 2300mAh battery, significantly smaller than the LG G2's 3000mAh and in truth it shows.

Yes the screen is slightly smaller but honestly we would have expected something slightly bigger, of course as with anything there are compromises and sadly the battery life is one of them.

It's only slightly better than the iPhone 5s, with the Nexus 5 just about making it through to the late afternoon with continued but casual usage.

If of course you're only going to check it occasionally through the day and maybe watch some iPlayer in the mornings and evenings then you'll maybe be able to squeeze a day out of it.

Google Nexus 5: Verdict

When we reviewed the Nexus 4 we praised LG for creating a smartphone that took a step back from being overly designed, instead letting it become a window for the main event, Android 4.2 Jelly Bean.

We're happy to report that LG has once again taken the same approach and thanks to its stunning display and tiny bezel you'll only be focused on one thing, Android 4.4 KitKat itself.

Then of course there's the price, at £299 for the 16GB and £339 for the 32GB versions the Nexus 5 is indeed slightly more expensive than the Nexus 4, but when you think about the step up, it really doesn't seem that bad.

Add to that the fact flagship smartphones are now costing in excess of £500 SIM-Free and Google has clearly lost none of its knack for business.

Ok so the camera is good, not excellent, but we've already heard rumours that Google has admitted it's not that great and can apparently be fixed with a software update - of course we'll have to wait and see.

Despite that this is without a doubt the best Nexus yet, it's one of the best Android smartphones available and, in a rather odd twist, it's probably the best phone LG has made. If we were them we'd be kicking ourselves.

Google Nexus 5 release date: Out now

Google Nexus 5 price: £299 (16GB), £339 (32GB)

Thomas Tamblyn

Thomas Tamblyn studied journalism at the University of Westminster, where he was a contributing presenter at the award-winning Smoke Radio station. He then moved to as a Staff Writer where he proceeded to write news, reviews and features on topics such as phones, electric vehicles, laptops, gaming, streaming services, headphones, tablets future tech and wearables.