LG Google Nexus 5 Review

| Published Date
28 - Nov - 2013
| Last Updated
28 - Sep - 2016
 
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Nexus 5
We take a look at Google's flagship smartphone, the Nexus 5 and see if it stands tall when compared to the offerings of other flagship devices.

LG Google Nexus 5 Rating 0100100

Our Verdict

All said and done, if you want a smartphone that is well built, has the latest specifications and runs apps well, then the Nexus 5 is the smartphone for you. If the camera is a high priority or you want a smartphone that's perched at the cutting edge of chic, we think you should look elsewhere (for instance, at the HTC One or the Xperia Z1). LG has made a great flagship smartphone for Google in the Nexus 5, and even if it isn't perfect, it makes a damn good attempt at perfection.

PROS

  • Quality build with the right ergonomics
  • Great performance
  • Vibrant display
  • Android 4.4 KitKat

CONS

  • Lacklustre camera
  • Simple design
  • Average battery life

LG Google Nexus 5: Detailed Review

Last year we saw a few great smartphones launches from LG including the Optimus G and the Nexus 4. Both the devices were similar when it came to their specifications, with the Nexus 4 showing off a better design and the Optimus G, a great display. Now, circa 2013, LG launched the G2 in India a while back and Google has followed that up with the Nexus 5 (manufactured by LG). However, will the Nexus 5 impress us as much as the LG G2 and ultimately, live up to the hype that comes with carrying the 'Nexus' branding?

Check out our video review of the Nexus 5 below.

At a glance
Let us start off with the specifications, the Nexus 5 runs on the Qualcomm MSM8974 Snapdragon 800 chipset with a quad-core 2.3 GHz Krait 400 CPU along with 2GB of RAM. It has a 5-inch display with a resolution of 1920x1080 pixels. The rear houses an 8MP camera and the front has a 1.3MP camera. The smartphone runs on Android 4.4 KitKat and has 16/32GB built-in storage (based on the variant you purchase) with no expandability options. A 2300mAh battery powers the Nexus 5.

Here is a quick specifications comparison between the Nexus 5 smartphone and the Samsung Galaxy S4, Sony Xperia Z1, HTC One and the LG G2.

 

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Design
The Nexus 5 lacks the jazzy design and the curved display of the Nexus 4. Google and LG have played it safe with the design and build of the Nexus 5. The smartphone is bigger than its predecessor with a 5-inch display but is slimmer and lighter measuring at 8.6mm in thickness and weighing 130 grams. It isn't the slimmest but  surely one of the lightest 5-inch smartphones out there. It is very comfortable to hold and feels really light.

The Nexus 5 has a standard candy bar form factor and has no stand-out features to distinguish it from the crowd. The display, unlike the Nexus 4, isn’t curved around the sides. Above the display you have the prominent white earpiece and the front facing camera. The left has the volume rocker and the right has the power button while the top has the headphones jack and the bottom has the microUSB port. At the bottom of the phone, you'll find the speaker and the microphone placed on either side of the microUSB port.

Moving to the back, the smartphone is available in two variants with back panels in different colours – black and white. The review unit we received was the white one. There is a bit of disconnect because the front is black and there is no transition to the white which overall seems like an odd design choice, and adds the effect of the back resembling a case rather than being an intrinsic part of the build. The black variant of the Nexus 5, on the other hand, looks way cooler in our opinion because that disconnect does not exist. The back of the Nexus 5 has a rubberised finish with the words “Nexus” etched horizontally (when the phone is held in landscape mode), just like we have seen on the Nexus 7 2013. The rear panel of the Nexus 5 isn’t removable so you don’t have access to the battery or expandable storage options.

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Overall, Google has played it safe this time around with respect to the aesthetics of the phone. The build of the smartphone is sturdy but the design is bland and very industrial if we may say so. If you are looking for a smartphone to make a style statement, the Nexus 5 may not be the best option to look at. Perhaps, Google wanted to draw all the attention towards the massive 1080p display and, to a very large extent that is what Nexus 5 is all about- the large screen and minimal distractions around it.

User-Interface and preloaded apps
Even if you are an avid Android user or even a Nexus 4 user (with the KitKat update), you will notice something different about the user interface of the Nexus 5. There are a number of subtle differences that set the Nexus 5 apart. Starting with the visual cues- there is just one home screen and you can add more as you want to add widgets and apps to the home screens. Google Now can be accessed by swiping up from the bottom of the display or by simply swiping right on the home screen. Google Now permanently resides on the leftmost home screen and its presence here adds utility depending on how often you use the service.
 

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Holding the home screen button for a few seconds brings up a new menu through which you can change the wallpaper, add widgets or access the settings. On the Nexus 4, the onscreen 'back', 'home' and 'multitasking' buttons were on a black strip. On the Nexus 5, the wallpaper flows throughout the display and the black bar under these controls only appear when you are in a particular app. The icons on the Nexus 5 also look bigger and the overall UI looks a lot cleaner.
 

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Coming to the other features of KitKat, the OS has taken a leaf from the features offered by the recently launched Motorola Moto X smartphone. Unlike the Moto X, the Nexus 5 isn’t always listening. But the smartphone does respond to the “OK Google” voice command when you are on the home screen or on Google Now. For the most part this feature works really well with the only downside being that we'd have preferred it if we were able to talk to the Nexus 5 despite our hands being preoccupied and not have to stop what we were doing, switch on the display and then start talking to it. Alas, if you want to talk to your phone without touching it, you'll have to get a Moto X, instead of the Nexus 5.

The dialler of the smartphone too has changed and a lot of functions such as the search button and more have been replaced to the bottom of the display rather than the top. This has made accessing content on the smartphone a lot easer. On the downside, the 'comma' and 'exclamation mark' on the keyboard have been moved and this makes typing a pain as I remember their old locations from muscle memory.

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There is a lot of under the hood that serves as an enhancement to the OS; enhancements that make multitasking better, the interface smoother and also manage the battery better. During our use we found the smartphone performed very well. There was no lag on the device and any complaints with respect to the way the interface performed would be tantamount to nitpicking.

Overall, the user interface of the smartphone is great. Some may argue that it is limited when compared to what is on offer when compared to the UI and preloaded software available on other flagship Android smartphones like the Xperia Z1, Galaxy S4, HTC One, LG G2 and more. While that is true, there are enough apps and launchers available on the Google Play store to customize the Nexus 5. Also, we  always prefer stock Android since there's no chance of performance problems as a result of an unnecessarily bloated third-party interface.

Performance
Let's start with the benchmarks and see how the Nexus 5 performs when compared to the other flagship offerings.
 

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From the above benchmark scores, it is evident that despite having the latest hardware the benchmark scores of the Nexus 5 aren’t up to the mark set by the competition. The most likely reason for this is that Google and LG haven’t optimized the Nexus 5 to get the best score out of benchmarks. We've reported earlier on how top Android phone manufacturers like Samsung, tend to optimize their devices to score better in certain benchmarks. As was noticed on the Nexus 4, it looks like Nexus 5 hasn't been optimized in that way either. Please note, lower scores in synthetic benchmarks in no way indicate how the phone will perform in real life.

Coming to how the Nexus 5 delivers real world performance, let's start with its IPS Plus HD display. On paper, this is the same screen as the LG G2. In fact, since the display is 0.2-inches smaller than the G2, the PPI count is higher. The display however isn’t as vivid as the one on the LG G2. The Nexus 5's display has great viewing angles and content looks visually rich on the display. The brightness on full is great in controlled environments. Under direct sunlight however, it is better to control the brightness manually as on auto, it’s a tad dim.

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The 5-inch display has a pixel density of 445ppi, which is great. We saw our standard array of test videos on the Nexus 5 ranging from MKV to MP4 to AVI. The videos were plagued with the same problem that we have seen on other Android devices. You have the MKV files where only the video runs and the audio isn’t recognized. The AVI videos weren’t natively recognized at all. The MP4 files ran quite well. All the formats were recognized via a third party video playing app, like MX Video Player.

Coming to the games, all of them ran very smoothly and it was a treat to game on the smartphone. We played the likes of Real Racing, Temple Run, Angry Birds, Dead Trigger and a whole lot more. They all ran very well. The only downside to the phone is that it became hot after about half an hour of gaming.

Moving to the camera of the Nexus 5, it can be classified as average at best when compared to the offerings of other flagship devices. It takes a tad longer to focus than we’d like, which makes it difficult to shoot pictures under certain conditions. Being a flagship product, we expected more from the camera of the Nexus 5, especially when we have seen what the likes of the LG G2, Samsung Galaxy S4, Lumia 1020 and others have to offer. The interface is the same as it was on the Nexus 4. If you are one who likes a lot of control over settings while shooting from a smartphone, the interface may not impress you. For beginners, the interface is clean, simple and user friendly. You can take a look at some of the photos we shot with the Nexus 5 below and also, for the sake of comparison, photos shot with the Nexus 4 and the iPhone 5C.

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Photos shot indoors with the Nexus 5 (click to enlarge in new window)
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Photos shot outdoors under daylight with the Nexus 5 (click to enlarge in new window)

Nexus 5 Review
(l to r) Photos shot under good light and low-light with the Nexus 5 (click to enlarge in new window)

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Photos shot with the Nexus 4 (click to enlarge in new window)

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Images shot with the iPhone 5C (click to enlarge in new window)

While the Nexus 5 won't win any awards for its imaging capabilities, the addition of optical image stabilization and the slightly fine-tuned algorithm results in punchier shots with pleasing colours and optimal contrast. OIS helps the camera to keep the ISO in check when shooting in low-light, resulting is low-light shots with lesser noise and more details. As far as video is concerned, it shoots comparatively better videos with the optical image stabilization ensuring smoother footage and better quality clips in low-light situation. Overall, the camera is an improvement and a step in the right direction, but it doesn't do enough to clear the perception of Nexus phones being just above average in the imaging department

In terms of battery life, the Nexus 5 lasted for 5 hours in our continuous video playback test. This means that the smartphone can last for an average day of use but you will have to keep the brightness low and kill apps running in the background frequently. Expect to have about 30% of battery left after nine hours of normal use on a single charge. Compared to the LG G2 and the Xperia Z1, the battery life of the Nexus 5 is a bit less.

 

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Bottom Line
The biggest advantage of the Nexus 5 is that it is the least expensive flagship smartphone when compared to the likes of the LG G2, Sony Xperia Z1, Galaxy S4 and the HTC One. The smartphone is the best bang for your buck offering a pure Google experience with guaranteed updates for the next 18 months. If these aren't your top requirements then the Nexus 5 might disappoint. It doesn’t have the best camera (the Xperia Z1 does), it doesn’t have the best battery life and it does not have the best display either (The G2 has the best display). What it has on its side is a lower price tag, butter smooth performance and the best OS support. Being pure Google, you will face the least amount of software glitches, and will always be able to enjoy the best of what Android has to offer. That's what you buy a Nexus device for. Perhaps, the only department where we feel it could have done better is the battery life, but Google choose a lighter and thinner smartphone over a battery champ Nexus 5.

All said and done, if you want a smartphone that is well built, has the latest specifications and runs apps well, then the Nexus 5 is the smartphone for you. If the camera is a high priority or you want a smartphone that's perched at the cutting edge of chic, we think you should look elsewhere (for instance, at the HTC One or the Xperia Z1).  LG has made a great flagship smartphone for Google in the Nexus 5, and even if it isn't perfect, it makes a damn good attempt at perfection.

Editor's Note: We had incorrectly mentioned earlier that the Nexus 5 has stereo speakers. Thanks to our reader 'Myths' for pointing that out. We've fixed the error.

Latest Forum discussions on LG Google Nexus 5

  • Review: lg google nexus 5: the ultimate android smartphone

    For: Price, Screen, Build Quality, High Performance Hardware, and Vanilla Android Experience Against: Not a Stellar Camera & Battery Backup but Not a Deal Breaker in Any Manner The Google Nexus 5 has been launched in India in November 2013 with price tag of Rs. 29990 for 16 GB model and Rs. 33880 for 32 GB model. The much hyped Smartphone is...

    1. Vyom11/01/2014
      Nice review. But it needs a bit more formatting. And it would have been good if you could host the images on some free hosting service like minus.com and put the links in [IMG] tags.
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    Hi, I am planning to buy a new phone, I am planning to go with either g3 or m8 or nexus 6 . Nexus 6 is yet to hit to store (it will be available on flipkart) and there isn't much info about it available on Internet. I am confused as to go with which one. Please share your feedback about these phones so I can make a final choice. thanks...

    1. Kunalgujarathi20/12/2014
      If u can handle 6" or 167 mm. Then Nexus 6 is the beast. Good battery life. Or you can wait for Moto Droid Maxx launching in Jan. Please fill the questionnaire.
    2. $hadow20/12/2014
      For for m8 if camera is not a big concern for you. And go for n6 if size is a no problem for you.
    3. Kkn1320/12/2014
      all three are great phones however given a choice,i didnt like the look of the N6,it didnt feel as premium as i thought it would,hardware and software is excellent no doubt but overall design etc was a letdown and size is too big,i prefer the N5 design and size(my personal preference of course) as for G3,i loved its design and features etc but...
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    1. Sarath07/11/2013
      As a nexus 4 user I would say it is the best phone in its vicinity except for a few niggles like Bad camera (not horrible but not as good as Sony or Nokia) Fragile (glass on both sides) Usual android problems like heating up etc...
    2. Debarshi07/11/2013
      One notable difference between the two is that N4 has 2 gb ram while XSP has 1 gb.... (Trust me that's a major difference) As sarath said, N4 is pretty fragile, one fall and its ruined.... I've seen too many get broken, so keep that in mind. And you simply wont be satisfied with the camera of Nexus 4. Another point is updates - you'll...
    3. Anupam_pb07/11/2013
      Nexus 4 over SP: - Better CPU+GPU - 2GB RAM - Great dev support - Better front camera SP over N4: - SD card support - 1-2k cheaper Some noteworthy points: - SP & N4 have approx same camera quality (not much difference) - Android 4.4 might be the last Android update for it - Nexus 4 >>> Xperia SP in terms of developer support, so custom ROMs,...
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    1. Mastervk05/11/2012
      There will be no India warranty for it.Check with service center if they will have parts and if they can repair after paying ..
    2. Theserpent05/11/2012
      If you want to buy it in India be ready to shell out atleast 25-30k for 8 GB i read a article that said, that Nexus 4 is being priced at 549 POUNDS in some country, that roughly comes to 35-40k :(
    3. Guru_urug05/11/2012
      There will be no network issues for sure since its a penta-band phone. Regarding warranty, Im not sure until LG makes an official comment on its warranty in India. LG is known to be pretty lenient with its warranty terms. LG regarding the optimus one I own released a statement that the warranty would be valid even for a rooted phone. So here's...
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    1. Sam12/08/2011
      instead of asking for comments, mind reading the forum for 10min? there are tons of similar threads asking about A vs B vs C vs.......... . please search for threads before creating new one. 1. NS have some screen problem. OB have buggy rom. 2. battery life is usual from what you expect from most Android mobiles. 1day heavy use, 2day casual...
    2. Androidfan12/08/2011
      Nexus S will be the first phone to get the Ice Cream Sandwich (ICS) update. LG Optimus Black is still on Froyo, not even Gingerbread. ROM is buggy, still does not support video chat using front facing camera... So, forget about it... Buy Nexus S...
    3. Livetech216/08/2011
      [QUOTE=Sam;1473867]instead of asking for comments, mind reading the forum for 10min? there are tons of similar threads asking about A vs B vs C vs.......... . please search for threads before creating new one. 1. NS have some screen problem. OB have buggy rom. 2. battery life is usual from what you expect from most Android mobiles. 1day heavy...
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