Google Nexus 5 £295

21st Oct 2014 | 14:55

Google Nexus 5

Still a solid smartphone, but it's no longer king of the price point

TechRadar rating:

4.5 stars

There's a minimalist charm to the Nexus 5 that's hard to resist. It's comfortable to hold, the display looks great, it's extremely fast, and it never slips up or stutters. This is Google's invitingly priced vision of a premium Android smartphone.

Like:

Great value; Lightning fast; Lovely screen; Android 4.4;

Dislike:

Average battery life; Low-light camera performance; No expandable memory;

Introduction

Ratings in depth
Google Nexus 5
Google Nexus 5
Google Nexus 5
Google Nexus 5
Google Nexus 5

When the Nexus 5 launched in October 2013 it was lauded as "the best that Google has to offer", but almost a year on is that still the case or has the search giant's darling handset fallen behind the times?

The Nexus 5 has been updated with the very latest software and it now boasts Android 4.4.4 KitKat inside, while Android 5.0 Lollipop is on the horizon. I've updated this review to reflect this change and the promise of Lollipop, as well the increasing pressure from the new fleet of low-cost, yet highly specced competitors.

That said, the Nexus 5 is still a lean, mean Android machine, beyond the reach of OEM embellishment and carrier bloatware.

It delivers a streamlined experience that's stylish, refined, and lightning fast, and it does all this at a jaw-droppingly low price. Although, as already mentioned, that price isn't quite so jaw-dropping now.

You can snag the 16GB version of the Nexus 5 for £299 or you can lay down an extra £40 and get the 32GB version for £339.

In terms of hardware the Nexus 5 is still just about a premium smartphone, it just doesn't have a premium price tag.

Google Nexus 5 review

The Nexus 5 was able to hold its own with the top devices of 2013, including the iPhone 5S, Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, and Sony Xperia Z1, but hold it up against the flagships of 2014 and the Nexus 5 is left lagging behind.

Its 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 chip isn't as power efficient as the 801 or 805 models which adorn the latest high-end smartphones and while we're still seeing 2GB of RAM and 1080p displays on some of them, others such as the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 are moving to 3GB of RAM and QHD screens.

On top of the very latest Android update the Nexus 5 also sports the elegant Google Experience Launcher on top. It's also due to be updated to Android 5.0 Lollipop imminently, which will bring a new look interface and new features to freshen up the experience.

If you're wondering where Google cut corners on the Nexus 5 then you might point an accusatory finger at the camera and the battery life.

Google Nexus 5 review

When compared to the very reasonably priced OnePlus One with a 5.5-inch full HD display, Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, 13MP camera and £229 price tag the Nexus 5 loses some of the value for money sheen.

There's also challengers from other firms in this space, with the likes of the Moto X and Xiaomi Mi 3 looking for a foothold.

I never expected to fall in love with the Nexus 5, but it seduced me. It certainly has its flaws, and I'll get into them in due course, but it's also a beautiful phone that sets a benchmark for Android.

The Nexus 5 is a vessel. Google's flagship is supposed to compete at the premium end of the market, but it would prefer the software, not the hardware to be the star of the show. To that end, it is almost completely devoid of superfluous detail.

Google Nexus 5 review

As I rest it vertically on the arm of my couch it conjures visions of the monolith from 2001: A Space Odyssey. To soften it off and make it more comfortable to hold, the corners are rounded.

This black slab (which also comes in white and red) is all about the screen and the entire front of the Nexus 5 is glass. The only details that break it up are the round earpiece centre top and the front-facing camera to the left of it. There is actually an LED notification light down below the screen, but you'll only see that when it blinks into life.

Despite having a five-inch display, the Nexus 5 measures just 137.9 x 69.2 x 8.6mm and the bezels are nice and thin.

Google Nexus 5 review

With a Full HD resolution of 1920 x 1080 pixels, which translates to 445ppi, the Nexus 5 display looks crisp and accurate. It's an IPS display, and while critics will point to AMOLED's superior brightness and black levels, you'd be hard pressed to notice.

The back and sides are soft-touch, matte plastic and it only weighs 130g. Flip it over and you'll see a couple of design flourishes.

The word "Nexus" is embossed in lowercase gloss, with a tiny LG logo below it. Up top on the left you'll find the glaring round eye of the 8MP camera, which is surprisingly big. A tiny LED flash is just below.

The bottom edge has a standard microUSB port and there are two grilles either side of it - the Nexus 5 only has one speaker in there; the other hides a microphone. Up top you'll see the standard 3.5mm headphone port and a tiny hole for an extra microphone.

Google Nexus 5 review

On the left spine there's a ceramic volume rocker, with no markings. On the right spine there's a ceramic power button and the SIM tray, which you'll need a SIM tool or a pin to pop out. The Nexus 5 does not open, so there's no microSD card support or battery switching.

The Nexus 5 is one of the most comfortable phones I've ever used. It is comparably slow to heat up, so there are no issues holding it while watching movies or during extended gaming sessions. The soft-touch finish contrasts perfectly with the ceramic buttons, which makes them very easy to find and use without looking.

There are negatives. The camera lens protrudes enough to make you worry about it taking the brunt of any impact when the Nexus 5 is put down on a flat surface. That glass expanse, without any protective lip or border, suggests that a drop could easily result in disaster and scratches might be easy to come by.

Google Nexus 5 review

There's also the inevitable smudging from fingerprints, which turns up on the back and the front, but that's a common problem.

It's not a flashy design, but the Nexus 5 does feel solid and well made. It may be a little big for easy one-handed operation if you don't have big hands, but the extra screen size will justify that trade-off for most people.

At this price, the design of the Nexus 5 is impressive. It's understated, almost making the iPhone 5S and the newly released iPhone 6 look gaudy, and it feels more expensive than the Galaxy S4.

Key features

The price

Ultimately it's the price of the Google Nexus 5 which makes it an attractive proposition, and while the OnePlus One and co. may be trying to encroach on its territory, Google's own-brand is still the dominant force in the high-spec, low-cost arena.

£299 for a premium Android smartphone that's this good is very good. Even at £339 for the 32GB version, the Nexus 5 is still seriously temtping.

Apple devices are expensive. The iPhone 5S starts at £549 for the 16GB version and you'll have to lay out an extra £80 to get a 32GB model for £629, or pay a whopping £709 if you want the 64GB version.

Google Nexus 5 review

While Apple is comfortable with its premium pricing strategy, the Nexus 5 has really put pressure on the competing Android flagships.

The Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC One, and LG G2 have all witnessed dramatic price cuts over the past 12 months, while the Nexus 5 has managed to retain its sale price much better.

And now there's the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5, LG G3, Sony Xperia Z3 and HTC One M8 - all costing close to £550 or even more depending on your capacity.

Whatever way you cut it, the Nexus 5 is a lot of phone for your money, and it looks like a real attempt to drive prices down, which can only be a good thing for consumers.

However, we've since seen the OnePlus One - better specs than the Nexus 5 and coming in even cheaper - is this the phone Google should be worried about perhaps?

Google Nexus 5 review

The camera

It would be fair to say that the camera in the Nexus 5 was a bit of a disaster on release. It's an 8MP shooter with optical image stabilization that's intended to be a good substitute for a point-and-shoot camera.

There's nothing wrong with the hardware, but the software let it down badly. The camera was far too slow to focus and could be slow to launch, which killed your chances of capturing those spontaneous moments with friends and family.

Google Nexus 5 review

In ideal conditions the Nexus 5 camera could capture stunning shots, but how often do you get ideal conditions?

Google listened to the criticism and quickly released an update to deal with the slow focus issue by balancing speed and image quality a bit better.

Where previously it would take forever to capture a shot, as you waited for the auto-focus, especially in low light conditions, or with fast-moving subjects, after the update it's much faster.

Google Nexus 5 review

It also enables the camera app to load a little faster, and improved the contrast to produce more vibrant colours. The HDR+, which is exclusive to the Nexus 5, gets a much-needed progress indicator.

Further updates to the Android camera application have also seen the UI changed a little, as well as the addition of a new feature - Lens Blur - and an easier to use settings menu.

Results are generally respectable, but it's still not the greatest shooter on the market. You can take a look for yourself in the camera section later in this review.

Speed

The Nexus 5 is really about speed and power. The snappy processor dovetails with the Android 4.4 platform beautifully.

Google Nexus 5

Google did not cut any corners with the quad-core 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 processor. It was a cutting-edge CPU at the time that had been paired with the Adreno 330 GPU.

That's the same combination you'll find in the LG G2, the Sony Xperia Z1, and some variants of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Samsung Galaxy Note 3.

While the power setup in the Nexus 5 has now been usurped by more power efficient and feature packed offerings, it's still capable of handling pretty much anything you throw at it and when Android Lollipop arrives its performance should get even slicker.

Interface and performance

The display on the Nexus 5 is excellent, which makes this a great device for consuming entertainment.

LG's mature IPS LCD technology really delivers. The colours look accurate and the 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution on the 4.95-inch screen translates to an amazing 445ppi (pixels per inch).

Google Nexus 5 review

To put that in context, the iPhone 6 has 326ppi, the Galaxy S5 is on 432ppi and the HTC One M8 can only boast 441ppi. Though the LG G3 and Samsung Galaxy Note 4 both outmatch it with 534ppi and 515ppi screens respectively. Not to mention the 493ppi screen on the new Nexus 6.

Put it side-by-side with an iPhone 5S or Galaxy S5 and you might detect a yellow tint. The display on the Nexus 5 is also not as bright as its competitors, which has a slight impact on legibility, particularly in direct sunlight.

On the whole, Google's compelling proposition is a premium smartphone that doesn't have to feel uncomfortable in flagship company. It has achieved a winning price without compromising on quality.

As the poster phone for Android 4.4 KitKat, the Nexus 5 shows off the latest version of the platform beautifully, and it has a few exclusive extras.

It's going be at the front of the queue when Google hands out its next delicious upgrade in the form of Android Lollipop. Though as Google only promises to support its Nexus devices for 18 months it may not get Android M, or whatever the subsequent major Android release ends up being called.

Google Nexus 5 review

If you're coming from an earlier version of Android then there are lots of little improvements to enjoy. I cover the full details in my Android 4.4 KitKat review, but highlights include productivity extras, a redesign for the messaging and phone apps, and a general boost in performance which comes under the banner of Project Svelte.

The interface has been significantly lightened and slimmed down. Icons are white and menus are grey, where once they were blue, and the Roboto font looks as though it has been on a diet.

But don't get too attached to all this because it's all change with Android 5.0, which includes a new 'Material Design', making everything look a little more real and allowing every animation to connect, so that it's visually seamless.

The Nexus 5 also boasts the exclusive Google Experience Launcher. You'll find the touch sensitive trio of back, home, and multitasking at the bottom. These are sticking around with Android Lollipop but will be getting a redesign.

The app dock sits above them with an app drawer icon in the centre which will take to you full app list. The rest of the dock is customisable so you can add your favourites and have them accessible on every home screen.

Swipe right to left and you'll access additional home screens. White dots at the bottom of the screen indicate how many home screens you have and which one you're on, although sadly you can't tap on them to shortcut to another screen.

Google Nexus 5 review

Drag an icon to the right and you can create a new home screen. There doesn't seem to be a limit, and if you empty a home screen it simply disappears.

Long press on any home screen and you'll see your full scrollable list and get access to wallpapers, widgets, and settings. By dumping widgets from the app drawer and making the app icons bigger, there are now four across a screen instead of five, the interface is easier to navigate and clearer.

Swipe left to right on the home screen and you'll find Google Now, which can also be brought to life by the magic words "okay Google" uttered on any screen home screen (though you will need to set your language to US English in Settings > Google > Search > Voice for that to work).

Notifications and quick settings are easily accessed by pulling down the notification shade from the top of the screen. Android has the best notification system around, and this is also going to get better with Android Lollipop, as notifications will be able to appear on the lockscreen, be prioritised based on importance and become less intrusive by popping up at the top of the screen if you're in the middle of something, rather than blocking the display.

Part of the reason that the interface is so accessible is the speed. The Nexus 5 is a top performer. It has a 2.3GHz Snapdragon 800 with an Adreno 330 GPU and 2GB of RAM.

Google Nexus 5 review

When I ran Geekbench 3 on the latest Android 4.4.4 software the multi-core score averaged 2832 - up from the 2579 average on an earlier version of KitKat . That's also higher than last year's Galaxy S4 and HTC One and only just behind the Galaxy S5 and One M8.

By combining that processing power with the carefully optimized Android 4.4 platform Google has delivered a completely lag-free and highly responsive experience. The Nexus 5 is a dream to use.

You can skip in and out of apps and games without any stuttering. Even with more than 20 entries in the multitasking menu there's no hint of a pause and Google's promising even speedier performance with Android Lollipop.

You can snag the Nexus 5 in 16GB or 32GB versions. The actual capacity is always less; in this case you get 26.7GB on the 32GB version and around 12GB on the 16GB version. If you consider that it's not unusual for graphically impressive games to be over 1GB in size, you'll see the sense in opting for the 32GB version.

Remember that you can get an extra 15GB of free cloud storage by using Google Drive, and it's worth automatically backing up photos and videos, so you never lose them.

Battery life and the essentials

Battery life

I have had to charge the Google Nexus 5 every day since I started using it. Starting out with a full battery it's generally 30% or below by the end of the day, and for really heavy usage days it needed a top-up before bedtime.

Google Nexus 5 review

Now, there isn't really any such thing as "normal" usage, but it would be fair to say that I'm a heavy user. I take my phone everywhere and use it frequently. I left Wi-Fi and mobile data on at all times, enabled location tracking with high accuracy, and opted into Google Now.

A typical day will include a cumulative hour of gaming, maybe 90 minutes worth of web browsing, a couple of photos, and a smattering of app action in Facebook, eBay, Twitter, and Flipboard, not to mention obsessive email checks (even with it set to a 15 minute refresh rate).

What this reveals, beyond my worrying smartphone addiction, is that the Nexus 5 is fairly typical.

Initially the battery life is very erratic, but this is no cause for concern, because you should find that it settles down after the first few days. Remember that downloading and installing a burst of apps tends to eat the battery life fast.

Downloading and installing an exceptionally large game, such as Asphalt 8: Airborne, which is 1.6GB, using Wi-Fi actually ate a staggering 10% of my battery.

Google Nexus 5 review

If you use the Nexus 5 to navigate with turn-by-turn directions or play a graphically intensive game, like the aforementioned, Asphalt 8 then you will really notice a major drain.

The Nexus 5 battery dropped 3% in ten minutes of gaming. Streaming a 55 minute episode of Breaking Bad through Netflix ate 20% of the remaining battery life. A 15 minute call drained just 2% away.

I should also point out that my home is outside 4G range, so if you've got LTE coverage that could drain the juice faster. On days when I was able to get an LTE connection I didn't notice a major difference, but your mileage may vary.

The Nexus 5 battery is rated at 2,300mAh, a bit lower than the Galaxy S4's 2,600mAh battery.

Our 90 minute video NyanGareth battery test, with the screen at full brightness, knocked the Nexus 5 from fully-charged down to 74%.

The good news is that the Nexus 5's battery life could be set to get better. Project Volta, an aspect of Android Lollipop, gives detailed stats on what's killing your battery, while a new battery saver mode should help you eke extra juice out of it.

But even without that Android 5.0 should be more battery efficient, as in a test ArsTechnica found that a Nexus 5 running Android Lollipop gained roughly 36% extra battery life.

The essentials

Inside or outside, in a busy shop, or a deserted street, the Nexus 5 made and received calls with no problems. Callers reported my dulcet tones came through loud and clear, even with my four year-old son screaming in the background, which points to some good noise cancellation skills.

Google Nexus 5 review

I also found callers came through with plenty of volume and clarity on my end. The speakerphone isn't as clear, but it does the job.

The phone app has been overhauled again in Android 4.4.4 and it's very convenient to use. The last call is listed at the top and then you get big contact spaces for your most frequently contacted friends and family. As with so much else expect this to get a new look with Android 5.0.

When you do need to call a more distant contact you can just type in the search bar at the top and you'll rarely have to enter more than a couple of letters before they pop up.

You can also search for local businesses in here and call them directly, which can be very handy when you need a pizza at short notice.

I love the keyboard on the Nexus 5. Google has definitely made improvements, because for the first few days I would pause after a staccato burst of typing to go back and make corrections, only to find that the text was error-free. The swiping option has also been improved, making one-handed typing much easier.

Google Nexus 5 review

The purity of the Google experience on offer here is unmatched anywhere else. Cast an eye over the pre-installed apps, from Maps to Hangouts, from Gmail to Quickoffice, from the Chrome browser to YouTube, the strength of the Google ecosystem is impressive.

Swipe to the right on the home screen and there's Google Now, ready to serve. The Nexus 5 offers everything that's good about Google in a streamlined format.

I can't move on without discussing the newly merged Hangouts app, which puts Google's chat messenger together with your standard text messaging.

It means you have one port of call for chatting to friends and family via text (assuming you use Hangouts).

Text message threads have now been merged with your instant messaging threads in Android 4.4.4, and there's a clever auto-detect so you don't have to manually choose your method. It's good to see integration generally, especially when it reduces the number of apps you need on your phone.

Camera

The Nexus 5 has an 8MP main camera with a 1/3.2-inch CMOS sensor and an F2.4 30mm equivalent lens. The OIS (optical image stabilisation) helps you eliminate camera shake, and it's pretty easy to point-and-shoot and get good results.

You tap the shutter button to take a shot and you can tap on screen to choose a subject to focus on, but there's no tap to focus and shoot in one. You get vastly superior results if you're able to take your time, hold tap and hold on the shutter button and just lift your finger off when you're ready to capture.

Extra options are accessible via the small circle icon sporting three dots just next to the large shutter key. Here you'll find controls for flash, countdown timer, HDR+, gridlines and the ability to flip to the front snapper.

Google Nexus 5 review

This is an easier setup to the awkward arc which adorned the camera app pre Android 4.4.4, and it makes getting to various functions much quicker.

If you fancy a few camera modes slide your finger in from the left side of the screen, where you'll be greeted with Photo Sphere, Panorama, Lens Blur, Camera and Video modes.

Lens Blur is a recently added mode, as Google jumps on the background defocus bandwagon that many manufacturers are already riding.

Google Nexus 5 review

It takes a few seconds for the Nexus 5 to process the Lens Blur image before you can tinker with the effect.

Swipe from right to left to jump into your camera roll, and any image taken with Lens Blur will have a circle lens icon in the toolbar allowing you to adjust the level of defocus.

It works reasonably well, but it doesn't match the accuracy of the HTC One M8 or Xperia Z2.

Google Nexus 5 review

The more in depth settings menu also been made easier to navigate thanks to recent updates - slide to open the camera modes panel and then tap the settings cog in the corner of the screen.

From here you'll be able to tweak a number of settings including photo and video resolutions, aspect ratio and toggle manual exposure.

There's also a 1.3MP front-facing camera which is really for video calls and quick selfies.

Google Nexus 5 review

It takes just under two seconds to launch the camera on the Nexus 5. You can swipe right to left on the lock screen or unlock and tap the camera icon.

Once open you can also use the volume rocker to take a shot, rather than the on screen shutter button. The way you'll typically hold the Nexus 5 to take a photo makes the volume rocker much easier to use than the on screen button.

Occasionally I found my fingers dropping into shot because the camera is offset to the left. When holding it in landscape the lens is at the top left, quite near the edge, but you soon get used to it.

Google Nexus 5 review

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Google Nexus 5 review

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Google Nexus 5 review

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Google Nexus 5 review

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Google Nexus 5 review

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Google Nexus 5 review

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Google Nexus 5 review

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Google Nexus 5 review

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Google Nexus 5 review

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Google Nexus 5 review

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Media

Streaming movies or TV shows is a simple prospect on the Nexus 5. The screen quality is perfect for high definition video, and your chance of encountering stuttering is entirely based upon the strength of your internet connection.

Google Nexus 5 review

As you'd expect audio sounds better through headphones. The speaker is fairly loud, but it can get a little crackly when there are sudden jumps in volume.

Google would prefer you to use its services, so you'll find the Play umbrella of apps in the shape of Movies & TV, Games, Books, Music, Newsstand, all offering filtered windows on the Play Store content and your own collection.

Music

Whether you're listening to music you own and load into the device, or via Google Play Music's streaming service, it all takes place within the app. The only thing is when you want to purchase stuff, it will redirect you to the Google Play Store app. It makes the experience feel disjointed, but it's not a deal breaker.

Music quality through the speaker is not very good. As I mentioned earlier, the speaker isn't very loud, and there is only one small speaker at the base of the phone. With decent headsets on, however, it sounds great.

The nice thing about KitKat is that it will show your music art and music player controls from your lock screen. Other apps will do this sometimes, too, like Spotify, but it's a nice touch that just adds to the overall experience of using the device.

Whether you're bringing over your own music or using Google Play's service, or other apps like Spotify or Rdio, you won't have much to worry about when it comes to how the Nexus 5 will handle it.

Android 4.4.4 on the Nexus 5 also offers exclusive low-power audio playback, which is supposed to be good for up to 60 hours.

Movies

Videos and multimedia are handled by a few apps depending on what you're doing. First, there is YouTube, which is an obvious one. If you're opening YouTube videos from apps like Facebook or Twitter, or from the web, they will open in the YouTube app.

Otherwise, you guessed it, it's more Google Play stuff.

Nexus 5 review

If you're on the home screen, you'll see the film icon that says "Play Movies & T.." and in the app list it's shown as "Play Movies &.." It's a little ridiculous, but what you're looking at is Play Movies & TV.

Nexus 5 review

If you have a Google Play account, you can download and stream movies and TV shows. The nice thing about that is if you're offline, you can still view your downloaded movies.

If this is your first Android device, or your first time using Google Play for multimedia, you should know that when you purchase something, it's yours. At least as far as playing it when you want, on any Android device you want.

This means you can play your content on your Nexus 5, and other Android tablets and phones running Android 4.0 or higher, which is pretty great.

HD movies and TV video quality and sound have been great, but we do have to reiterate that it sounds best through a headset given the Nexus 5's speaker issues.

In all, the video quality is generally good whether you're viewing streaming or downloaded content, or videos recorded with the device, and even better when viewed in HD thanks to the 1080p display.

Games

For gamers the Nexus 5 can handle pretty much anything you throw it at it. Extensive sessions with simple games like Nimble Quest presented no problems, and neither did graphically intensive titles such as Asphalt 8 or Frontline Commando.

Google Nexus 5

If you do plan on playing a lot of games, or you'd like to store an extensive music or video library on your Nexus 5 then you should definitely opt for the 32GB version.

It's worth remembering that you can upload 15GB of files to Google Drive, or use Google+ as an unlimited photo backup, as long as you store them at standard size (the longest edge must be 2048 pixels or less). You can also store up to 20,000 of your own songs in the cloud with Play Music and stream them to your Nexus 5.

Comparisons

It's becoming debatable whether other Android device manufacturers, building unique user interfaces, and including their own apps and content hubs, can actually improve on what Google is offering.

In the early days of Android, HTC's Sense and Samsung's TouchWiz added important features. With Android 4.4.4 KitKat it's tough to find areas where the platform is lacking. Let's take a look at how the Nexus 5 compares.

OnePlus One

The biggest competitor to the Nexus 5 arrived a good six months after it launched, and it came all the way from China.

The OnePlus One beats the Nexus 5 when it comes to pricing, but also in the spec war with a meaty 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, 3GB of RAM, the choice of 16GB or 64GB of storage and a 13MP rear camera.

Some may find the 5.5-inch full HD just too big to handle on the One, and there's no doubt the Nexus 5 is far more manageable in the palm - but it also lacks in power.

OnePlus One

Battery life is another advantage the Chinese handset has over Google's offering, yet the operating system is intriguing.

The OnePlus One runs Cyanogenmod - a community developed version of Android which looks pretty similar to the stock version, but with lots of added extras.

These aren't the extras you get with over the top UIs from the likes of Samsung or HTC though, instead they are implemented in a more subtle fashion and the wealth of extra control allows you to get your phone working just how you want.

Of course there are question marks over the support for the handset if things go wrong, and it's a little tricky to get hold of, but if you're looking for ultimate power vs value for money the OnePlus One offers just that.

Motorola Moto G

If you're really watching your pennies and are looking for the best value for money smartphone you can't do much better than the Motorola Moto G.

It may not have quite the same levels of specs and features as the Nexus 5, but it still rocks the same vanilla Android KitKat OS while also being almost a third of the price of Google's smartphone.

You get a 4.5-inch 720p display, 1.2GHz quad-core processor, 1GB of RAM, 5MP rear camera, 1.3MP front snapper and the choice of 8GB or 16GB of internal storage with the Moto G.

Motorola Moto G 4G

If you're willing to spend a bit of extra cash you can upgrade to the Moto G 4G and receive superfast data speeds and the added benefit of a microSD card - something the Nexus 5 doesn't have.

The Moto G is great then for someone looking for a cheap, but still highly functional smartphone which isn't going to be used a great deal for high-def video gaming or movie playback.

iPhone 5S

You could definitely argue that the Nexus 5 is the ultimate Android answer to the iPhone 5S. It is the most coherent Android smartphone on the market.

There are no conflicts. It is as close as you can get to Google's version of Apple's walled garden.

It also manages to feel more minimalist than the iPhone 5S, and there's very little between them when it comes to accessibility or ease of use. The mud traditionally slung at Android from the parapets of competing platforms like iOS 8 simply can't stick to the Nexus 5.

Considering that the 16GB model of the iPhone 5S is very nearly double the price of the 16GB Nexus 5 you're going to want some compelling reasons for that discrepancy.

iPhone 5S

The iPhone 5S is a lot more compact, but the screen is far smaller at 4 inches. Not only does the Nexus 5 have a bigger screen, but it's also full HD 1080p.

On the flip side, that smaller display is one of the reasons that the iPhone 5S has superior battery life, an 8MP snapper that takes better shots than the Nexus 5, fingerprint scanning tech and weighs in at 18g less.

If money is no object and you don't mind a smaller screen then the iPhone 5S might be for you, but the Nexus 5 is far better value.

Hands on gallery

Google Nexus 5 review

Google Nexus 5 review

Google Nexus 5 review

Google Nexus 5 review

Google Nexus 5 review

Google Nexus 5 review

Google Nexus 5 review

Google Nexus 5 review

Google Nexus 5 review

Google Nexus 5 review

Verdict

Back when the Google Nexus 5 launched you couldn't find a better smartphone for the money. Almost a year on and the Nexus 5 is still excellent value for money, but it now has some tough competition.

It's still satisfyingly fast and refreshingly minimalist, but the truth is that there's no real star feature on the hardware side.

Don't get me wrong, the hardware is extremely good, but it doesn't really trump other Android flagships on the market. The impressive thing is that Google is managing to offer it at this price point without a major compromise.

We liked

A focus on the really important features means that the display and processor are still up there with the best smartphones around - the recently launched Nokia Lumia 930 sports the same Snadragon 800 chip under the hood. The display is excellent for reading, watching video, or playing games.

The processor and Google's optimized Android 4.4 KitKat platform are a dream combination that delivers fast, smooth performance no matter what you throw it at.

Add to that the fact the Nexus 5 is first in line for the Android Lollipop bump in the next few weeks, and it still has some legs to it.

Google's exclusive Experience Launcher really adds a touch of class to the interface and puts the impressive eco-system front and centre.

That price makes the Nexus 5 a really compelling proposition. It puts pressure on other premium smartphone manufacturers and potentially frees people from the tyranny of the contract.

We disliked

Better battery life is top of most people's wish lists when it comes to mobile technology and it's easily the worst thing about the Nexus 5. It's distinctly average.

I'm used to a daily charging schedule already, so it's not much of a hardship, but if you're out and about for long periods, then this is the only potential deal-breaker I can see. The fact that you can't remove the Nexus 5 battery will exacerbate the issue for some.

It's always nice to have the option of extra storage with a microSD card. Google doesn't gouge like you Apple does, but £40 is still a lot of money for an extra 16GB and there's no 64GB version. Not everyone wants to be forced into the cloud.

The camera is much improved after the update, but low light performance is poor and it doesn't match the 2014 flagship brigade in terms of quality.

Verdict

Google has learned from the OEMs. It has learned from previous smartphones in the Nexus line; there are no obvious omissions here, like the lack of LTE in the Nexus 4. Google has even reserved a few goodies for the Nexus 5 alone.

The really important things have been nailed. What you are compromising on when comparing the Nexus 5 with the rest of the premium market is the camera, storage options and the battery life, but you get a decent processor with a wonderful display.

You also get Android as Google intended, refined, elegant, and efficient, with a full eco-system of services.

It doesn't have it all its own way though. If you're looking for the best bang-for-your-buck high-end smartphone then the OnePlus One trumps the Nexus 5, although it is a little tricky to get hold of and it comes from an unknown Chinese firm.

The Nexus 5 still represents great value for money, and for the Android purists out there who aren't desperate about having the latest and greatest specs it still offers an excellent smartphone experience.

First reviewed: October 2013

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