Google Nexus 5 £295

28th Apr 2014 | 15:51

Google Nexus 5

You can't beat the Nexus 5 at this price point

TechRadar rating:

4 stars

Great smartphone for the money, mediocre camera and battery life

Like:

Great screen; Low price; Blazing performance;

Dislike:

Lackluster camera; Inconsistent battery life;

Introduction

The Nexus 5 is the best that Google has to offer right now. It is 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.

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.

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

In terms of hardware the Nexus 5 is a premium smartphone, it just doesn't have a premium price tag. The Nexus 5 can just about hold its own with the top devices on the market, including the iPhone 5S (starting at £550), the Samsung Galaxy S4 (now reduced to £420), the HTC One (which you can find for £430), and the Sony Xperia Z1 (now reduced to £430).

A 2.3GHz quad-core Snapdragon 800 chipset and 2GB RAM place this on the cutting edge. The 5-inch 1080p display is no slouch either, and the Nexus 5 sports the very latest platform update in Android 4.4 KitKat, with the elegant Google Experience Launcher on top.

If you're wondering how Google can offer the Nexus 5 for that much less than its competitors, then you might point an accusatory finger at the camera and the battery life, but make no mistake - this phone is a real bargain.

The Nexus line of smartphones may have started out as reference devices to show off the platform, but Google has improved Android immeasurably since the Nexus One and it has refined its strategy in the marketplace.

Google Nexus 5 review

The price tag makes it conceivable that you might buy the Nexus 5 off-contract and then seek out the best deal for service. If you have the cash ready, you'll almost certainly get a better deal that way. Just in case you don't, O2 and Vodafone are offering it for no money down on two-year contracts.

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

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) 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.

Google Nexus 5 review

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.

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.

Google Nexus 5 review

The back and sides are soft-touch, matte plastic and it only weighs 130g, just like the Galaxy S4.

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.

Google Nexus 5 review

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.

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.

Google Nexus 5 review

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.

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

Google Nexus 5 review

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 look gaudy, and it feels more expensive than the Galaxy S4.

Key features

The price

The big USP that differentiates this phone from the crowd is the value for money it represents. £299 for a premium Android smartphone that's this good is a steal. Even at £339 for the 32GB version, the Nexus 5 is seriously undercutting the competition.

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.

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

Google Nexus 5 review

When the Samsung Galaxy S4 was first launched, it was around £600 for a SIM-free handset. It's possible to get your hands on the SIM-free 16GB Galaxy S4 for £420 now.

It's a similar story with the HTC One, which cost around £500 on release, but can now be snapped up for as low as £430 for a SIM-free 32GB handset.

The LG G2 is significantly cheaper at £350 for the SIM-free 16GB version and around £400 for the 32GB model. The Nexus 5 was also manufactured by LG and is partly based on the G2, with very similar specs, although the G2 trumps the Nexus 5's 8MP shooter with a 13MP camera, and has a much bigger 3,000mAh rated battery compared to the 2,300mAh battery in the Nexus 5.

And now we've got the likes of the Samsung Galaxy S5 and HTC One M8 - both 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 the Android 4.4.1 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.

Swipe right to left on the lock screen or tap the camera icon and you'll be ready to snap a shot within a couple of seconds. Results are generally very respectable. 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 is a cutting-edge CPU that has 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.

Actual performance varies from device to device because sometimes the speed is throttled to prevent overheating. Suffice to say the Nexus 5 is very, very fast.

Interface and performance

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

Google Nexus 5 review

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).

To put that in context, the iPhone 5S has a ppi of 326 and even the Galaxy S4 trails a tiny touch behind on 441ppi.

Put it side-by-side with an iPhone 5S or a Galaxy S4 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.

We fully expect it to be at the front of the queue when Google hands out its next delicious upgrade. According to Google's reasoning for not updating the Galaxy Nexus with Android 4.4, the Nexus 5 can expect to get updates for at least the next 18 months.

Google Nexus 5

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.

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.

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.

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.

Google Nexus 5

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 the 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 you can find everything you need to know in here.

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.

When I ran Geekbench 3 the scores were 885 for single-core and 2579 for multi-core. That's higher than the Galaxy S4 and way higher than the HTC One.

Google Nexus 5

It even beats the iPhone 5S (on 2486) for multi-core performance, although Apple's flagship gets a freakishly high score of 1379 for single-core performance.

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.

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 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

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.

The battery lasts, on average, a good third longer than my 18 month-old Galaxy S3, but it's nowhere near the longevity of the last phone I tested, which happened to be the BlackBerry Z30. That's probably not an entirely fair comparison, because there was a lot less to enjoy on the BB.

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.

Google Nexus 5

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.

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 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

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 in Android 4.4 and it's very convenient to use. The last call is listed at the top and then you get three big contact spaces for your most frequently contacted friends and family.

The rest of the list follows and it fills in as you make and receive calls. Most of the time there's no need to scroll or search for the people you want to talk to.

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

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.

We 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).

On the downside the text message threads are separated from the instant messaging threads, and there's no clever auto-detect, so you 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, but Hangouts needs a bit more work.

Camera

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 icons at either side of that shutter button. Tap the camera icon and you'll find the video, panorama, and photo sphere options.

Tap the circle with the flash icon, or hold your finger on the screen and you'll get the menu popping up. It's an arc offering HDR+, exposure, flash, and an option to switch to the front camera.

Google Nexus 5 review

Tap the icon in the middle and you'll be rewarded with another level of depth showing location, self-timer, resolution, white balance, and scene mode options. Scene modes include action, night, sunset, and party.

To be honest the interface feels awkward. At first you may not understand the icons and you have to tap and hold your finger on them to get the text.

This means you'll sometimes flip down a menu level you didn't intend and then have to go back and start again. Like anything else, the more you use it, the easier it gets, but it's not the most accessible menu in the world.

Google Nexus 5

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

You can capture video in full HD 1080p at 30 frames per second. Open the settings and you'll find white balance, flash, front camera, and further settings which bring up a windowed menu offering time lapse, video quality options, and the choice to store location data.

It takes approximately two seconds to launch the camera. 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 on 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 places 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 we 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 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 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 KitKat it's tough to find areas where the platform is lacking. Let's take a look at how the Nexus 5 compares.

Special One

The HTC One is getting on a bit in smartphone years, but no other Android device can match it on style. The gorgeous design includes a stunning display with an even higher 468ppi screen than the Nexus 5, and dual speakers with BoomSound cement its credentials as a party phone.

A far superior CPU, and the latest flavour of Android speak in favour of the Nexus 5, but the rest of the spec sheet looks remarkably similar. They've both got 2GB of RAM and 2,300mAh batteries, and neither of them packs a microSD card.

HTC One

The HTC One shrugged off the megapixel arms race with an ultrapixel camera, but it is a great performer, and the software options add some value that's lacking in the Nexus 5. The One also boasts a 2.1MP front-facing camera compared to the 1.3MP effort in the Nexus 5 which might factor in for selfie addicts.

The real question is whether you're willing to lay down another £100 for it. Taking into account the speed boost that the Nexus 5 offers and its place at the top of the Android queue, that additional cost looks hard to justify.

  • You can wrestle with the decision further by reading our HTC One review.

A close relation

The G2, a predecessor to the Nexus 5, signalled LG's renewed efforts to crack the premium end of the Android smartphone market. The South Korean manufacturer has been aligning its various technology wings and focussing on producing cutting edge mobile hardware, and the results so far have been good.

An unusual design, with power and volume buttons on the back under the camera module, stirred up some attention. When we look at the specs, we can see the G2 is similar to the Nexus 5 with the same processor, 2GB of RAM, and the same choice of 16GB or 32GB versions, with no microSD card expansion offered.

LG G2

There's a slightly larger screen on the G2, at 5.2 inches, and both cameras offer higher megapixel counts at 2.1 and 13 respectively. Perhaps most important of all, the battery is much bigger at 3,000mAh compared to 2,300mAh for the Nexus 5.

I don't think too many people would argue that the LG G2 is better looking, the button placement is strange, and the LG UI does not compare favourably to stock Android on the Nexus 5.

However, if you're concerned about the camera and battery life of the Nexus 5, then the LG G2 is a perfect compromise and it doesn't cost a great deal more.

A Galaxy of Samsungs

A straight comparison between the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the Nexus 5 is muddied by the fact there are several different models of the S4 out there. Even just looking at the flagship S4 and discounting the Active, the Mini, the Zoom and the Google Edition, there are variants with Samsung's octa-core Exynos 5, the Snapdragon 600 processor, and the same Snapdragon 800 that's in the Nexus 5.

It's worth noting that for Geekbench 3 benchmarks the Nexus 5 beats them all with its multi-core score, even the S4 with the same processor.

Looking beyond the raw power, there are definitely things to recommend the Galaxy S4. It has a Super AMOLED display that's really bright and vibrant, plus it has a microSD card slot to expand the 16GB, 32GB or 64GB on-board storage.

Samsung Galaxy S4

It also has a solid 2MP front-facing camera, and a 13MP main shooter. The battery is also a touch bigger at 2,600mAh, but Samsung squeezes more out of it than the 300mAh difference might suggest.

The most obvious difference is actually the software. The S4 is packed with additional apps and Samsung's TouchWiz UI. The clean UI of the Nexus 5 feels sparse next to the S4, but it's easy to see why some people feel it's cluttered. Samsung's replacements for Google apps are simply not as good right now, but one man's bloatware is another man's favourite gimmick, and you might find value in air gestures and S Health.

At its original high price tag it would be very hard to recommend the S4 over the Nexus 5, and I prefer the feel of Google's flagship. Even with the price reduction, there's still a sizeable £120 gap between the two.

Don't upset the Apple cart

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 7 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 and weighs in at 18g less.

Speed-wise the Nexus 5 wins the raw power, multi-core race, but Apple always gets better performance out of the hardware than the naked specs would suggest. This is evident in the 8MP camera, which is easier to use and undeniably gets better results on the iPhone 5S. The Nexus 5 has OIS, but the iPhone 5S supports slow motion video.

Build quality on the iPhone 5S is high, and the fingerprint sensor is a really nifty inclusion that's hard not to like, as it marries security and convenience.

The Nexus 5 has support for NFC and wireless charging, which are both lacking in the iPhone 5S, but there are no missing features on either side that many people would call deal breakers.

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

At this price tag you will not find a better smartphone on the market today. The Nexus 5 is satisfyingly fast and refreshingly minimalist. 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 match the best smartphones around. 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.

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

Buying GuideBest Android phone - which should you buy?Best Android phone

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 the interface still feels awkward until you get used to it.

Final 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 and the battery life, but you get a cutting edge processor with a wonderful display.

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

I'm not looking forward to parting with the Nexus 5. I may actually have to buy one and that's the highest accolade I can give it.

Your quickest route to the best all-round Android experience right now is to order yourself the Nexus 5.

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