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Google Nexus 5 review

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The Google Nexus 5 does almost everything right for a very reasonable price

Review Date: 12 Mar 2014

Price when reviewed: £299

Buy it now for: £289
(see more store prices)


Reviewed By: Chris Finnamore

Our Rating 5 stars out of 5

User Rating 4 stars out of 5

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Google launched its latest own-brand smartphone with little fanfare. A simple press release, then two hours later the LG-manufactured Google Nexus 5 was available to buy.

The phone itself is a big deal, though. It is, quite simply, amazing value. Almost everything about the Nexus 5's specification is top-drawer, from its Snapdragon 800 processor to its Full HD screen and the very latest version of Android; 4.4 KitKat (now updated to 4.4.2, see below). Phones with this kind of specification are usually more than £500 SIM-free, but the Nexus 5, astonishingly, is over £200 cheaper than that.

Android 4.4 KitKat is also an impressive update to the operating system, which not only brings improved performance and more features, but is the first stock version of Android to look properly attractive. We normally don’t mind when Sony, Motorola and Samsung, for example, add custom skins to their Android builds, but we prefer the way 4.4 looks to any custom version of the OS. For more on Android 4.4, see the section below.

The Nexus 5 is amazing value for a top-drawer smartphone, but if you're on a serious budget don’t forget about the Motorola Moto G: a fully-featured Android 4.3 smartphone for just £130, which will be updated to Android 4.4 in January.

Google Nexus 5
The Nexus 5 isn't cheap, but it's a bargain for what you get

The handset doesn’t feel cheap. It's a simple slab with rounded-off corners and a pleasing rubberised rear, which we think feels classier than the shinier Samsung Galaxy S4. You don’t get the super-classy build quality of the metal-and-glass Sony Xperia Z1 or the metal unibody HTC One, but the phone's chassis is classy enough to match its internal components.


The Nexus 5 has a 5in 1,920x1,080 display, which is fast becoming the standard for high-end smartphones. We struggled to find fault with the IPS panel. Whites are pure, text is super-sharp, and the touchscreen surface has just the right amount of resistance to finger dragging to make it a pleasure to use. Side by side with the very best screens, such as the AMOLED panel of the Nokia Lumia 925, the Nexus 5's display has lower contrast and less saturated colours, but comparing screens of this quality just comes down to splitting hairs.

Google Nexus 5
Android 4.4 KitKat is prettier than previous versions


The phone's quad-core processor runs at 2.2GHz, and leads to seriously snappy performance. The Nexus 5 completed the Sunspider JavaScript benchmark in 706ms - quicker than even the Sony Xperia Z1, our previous Android Sunspider champion. It also managed a huge 17,496 in the 3DMark Unlimited benchmark, which is up there with the Z1 for 3D performance; good-looking 3D games such as Real Racing 3 ran beautifully.


With benchmark figures like these, it's no surprise that the Google Nexus 5 runs Android 4.4 beautifully (recently slightly updated to 4.4.2, see below), ripping through menus, opening apps and panning around web pages with rarely a hesitation. Android 4.4 is by far the most attractive version yet of Google's operating system. The redesigned, larger icons, more modern compressed fonts and coloured backgrounds make it look far more like a consumer interface than an engineer's plaything; stock Android has now caught up with the custom editions from Sony and Motorola for attractiveness.

Page 2 for more on Android 4.4 and the camera ...

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