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. I've updated this review to reflect this change and the increasing pressure from 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
Good chips, good screen and a bargain price

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 model which adorns the latest high-end smartphones, but the 2GB RAM is still on par, as is the 5-inch 1080p display.

On top of the very latest Android update the Nexus 5 also sports the elegant Google Experience Launcher on top.

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