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Review: Google Nexus 5

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Nov 11, 2013, 4:41 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

Phone Scoop tests Google's Nexus 5 on AT&T and T-Mobile's networks. Here is our in-depth look at Google's latest stock Android smartphone. It has the software many people want, but can the hardware keep up?

Is It Your Type?

Google introduces one Nexus-branded smartphone each year. The Nexus 5, which runs Google's version of Android 4.4 KitKat, is a device for enthusiasts who are more interested in Google’s software than the hardware. Other devices in the market have superior designs, but may seem held back by customized versions of Android. The Nexus 5 is pure Google, to a fault.


The Nexus 5 is a plain-looking handset. It is almost devoid of any design elements, beyond the basic shape. It has the general look that has come to be associated with Nexus handsets, but is even more spartan in its appearance than last year's minimalist Nexus 4. The Nexus 5 is as simple and boring as it gets, folks.

The Nexus 5, which is made for Google by LG, comes in two colors, white or black. Both devices have a black front panel and black sides. The only real difference between the two is the rear cover. The white one is smooth, vanilla plastic, while the black one has a bit more of a soft-touch finish to it. The black one feels better to me than the white one.

The Nexus 5 is a big phone. It's significantly taller than the Nexus 4, and even out-sizes the HTC One. Thankfully, it falls well short of Galaxy Note 3 dimensions. The 2.72” width is right on the border of being too wide, but manages to keep shy of breaking that barrier. It is delightfully thinner and lighter than the Nexus 4. In fact, that's the first thing I noticed when picked it up: it has a really nice feel to it. It will easily slip into pockets, though the length and width remind you that it is there.

The materials and build quality of the Nexus 5 are not great. In fact, I'd go so far as to call the Nexus 5 somewhat cheap feeling. The Nexus 4 had a glass front and glass back. Though the glass back was impractical (mine broke), it gave the Nexus 4 a nice, quality feel. The Nexus 5 is a clear step backwards in that respect, and is probably one reason for its lower price. The rear plastic shell is thin, and the seams are not tight at all. In fact, one section of the rear shell sticks out along the side of my unit because it doesn't fit well. C'mon, Google. The whole thing almost feels like a toy. Almost.



Click a thumbnail above for a larger view.

The front of the N5 a clear black panel of glass. There are no front buttons, physical or capacitive. The N5 uses Android's on-screen buttons that come and go when needed. The bezels along the sides of the display are fairly thin, though not as impressively narrow as on LG's G2. There's a white circular speaker grill near the top that is plainly visible on the white version, as is the small lens for the user-facing camera. Those are the only physical markings on the black glass surface.

The back panel is gently curved to more comfortably fit into the hand. The plain polycarbonate panel is overly simplistic, but matches the Nexus 7 tablet's design thanks to the large, etched "NEXUS" branding. The camera housing is somewhat annoying. First, it is larger than I expected it to be on the back surface of the phone. Second, it has a pronounced ring that sticks up and circles the lens. This ring catches your hand when you're holding the Nexus 5 and isn't comfortable.

There's something to be said for simplistic designs - the design doesn't get in the way of usability. The Nexus 5 avoids the one critical flaw LG made with the G2: The volume toggle is on the left edge of the phone rather than on the back. According to Google, the buttons themselves are made from ceramic. Both the volume toggle and the screen lock button (on the right side) have sharp profiles. The buttons have edges that make themselves felt and you're thumb is seeking them out. The travel and feedback of both buttons is quite good. I much prefer the proper side buttons over the rear placement on the G2.

The N5's back cover is not removable, which means neither is the 2,300mAh battery. There's a tray for the SIM card placed adjacent to the screen lock button. There's no slot for a memory card, though. The N5 supports wireless charging and NFC.

Honestly, I am quite disappointed in the hardware. The design is boring and the quality just isn't good enough. If the Nexus 5 cost any more than $349 unlocked, I'd send it back.



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Subject Author Date
LG JJinNYC Nov 11, 2013, 7:56 PM
Tired of biased reviews from Eric iamthephonemaster Nov 14, 2013, 5:34 PM
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