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printed November 28, 2014
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Review: Google Nexus 5

Form Performance Basics Extras Wrap-Up Comments  14  

The Nexus 5 is a frustrating enigma. The native Android code offers a lot of appeal, with a few notable exceptions. Nexus devices are always the first to receive system-level updates from Google, so the Nexus 5 will be on tap to get the next few major versions of Android, just as the Nexus 4, 7, and 10 have. This means people obsessed with having the latest version of Android will always know where to get it. But the Nexus 5 asks owners to sacrifice a lot.

First, the N5 has a boring, cheap design. The plastics and build quality simply aren't up to par with other high-end smartphones. The screen may be great, but the smaller, non-removable battery means the N5 struggles to provide a full day of use. We appreciate, however, that the N5 performed well on both AT&T and T-Mobile's networks, and includes NFC and wireless charging.

The changes to Android itself clean up the design, though some functions have gone missing. Further, Google still doesn't know how to design usable camera software. Speaking of which, the camera is just not good enough for a modern smartphone. Perhaps it can be improved with a software update, but Google hasn't indicated any such fix is on the way.

If you value high-quality hardware and high-quality mobile imaging, I can't recommend the Nexus 5. You're better off sticking with the HTC One Play Edition and Samsung Galaxy S4 Play Edition, which offer better hardware and the same “stock” Android software.

The one major caveat here is the price. Google is selling the Nexus 5 for $349 (16GB) and $399 (32GB). That's for an unlocked device not beholden to a carrier contract. Most other unlocked devices, including the Play Edition models referenced above, sell for $600 or more. If you think the lower price point offsets the cheap design, mediocre battery life, and poor camera performance, then perhaps the Nexus 5 is what you're seeking.

Our Ratings

3
Overall
4
Reception
2.5
Battery Life
3.5
Hardware Usability
2.5
Hardware Quality
4.5
Display
4
Interface Speed
3.5
Audio Volume
1.5
Camera
 

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