Google Nexus 5 Review

December 11, 2013 | Mark Goldstein | Rating star Rating star Rating star Rating star


The Google Nexus 5 is an 8 megapixel smartphone that runs on the very latest Android 4.4 KitKat operating system. The Nexus 5 has an 8 megapixel 1/3.2-inch sensor, a 30.4mm fixed lens with an aperture of f/2.4 and optical image stabilisation, a 4.95-inch Full HD touchscreen which boasts a resolution of 445ppi, a built-in LED flash, Wi-Fi, GPS and 3G/4G connectivity, and Full 1080p HD movies at 30fps plus a time-lapse mode. The Google Nexus 5 comes with 16GB or 32GB internal storage in white or black and costs £299 / $349 for the 16Gb version and £339 / $399 for the 32Gb version, without a contract.

Ease of Use

The Google Nexus 5 measures 137.84 x 69.17 x 8.59 mm, which means that it can be easily stored inside a trouser pocket, and weighs a mere 130g (complete with the internal battery). It's undoubtedly a large but very slim device that will definitely get you noticed. As with the Samsung Galaxy S4 that we recently reviewed, build quality is fine, but not class-leading, perhaps inevitable given the attractive pricing.

The Nexus 5 has a fixed lens with a focal length the 35mm equivalent of 30.4mm, supported by an effective optical image stabilisation (which is always turned on). There's 8-megapixel effective resolution from a standard sized 1/3.2-inch sensor. On the back is an impressive 4.95-inch, 1920 x 1080 pixel Full HD touchscreen display, and the Nexus 5 runs the very latest Android 4.4 KitKat operating system. For this review we installed the recent 4.4.2 Android release, which contains a number of significant improvements to the Nexus 5 camera.

The Nexus 5's sleek and stylishmatt black exterior certainly looks the part. Other than the lens, the only other feature on the sparse front of the Nexus 5 is the LED flash unit, positioned directly below the lens. The flash isn't particularly powerful but does help the camera to focus in very low-light.

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Front Front

Located on the top-right-corner is a thin power button. Hold this down for the first time and the Nexus 5 stutters into life, taking quite a while to display a series of graphical screens. The startup time from Standby is thankfully much quicker at just under 2 seconds, roughly what we'd expect from a point-and-shoot camera, although no speed demon. You then have to unlock the Nexus 5 and press the Camera app icon to start shooting.

There's no physical shutter-release button on the Nexus 5, replaced instead by a blue circle soft key on the touchscreen. To focus, simply tap anywhere on the screen and the AF point appears in green along with a customary confirmation 'bleep', then tap the soft shutter button again to take the shot. Auto-focus speed is much quicker with the 4.4.2 update, only taking a second or so to lock onto the subject, and its accurate even in low-light-.A full-sized 8 megapixel image is committed to either the built-in memory (16/32Gb) in one to two seconds, which is impressive.

By default the Google Nexus 5 uses an Auto shooting mode that's point and shoot all the way, the camera getting it mostly right most of the time. There's also a rather lmited range of 4 different scene modes - Action, Night, Sunset and Party - so you have to trust the Auto mode for the majority of your shooting.

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Camera On Gallery App

In terms of photographic features, the Google Nexus 5 has a rather sparse offering. The default camera app allows you to turn HDR+ on and off, set the exposure compensation, set the flash to on, off or auto, change to the front-facing camera, turn the GPS location on or off, set a timer, choose the photo size, set the white balance and choose a scene mode. You can't manually set the aperture / shutter speed or even the ISO speed.

The actual camera interface for the menu system is also very awkward to actually use. You have to press the circle icon on the right, which opens a semi-circle of 5 icons. Pressing the middle icon then opens another menu with five further settings. When you select and change a particular setting, the Nexus 5 jumps back to the camera app, rather than leaving the menu system open, so you have to start all over again.

The HDR+ takes a burst of several photos and combines them together to produc the best shot. It not only expands the dynamis range of the image, but also helps to ensure that photos taken in low-light are sharp and have less noise than ones taken in the regular Auto mode. With the 4.4.2 update, it now only takes 1-2 seconds for the HDR photo to be saved (complete with an onscreen timer), much quicker than when the Nexus 5 was launched.

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Panorama Mode Photosphere Mode

Pressing the Home button fires up the Nexus 5's default screen, which displays icons for the camera, Chrome browser, Apps, Hangouts and phone along the bottom, Google services and the Google Play Store, the time and date, and allows you to perform a Google Search. This screen can be reconfigured in a multitude of different ways.

In terms of playing back your images, the vanilla Gallery app displays a grid view of all your photos. Once selected, you can apply various creative effects to an image (choice of 9), add a frame, crop, rotate, straigthen and mirror, and change a whole slew of characteristics including autocolour, exposure, vignetting, graduated, contrast, shadows, highlights, vibrancy, saturation, sharpness, local, curves, hue, BW filter, negative and posterize. Once you've finished editing your masterpiece, it can then be quickly shared via a long list of apps and online services.

With the 4.95-inch screen swallowing up almost the entire backplate of the Google Nexus 5, apart from the Back, Home and Minimize soft buttons, there are very few other physical controls apart from a headphone port, a volume control button, stereo speakers and a mini-USB port. Note that the battery can't be removed, so charging is done in-camera. Battery life isn't a strong-point, with the Nexus 5 requiring daily charging even with light use.

Image Quality

All of the sample images in this review were taken using the 8 megapixel JPEG setting, which gives an average image size of around 2Mb.

The Google Nexus 5 produced images of very good quality during the review period. Although you can't manually set the ISO speed, the Nexus 5 controls noise very well from 100-800, although it does tend to set the ISO to 100 whenever it can and rely on the optical image stabilisation system to try and maintain sharpness.

Chromatic aberrations were well controlled, with limited purple fringing effects appearing in high contrast situations. The 8 megapixel images were a little soft straight out of the camera at the default sharpen setting and require some further sharpening in an application like Adobe Photoshop, as you can't change the in-camera sharpening level. Macro performance is fine, allowing you to focus as close as 15cms away from the subject.

The built-in flash worked well indoors, with no red-eye and good overall exposure, but the maximum shutter speed doesn't allow the camera to capture enough light for most after-dark situations. The HDR+ modes works well to extract more detail from the shadows and highlights, while the Panaorama and innovative Photoshere shooting modes help to literally capture the scene around you.


The Google Nexus 5's ISO range is 100-3200, but the speed cannot be set manually. Here are some 100% crops which show the noise levels for some of the ISO settings.

ISO 100 (100% Crop)

ISO 200 (100% Crop)

iso100.jpg iso200.jpg

ISO 300 (100% Crop)

ISO 774 (100% Crop)

iso300.jpg iso774.jpg

ISO 965 (100% Crop)

ISO 1329 (100% Crop)

iso965.jpg iso1329.jpg

ISO 2461 (100% Crop)


Focal Range

The Google Nexus 5's fixed lens provides a focal length of 30.4mm in 35mm terms, as demonstrated below.




Here are two 100% crops which have been Saved as Web - Quality 50 in Photoshop. The right-hand image has had some sharpening applied in Photoshop. The out-of-the camera images are just a little soft at the default sharpening setting and benefit from some further sharpening in a program like Adobe Photoshop. You can't change the in-camera sharpening level.

Original (100% Crop)

Sharpened (100% Crop)

sharpen1.jpg sharpen1a.jpg
sharpen2.jpg sharpen2a.jpg

Chromatic Aberrations

The Google Nexus 5 handled chromatic aberrations very well during the review, with limited purple fringing mainly present around the edges of objects in high-contrast situations, as shown in the example below.

Chromatic Aberrations (100% Crop)



The Google Nexus 5 allows you to focus on a subject that is 15cms away from the camera. The first image shows how close you can get to the subject (in this case a compact flash card). The second image is a 100% crop.


Macro (100% Crop)

macro1.jpg macro1a.jpg


The flash settings on the Google Nexus 5 are Off, On and Auto. These shots of a white coloured wall were taken at a distance of 1.5m.

Flash Off (30.4mm)

Flash On (30.4mm)

ISO 64 ISO 64

And here are a couple of portrait shots.

Flash Off

Flash On

flash_off.jpg flash_on.jpg


The Google Nexus 5 doesn't have a very long maximum shutter speed and you can't set it manually anyway, which is not great news if you're seriously interested in night photography.


Night (100% Crop)

night1.jpg night1a.jpg


The High Dynamic Range+ setting captures more contrast than a single exposure can handle by combining multiple exposures into one image.



hdr_off.jpg hdr_on.jpg


The Google Nexus 5 allows you to take panoramic images very easily, by 'sweeping' with the camera. The camera automatically does all the processing and stitching.



In Photo Sphere mode, you can photograph the world around you, creating fully immersive 360-degree panoramas, wide-angle scenic shots, and even what's above and below you.


Sample Images

This is a selection of sample images from the Google Nexus 5 camera, which were all taken using the 8 megapixel JPEG setting. The thumbnails below link to the full-sized versions, which have not been altered in any way.

Sample Movie & Video

This is a sample movie at the quality setting of 1920x1080 at 30 frames per second. Please note that this 20 second movie is 40.8Mb in size.

Product Images

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Front of the Google Nexus 5

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Front of the Google Nexus 5 / Turned On

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Front of the Google Nexus 5 / Home Screen

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Front of the Google Nexus 5 / Apps Screen

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Front of the Google Nexus 5 / Camera

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Front of the Google Nexus 5 / Camera

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Rear of the Google Nexus 5 / Shooting Modes

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Rear of the Google Nexus 5 / Settings

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Rear of the Google Nexus 5 / More Settings


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Rear of the Google Nexus 5 / Scene Mode

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Rear of the Google Nexus 5 / Video Settings

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Rear of the Google Nexus 5 / Video Settings Menu

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Rear of the Google Nexus 5 / Panorama Mode

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Rear of the Google Nexus 5 / Photosphere Mode

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Rear of the Google Nexus 5 / Front-facing Camera

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Rear of the Google Nexus 5 / Gallery App


The Google Nexus 5 may be one of the cheapest flagship Android smartphones on the market, but it's also a very capable one given the price. With the recent 4.4.2 update installed, it efficiently takes good photos too, thanks largely to good noise performance at higher ISO speeds, an effective optical image stabilisation system, and the very useful HDR+ option. The main drawback for keen photographers is the lack of manual controls - this really is very much a point and shoot device - but the Google Nexus 5 usually delivers good enough results for daily shooting.

Prior to the 4.4.2 update, the Nexus 5's camera took at least a couple of seconds to focus on the subject and take the picture, and it annoyingly refocused every time you tapped the screen. With the update, that's thankfully no longer an issue, now taking less than a second to focus and snap, and the HDR+ mode and general speed of the camera app are a lot quicker too, making shooting with the Nexus 5 an altogether more pleasurable experience and importantly on a par with its main rivals. We hope to see further improvements made to the rather cumbersome camera app user interface in due course.

The Google Nexus 5 still doesn't offer the most photographer-friendly smartphone camera, but the recent update is at least a step in the right direction, and with rumours that Google is working on adding advanced features like RAW support to Android, who knows what the future might hold? As it stands today, though, the Nexus 5 with the most recent Android update delivers a solid point-and-shoot camera experience that produces very good results most of the time, which is probably what the majority of its target audience wants from a smartphone.

4 stars

Ratings (out of 5)
Design 4
Features 4
Ease-of-use 3.5
Image quality 4.5
Value for money 5

Main Rivals

Listed below are some of the rivals of the Google Nexus 5.


The HTC One is a new flagship smartphone with some intriguing photography features up its proverbial sleeve. The HTC One has a 4 megapixel sensor, 28mm fixed lens with fast f/2.0 aperture, 1080p video, sweep panoramas, a range of picture effects and 8fps burst shooting. Read our HTC One review to find out if it's the best smartphone for photographers...

Nokia Lumia 1020

The Nokia Lumia 1020 is a new 41-megapixel smartphone - yes, you read that right, 41 megapixels. The Lumia 1020 also offers built-in optical image stabilisation, a 3x loss-less zoom for stills and 6x for movies, a 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.2 aperture, and 1080p video at 30fps with stereo sound. Read our Nokia Lumia 1020 review to find out if it can replace a compact camera.

Nokia Lumia 920

The Nokia Lumia 920 is the first ever smartphone to feature built-in optical image stabilisation. The Lumia 920 also has an 8.7 megapixel sensor, 26mm fixed lens with fast f/2.0 aperture and 1080p video. Read our Nokia Lumia 920 review to find out if it can replace a compact camera, even in low-light...

Samsung Galaxy S4

The Samsung Galaxy S4 is one of the most popular flagship smartphones of 2013, but can it replace your compact camera? Read our Samsung Galaxy S4 review to find out...

Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom

Introducing the Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom. Is it a camera? Is it a phone? No, the Galaxy S4 Zoom is Samsung's attempt to bring both together in one device - but have they succeeded? Read our Samsung Galaxy S4 Zoom review to find out...

Sony Xperia Z

The Sony Xperia Z is a brand new smartphone that offers a lot of technologies from Sony's CyberShot camera range. The Xperia Z has a 13 megapixel sensor, 28mm fixed lens with fast f/2.2 aperture, 1080p video, sweep panoramas, a range of picture effects and 10fps burst shooting. Read our Sony Xperia Z review to find out if it really can replace a compact camera...

Review Roundup

Reviews of the Google Nexus 5 from around the web. »

The Google Nexus 5 is the one new Google-branded phone for 2013. It takes over from the Google Nexus 4. And like that phone, it guns for its big-name Android rivals with a super-aggressive price. Offerring excellent performance, a smart design and great value, the Nexus 5 is undoubtedly one of the best phones of the year. Read on to find out why. Read more at
Read the full review » »

In this review of the Nexus 5, I will attempt to answer one simple question: is Google capable of making a flagship, best-in-class smartphone it can sell for $349 off-contract? And I don't just mean a nice, okay, swell, good, decent, better-than-the-last-one phone. I mean a phone that stacks up against the iPhone 5S, Galaxy S4, HTC One, or Lumia 1020. A phone that people want to buy. A phone that can win hearts and minds.
Read the full review » »

When you're shopping for a smartphone, what do you expect to get for less than $400 without a contract? Certainly not a top-of-the-line device, right? Until recently, that kind of price has been reserved for devices that were mid-range at best, or entry-level at worst. Ever since the gorgeous and powerful Nexus 4 came out last year for $300 on the Play Store, however, it's been clear Google is trying to give the high-end, $600-plus Android flagships a run for their money. Now the company's back with the Nexus 5, a power user's dream that sells for $350 and features some of the same specs you'd expect to see in a top-shelf device.
Read the full review » »

The Nexus 5 is here—and now even better than before. Thanks to Google's obvious subsidy on what should be a $600 smartphone, the Nexus 5 ($349/16GB; $399/32GB) is the best value on the market for an unlocked handset. Manufactured by LG, it features a host of improvements over last year's Nexus 4, including a 1080p 5-inch display, an 8-megapixel camera with HDR+, and LTE support. All of that combines to make the Nexus 5 our top pick for unlocked smartphones.
Read the full review »


  • Screen
    • 4.95” 1920x1080 display (445 ppi)
    • Full HD IPS
    • Corning® Gorilla® Glass 3
  • Cameras
    • 1.3MP front facing
    • 8MP rear facing with Optical Image Stabilization
  • Dimensions
    • 69.17x137.84x8.59 mm
    • 4.59 ounces (130g)
  • Battery
    • 2300 mAh
    • Talk time up to 17 hours*
    • Standby time up to 300 hours†
    • Internet use time up to 8.5 hours on Wi-Fi, up to 7 hours on LTE‡
    • Wireless Charging built-in

    *Testing was conducted by Google using preproduction Nexus 5 devices and software. Talk time tests used default settings with Wi-Fi off and LTE on.
    †Standby time tests used default settings with LTE on and Wi-Fi connected to a test access point. Wi-Fi internet tests had Airplane Mode on with Wi-Fi connected to a test access point, while loading three popular websites cached on a local server. The Nexus 5 loaded a page, waited 40 seconds, and then loaded a page from the next site.
    ‡LTE internet tests had Wi-Fi off and LTE on, and used the same testing method as the Wi-Fi internet tests.

  • Audio
    • Built-in speaker
    • 3.5mm stereo audio connector
  • Processing
    • CPU: Qualcomm Snapdragon™ 800, 2.26GHz
    • GPU: Adreno 330, 450MHz
  • Wireless
    • Dual-band Wi-Fi (2.4G/5G) 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac
    • NFC (Android Beam)
    • Bluetooth 4.0
  • Networks
    • 2G/3G/4G LTE
    • North America:
    • GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
    • CDMA: Band Class: 0/1/10
    • WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8/19
    • LTE: Bands: 1/2/4/5/17/19/25/26/41
    • Rest of World:
    • GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
    • WCDMA: Bands: 1/2/4/5/6/8
    • LTE: Bands: 1/3/5/7/8/20
  • Memory
    • Choose 16GB or 32GB internal storage (actual formatted capacity will be less)
    • 2 GB RAM
  • Ports and Connectors
    • microUSB
    • SlimPort™ enabled
    • 3.5mm stereo audio jack
    • Dual microphones
    • Ceramic power and volume buttons
  • Sensors
    • GPS
    • Gyroscope
    • Accelerometer
    • Compass
    • Proximity/Ambient Light
    • Pressure
    • Hall

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