Google Nexus 5 Review

December 11, 2013 | Mark Goldstein |


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.