Using Geekbench 3, the Nexus 5 peformed better than Samsung's Galaxy S4 and the HTC One in both single and multi-core tests, and ranked just beneath the new Galaxy Note 3. With 3DMark tests, the latest Nexus sat between the Galaxy S4 and LG's G2. The Nexus 5 certainly has the hardware to keep things moving quickly, but it doesn't hurt that the device comes with the more efficiently-built Android 4.4 KitKat, either.
In its most generic terms, a present-day smartphone is a rectangle slab with a screen on one side, and the Nexus 5 almost fits that description to a tee. Physically, there is almost nothing that makes the latest Nexus stand out, and if not for the metallic camera housing and branding on the backside, you would think this was a protoype device sporting the most inconspicuous casing imaginable.
This isn't a bad thing, though. While the Nexus 5 won't turn any heads, its design is clean, simple, and practical. It doesn't sport the same premium feel that aluminum or leather-clad phones have, but at least it doesn't have a fragile glass rear cover like the Nexus 4 or older iPhones. Along the left side of the device you'll find a flat metallic volume rocker, with the power button and microSIM card tray on the right, a headphone jack on top, and the microUSB port and stereo speakers along the bottom. The non-removable casing uses a rubbery plastic that is both grippy and soft to the touch, and the rear side features a slight curve, letting the phone comfortably sit in your hand when making calls or tapping away at the screen.
When the new Nexus was first announced, there were reasonable concerns about its ability to stay powered on for extended periods of time. The Nexus 5's 2,300 mAh battery is considerably smaller than the one found in the impressively long-lasting G2, and is only slightly larger than the battery in last year's Nexus 4. Unfortunately, the initial concerns were justified.
Light users will have no problems getting through an entire day on a full charge. Heavy users and gamers, on the other hand, will have a much tougher time getting to the day's end. Between handling emails, text messages, streaming podcasts and music, and social networking, the Nexus 5 was barely able to get through an 8 hour work day. Even worse, playing games would drop the battery percentage at an alarming rate.
Half an hour with Plants vs. Zombies 2 or Kingdom Rush: Frontiers resulted in around a 20 percent drop in battery life. Video streaming had a less dramatic effect, with a single 22 minute television show on Netflix while connected to Wi-Fi draining 6 percent of the battery. Either way, if you plan on using the Nexus 5 for more than the occasional email or text message, you'll want a charger nearby. The device does feature wireless charging, so a strategically placed Qi charger would definitely help out.
But the most problematic feature of the camera is the app itself. On the Android side of things, Samsung and LG found ways to give users quick access to a wide range of features through well-designed interfaces. The Nexus 5's setup, on the other hand, feel clumsy and unintuitive. Everything is hidden in awkward multi-level radial menus that bring you to a relatively limited number of shooting options. Considering how clean the Android UI has become with introduction of KitKat, it's unfortunate that the same level of polish didn't carry over to the camera app.
Is the new Nexus 5 the best phone on the market? Absolutely not, nor should you expect it to be. But in its price range, there is nothing that can even remotely compete with the latest from Google and LG. If you're concerned about how much your next smartphone will cost or if you'd rather not commit to another contract with your wireless provider, there is no better option.
- +Incredibly affordable price.
- +Stock Android 4.4 KitKat.
- +Blazing fast performance.
- +Nexus software upgrade support.
- –Disappointing battery life.
- –Clumsy camera app.