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Google Nexus 5 review

Andrew Williams




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Our Score:



  • Excellent value
  • Great performance
  • Decent low-light camera performance
  • Excellent screen


  • Non-expandable memory
  • Camera tends to overexpose
  • Mediocre battery life

Key Features

  • Quad-core 2.27GHz Snapdragon 800 CPU
  • 2GB RAM
  • 16/32GB storage
  • 5-inch 1080p IPS screen
  • Android 4.4
  • 8-megapixel camera with flash and OIS
  • Manufacturer: LG
  • Review Price: £299.99

Originally reviewed on November 2013

Check out Google's latest flagship: Nexus 5X review

What is the Google Nexus 5?

Over the past few months It’s been very difficult to log onto a tech site or forum without hearing about Google’s fabled 2015 Nexus 5. According to industry rumblings the 2015 Nexus 5 will be built by LG, the same company that built the original 2013 Nexus 5.

If true, this will be now bad thing. While the 2013 Nexus 5 wasn’t flawless, key issues being its slightly buggy software and lack of expandable storage, it was seriously good value for money. With pricing starting at £299 for the 16GB model, the original Nexus 5 featured specifications traditionally only seen on handsets close to twice its price.

As a result, while Google no longer officially stocks the 2013 Nexus 5, it remains interesting as it offers a number of hints about what LG may have planned for its 2015 sequel.

Nexus 5 video review:

SEE ALSO: Google Nexus 9 review

Nexus 5 Android 4.4.2 update

There's no doubt there were some serious issues with the software on the Nexus 5 when it first launched. In December 2013, Google updated the Nexus 5, bumping it up to Android 4.4.2. It has tried to address some of the most common and serious issues with the phone – mainly centred around the camera. At release, it was slow, had autofocus reliability issues, as well as exposure metering problems.

The Android 4.4.2 update tries its best to fix these complaints. The core photographic abilities of the Nexus 5 haven’t changed – it still has an 8-megapixel camera twinned with an f/2.5 lens. However, other elements have improved dramatically.

Most important of the lot is speed. The Nexus 5 camera is a lot more usable because it’s no longer incredibly slow and clunky.

The tone of the images has changed slightly too, with greater contrast and amped-up colours. Images ‘pop’ more, although some shades can look a mite oversaturated in some shots. Once you’ve accepted that the Nexus 5 camera is never going to be a photographic superstar, though, it’s a fair compromise.

For more on the camera updates, check out the dedicated Nexus 5 camera page of this review. However, carry on reading our original review below to find out more about what the Nexus 5 is like.

However, the forthcoming Android 5.0 Lollipop update should offer further improvements.

Google Nexus 5 – Design

Google likes to use different manufacturers to make it's range of Nexus products. The Nexus 5 is made by LG, whereas the Nexus 7 is by Asus and the Nexus 10 by Samsung. You probably wouldn't know LG make it unless you spot the little logo on the back, though. It has none of the quirky design elements of the LG G2, which is no bad thing.

This is a deeply pragmatic phone in many respects, in that Google was clearly out to make a mobile that looks and feels great, without any of the flashy, budget-busting bits of a £600 phone like the iPhone 5S. The Google Nexus 5 is arguably much more conservative, design-wise, than the Nexus 4 it replaces.

The Nexus 5 is made of soft touch matt black plastic. It doesn't sound as impressive as the aluminium of the HTC One, but the response from the TrustedReviews team was unanimous – it feels great.

Its back is lightly curved, adding to the hand-friendliness of the silky smooth finish. The Nexus 5 looks good, too. Every part of the phone bar the LED flash is black (a white version is also available), and the lack of any recognisable gaudy extras beyond the over-sized camera lens housing make it quite a 'pure' design.

It comes across as a much more confident phone than the Nexus 4, with its 'jazz hands' spangly finish and glass rear.

SEE ALSO: Best Android Phones

Nexus 5 pics 5

The one issue of such a simple-looking phone is that front-on, it's not that easy to casually tell which way around it is. All navigation keys are part of the screen, so the only indicators are the deeply low-key earpiece speaker and front camera. It's a bit of a phone ninja.

The lack of any flashiness is clear in its construction, too. Although the Nexus 5 does not have a removable back – there's no battery access and no hidden memory card slot – this is not a unibody phone. The back plate and the plastic sides of the phone are two different bits, and there's a clear seam between them.

We imagine this makes the phone easier to construct, and easier to fix. But to pedantic eyes, it's something that shows this phone hasn't been constructed on a limitless budget.

SEE ALSO: Best Cheap Mobile Phones

Nexus 5 pics 3

However, handling-wise it's one the nicest phones in its class – beaten only by the slightly smaller HTC One. LG has put a lot of effort into making the Nexus 5 as narrow as possible, making it less of a handful, and it's slim too.

The Nexus 5 is 69mm wide and 8.6mm thick. That's 0.5mm narrower, and 0.7mm thicker than, the Samsung Galaxy S4. Being a budget-conscious phone hasn't resulted in a remotely chunky body, and in-use it leaves the impression of being almost 'all screen' thanks to its super-slim screen bezel. LG has done a fantastic job as manufacturing partner here.

SEE ALSO: iPhone 6 release date, news, rumours, specs and price round-up

Nexus 5 pics 6

Like any 5-inch phone, though, reaching from one end of the screen to the other with a thumb is a bit of a stretch. If you have small hands, we recommend trying before buying. You might find the likes of the Sony Xperia Z1 Compact with its 4.3-inch screen more manageable.

In common with many phones with non-removable rear panels, the Google Nexus 5 uses a pop-out SIM tray. It takes microSIM cards – now the most commonly used type in high-end phones.

One other hardware feature worth a nod is the well-executed notification LED. It's a multi-colour LED whose light is diffracted slightly to give it a 'glow' effect, and it sits dead centre below the screen. Its low-key style fits in perfectly with the phone's self-assured low-key design. Like so many elements of this phone, it's simple, and it's good.

The Nexus 5 isn't a phone that panders to all the demands of the hardcore tech geek brigade, though. There's no dedicated video output (extremely rare these days) and no way to expand upon the 16GB or 32GB of internal memory. We don't think these are significant downsides unless you're looking for a video jukebox phone, though.


November 4, 2013, 12:00 pm

Whilst I like Android, I am no fan of Gmail, Google+ and the rest. I have a Gmail address so that I can use the Play store, and that's as far as it goes. Is this phone integrated into Google's services in such a way that you are forced to use them? You mention the Hangouts/SMS link, but I think you said you can use other SMS Apps instead? Can you store contacts on the phone only, or are they automatically hoovered up by Google? Likewise the diary. In fact, other than using the Play store, is a Google account required at all on this phone?


November 4, 2013, 1:02 pm

Nice phone. Just got one. Voice to text is faster than my Nexus 7. Camera is good enough. Feels light, but solid. Not sure about Google+ yet... Worth a serious look if your considering an Android device.


November 4, 2013, 1:04 pm

The home screen is entirely Google Now and Google Search, similar to Facebook Home. That's why you can speak to Google Now from the home screen.

That said, you can replace all of Google's apps, including the home screen. And you can disable automatic background synchronisation on your Google account.


November 4, 2013, 2:12 pm

Reading the comparisons in this review you wouldn't even know the LG G2 exists. Its only £100 or so more in 32Gb form, larger battery and higher res, OIS camera. Plus mkv support out of the box, which is pretty useful if you want to make use of the full HD screen.


November 4, 2013, 2:20 pm

You can turn most if not all of it off.

Geoff Richards

November 4, 2013, 2:43 pm

Not sure about some of those: the 16GB is £439 so it's about £150 more than the Nexus 5. I guess you're comparing 32GB Nexus 5 (£339) with the 16GB G2 (£439). Neither phone has an SD slot so choose wisely.

Yes, the G2 has 3000mAh battery 2300mAh on the Nexus. Given they run the same internals you'd expect the G2 to have a longer battery life for sure.

The screens are the same resolution; the Nexus has slightly higher PPI because the display is slightly smaller. The LG camera is higher resolution: 13MP vs 8MP, though both feature OIS.

I can't comment on the MKV support, but clearly it will be a little while before KitKat is available for the G2, if that's important to you.

I like the G2. It also happens to have ac wifi (if you care) and a 2.1MP front-facing camera vs 1.3MP on the Nexus. Again, if you care.

I have suggested to the boys that we should consider a full head-to-head to see how they compare in the real world :)


November 4, 2013, 2:55 pm

Well it looks great, but possibly not great enough to upgrade straight away from my much loved Nexus 4. I'm wondering whether the slightly larger size might leave consumers deciding between Nexus 5 and Nexus 7.

What I'd really like to know is

1) Have they fixed it so you can send a contact card by text message? You can't seem to do this in jelly bean on the Nexus 4.

2) Is there now a fix for "all day events" on google calendar not appearing on my nexus 4?

3) Does it still occasionally randomly delete contacts?

William Judd

November 4, 2013, 3:14 pm

lol, why didn't you remove the back sticker? :D


November 4, 2013, 3:57 pm

RE: 3) I had this on my S2 at one point. Seems to be a non-issue on my Note II, which I am selling once my N5 arrives :$


November 4, 2013, 4:01 pm

Excellent reply and comparison - the G2 seems fantastic overall, but I think nothing will top the Nexus experience for me.

As a guy who only got the Note II because the N4 wouldn't support LTE, I am delighted to be going N5 this time around.

My father's Galaxy Nexus still zips around at great speeds for the age of the device and he uses a fair few widgets and apps; my Note II is fine in most scenarios but I don't like that the browser options, all of them, lag on start up very heavily, and other such annoyances that I never notice on native Android.

I will miss the large battery of the Note II, but the S-Pen went underused as did Multi-Window.

EDIT: One last win for the N5 for me is the form factor. Narrower is good, slim bezels are tasty, the phone should slip less than the glorious glass back of the N4 - overall I'm excited for it.


November 4, 2013, 4:52 pm

I've never had your issue in #3 with my Nexus 4, and so far with my Nexus 5.


November 4, 2013, 5:04 pm

It's disappointing that this phone was given a battery rating based on it's features but no actual data. I'm interested to see how sensor batching will improve things in 4.4, as my SGS4 is kept away for about 90 minutes a day by Google Services, which is basically the location wakelock on behalf of other apps. Hopefully GSM Arena will sort out their battery test in the near future!

Andy Whitmore

November 4, 2013, 5:19 pm

Why when anyone not just Trusted Reviews reviews a phone without an SD card slot they say it is an issue except for the iphone which has never had expandable memory but reviewers never seem to mention this? Just a thought. I can't wait to get my Nexus 5 will blow iphone 5s out of the water!! Wait for the isheep to comment


November 4, 2013, 5:27 pm

If I recall correctly we have/did mention it in the most recent iPhone reviews. There's a slightly cultural difference, too, which you ably demonstrate. Android buyers, as a general rule, a more 'pro SD' than iPhone buyers. That said, I think our review points our this isn't a major issue (for us at least), it's more of a 'something to consider' issue. For some people it's reason enough to buy a more expensive phone, but not for others.


November 4, 2013, 5:31 pm

We're working on our battery life testing, but as you probably appreciate it's an incredibly difficult thing to test in a genuinely scientific/psuedo-scientific manner given the number of variables you have to control.

Until we can come up with a test that satisfies us we prefer to rely on 'natural use' in a day, rather than run a bunch a tests that sound comparable but don't really stand up to scrutiny. I appreciate your point, however, as it's something we're keenly aware of. Our basic judgement, at present, is to provide a judgement similar to that of an ordinary user, which is typically "I use my phone in x way and at the end of the day I'm either running out of juice/have just enough left/have a comfortable amount left".

Since we're on the topic, we're open to suggestions (for everyone) about what you would find useful in a battery life test. Our main aim/preference is something repeatable but not totally exhaustive. The time/benefit trade-off for us tricky - we don't have infinite resources (man hours or money) to throw at this kind of thing at present, but our aim is always to improve our reviews as much as we can.

We don't aim to be Anandtech or GSM Arena. We want to provide enough technical insight while remaining accessible to less tech-savvy readers. It's a broad church who read tech reviews and we aim to bridge the gap between the casual and hardcore.


November 4, 2013, 5:50 pm

I ordered an hour after release and received my n5 yesterday. amazingly quick shipping. Purchase Friday received Monday.

I agree with all on this review the phone is very nice to hold. What always surprises me when I pickup the phone is just how light the phone feels. I have a mate with the samsung s4 and in comparison the n5 feels almost too light almost as if its a display model or its missing a battery. Super light and comfortable to hold

My only concern is that the soft touch rubber surrounding the phone might wear off after a year or so. I have a first gen nexus 7 which also has rubber on the back and its had no problem but the n7 uses what seems to be more durable rubber. Only time will tell I guess.

Screen is very clear, it's very fast compared to my n7 or old galaxy nexus. Camera seems decent low light handling is amazing for a phone. HDR photo feature works well. Battery life seems great so far. No removable battery a bit of a shame though I had two for my galaxy nexus.

Not sure that else I can say


November 4, 2013, 5:55 pm

Yeah no need for upgrade from n4. You'll get 4.4 soon enough anyway which Is a nice upgrade. A nice change to 4.4 is the removal of the black bar from top of the screen on desktop. This gives the illusion of a longer screen because the top bar no longer blends with the black top bevel.


November 4, 2013, 6:52 pm

The LG G2 is slippery as a soap and the edges are so narrow as to be positively unergonomic. I got one last week but I'm returning it.

LG has also screwed up the Android UI with a bunch of crap apps and constant annoying popups of LG user agreements that I'm not interested in agreeing to.


November 4, 2013, 8:31 pm

That is a fair point. Except from the very crucial fact that the Nexus line from the Nexus One to the Nexus 10 has never had an SD card slot either.

Erin Henneberry

November 4, 2013, 8:32 pm

Just wondering if you guys had any thoughts on durability of the phone. I bought a Nexus 4 and then dropped it three feet from my lap onto carpet, and the front glass shattered and the touch screen completely stopped functioning. Is the Nexus 5 any hardier?


November 4, 2013, 8:48 pm

Thanks for the reply (and StankyChikin).

Edgar Robert

November 4, 2013, 8:51 pm

I have heard there's a charger pad for the Nexus 5 but can't find it when carrying out a web search. Does anyone know when this will be available and expected price?


November 4, 2013, 9:43 pm

Please stop saying that 4.4 is like iOS7. It's false. iOS7 is like Jelly Bean.

Hope I'm missing something...

November 4, 2013, 10:58 pm

I finally got a chance to start setting up my Nexus 5 this evening and so far I have to say I am feeling very disappointed indeed compared to my Nexus 4. The previous SMS app which was fine as far as I am concerned appears to be gone entirely and all we have is the nastiness of "Hangouts". Looks like I may be forced to install a third party SMS app that I do not want. The phone dialer (which again was excellent on the Nexus 4) appears to have been comprehensively ruined. Even the contacts list displays LESS contacts on screen at one than before despite the larger screen. I am hoping I can find ways to rectify these but it isn't looking good so far.

Jacob Nørgaard

November 5, 2013, 6:21 am

But it's an Android phone if there ever was one, and they have a history of being user expandable via SD cards. iDevices don't.

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