Google Nexus 5

Strong performance, high-end specs and an ultra-affordable price make the Google Nexus 5 not just the best unlocked phone on the market, but the best Nexus phone by far.

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Finally, we have an Android handset that deserves the Nexus name. The Nexus 5 is fast, gorgeous and stocked with features, including long-term evolution (LTE), and it is the device for showing the true power of the Google universe and the Android operating system. At AU$349 (16GB) or AU$399 (32GB) at the Play Store, about AU$250 less than other top-tier flagship smartphones, it's a great deal whether you're on a budget or not (and whether you're an Android fan or not).


Once again, Google's latest Nexus retains a familiar minimalistic aesthetic. However, with its straighter edges and sharper curves, it looks more stately and austere than its predecessor. For instance, instead of the display sloping downward at its sides (as if melting right off) like before, it cuts off sharply at the edges.

On the left is a narrow volume rocker and up top is a 3.5mm headphone jack. The right edge houses a sleep/power button and the SIM card slot. The physical control keys are made out of ceramic, and unlike the previous model, they don't have soft, rounded edges. As small as they are, they feel sharp when you press them. This isn't a huge issue, but it was one of the first things I noticed. At the bottom edge, you'll find a micro-USB port flanked by two audio speakers.

Similarly to the Nexus 7 tablet, the handset displays a simple vertically lined Nexus logo and a subtle LG logo on the back. Subdued and restrained, the Nexus 5 has done away with the lustrous, tile-patterned back that we saw previously and replaced it with a matte material.

Black, white and matte all over.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

Sporting the biggest screen yet in relation to past Nexuses, the phone has a 4.95-inch Corning Gorilla Glass 3 display. Keeping up with its competitors, like the Samsung Galaxy S4 and the HTC One, the Nexus 5's touchscreen has a 1920x1080-pixel resolution and 445ppi.

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

The handset is powered by a quad-core 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor (the same blazingly fast CPU seen in the LG G2 and Samsung Galaxy Note 3) and a 450MHz Adreno 330 GPU. With these specs, the Nexus 5 is a powerhouse, especially when you consider that both the Galaxy GS4 and HTC One are speed demons themselves and run on Snapdragon 600 processors.

(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

A 2300mAh battery, 2GB of RAM and support for 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac (2.4GHz and 5GHz) dual-band Wi-Fi are included. It also has Bluetooth 4.0 Low Energy (LE), near-field communication (NFC) and built-in wireless charging. Like most Nexus phones before it, the Nexus 5 doesn't have a microSD card slot.

Android 4.4 KitKat

Of course, a Nexus just wouldn't be a Nexus without it running the latest edition of Android. With high hopes of limiting fragmentation and increasing the number of devices compatible with Android 4.4 KitKat, Google slimmed down the OS to a 512MB memory profile. To put that in perspective, that's 16 per cent less memory than the previous version of the OS, Jelly Bean. On the Nexus 5 alone, that doesn't mean a whole lot, but if Google can really influence equipment manufacturers to ship only one version of Android by 2014, then KitKat will be Android's most important update yet.

As for other features, the update isn't a huge overhaul by any means, but there are notable changes. For more info on KitKat, check out CNET's first take here.


Underneath this device's hood is a 2.26GHz Snapdragon 800 processor. The handset carried out basic but necessary tasks easily; unlocking the screen, calling up the keyboard and returning to the home pages were all executed with ease. On average, it took the handset 24 seconds to shut down and power up and 2.41 seconds for the camera to launch.

Even for not-so-basic tasks, like playing the graphics-intensive game Riptide GP 2, frame rates were high and smooth, and the splash-back animation of the water looked brisk and clear. When I ran the 3DMark bench test, the phone scored 17,966. In comparison, the GS4 scored 10,511, the HTC One scored 10,246 and the iPhone 5s scored 13,948.

New to the Nexus' 8-megapixel camera are optical image stabilisation (OIS) and HDR+, which capture burst-mode photos and combine them for a wider exposure, while removing moving objects. The camera operates swiftly; it took no time at all to adjust for focus or to ready itself for another shot after I clicked the shutter. As expected, HDR+ photos take longer to process, but you don't have to wait around very much. OIS also worked well.

In our standard studio shot, the white background is accurate, and the objects look sharp.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)

With Wi-Fi turned off and LTE activated, the Nexus 5's 2300mAh non-removable battery has a reported talk time of up to 17 hours. According to Google, when both are activated, the device lasts 300 hours on standby. Internet tests reportedly yielded 8.5 hours on Wi-Fi and seven hours on LTE.

A 2300mAh non-removable battery inside keeps the phone chugging along.
(Credit: Josh Miller/CNET)


For all the brouhaha that surrounds the Google Nexus 5, know that the device isn't perfect. Its crisp 1080p display isn't as bright as those of other high-end handsets on the market, its 8-megapixel camera can capture lacklustre photos and videos and as it turns out, KitKat doesn't bring a lot of tangible feature sweets.

However, performance is solid, and it has the big-boy specs that everyone expects. With all this in its box, it's easy to see why the brouhaha isn't limited to Android diehards anymore. Instead, the Nexus 5 extends the allure of the Nexus brand to anyone simply looking for an excellent yet inexpensive handset.


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The Stav posted a comment   

Checked it out in store (Telstra) today at $595 outright.
What an amazing piece of hardware and just works so well with that 1080p screen.
2013 really belonged to LG. The Nexus 5, the G2 and my Optimus G Pro (now wanting Kitkat yesterday).
It really begs the question. How much better can the latest flagship phones get?


kogaro posted a comment   

You list the unit's price at $349, but I cannot find anywhere where I can buy it at this price. The cheapest seems to be Google play at $399. See:

Where can the $349-priced unit be purchased from, please?

Will1505 Facebook

"Best Value phone you can get"

Will1505 posted a review   

The Good:Screen quality, speed, build quality

The Bad:Camera, Notification LED, battery?

Back Story: Coming from a Samsung Galaxy Note

The good: The screen is absolutely amazing. I generally like AMOLED screens however the detail in this screen is beautiful. The phone is comfortable to hold. Navigation and apps run like a rocket and getting great 4g speeds. The build quality is great, on par with the HTC feel. Love the ceramic power and volume buttons.

The bad: I was taking a step down with this battery but I also knew everything on the phone is more efficient. After 18 months, the battery on my galaxy was slowly wearing out but still getting through the day. Through a mild/moderate usage day yesterday, the N5 was on 56% at the end of the day (6.30am-11.30pm). The camera is better than the note (over exposed everything), but not as good as the current samsungs. The camera works fast though and the photos are still better than most phones on the market.

The odd: The ability to use the "ok google" feature only works if you have the phone running on US english. I use UK so it doesn't work but it wouldn't have been something i would have used. I initially thought the LED notification light was broken. As far as I know, it down't work without downloading a 3rd party app to control it (i used Light flow lite). Also had to download a 3rd party widget to use it as a flash light. The light is super bright but does warm up.

I would say it is the best phone of the year. The note 3 has more functionality but is 80% more expensive and in my opinion, not worth it.

unlike you

"King Nexu5"

unlike you posted a review   

The Good:Power house, endlessly customisable.

The Bad:battery life, LED notification could be improved.

This is the best phone of 2013. if you don't agree, sit it side by side with ANY other phone and go through their capabilities. This phone does (almost) everything better than the iphone 5s, but the best thing about it is how customisable it is. I love cnet and I have been following them for year, unfortunately they have either vested interest in apple, or a simply obsessed with them.
Nex5 is cheap and bloody brilliant and its only cheap because google can afford to undercut everyone else, just to get the product out. There is nothing this device cant realistically do. At $400 its a no brainer... if you can get one.


anthonaut posted a comment   

Great description of the device, but where's the review!? Where's the general impressions, the ease-of-use, the annoyances and the delights? You seem to be very happy with the handset in general but then give it 8.7 out of 10 without saying what the shortfalls are, apart from "The Bad" but those reasons are not expanded upon within the review. I'm sorry to say, but this article is unusually and unfortunately sub-par from CNET.


ChestyB posted a comment   
United Kingdom

Excellent yet inexpensive handset. So it excellent and cheap ??? Is it excellent full stop? or does it carry excellent and inexpensive together. It may sound silly, but if you could spare no expense would this still be an excellent phone or is it a phone who has a nice personality and is available for a date?

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User Reviews / Comments  Google Nexus 5

  • The Stav

    The Stav

    "Checked it out in store (Telstra) today at $595 outright.
    What an amazing piece of hardware and just works so well with that 1080p screen.
    2013 really belonged to LG. The Ne..."

  • kogaro


    "You list the unit's price at $349, but I cannot find anywhere where I can buy it at this price. The cheapest seems to be Google play at $399. See:"

  • Will1505



    "Back Story: Coming from a Samsung Galaxy Note

    The good: The screen is absolutely amazing. I generally like AMOLED screens however the detail in this screen is beautiful. The phone is c..."

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