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Nexus 5 Review

nexus 5 review

The Nexus 5 and Moto X are without a doubt the most hyped phones of 2013 for us. We certainly covered the HTC One and Galaxy S4 aplenty, but as we inched close to the launch of both Google and Motorola’s new phones, it’s all anyone could talk or think about. We were often greeted on unrelated stories in the comments with, “Not about the Nexus 5, not news.”

So as I received my Nexus 5 (white “panda” with 32GB of storage), it seemed only fitting that I had to put down my Moto X for a bit. As painful as that was, I told you months ago that this would happen. As good as a phone may be, including the Moto X, our job is to bring you Google’s view of Android, and nothing does that better than a Nexus. 

Thanks to the birth of my son, this review took longer to complete than I had initially expected, but I’d say that it has actually helped me get to know this phone better than some of our other shortened review periods allow. I’ve spent almost a month with the Nexus 5 by my side. There were times that I grew so frustrated with the camera and battery life that I almost dropped it in favor of my Moto X. But as the time has gone on and I’ve switched back and forth between this and my Moto X, I really can’t decide which phone I like better.

I’ll talk about the Nexus 5 as I would any other review, but expect another piece shortly to talk about these two brilliant phones side-by-side. For now, let’s get to this review – you’ve been waiting long enough.

The Good

Hardware

On paper, there are few phones that come close to the entire package that the Nexus 5 is offering, especially for the price. You are looking at a 5-inch mostly edge-to-edge 1080p display, best-of-the-best 2.26GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 processor, 8MP camera with OIS (optical image stabilization), 2GB RAM, wireless charging, NFC, and a 2300mAh battery all wrapped in a soft touch plastic body that is only 8.6mm thick and priced at $349. Oh, and let’s not forget that it supports AT&T, T-Mobile and Sprint LTE out of the box, along with all sorts of global HSPA+ networks.

Find me an unlocked phone at that price and with those specs. Actually, don’t find me one because you’ll be searching forever. Google is doing something with its Nexus line that no other phone maker on the planet can do – deliver rock bottom prices accompanied by some of the best specs in the business. The overall package here really can’t be beat, assuming you can deal with the couple of faults we’ll get to below.

Here are the full Nexus 5 specs.

Price

I know that I just mentioned price, but when you are talking Nexus phones, the price really is the star of the show. If you take all of the specs I mentioned above, remove the “Nexus” logo, and sell it as a phone through a carrier, you are looking at $199 on-contract and $599 without one. But since this is Google’s baby, you can buy the Nexus 5 starting at $349 with 16GB of storage or $399 with 32GB of storage, no contract included. That’s…insane.

The device is largely thought to be based off of the LG G2, yet it’s almost half the price. Sure, Google had to cut some corners (camera, storage, battery) to get to that price, but it’s something most will have a hard time resisting.

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And keep in mind that if $349 is too expensive, Google did manage to partner with T-Mobile, Sprint and Best Buy to give you on-contract or cheaper options. T-Mobile has monthly plans as low as $17 per payment while Sprint will hand you one for $49.99 and a contract. The phone works on AT&T as well, but they aren’t an official partner.

Again, the price is somewhat shocking when you put it up against the other top smartphones on the planet. Almost all fall under the consumer-robbing, on-contract and subsidy model that runs you $199 or more along with a contract. Google is practically giving this phone away at $349, plus also letting you choose which carrier you’d like.

It’s a Nexus

There is a reason the new Nexus phone was hypebeasted for months upon months leading up to its unveiling – it’s a Nexus. We knew it would be dirt cheap. We knew it would help Google introduce the newest version of Android. We know that it will see updates before any other phone. We knew there would finally be LTE on board. We knew the design would be minimal, yet beautiful. We knew that the phone would be built for tinkerers and stock Android lovers. We knew that (at least on paper) it would be the phone we have been waiting for.

For the most part, it has lived up to the hype. We’ve got best in class specs, along with a new version of Android presented Google’s way, a phone that’s built for tinkerers, and an unbeatable price. Outside of some camera flaws (that can hopefully be addressed) and average battery life, there isn’t much here to complain about.

Android 4.4 “Kit Kat”

When you think of a new Nexus phone, you just assume that it will launch with the newest version of Android. And thus is the case here with the Nexus 5, as it was used as a vehicle to make Android 4.4 “Kit Kat” public. We’ve already walked through a lengthy tips and tricks video for Kit Kat, so I’m actually going to focus this section on the bigger Android 4.4 picture rather than take you through what’s awesome or not. But for your reference, you can find that video embedded below in the “Video” section.

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So how does Kit Kat run/work/party with the Nexus 5? Like a champ of course. Whenever a new version of Android is released on top of a new Nexus phone, we always get a little blown away by how perfect it seems to run. But remember, Google works with hardware partners to fine-tune the Android experience on their Nexus phones, so it shouldn’t exactly come as a shock. With that said, this phone absolutely flies through apps, wallpaper changes, task changes, videos, hungry games, and image editing. If there is one sore spot, it’s in camera performance, but we’ll get to that later.

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Thanks to its beautiful 5-inch HD display and on-screen buttons, the Nexus 5 highlights all of Kit Kat’s design changes as well. From the new transparent navigation and notification areas to the new neutral color scheme, you realize as you use the N5 that this is exactly how Google envisions an Android experience.

Build, Feel, and Design

The Nexus 5 comes in two different color schemes – one is an all black version with a matte finish; the other has a soft-touch white back, along with polished sides. Both are subtle in design when compared to gold iPhones and bright Moto X custom orders, but that’s part of the beauty here. It’s understated, all about the big 5-inch 1080p display, and without a design-sales-schtick. The “nexus” logo on the back lets you at least know what phone you are always using, plus the massive camera housing gives off the impression that you have an intense camera phone in hand, even if you don’t. More on that later.

nexus 5 review

It feels soft in hand, is unbelievably light at 130g, and since there is little bezel on the front, isn’t actually hard to hold in one hand even with its 5-inch display. Now, it doesn’t feel as good as the Moto X in hand, but you could argue that the trade-off for a full 1080p display and package of top-tier specs is worth the extra size. It’s much smaller feeling than the G2 or Note 3, and is probably more along the same path as the Galaxy S4 only without the gross, glossy plastic. It’s the second best feeling device next to the Moto X, and that’s saying something.

If there is one downside, it’s the matte black version’s tendency to pick up fingerprints in a matter of seconds. While the black is even more understated than the white, I’d recommend white if you find yourself frustrated by a material that attracts fingerprints with the best of them.

Overall, the phone really does feel premium in hand, even though its made entirely of plastic (with ceramic buttons). At $350, you’d think it would feel cheap like a Samsung phone, however, it couldn’t be further from it.

Display

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The 5-inch 1080p display on the Nexus 5 is pretty damn good. I wouldn’t necessarily call it “class leading” or anything, but it produces sharp enough images and clear enough details that I’d be kidding myself if I didn’t say that it was more than acceptable. The problem I had with it, was that I just came from the Galaxy Note 3, which may have the best mobile display ever made. But if you are looking for a 1080p panel that’s not AMOLED and produces down-the-middle colors (not overly cold or warm), you will be pleased with what you see.

It can look a bit washed out at times, but I feel like I see that with all LCD displays when compared to the somewhat over-saturation on AMOLEDs (which I prefer). Other than that, it’s viewing angles are excellent, doesn’t smudge quite as easy as its predecessor, and is incredible to watch videos or game on, thanks to Immersive Mode in Kit Kat that lets that edge-to-edge display take up every ounce of real estate possible.

I’ll probably continue to say this because it’s that big of a deal, but at $349, there really shouldn’t be any complaining about the quality of the display. This doesn’t appear to be an area that Google cut any corners.

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Above, you’ll see some comparison shots of the Nexus 5 to other top tier devices at full brightness on Chrome and with a similar wallpaper. Again, the Nexus 5 shows pretty neutral colors, while the Galaxy Note 3 tends to lean on the cool side. The G2 and Moto X on the other hand, are quite warm. Brilliant job, Google.

Performance

When you slap a Snapdragon 800 into a phone that doesn’t even have a chance to be bogged down by a 3rd party skin, you are looking at one heck of an experience in terms of performance. I don’t have benchmarks to bore you with because well, benchmarks aren’t exactly having a great year thanks to OEMs gaming the system. Just know that where Samsung’s TouchWiz stutters, the Nexus 5 glides. Know that when you multi-task, open new apps, launch the camera, or simply slide to the left to open Google Now, that you won’t have experienced anything like it on another Android phone. If there is one thing Google seems to improve upon with each new phone and new release of Android, it’s that “butter.”

We talked a lot about the Moto X having zero performance issues during our review of it, but man, when going from Nexus 5 to Moto X for a moment, the difference is obvious. There is true power here, not a separated out multi-core architecture fitted with low-end companion cores. The Nexus 5 may not have always-listening modes like the Moto X, but if you were looking for raw power, that makes things happen with beauty and grace, the Nexus 5 is it. We tend to refer to the opposite of the Nexus 5’s experience as “jank.” Jank lovers, I’m sorry, but there is none to be had here.

Availability and Connectivity

nexus 5 review

Let me just get this out of the way by saying, yes, it sucks that this phone isn’t available to Verizon customers. We know how badly Big Red users want a new Nexus, but for reasons we can only guess, this phone will not work with their network. Outside of Verizon, it works practically everywhere. The phone has support on LTE across bands 1/2/4/5/17/19/25/26/41 – that’s incredible for an Android device. Included in those bands is support on AT&T, T-Mobile, and Sprint’s LTE networks. If you think about last year’s Nexus 4 not even having an LTE chip and only working on HSPA+ networks, this is a major jump forward. Also, since it’s unlocked, you can take it almost anywhere in the world and receive coverage. From major carrier to little prepaid player, the Nexus 5 works.

In terms of availability, the Nexus 5 is available at far more retailers than any other Nexus in the past. For the U.S., you are looking at availability on Google Play starting at $350, and then carrier options sold through Best Buy, T-Mobile, Sprint, and Amazon. Google may have sold out of the 16GB variants in both black and white almost immediately, but you still have ways to pick-up this phone, something that wasn’t the case last year when the Nexus 4 sold out for weeks at a time.

Random Bonuses

  • Wireless Charging:  For those of you looking for a charging alternative that doesn’t involve shoving a cable (upside down) into the bottom of your phone every time it needs juice, you’ll be happy to know that the Nexus 5 includes wireless charging. In order to utilize wireless charging, you’ll need a charging pad, but those aren’t hard to find. In fact, Google is now selling one made specifically for their Nexus devices. We gave it a first look here.
  • Accessories:  Google did something with the release of this Nexus that it has failed to do with almost any other Nexus – make official accessories available for it almost immediately. From Bumpers to Quick Covers to a well-built and previously mentioned wireless charger, you don’t necessarily have to take to Amazon or 3rd party accessory sites to outfit your new phone. Sure, Google’s accessories are completely overpriced, but for the most part, are incredibly well-built. We’ve looked at both the Bumpers and Quick Covers here.
  • Photo Sphere:  The camera on the Nexus 5 may be mostly terrible at this stage in its young life (again, more on that in a bit), but there is one thing all stock Android lovers can take advantage of and that’s Photo Sphere. A Photo Sphere is Google’s take on a 360-degree photograph. It’s like a panorama shot on steroids. You can capture entire rooms, outdoor settings, and any other magical moment that may require more than a single snap. Using their easy-to-follow, blue-dot UI in Photo Sphere, it’s the easiest way to impress your friends photographically.
  • Hack-a-ability:  Like to tinker with your phone? You should buy Nexus phones, especially the newest from Google, which would be the Nexus 5. Google makes Nexus products for developers in particular, so if unlocking bootloaders, flashing ROMs, and generally hacking the hell out of your phone is on your list of things to do with your new phone, buy the Nexus 5. There isn’t another phone this open. Motorola’s new stance on Developer Edition phones makes the Moto X close, but again, this is a Nexus. It was made for tinkerers first, regular consumers second.

Somewhere-in-the-Middle

Battery Life

Initial tests of the Nexus 5 returned pretty bleak battery life results. On the first couple of charges, I was barely pushing through 8 hours of use, some times even lower. But as the days have passed with it in my pocket, it’s almost as if the phone is warming up quite nicely. I’m now regularly seeing 12-16 hours of use on a single charge with a mix of WiFi and LTE, and about 2 hours of screen-on time. That’s not record breaking, but it’s also about what our tests show for the Moto X and Galaxy S4.

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For almost two weeks now I’ve taken screenshots at the end of the night to try and track battery life on the Nexus 5 because I was truly concerned from the beginning (see the abundance of screenshots). But really, I’m not all that concerned any longer. My last remaining worry is the camera, however, Google is reportedly working on a fix for that.

Again, the Nexus 5 and its 2300mAh battery isn’t going to last you two days like a DROID MAXX, Galaxy Note 3, or LG G2, but it’ll get you average single-day-of-use life at around 12 hours.

nexus 5 review

Speakers

No, the Nexus 5 doesn’t have dual stereo speakers even though the bottom gives off the impression that it does. Instead, Google and LG put in two speaker grills, but sound is really only generated out of one of them (the left). The other is either there for show or to help funnel out some of the sound produced by the other. The left speaker grill is the one you’ll want to pay attention to, since covering it will pretty much mute your phone completely. And that’s unfortunate, since the left speaker tends to be the one embedded in my hand with the phone landscape. How much fun is a audio-intense game or YouTube video if I can’t hear it?

Fake speakers aside, the sound produced out of the Nexus 5’s speaker isn’t anything to brag to your audiophile friends about. It produces loud noise, it’s just not the clearest you’d like to hear.

The Not-so-Good

Camera

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Does the Nexus 5 (in its current state) have the worst smartphone camera of any top tier phone in 2013? Probably. Actually, I think it’s safe to say that it does. The good news is that we think it can be fixed with a software update that Google is reportedly already working on. But for now, it’s absolute garbage. I hate to be so straight forward and nasty about it, but the camera on this phone has been such a disappointment over these few weeks of reviewing it that I don’t know how else to put it. Everything else about the phone has been great or at least good enough, however, the camera is in a D-league of its own.

The 8MP sensor with Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) was supposed to help the Nexus 5 be the first Nexus to offer an incredible photo experience. Hell, even Vic Gundotra told us that Google was “committed to making Nexus phones insanely great cameras” leading us to believe that the Nexus 5 was what he was referring to. We may get there at some point, if that new camera API can magically turn trash into water, but at this point we just don’t know. All we have to go on is what the Nexus 5 camera produces at this moment.

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First of all, the camera UI for stock Android changed slightly in Android 4.3 and has remained the same here in 4.4. It’s not a good camera UI at all. It’s minimal, which we can appreciate, but accessing anything is a guessing game. I had to give up from changing settings in the camera app because I never knew what anything was. There are icons for options, but not enough of a description or detail in the icon to let you know what you are looking for or about to change. With some practice, I’m sure you could figure out the stock Android camera UI and become a master, but part of the point of a smartphone camera (at least to me) is to have it work seamlessly out of the box without a steep learning curve.

All UI criticism aside, the real story here is about the low quality you see after taking photos. After taking dozens of pictures with the Nexus 5 in all sorts of lighting scenarios, I’m not sure I would hand any of them over to someone as a photo I’d be proud of. The camera completely fails to focus far too often, and never seems to focus long enough or on the correct object when you get it to. Images all sort of have that dreary haze of death that we complained about initially with the Moto X camera. I live in somewhat of a dark city in Portland, but things look a hell of a lot prettier than what these images show.

The camera isn’t good in macro situations, has lousy depth-of-field, takes poor low light shots even with OIS, and is the worst camera you could have on you in a situation where you need a photo in an instant. As I mentioned in my opening, I recently welcomed in my first child to the world. As you can imagine, I want to take pictures of his every move. The Nexus 5 camera is essentially the worst camera a new parent could have on them, all thanks to the reasons I just described.

Here’s to hoping Google comes through and actually delivers us an “insanely” good camera. Otherwise, I’ll be sure to keep my point-and-shoot, DSLR, or other camera phone handy at all times. Anything but this one.

Here are some camera samples. All have been resized and that’s it.

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Full resolution:  1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5 | 6 | 7 | 8 | 9 | 10

Random Negatives

  • Upside down charging port:  This might be nitpicking, but why on Earth did Google and LG put the microUSB port upside down in the Nexus 5? It’s also upside down in the Nexus 7 (2013), so I’m wondering if this is a choice made by Google. Either way, over the last few weeks with the N5, I’ve been annoyed more than a couple of times at having to flip over the cable after failing on first attempts when trying to charge this phone. Can we get a standard here, mobile phone industry?
  • No microSD slot:  MicroSD card slots are no longer the norm in the smartphone industry. In fact, Samsung (and some international LG phones) is about the only one sticking to them, however, we know that many of you won’t even look at a phone if it doesn’t have a slot for additional storage. It’s not a deal breaker for us, but I’m not going to lie, it would be nice to be able to carry all of my pictures and other goodies from one phone to the next without dealing with the cloud.

Video

Unboxing

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vs. Moto X vs. Galaxy Note 3 vs. HTC One

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Kit Kat Overview and Tips

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Gallery

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The Verdict

As you can tell after reading through all of that, I’m 90% in love with the Nexus 5. Maybe even 95%. It has all of the right buzz words surrounding it, is incredibly speedy and powerful, looks amazing yet understated, shows off all that we love about Android, will receive updates the quickest, and is priced at a jaw-dropping $349. If you aren’t on Verizon, I’m not sure why you aren’t considering buying this phone already. Well, I know why – because there are so many other damn good phones out there like the G2, Galaxy Note 3, and Moto X. That’s not a knock against the Nexus 5, we’re just at a glorious stage in smartphones where everyone is producing really great stuff. Oh, and the camera is terrible. Like, really that terrible.

If Google can figure out this camera mess, you might be looking at a phone that is clearly better than all the rest. Until then, it’s another really good phone just like those others I mentioned, yet isn’t perfect even with its amazing price.


Links:  Nexus 5 deals at eBay | Amazon | Google Play

  • JeffColorado

    The 4.4.2 update apparently fixes the camera issues on the Nexus…so people can finally stop complaining about focus minutia.

  • Jason Muller

    I agree about the camera. I’ve had the phone for about 3 weeks now and there is no way to give a balanced pro/con review on the camera because it simply sucks. It does not focus right and if anything, at all, in the field of view is moving in the slightest, it motion blurs. (This is with HDR+ off. It’s even worse enabled). The blurry/out of focus samples in this article are exactly representative of my experience.

    One thing though- what makes you think the micro USB is upside down? Between the 2 phones ( HTC Incredible 2 and Nexus 5) and 2 tablets (Nexus 7 2012 & 2013) I’ve owned, none of them have had the port in what you consider the “correct” orientation. Maybe you are the one who is incorrect.

  • DJ SPY

    A little over two hours of screen on time.. Wow.. Two hours if screen on time on my Maxx HD and I’m at 75%. That’s on 4G LTE. I don’t know how people live with such abysmal performance. I guess the way I did for a year when I had my RAZR. Frustrated at not being able to truly use the phone.

    (Let’s see if the down votes reach the triple digits lol)

  • Franz

    The Nexus 4 DOES have an LTE chip (for T-Mobile bands). Just because Google decided to turn it off doesn’t mean it’s not there.

    I had full blown LTE through T-Mobile when I had my Nexus 4 (custom radio flashed trough recovery).

  • Aime Eerin

    you might be looking at a phone that is clearly better than all the rest. Until then, it’s another really good phone just like those others I mentioned, yet isn’t perfect even with its amazing price.

  • Aime Eerin

    If Google can figure out this camera mess,

  • soothsayer

    getting delivered(hopefully) today, way ahead of the 12/11 date i was given.

  • Vincenzo Vitale

    Bought a Nexus5 in the Italian store and Google now tells me that I cannot get a replacement where I live now in Holland. If you are buying a Google product in Europe watch out for their (illegal!) replacement process which essentially prevent you for getting a replacement within the 2 years, in case you move out of the country.

    • Jose Antonio

      I had the same problem with my Nexus 4. I moved from Spain to France and now I can’t ask for a RMA unless I send it from/to Spain. It’s cheap and I bought a Nexus 5 which should make it through the 2 years I plan to be abroad but it’s in this details that you see that Apple cares about their devices and Google does not. The post-sale service is much worse (and they don’t address long standing bugs and problems that the Nexus 4 has always had and I suppose it will be the same with the Nexus 5) but hey, it’s “cheap”. At least cheap compared to Apple so you can’t have everything.

      • Vincenzo Vitale

        Well, with 400 euro I do expect more from someone like Google, selling so much itself like the one improving our life.This seems more like steeling our money!
        Hope your new phone will not have problems.

        • Jose Antonio

          Well, that’s the idea. In case I have any problem with the Nexus 4 I can ask for an RMA as long as I’m staying in France and I plan to stay here for at least the time which is covered by the warranty but I agree with you: Google’s post sell service sucks.

  • Diana

    What I would like to know is … did you try making phone calls with the phone? I checked your review and you don’t actually mention anything about trying to use the Nexus 5 as a phone. I’ve had my new Nexus 5 for a week now and can’t believe how awkward it is to use for phone calls. The worst part is the voice dialling simply doesn’t work with Bluetooth. I’ve had all sorts of funny experiences with my requests. I miss my old BB which was so good at handsfree.

  • mr_charlie

    my is being delivered tomorrow

  • Angel Cervantes

    In the pictures, is that a real cat?

  • atc_tech

    Dude! Kellen, your pictures with the N5 look WAY better than what I’m getting with my N4 on 4.4.

  • droidify

    Excellent review.

  • http://simplephilistine.wordpress.com/ Arla

    Maybe I’m just an idiot, but the prices are really misleading. After taxes they’re $400+ phones…at least if you live in California.

  • Stocklone

    Maybe it’s because I’m comparing the N5 camera to the crap Moto was putting out in 2011, but I actually like the N5 camera a lot overall.

  • chris pinkston

    Currently have moto x and have had it for almost 2 weeks now. Got itto gild me iver till I could get nexus 5. With kit Kat on it now and the Nexus 5 lancher, its like a mini nexus. Went to store to compare it to a nexus to see if I still wanted to get the nexus. Its a close call but I love the clarity of the nexus screen and the speed. It feels faster than moto x if not by a huge amount but I can notice. Plus its a nexus and always wanted one so I think I will sell the moto x and go for nexus. The moto is one of my favorite phones though. In the future I would be interested in a moto x 2. Same size as current phone but 1080p, improved camera and even faster soc.

  • Dt Bell

    I like the phone, I up’ed to a 32gig from a N4/16gig. No,it’s not a world beater but no phone is in a few months.

    $230 on eBay for the N4 with a solid year’s use made the N5 quite reasonable.

    Many believe that we’ll be using 64bit by this time next year,..dream on.

  • rodolfo cruz

    My nexusv5 procesor is very fast than note 3.

  • Nazzi_Muhammad

    I’ll buy another Nexus phone when someone else besides LG builds ‘em. LG sucks @ phones. Great fridges though….

  • Joe

    BLACK or WHITE?

  • Eric Blackman

    I’m not crazy about having the price come up in a review as often as it has. I want to know how good it is, not how good it is for the price.

  • LesSavvy

    Regarding the “upside down” usb port, I’ve added a dot of light colored nail polish to my usb cables to make it easy to see. Once you know which way it goes in a particular device it is easy to get the marked connector in easily every time.

  • jc914

    Com’on, the camera isn’t that bad… I’ve taken some great shots, and compared to other Androids and iPhone, i think it meets or beats them. What do expect from a phone camera? Take a compact or DSLR if you want something more.

  • Chris York

    Another assassination of the camera. Plenty of other shootouts that show how great the camera performs on everything but fast moving targets and once you actually use HDR+, it’s usually a landslide victory. It’s perhaps a niche camera that leans more towards still life, landscapes or modest action in daylight but it does what it does do very well compared to the competition.

  • dcdttu

    I must have a different camera on my N5 than the one in this review. Or maybe I can separate the shortcomings from the actual camera’s quality. I’ve taken some absolutely gorgeous images with my N5. But I take composed shots rather than snapshots – I don’t worry too much about quick focus or the like, I just deal with it.

    The camera takes great pictures. The software needs a tweak to help focus and a think or two. But honestly, the camera itself is really really good IMHO.

  • CHRIS42060

    Honestly why complain about the upside down USB port. When it comes to USB cables you technically have a 50/50 shot of getting it right the first time, but in reality you only get it right on the first try probably 15% of the time haha.

  • crazed_z06

    Wait wait wait…

    “We talked a lot about the Moto X having zero performance issues during our review of it, but man, when going from Nexus 5 to Moto X for a moment, the difference is obvious. There is true power here, not a separated out multi-core architecture fitted with low-end companion cores”

    So Specs are an advantage again?

    • hkklife

      The Moto X marketing war chest finally ran dry (ie no more payola) so the X is being exposed for the midrange device it really is.

      You can never have enough CPU horsepower, battery capacity, onboard storage or RAM. Never.

  • Mvasquez

    Great review Kellen.. Had to read to see your opinion of the N5 but I’m loving mine.. I actually came from a gs4 and don’t regret it all there’s nothing like the stock experience and knowing I get updates first makes it all good!

  • Ralph Basile

    I have to say, I 95% agree with this review :). I think in every way my experience is very close to the authors. Regarding the battery, I think he nailed it. One this he did not point out (though others have) is the phone seems to excel at minimizing battery usage when not being actively used – you know sitting around waiting to be used – which is the state my phone is usually in. This does seem to contribute to significantly better battery life than with the Nexus 4.

    Regarding the camera, I actually think the quality of the photos (with HDR+ on) can be quite good. But the issue with the focus lag is a MAJOR problem. Some times, the camera won’t even focus without switching out of the camera app first. Once you hit the shutter button, the lag is incredibly long for a modern smart phone. I think maybe the Nexus S suffered with this problem (if I remember right) until an update to 4.x of Android. Ever since, the speed of the camera was terrific – basically instant. So what happened with this camera? I look forward to the fix.

    In every other way, I love this phone and am happy I upgraded. For me, owning a Nexus is about having the latest in software from Google, and doing so with a phone I can affordably purchase off contract. This phone delivers.

  • John T. Wildman

    honestly love the note3… Beautiful display, great (removable)battery life, s pen is awesome, Expandable storage, and super fast.
    cons would be touch wiz, although you can do a ton of customization. Camera is good but not great and speaker is so so.
    seriously should be in the discussion for best phone this year along with the one x and Moto x

  • Joe

    So I have had my Sprint Nexus 5 for a few weeks and last week was spent using it A LOT in Disney World on vacation.
    Overall the phone is great but I will just stick to the problems I see with it.

    1) Battery life – is pretty good – AS LONG AS YOU DO NOT TAKE PICTURES WITH IT!
    Taking pictures totally destroyed my battery life on several occasions and had a dead phone by afternoon/evening. It wasn’t like I was taking lots of pics as we have our Nikon SLR for that. They were just occasional pics and video to take to upload to Facebook for status updates or autoawesome movies or whatever. If I refrained from taking pictures then battery life was average and could get me through till we got back to the hotel for the night.
    I will say this though, the pictures we took with it came out very well especially if you do HDR. I don’t see all the fuss about picture quality. Maybe I just don’t have a photographic eye. In low light though it can take a bit longer to focus but it wasn’t that bad.

    2) Hanging up calls – I have been having sporadic ongoing issues with voice calls getting stuck “hanging up” and have to put into airplane mode to un-stick it. If you don’t un-stick it then it just keeps saying hanging up and when you try to make another call it tells you that there is already a call in progress. It is a little frustrating.

    3) Button placement – Maybe it’s just me but I hate having the volume buttons on the let side. Holding the phone in my right hand and trying to adjust just feels awkward and bends my fingers oddly. Feels more natural to use your right thumb on the right side of the phone to adjust volume.

    That’s about all I can see wrong. In every other way this phone is perfect (for me). I really hope they can fix the first two issues with software updates.

    I have to also mention something that is not really talked about much but I think deserves kudos. The Auto Awesome app that takes your video clips and pictures and combines them together with music is a really neat feature and is pretty darn cool! :)

  • jimt

    Kellen, did you take the plastic off the front of the lense? The Nexus 5 I have takes pretty good pictures. There is a piece of clear tape on the lense of the nexus 5 when it comes out of the box. I covers the circle (black of the lense) it was hard to see that it was there. Maybe you didn’t take it off.

  • RoadsterHD1

    My thoughts,

    If you put a cheaper (frt & rear) camera, and smaller
    battery, and bad speakers in a phone the price should go down. The look is a bit cheap to don’t you think?
    The speaker grills look like cheap plastic.

    The screen test at angle shows the GN3 and Moto-X have
    better screen angles. If only you had a Droid Ultra/MAXX to compare 5.0 inch
    screen to 5.0 inch screen….?….. Really
    should compare a 5 inch to 5 inch not 4.7″ Plus the on-screen navs make
    screen look smaller by comparison to ones with hard keys

    Putting a skin on top of an OS does not mean it will slow
    down. If fact if you compare the N4 to the droid DNA it proves skins do not
    necessarily slow the phone performance.

  • M3D1T8R

    The USB port is right side up. Everyone who has it the other way is wrong. : )
    Seriously though, after using the Nexus 7 (both 2012 and now 2013), as well as my DNA, I’ve come to prefer it that way. Who does it the other way, only Samsung? So they have it backwards. But in all honesty, this is one small detail Apple got right with their new charger port, you can plug it in either way, easily. Not only which direction it goes, but how easy it is to plug in, is something I always look at in a new phone. Does it tend to catch on the sides when you try to plug it in? You’d think by now manufacturers coulg get it right. After multiple old phones failing due to charger plugins breaking, I pay more attention to these little details.

    • NBM

      After multiple phones failing due to charger plugins breaking, you should pay more attention to what you’re doing. J/k… kinda…
      but for about $5 more than an official lightning cable, I can get a wireless charger (various available). Pretty cool.

  • Sean Walton

    I put down my Moto X for the N5 and loved it until the screen died (15 days of use) and I have returned it to Google for a full refund and now picked up my Moto X again. As much as I liked the N5, I love my Moto X!

  • Capt. Crunch

    The camera hardware is good imho, however the software fails when when taking photos in non optimal settings. Overall definitely the best bang for your buck.

  • Dave S.

    How does the White back hold up as far as dirt and such?

    • NBM

      It does a very good job. It’s helps that it’s not the whitest white to begin with. After about 3 weeks it looks good as new, and apart from fearing drops, I don’t baby it at all.

  • Abrahan Reyes

    Love the phone, moved to T-mobile last weekend just to get the phone and also running away from Big Red restrictive controls over the phones like Kellex said is pretty fast.
    Since owning smartphone first time i don’t have a Moto, so i was a bit worry, but the phone is great and no issues with T-mobile network so far.

  • Sam

    Maybe it’s just me, but I have a Note 3 and I think those camera picture samples look really good. Nothing I’d expect from an 8MP sensor.

  • shooter50

    Thank you for an unbiased review. Your honesty about the screen, battery and camera are refreshing after reading so many other reviews that glossed over these items. The bottom line is its a great phone, but certainly not perfect. I till use the G2 as my main phone, but the Nexus 5 is a great inexpensive backup

  • Steve B

    For those wondering about Google Wallet, I can confirm that it works 100% without any workarounds on Verizon as long as you have 4.4. My GS3 with CM11 works perfectly with Google Wallet installed directly from the Play Store.

    Host Card Emulation FTW! Thank you Google for helping me give the middle finger to Verizon, ya bastards!

  • Nick Floria

    A little off topic but love the new droid-life design. On topic very good review.

  • nomma

    No mention of non-functioning corded headset mics? One cannot use the phone to make phone calls. OK Google nexus 5 inline mic issue low gain. Apparently the N4 has the same issue without a resolution in site.

  • Eric Bright

    Thanks for the great review and for overhauling the website. I’m expecting the white Nexus 5 (32 GB) very soon. Hopefully, camera will be fixed via software update.

  • fritzo

    Love the new look to the site btw.

  • SplashMTN

    Guess who’s Verizon contract is up today?

  • bonix

    It’s just like all the other flagships, great in some categories and horrible in the rest. That’s why the moto X is so good, it isn’t great in every category but it isn’t horrible in any. Nothing could get me to get rid of my X (except a 32gb version)

  • Fresh360

    Don’t want to hijack this post (Well I actually do) but whats up with the new site layout? Or did somehow my formatting get scrambled? This wide format is rather disconcerting : (

  • Jeff

    I still have no issues with the camera.

    • JeffColorado

      They need to fix the auto-focus. But the quality is great once you get it to focus. Macro and Lowlight are both awesome. Very low noise.

      • jimv1983

        I agree. Shutter speed could use work too.

  • http://www.hypable.com/ Joshua Nealey

    My only complaints are I wish they had rounded the side/edges a bit, it doesn’t feel as comfortable to hold as my Galaxy Nexus did. The camera obviously, but it clearly looks like a software problem this time, unlike with the Gnex. Also, my nexus wireless charger doesn’t seem to be working with the Nexus 5, i put it on and the magnets grab it and nothing happens. Not sure what’s up there.