PROS / A beautiful screen, a simple yet comfortable design and a powerful processor make playing with the new version of Android a joy.
CONS / The Nexus 5's camera is substandard, and its battery life is among the worst you'll find.
VERDICT / If you're dying to try out Android KitKat, the Nexus 5 is a great way to do it. Without a solid camera or long-lasting battery, however, it's better suited to developers than most users.
Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it is no longer available for purchase from the manufacturer. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
Google's Nexus 5 is the company's latest and best smartphone. Manufactured by LG, the Nexus 5 enjoys an incredibly fast processor and is the first phone that features the newest version of Android: 4.4, also known as KitKat. Although KitKat brings some great improvements to the operating system, it's been installed on a phone that, processor aside, is underwhelming. With a weak camera and poor battery life, it's not as dependable as some of the other devices you can buy.
The Nexus 5 features an IPS display slightly less than 5 inches from corner to corner. With 1080p resolution, it is stunningly crisp, vibrant and easy to see from any angle. The display dominates the front of a phone with an otherwise simple design; available in black or white, the Nexus 5 is comfortable to hold, but it's not much more than a rounded rectangle.
That screen provides a window into Android 4.4, the newest version of Google's mobile OS. KitKat brings with it a cleaner, more streamlined interface, under-the-hood improvements to stability and performance, and Google Now accessibility from the home screen. This last feature can be particularly useful; if you're on a home screen, you can simple say "OK, Google" and the phone will react to your voice, without your needing to press a button.
As nice as KitKat can be, especially for fans of Android, the phone's hardware features don't quite measure up to its software. The 8-megapixel camera takes pictures through a surprisingly small ƒ/2.5 aperture. When it comes to aperture size, lower numbers mean bigger apertures, which in turn mean more light hitting the camera's sensor and better-quality pictures. Most modern phones have apertures around ƒ/2.2. Lesser-quality cameras have ƒ/2.4 apertures. The Nexus 5's aperture is the smallest of all the top smartphones we've reviewed, and you can see it in its photos: dull, lifeless and prone to blur.
The Nexus 5's battery is equally disappointing. While you can get about 15 hours of talk time off of the phone, activities that use the screen drain its battery quickly – you'll only be able to watch video or surf the web for a combined total of about five hours before taking the battery to empty from a full charge. Given how often we tend to turn on a smartphone's screen throughout the day, you could have trouble making it through a heavy workday without plugging the phone in somewhere along the way.
For $350 off-contract, the Nexus 5 is a good deal if you want to buy and own a smartphone. When compared against the phones you can get for under $200 on-contract, however, it shows its weaknesses. Consumers tend to think about two things above all else when picking a new smartphone: battery life and the camera. The Nexus 5, unfortunately, underperforms on both counts.