There are plenty of long, wordy, clinical reviews of the Nexus 5 to be found around the web. Loads of sites will give you all sorts of empirical data, battery rundown tests, and lots of trivialities that won’t mean much of anything to someone simply trying to use their phone. I would like to break from tradition and take this in a bit of a different direction. I’m a pretty normal guy, and I use my phone in pretty normal ways – I’ve played some games, viewed some social media, made some calls, etc. I also bought the Nexus 5 for my own personal use…no review hardware for me. Please continue reading to see if I am happy with my new daily driver.
I was lucky enough to receive my 32GB Nexus 5 during the first round of shipping. I ordered almost immediately after the phone was announced and was told that my phone would not ship until 11/5. Thankfully those initial reports were off, because I had the phone in my hands on 11/4. A quick trip to my closest T-Mobile store, and I was up and going with a new Micro SIM.
My immediate reaction upon unboxing the phone was “damn, this thing is light” followed almost immediately by “damn, this thing is thin!” My previous phone is a Galaxy Nexus – a fairly light/thin phone. While the Nexus 5 isn’t too much bigger in size than the Galaxy Nexus, it is quite a lot thinner and lighter. It is even just slightly thinner than my wife’s HTC One S. My main gripe with the casing of the phone is that initially some of the edges felt a bit sharp. Not sharp enough to make me fear for my safety or anything, but a bit more rounded edges would have been appreciated. I have also found that I would really like the power button to be either slightly bigger, or for it to sit slightly lower on the right side of the phone. I have big hands, but I have found that the power button is just ever so slightly out of reach for left handed operation. This isn’t a deal breaker for me, because overall the ceramic power and volume buttons feel very nice. If I had to nitpick a bit more, the soft back is a bit of a fingerprint magnet as well.
While the overall size of the phone isn’t much bigger than my Galaxy Nexus, the screen is a lot bigger. It is also gorgeous. Even at about ⅓ brightness everything just looks great. There is a slight dropoff when viewing the screen at angles other than head-on, but that’s probably only an issue for me because of the way my phone sits on my desk. Looking directly at the screen is simply great.
The rest of the hardware just works. Android 4.4 is snappy and responsive, multi-tasking is fluid and fast, and battery life has been better than I expected. 2300 mAh coupled with a big bright 1080p screen just screams trouble, but I have been pleasantly surprised. After a few days of just plain bad battery life, things seem to have leveled out. I’m regularly getting anywhere from 15-18 hours on a single charge, and that’s with moderate to heavy usage. I have not yet put the Nexus 5 through a long bout with the Regular Guy version of a battery killer – Ingress – but my hope is that it will allow for extended hacking, deploying, etc. without needing to reach for my external battery so quickly.
It might be a coincidence, but my sudden uptick in battery life seemed to coincide with my switch from Dalvik to ART compiling. Google has included an experimental runtime (ART) that should start to become the default after some more testing and seasoning. The Regular Guy explanation of Dalvik vs. ART is summed up by how Android compiles and runs the code from each app. With Dalvik, each app is compiled every time that app is run. ART compiles each app when it is installed. This may cause a very slight delay during the installation process and may cause a very small bump in the install size of each app, but the upside seems to be better battery life, and apps boot up and load faster. Not all apps seem to play nice with ART however. That should be resolved in the future.
It seems as though there is a lot of hate out there for the Nexus 5 camera. I have not tested the camera as extensively as most other reviewers, but it has worked well enough for my needs. All of the pictures I’ve taken so far have been of stationary targets, and they have all had good detail. I have seen plenty of examples of pictures taken where motion has been blurry and details are lost. From what I hear, Google is aware of these shortcomings and should hopefully be able to improve functionality with a software update.
Dusty office supplies, Galaxy Nexus and One S
Sleepy puppy, two hams
All said, I am very pleased with my Nexus 5. I am not the type of Nexus fanboy that thinks that Nexus devices are by default the greatest things ever, nor am I the type of person that will complain endlessly about a camera that will should be fixed in the future. The Nexus 5 is a thin, light, fast, responsive phone. It does not have the highest specs across the board, but it has handled all of the day-to-day tasks that I have thrown at it with ease. If you are in the market for an unlocked phone at a reasonable price, I would highly recommend the Nexus 5. The Nexus 5 is available through the Google Play store, and now through T-Mobile.
- Amazing screen
- Blazing fast speed
- Overall responsiveness
- ART runtime
- Camera – should be fixed with a software update
- Battery could be too small for some
- Fingerprint magnet