As usual, Google launched this own-brand smartphone with little fanfare – despite the fact that it represented incredible value at the time and is still a great buy today with stocks now dwindling. At launch almost everything about the Nexus 5’s specification was top-drawer, from its Snapdragon 800 processor to its Full HD screen and the very latest version of Android. Phones with this kind of specification usually cost more than £500 SIM-free, but the Nexus 5, astonishingly, is £200 cheaper than that.
It’s held out pretty well over the last year too, the price is now £299 and though it has more competition, it’s still a serious contender if you’re looking for a SIM-free handset. There are faster chiposets around, but we’ve seen s alaw of dimishing returns of late, and teh SnapDragon 800 used here is still impressive stuff. The Nexus 5 is now available in a stunning bright red finish too, plus it just got an update to Android 5.0 Lollipop, giving it a new lease of life on Google’s latest OS.
It may be competitively priced, but the handset doesn’t feel cheap. It’s a simple slab with rounded-off corners and a pleasing rubberised rear. While other phones have come-and-gone the Nexus 5’s simple utalitarian styling has actually come into its own with time, it looks great alongside Android 5.0’s material design ethos, and it won’t ever clash with whatever you have onscreen.
Android 5.0 adds lots of new goodies to the phone, though of course they won’t be exclusive to Nexus handsets for long. The new notifications system allows you to block all but the most important alerts when you don’t want to be disturbed; and the notifications themselves are now Google-Now styled cards, which you can also open straight from the lock screen. The settings menu is improved with easier access to the things you need, plus a built-in flashlight option. Tabs in Chrome are no accessed as individual apps in the new Recent Apps carousel, while GTmail has absorbed the email app into a single stop for all your mail boxes.
The Nexus 5 has a 5in 1,920×1,080 display, which is now standard for high-end smartphones. We struggled to find fault with the IPS panel. Whites are pure, text is super-sharp, and the touchscreen surface has just the right amount of resistance to finger dragging to make it a pleasure to use. Side by side with the very best screens, such as the AMOLED panel of theNokia Lumia 925, the Nexus 5’s display has lower contrast and less saturated colours, but comparing screens of this quality just comes down to splitting hairs.
With benchmark figures like these, it’s no surprise that the Google Nexus 5 runs Android 5.0 beautifully, ripping through menus, opening apps and panning around web pages with rarely a hesitation. Android 5.0 hasn’t been quite the revelation we’d hoped but it has put the operating system on a far surer technical footing going forward, with apps (generally) opening quicker and battery life improved.