Google Nexus 5 – The Gladiator
Nexus 5, the most awaiting mobile for any Android fan. The core objective of the Nexus series of devices to be bring out the un-tampered pure Android user experience to the world. Google chooses the very best of the hardware every year and put in the pure joy of the latest version of Android in it and releases a Nexus. The literal definition of Nexus, is union of 2 of more entities to create something new. Google joins hands with a hardware OEM and makes a Nexus mobile and tablet each year. This year (just like last year) the chosen OEM partner is LG for the mobile and Asus for the tablet. The Nexus 5, though being the first in the Nexus mobile edition, is more appropriately named because of its 5 inch screen. Initially the Nexus device enjoyed the attention of the developer community and off-late more end consumers are also interested in owning a Nexus device. I always have a theory that iPhone is offering the best user experience because of its monogamous marriage between the hardware and software. That relation is lacking in the android phones because many Android OEMs want to sell quantity than quality. In the name of customization they crucify the user experience of Android and pack them off to the market. This gap between the hardware and software is getting increasingly noticed by customer and that’s the reason, people are showing more interest to the Nexus devices. Another major differentiator is the pricing of mobiles. Mobiles are priced no more like mobiles. However the Nexus offers the best of the hardware and software at the best price and that, truly is a huge differentiation.
Design and Hardware
On the outlook, the Nexus 5 is a neat, clean and minimalistic design. Its completely flat on the front and almost flat at the back. The bottom and top are slightly rounded and the edges have smooth rounded corners. The back has the prominent Nexus logo and the 8Mp camera with led flash. The bottom has 2 speaker grills. One of which is the actual speaker and the other other grill houses the mic. The micro USB port is also placed at the bottom. At the top, 3.5 mm audio socket is placed along with the noise cancellation mic. The left side has the volume rocker buttons and the right side has the power / lock toggle button. Both these buttons are made of ceramic. It feels premium, but the edges are sharp and sometimes feels inconvenient. The location of the power button is a bit inconvenient as you have to stretch your thumb to reach it. It must have been placed in the middle, ideally speaking. The front has the gorgeous 4.95 inch display, 1.3 mp front facing camera along with the sensors, ear piece at the top and a chin at the bottom which has the multicolored notification LED. The bezels around the display are very small and hence the mobile feels a bit smaller than a conventional 5 inch mobile. Also the Nexus 5 is designed to appear smaller than what it is really. It weighs just 130 grams and 8.59mm thick, making it the lightest and thinnest Nexus mobile ever.
The initial builds had a few hardware issues. The ceramic buttons were creaky and not fitting tightly around its slots. Also the speaker was a bit muffled due to a defect in the way it was pasted to the housing. Reportedly, Google and LG are fixing those issues in the production line and newer device would have these solved. Early adopters like me, are left with no other choice.
Nexus 5 is available in 16 and 32 GB, both in white and black color. The black color version has a soft rubberised back panel, similar to the Nexus tablets. The plastic on the sides are matte finished and the mobile is completely black on all fronts. The white version, also called as the Panda mobile has a soft touch white back panel and the sides are glossy black plastic. The ear piece on the front is also white colored. It basically boils down to your color preferences.
Phonelicious rating – 8/10
The screen is 4.95 inch long diagonally. It is true HD IPS+ capacitive touch screen with 445 ppi of pixel density. It is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 3. Sparing the technical details, practically speaking, its a brilliant display both indoors and outdoors. Its got a great direct sunlight readability and some insane viewing angles. The contrast ratio is much better compared to previous Nexus mobiles. The display resolution is now a standard true 1080p HD. It is by far the best display among the Android devices.
Nexus mobiles are not known for their imaging capability. Nexus 5 tries very hard to break away from this statement. The Nexus 5 has a 8 MP CMOS sensor with 1.4 micron pixels in an 1/3.2″ Sony sensor. It has optical image stabilization same as in LG G2. The lens is f/2.4 with 4mm focal length. All this housed in the back in an oversized circular enclosure. The lens is protected from scratches by a aluminosilicate glass. Its not corning glass protection though. The front camera is 1.3 MP with 1/6” CMOS sensor. On the Camera UI, we get a stock camera with the Nexus 5. Auto focus is tricky. Hitting on one particlauar spot to bring it in focus, could sometimes be very frustrating with the Nexus 5. Nexus 5 has a HDR+ function which does not produce real HDR photos, but the photos taken in HDR mode has much better white balance and sharpness compared to photos taken in normal mode. Apart from the HDR+ mode we have panorama and pano-sphere mode.
The image quality is good, but not the best among the mobile cameras available out there. The Nexus 5 camera hardware is capable of producing sharp images and doesn’t always rely on algorithm to sharpen the images. However the images are prone to noise. Due to the 1.1 micron pixel sensor, the camera performance is good most of the times and unpredictably bad rest of the times. Optical image stabilization is present in the device is definitey worth mentioning and it adds to the sharpness of the image output. The first build devices that came out with Android 4.4 had lot of issues with the camera UI and image quality. But google has made us put all those behind with the subsequent updates namely the 4.4.1 and 4.4.2. Now all that I am waiting for is the updated Google API to enable the Nexus 5 to shoot in RAW mode.
The Nexus 5 is capable of shooting 1080p videos at 30fps. The output doesn’t blow your mind like the Lumia 1020, but it definitely does the job. Though there are a few dropped frames at times, but it manages to capture some decent footage. Time lapse video recording mode is a worthy mention here. Its hidden in the setting from the Camera UI. But once enables, it captures some stunning time lapse videos.
Check out the sample gallery below
Phonelicious rating – 7/10
Android Kitkat Experience
When people talk about the Android Kitkat, they start talking about the Google Experience Launcher. Although it comes with Nexus 5, its not really a feature of Android Kitkat. It basically is a a home screen launcher with Google Now tightly integrated with it. You can actually talk to it and say “OK Google” followed by a set of comands to make google fetch or do stuff for you.
Speaking of the real Kitkat, there are a lot of visual changes. The translucent design for status bar and navigation bar is to start with. The backgrounds are now mostly white rather than black. The whole interface is a lot cleaner and minimalistic. The dialer application has got a huge overhaul among all the other native applications in Kitkat. By default you don’t see the dialer, but a list that combines your top 3 contacts, recent dialed contact and favorite contacts. Ofcourse you can switch to history view or open the dialer or open the contacts from this screen. It is also now tightly integrated with maps and Google+. The SMS application is now gone and completely replaced with Hangouts. I think Facebook messenger started this trend and Hangouts has taken the reigns. Though it is not as matured as the iMessage in the iOS, it is getting there. I find a few interactions in the Hangouts frustrating. When I send a message to a contact who is already in the Google contacts list, why must I see two different threads for SMS and Talk chat? Its also difficult to start a conversation and choose a contact. I prefer to choose the contact from the dialer app and then click on messaging icon to start the conversation. But the most frustrating feature of all is the inability to be invisible. I wish this features comes back to Google Hangouts sometime soon.
Another feature that interests the Geeks is the new ART runtime. Google’s default runtime is dalvik written Java and user Just In Time compiler. White Android Runt Time (ART) used Ahead of Time compiler. It is an experimental feature that aims to improve the overall performance. It is a bit early to talk about it in detail, so lets wait and see what Google has in store. Check out the performance charts below. Clearly ART runtime is way ahead of Dalvik. As it is an experimental feature, it is not turned on by default. You have to change to ART in the developer settings section. But I recommend not doing it for now, unless you are a developer.
Phonelicious rating – 9/10
At the heart the Nexus 5 is pumped by a MSM8974 Snapdragon 800 processor. It is a quad core processor with each core clocked at 2.3 GHz. It also has the latest Adreno 300 GPU. It has an internal memory of 16 or 32 GB. But the RAM is 2 GB. Putting all these together, we have a top end device with top end hardware under the hood. Given that it is an NExus device running on unskinned pure version of Android 4.4, the NExus 5 performance tops the charts. It is so clean and smooth that you dont notice the lag anywhere. None of the applications hang or get stuck up. I have updated my first generation Nexus 7 with the 4.4.2, yet I feel the visible differnce in the Nexus 5 because of its hardware performance.
Phonelicious rating 10/10
The Nexus 5 is equiped with a 3.8 V, 2300 mAh Lithium Ion battery. The ratings alone can’t help judge the battery performance. There are quite a few parameters like the software efficiency, hardware efficiency, processing intelligence are a few to name. Clearly Nexus 5 has a better performing battery backup than most of the smartphones. It takes about an hour to charge from 10 to 100%. For an average usage of always connected WiFi, 3G and sparingly used camera, browsing and reading along with a few calls placed in a day, the charge goes down from 100% to less than 20% in 22 hours on an average. Also the Nexus 5 has wireless charging capability out of the box which is worth the mention. It uses Qi standards for wireless charging and there is an official wireless charger available (not in India, though).
Phonelicious rating – 7/10
No device is perfect. Google Nexus 5 has its ups and downs. But it is the one of the mobiles that comes very close to being perfect and yet doesn’t reach over the last mile. Its got the best hardware, a very near design and a fantastic display. It runs on a clean, fresh and new version of the Android OS. If you are ready to compromise on the camera and speaker quality, this is a great mobile at this price. At just Rs 29k INR, it is the best your money can buy.
Overall Phonelicious rating – 8/10
Scroll down for more images of the Nexus 5 and the Camera sample gallery
Image Samples Gallery