Monday, November 18, 2013

Hands-on review: Updated: Google Nexus 5

Hands-on review: Updated: Google Nexus 5

Hands-on review: Updated: Google Nexus 5

We're very close to finishing our full review of the Google Nexus 5 - we're pretty impressed by this low price, so will the hardware match up? Check out our updated hands on to see some early thoughts.

The new Nexus 5 manages to offer a huge step up in power while maintaining a brilliantly low price tag.

The Google Nexus 5 is a phone that's the product of constant evolution, companies one-upping each other as they try to prove they can make the best Nexus.

The Nexus One was HTC's only shot at the title, with Samsung making two more then LG getting the nod for the most recent edition, the Nexus 4.

Google Nexus 5 review

While that was a decent phone for a stellar price, the Nexus 5 is a huge step forward for a number of reasons - not least the $ 349 / AU$ 399 price tag (for the 16GB version - it's $ 399 / AU$ 449 for the 32GB iteration).

There's the Snapdragon 800 chip at the heart of things, running the show incredibly smoothly. The Google Nexus 5 is based loosely on the LG G2, with the same processor and similar IPS LCD screen, albeit with the new Google phone coming in at a smaller 4.95-inch.

Google Nexus 5 review

This means that video and internet browsing looks stellar, with colours bright and vivid without looking over saturated, as we've seen on the Super AMOLED screens of the Samsung Galaxy S4 and Note 3.

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In terms of design, the Google Nexus 5 manages to achieve the odd combination of both feeling premium and solid in the hand, while also living up to its cheaper price tag.

The build quality is solid, with no removable parts (bar the locked in SIM tray) making the Nexus 5 feel well-packaged in the hand. The camera sensor is verging on the iconic thanks to the large protruding ring, which seems a little unnecessary as while there's a lot of camera tech in there, it's not enough of a raise to really pack more in.

Nexus 5 review

More likely is that the ring is there to keep the glass of the camera lens from getting scratched when laid down on the table, which makes sense and doesn't really detract from the overall feel of the phone.

What does irk is the material though â€" it's a kind of rubberised plastic, and makes the phone feel neither glossy and sophisticated or premium in ways other polycarbonate-clad devices manage.

It's not terrible, but especially if you pick up the white version of the Nexus 5, you'll regularly notice that it's made out of plastic, albeit a fairly robust material.

Google Nexus 5 review

The camera on the Nexus 5 is something of a mixed bag. It's an 8MP snapper, which might not appeal to some when there are a number of 13MP+ handsets out on the market.

But there's more to the phone than just a number: it's also got optical image stabilisation (OIS) which will automatically help remove blur from photos and unwanted judder during videos as well.

Nexus 5 review

The onboard user interface is pretty useful as well, with a clever 'floating arc' system that allows you to move through the menus from anywhere on the display. Elements like HDR+ are a nice addition too, as the Nexus 5 can quickly enhance your photos to get the optimum balance of brightness and darker scenes to give a really great impression.

However, the overall quality of the pics you take is only middling. Like so many cameraphones the Nexus 5 will work rea lly well in optimum conditions, such as a bright day with distinct colours, but move too far from that scenario and things start to get a little noisier.

Nexus 5 review

It's still a lot better than a number of other cameraphones on the market, and it's surprisingly good at maintaining detail in digital zoom, so you can get nice and close to objects even after the picture is taken.

The Nexus 5 also has a really fast shutter speed, making it great to try and grab a snap from a moving scene, but it still doesn't pack the awesome power and mode choices of something like the Nokia Lumia 1020 or LG G2, for instance.

Google Nexus 5 review

The overall desig n of the Google Nexus 5 is impressive, while not coming anywhere close to the construction of the metal-clad HTC One or similar. It sits in the hand well, has a high quality screen and everything works well when you want it to.

One of the main reasons users will want a Nexus device is the ability to get their hands on the latest version of Android, bringing with it the new ideas that Google is plugging on its OS before anyone else.

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Android 4.4 (or KitKat, thanks to a tie-in with Nestle) is a relatively large step forward for Android users, as it adds in elements that really improve the navigation experience. For instance, when reading a book or watching a movie, the navigation and notification bars will completely disappear to let you get the most out of that gloriously large screen.

On top of that, Google has finally engineered Android to make full use of the display in standby mode by letting wallpapers extend through the notifications bar at the top and the system buttons at the bottom of the screen.

Nexus 5 review

This doesn't sound like much, but comparing this version of Android with the previous iterations makes KitKat feel a lot more complete and visually attractive.

Other key tweaks include being able to see your most important people at the top of your contacts list, and the Nexus 5 will look around for local business numbers when you get a call from someone unknown â€" you can even reverse this trick to essentially give you the Yellow Pages right in your phone dialler.

Google Nexus 5 review

Media is also a key consideration for Google, given that this phone is subsidised mostly to allow users to gain easy access to its Google Play Store, buying lots of content to bolster the search giant's coffers.

The music and video apps on the Nexus 5 aren't the most powerful or easy to glide through to get to your content, as they're so deeply fused with videos and music gleaned or stream from the Google Play Store.

Nexus 5 review

However that, in a way, is the beauty of Google's 'naked' Android offering â€" you can choose to use the basic on-board apps, but there are so many better options on the Store to improve the experience with almost any functionality you could desire if you're prepa red for a little trial and error.

The good news is the hardware can keep up â€" the Snapdragon 800 chip is also very accomplished sonically, meaning if you've invested in a decent set of earbuds you'll be rewarded with clear and pure sound. Even YouTube videos sound rich and bass-filled, as well as obviously being easy to stream through the 4G connection on board.

Nexus 5 review

One of the biggest elements of Google's Android range is the ability to control the handset using the Google Now app â€" it's integrated throughout the phone through an upward swipe from the bottom of the screen and gives instant access to the search interface.

However, there's another nifty trick with the Nexus 5, one that's been borrowed from the Motorola suite (which Google also owns): the ability to simply say 'OK Google' wh en in the Now app or even just on the homescreen and have the phone listen to your voice.

It's not as clever as the Moto X handset, which debuted this feature, because you do have to have the Nexus 5 unlocked to use the activation voice command, and by that time you'll be tempted to just use the far more effective fingers you've got to control the handset.

But it's a cool trick and more accurate than you'd imagine for a voice recognition engine â€" it's a lot better than Siri, for example, in that respect, and gives you the instant ability to send a quick message or start the music player.

Google Now is a very rich app that also sits on the left hand side of all your home screens, always available to swipe to when you open the phone. From here you can get info on the easiest way to get home, see how your favourite team is doing or even get a notification when your plane is going to leave â€" the latter achieved through Gmail inbox scanning.

Nexus 5 review

Google is improving its Now app with every iteration of Android, and we're finally at the point when it can be considered the true heart of the Android experience; as the voice processing improves, you'll easily get to the point where hands free use will be a natural way to use the phone.

In summary, KitKat is a good upgrade, making the Android OS more integrated than ever before, but if you're waiting to get it on your HTC One or Samsung Galaxy S4, you don't need to worry too much given these handsets already have a decent skin to hide such elements.

Google Nexus 5 review

The rest of the Nexus 5 is pretty basic; Google wants the stock Android buyers to just get on with downloading their own apps and making the phone their own. With that in mind, the Nexus 5 is a really good option, as the larger screen is perfect as a blank canvas to paint upon as you see fit.

Google Nexus 5 review

Early verdict

The Nexus range has taken a real step forward here. The Nexus 4 was a great option for those that don't want to spend a lot, but the handset really began to creak after too long.

The Nexus 5, while a little later in the year compared to the other top-end handsets, seems to be a lot more bullet-proof in terms of being able to carry on chugging for a couple of years.

And what's better is that this will cost very little to buy directly from Google , meaning many will be able to snap this up and go on a rolling SIM-only deal to give freedom to upgrade when they want.


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//PART 2