Unless you’ve just emerged from a cave, you know that Google launched their latest Nexus smartphone, the Google Nexus 5, on October 31. I got my hands on it a few days back and now bring you an unboxing as well as my first impressions of the device.
There isn’t too much to this unboxing so we’ll let the pictures do the talking:
Look and feel
Right out of the box, the first point in the Nexus 5’s favour is that Google and LG have opted to do away with the glass back we saw on the Nexus 4 in favour of a soft-touch plastic similar to that on the Nexus 7 (2013). It should make for a few less cracked casings in the days to come – I’d only had my Nexus 4 for a few days when it slid off a binder to the floor.
A closer look reveals a solidly built device but one that lacks the premium finish of a true flagship device like the HTC One. The ceramic power button and volume rocker should stand up well to the constant presses.
While the Nexus 5 shares much in common with the LG G2 under the hood, it is very much its own device and more reminiscent of the Nexus 4 in terms of look. The design is simple, efficient and quite comfortable. If there is one sore point, it is the slightly protruding rear camera. It feels like it’s not seated properly (more on the camera a bit later).
As expected, the 4.95-inch display means that the Nexus 5 is larger than the Nexus 4, albeit not by much due to the smaller bezels. The Nexus 5 also feels quite a bit slimmer than the Nexus 4 despite only being about half a millimeter thinner. Perhaps the fact that it’s also slightly lighter (130 grams versus the Nexus 4’s 139 grams) helps in that department.
|Height (mm)||Width (mm)||Thickness (mm)||Weight (g)|
Overall, the Nexus 5 is not a huge departure from the Nexus 4 in terms of design but Google and LG have clearly learned some lessons from their first partnership. Those upgrading from the Nexus 4 will feel at home.
The second point in the Nexus 5’s favour is the inclusion of LTE. Google and LG teased us with this with the Nexus 4 but we finally get the real deal with support for North American bands on the LG-D820 and ROW on the LG-D821. Google raised a lot of eyebrows by not including LTE on the Nexus 4 but recent chip advancements since then have made a simple endeavour (and an almost de rigueur one).
Now, if my local carrier could only improve LTE reception near my house so that I see more than a bar or two.
With a quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 with an Adreno 330 GPU backed by 2GB of RAM (along with the enhancements in Android 4.4 KitKat), performance is fluid and effortless. I never really found the Nexus 4 to be laggy but the Nexus 5’s performance highlights how far processors have come even in the last year. Everything is just that much smoother and faster.
KitKat has also brought a number of subtle tweaks and improvements and a greater focus on Google Now which now gets its own dedicated homescreen. Some changes may take a bit more getting used to. For example, Google has updated the dialler and rolled up SMS into its Hangouts app (although the latter can be changed to an other app). Overall though, it will not take much to get up to speed on Android 4.4 and it does give Android a bit more polish.
As mentioned above, Google and LG have not only done a great job packing a larger 4.95-inch display without making the Nexus 5 much larger than the Nexus 4. They’ve also bumped up the resolution to Full HD (1080×1920). It is also a definite improvement over its predecessor when it comes to direct sunlight. Perhaps not the best, the Lumia 1020 springs to mind as being better, but an improvement nonetheless. If there is one complaint to be had, it’s that colours do seem to be somewhat washed out, especially when compared to that of some other flagship devices with 1080p displays.
An other area that has improved is touch response. It is much more fluid and responsive than it was on the Nexus 4.
The jury is still out here at EyeOnMobility headquarters on this item. As soon as specifications were confirmed, I had reservations about the 2,300mAh battery. Only slightly larger than the one on the Nexus 4, it remains to be seen if it will be an improvement. Sure Android 4.4 and the new processor are supposed to be kinder to the battery but there is also the matter of that larger and higher resolution display. I’ve been able to get through the day with the Nexus 5 so far but I’ll have to see how it performs when I really start to tax it.
I also noticed that the battery also took an inordinately long time to charge the first few times I did so. This seems to be getting better but something I’ll keep a close eye on for our in-depth review.
As for the camera, Google’s Vic Gundotra promised to give Nexus phones “insanely great cameras” a while back. Optical Image Stabilization promised to be a step in the right direction but our initial shots suggest that the Nexus 5 falls dramatically short in this area. The camera’s inability to focus properly even in well-lit conditions suggests something more than just another below par Nexus camera. It will attempt to focus for several seconds before simply giving up.
There are rumours of a software update already in the works to address some of these concerns but it appears that this could be hardware related as I’ve seen similar reports that triggered unit replacements.
Judge for yourself:
Update: Google is sending me a replacement device. I will reserve judgement on the camera until I have the new one in hand.
At this early point, it does look like Google and LG have learned quite a bit from what worked and what did not with the Nexus 4. The Google Nexus 5 looks to be an improvement in almost every aspect but I have some concerns around battery life and the camera. It is not a flagship device but it does not pretend to be one either. At CA$349 for the 16GB model and CA$399 for the 32GB model, there is a lot to like in the Nexus 5 and little not to like.
Here’s hoping that my replacement device has a better camera so that I can bring you a more in-depth review.