The last two smartphones from Google's Nexus series have been built by LG, mimicking the company's LG Optimus G from last year and this year's LG G2. Both Nexus device features powerful internals,impressive price points and the promise of being first in line for the latest version of Android. Last year's Google Nexus 4 was great device overall, but faced criticism for poor battery and camera performance. Have Google and LG managed to get it right with this year's Google Nexus 5, and is the newest Nexus worth the upgrade?
Even though the Nexus 4 adopts the trademark Nexus shape, its roots are clearly of LG's Optimus G. This is because of its back plate, which features the same Crystal Reflective panel, which gives the glass a holographic, almost 3D look when the light catches it. It is a very striking design element and really set the Optimus G and Nexus 4 apart from other devices on the market. The sides are coated in soft touch to add grip, and they slope sharply towards the back to give the Nexus 4 better ergonomics in the hand. The button and port layout is fairly standard, as is the camera and speaker placement on the back of the device. The Nexus 4 brought back a premium feel to the Nexus line that went missing in the Samsung days. There was a very obvious focus on the design and the materials of the device, and the Nexus 4 is still a wonderful device to hold and use.
|Google Nexus 4 - Specs|
The Google Nexus 4 is manufactured by LG and features a 4.7 inch HD touch display, up to 16GB of internal storage an 8 megapixel camera capable of 1080p HD video capture and will be powered by a quad-core processor with 2GB of RAM.
With the Nexus 5, LG chose to follow a different design which has stronger influences from Google. In fact the Nexus 5 looks more like a shrunken down version of the Google Nexus 7 instead of LG's newest flagship the LG G2. The latest Nexus has a smaller 5 inch display (compared to the 5.2 inch of the G2) but opts for a traditional button layout and uses different materials. While the G2 features a glossy plastic housing, the Nexus 5 has soft touch plastic finish. However Google and LG have chosen a "silky" material on the white variant, which may not be as appealing.
|Google Nexus 5 - Specs|
The Google Nexus 5 specs include a 5 inch full 1080p HD display, 16GB and 32GB storage options, an 8 MP camera with OIS, a 1.3 MP camera for video calls, 4G LTE connectivity, wireless charging with a 2300 mAh battery and a quad-core CPU with 2GB of RAM.
While the design may not be as premium as what we have on the Nexus 4, the newer Nexus still features an excellent build quality. The choice of using a full plastic body has resulted in the Nexus 5 feeling slightly lighter in the hand compared to its predecessor. Another welcome change is the speaker placement, which is now on the bottom of the phone instead of on its back, making it less likely to be covered when placed face up.
The Google Nexus 4 features a 4.7 inch display with a 720p resolution and a 318 ppi pixel density. However it was not as bright or vibrant as the Optimus G. The Nexus 5 has a 4.95 inch 1080p display with a 445 ppi pixel density, which may be smaller than the LG G2, but it is just as crisp and vibrant as LG's flagship. The Nexus 5 also features Corning Gorilla Glass 3 protection, compared to the Gorilla Glass 2 display on the Nexus 4.
Both displays panels are IPS, giving excellent viewing angles and making them fairly easy to read in most any lighting conditions. However the Nexus 5 is the overall winner for its quality and higher pixel density.
Processor and Memory
Just like the Nexus 4, the Nexus 5 features the best processor the market has to offer at launch. Last year that was Qualcomm’s quad-core Snapdragon S4 Pro clocked at 1.5GHz, this year it is the quad-core Snapdragon 800 running at 2.3GHz. Both phones feature 2GB of RAM, but the Nexus 5 utilizes faster DDR3 versus last year’s Nexus 4 using DDR2. The graphics chip has been updated from the Adreno 320 to the 330, and base memory begins at 16GB, with an option for 32GB with the Nexus 5. Last year your options were 8 or 16GB, and neither device has expandable memory. However the lack of the 8GB model means that the base price of a Nexus smartphone is now $345 compared to last year's $299 for the 8GB Nexus 4.
All the enhancements provided in the new Nexus 5 have ensured that it is one of the fastest phones in the market and one of the best for mobile gaming. The Nexus 4 is still quick, and will likely get quicker due to the software optimizations made in Android 4.4, but it wouldn't be capable of matching the raw power of the Nexus 5.
Internet and Connectivity
The Nexus 4 was criticized for its lack of LTE connectivity, despite its very low price. The Google Nexus 4 packs a quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and penta-band 3G. The latter is backed by HSPA (42Mbps downlink, 5.76Mbps uplink).
The Wi-Fi support covers a/b/g/n, with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz band compatibility. Wi-Fi Direct and DLNA are part of the package, of course. The Wi-Fi Direct is a technology, which enables devices to connect to each other without the need for a Wi-Fi hotspot.
Using this technology two (or up to eight) devices can share files in a more advanced, fast and secure way, paving the road to an eventual Bluetooth demise.
NFC is also on board with support for Android Beam. With NFC you can share contacts, URLs, memos, messages, calendar events or even a call request to another NFC-enabled device or a tag.
The Google Nexus 4 also comes with a built-in A-GPS receiver that can rely on a digital compass and a barometer too (this helps get faster GPS locks).
The LG Nexus 5 starts off with the basics - quad-band GSM/GPRS/EDGE and penta-band 3G globally and dual-band CDMA and six HSDPA bands for the North American model. LTE is finally making its way to the Nexus family with seven supported bands in North America and six bands for the global model. The North American version of the Nexus 5 (D820) supports LTE on bands 1, 2,4,5, 17, 19, 25, 26 and 41, GSM 850, 900, 1800 and 1900MHz, WCDMA bands 1, 2, 4, 5, 6, 8 and 19 and CDMA band class 0, 1 and 10. For US users, that means the Nexus 5 will work on AT&T, Sprint and T-Mobile’s 2, 3 and 4G networks, and should be compatible with any of their prepaid subsidiaries. It will also support Sprint’s new Spark Network. Noticeably absent is Verizon support.
Google's latest Android flagship uses Bluetooth 4.0 alongside Wi-Fi support which includes a/b/g/n, as well as the new ac standard, with both 2.4GHz and 5GHz band compatibility throughout.
The Nexus 5 allows you to share all sorts of media via NFC by simply touching the device and other NFC-capable devices back-to-back.
USB on the go is a here too, although its implementation is far from ideal. You get to use all sorts of USB-connecting peripherals like mice and keyboards, but we couldn't get it to read any external storage - USB sticks, card readers and external hard drives were a no-go. There's a workaround to this using third-party apps, which suggests that for some reason Google disabled the functionality on purpose.
The LG Nexus 5 also offers wireless display streaming, which uses the Miracast standard. In essence it allows you to share the Nexus 5 screen content to a Miracast-supporting device via Wi-Fi.
Google has also worked hard to improve their camera with the Nexus 5. While you still have an 8 megapixel shooter from Nexus 4, LG has fitted it with optical image stabilization along with several improvements. This allows the Nexus 5 to outperform its predecessor in every aspect of camera performance. Colors are brighter, detail is crisper, noise is lower and focus is sharp.
While both devices record video at 1080p, the Nexus 5’s optical image stabilization really stood out by making the video much less jerky than the Nexus 4. Colors and details were again better, and mic pickup was also better. On the Nexus 4 the recorded audio tends to sound robotic with too much background noise, while the audio capture on the Nexus 5 sounds more natural.
Having tested the call quality on both the Nexus 4 and the Nexus 5, we found them to be equally impressive. However we are not certain if the new rounded earpiece design on the Nexus 5 is beneficial as certain reports suggest that the audio sounded muffled.
The Nexus 5 features a 2300mAh battery compared to the 2000mAh battery found on the Nexus 4. The battery was something we greatly struggled with on last year's Nexus and we hoped that the huge 300mAh battery on the G2 will find its way into the new flagship.
While the Nexus 5 is very efficient at retaining battery life when it is in sleep mode, we found the battery quickly drain when the device performed processor or screen intensive activities. This means that you may find yourself having to charge your Nexus 5 more than once a day with heavy use.
Thankfully, like its predecessor the Nexus 5 supports Qi wireless charging so it is easy enough to top off the device simply by setting it down.
The Google Nexus 5 was released running Android 4.4 KitKat out of the box, while the Google Nexus 4 runs Android 4.3 Jelly Bean and is still in the process of receiving KitKat. Even though the devices are expected to have the same features once they are on KitKat, Google has added a new "Google Experience" homescreen to the Nexus 5 which includes several enhancements.
Once of the new features is the ability to use the phrase "OK Google" on your homescreen to initiate Google Now, without having to swipe up from the home button. While this may not be as efficient as the always on implementation found on the Motorola Moto X, its still a neat addition which allows the Nexus 5 to stand out. Unfortunately this feature will not make its way to the Nexus 4, as the required hardware is embedded into the Snapdragon 800 but not the S4 Pro
The Google Experience also allows you to swipe to the far left to access Google Now, and includes a new interface for managing your homescreens and widgets.
With Android 4.4 KitKat, Google has introduced a new feature detects if a device has a dedicated audio processor. Since the Nexus 5 comes fitted with one it is capable of delivering drastically improved battery life compared to a standard application processor. Google claims that the Nexus 5 can deliver 60 hours of music playback. The Nexus 5’s larger and better display will deliver a better video experience than the Nexus 4. The interface for audio, video and the like are basically identical between the two Nexus devices, and while there may not be support for all codecs out of the box there are plenty of apps available in the Play Store that can play what you want.
Despite just being a year apart, Google has managed to make the Nexus 5 worth upgrading to. With an equally impressive price and top of the shelf specifications you wont feel let down as a new Nexus 5 owner or even if you are upgrading from your Nexus 4.
However its battery life is something we still find disappointing and would have loved to see a battery that could compete with some of the newer flagships.
Even though the Nexus 5 looks modest compared to the flashy expensive flagships on the shelf, you can rest assured that it can match and even overpower most of its competitors.