12 Hours with the Nexus 5

Nexus 5

A lovely double date was had last night with Howard and his Mrs. An added bonus was that I got to take home a brand-new black 16GB Nexus 5 to try out.

I’ve only had it in my hands since dinnertime last night, but so far it’s looking like a worthy upgrade from the Nexus 4. Here is a brain-dump of my first impressions about the device…

The Feels

Just like this year’s Nexus 7, the 5’s premium feel belies its affordable price. A lot of this has to do with its rubbery back — which, unlike the Nexus 4, might at least make you consider not using a protective case.

This new Nexus is thinner and lighter than the 4, and just a hair taller. Yet somehow — amazingly — there’s an extra centimetre or so of screen along the vertical axis.

Two minor things that I don’t like:

1) The SIM card tray has been moved to just under the power button and the button itself is a bit smaller, so you’ll brush across the cover of the former every time your thumb reaches for the latter.

2) The circular grille covering the earpiece stands out, and not in a good way. It seems garishly retro where everything else on the device is sleek and understated. If you go for the black edition you’ll hardly notice it; if you opt for white, well… let’s talk about that in a bit.

Screen

Even before it’s turned on, the more generous display of the Nexus 5 is immediately apparent. Once lit up, bigger icons and fonts make the screen look larger still.

Comparing 1080p on the Nexus 5 to 720p on the Nexus 4 is made difficult by the fact that my 4 is currently running Paranoid Android — which tweaks the gamma on the IPS display to make for a more saturated and blue AMOLED look.

But make no mistake, the Nexus 5’s screen is fantastic.

Sound

It would have been so great if the Nexus 5 had the same stereo sound as the second-gen Nexus 7 tablet. Instead, there’s just one mono speaker firing out the bottom — the other set of holes are for the microphone.

Sound from videos and games is very average, and the placement of the speaker is problematic because you run the risk of muffling it with the palm of your hand when holding it in landscape mode.

Let’s just say that speaker quality won’t make any HTC One owners jealous. The volume is acceptable, at least.

A sample voice call across my apartment produced acceptable call quality on both ends. Do people still make voice calls anymore? 😛

LTE

Ok, so I’m on Koodo where I’ve the sneaking suspicion that the upload speeds are throttled. Despite this my first LTE speed test on a Nexus device yielded 26.84 Mbps down and 2.44 Mbps up. For a congested area of downtown Toronto that’s not bad at all.

LTE is itself a good reason to upgrade from a Nexus 4, unless you’re on a network that doesn’t support it.

Black vs. White

There were actually two Nexus 5s at dinner last night — the 16GB black model that I took home and also a 32GB white one that Howard ordered directly from Google on launch day last week.

If you’re still undecided on black vs. white you might want to check out this MKBHD video comparison that I posted to the news the other day. I will add that the white earpiece grille looks kind of like a pimple. Sorry for going there.

Pragmatically speaking black is the better choice because the sides use the same rubbery material that’s on the back, so it’s less likely to slip out of your hands. Assuming I end up buying a Nexus 5 for myself (which I’m planning to) it’ll be going in a case anyway, so the “wow” factor of a white back is moot.

On the other hand, a case negates the more slippery plastic sides of the white model, and hey —  if that earpiece grille is going to stick out like a sore thumb anyway why not own it? The white model does look much more like a consumer product and less like a developer device. Ultimately, it’s your call.

So that’s my first 12 hours with the Nexus 5. I haven’t even touched on KitKat yet, which is deliberate — I wanted to limit this first post to my observations about the hardware.

I’ll be checking in on the forums off and on over the weekend, so if you’ve any further queries about Google and LG’s latest collaboration, ask away.