Hands-on: Nexus 5 review

Google has sent it’s flagship handset to fat camp, and it’s come back thinner and better looking than ever before, and we've already played with the new device ahead of the official announcement. Huzzah.

The new handset, which goes on sale in the UK and the US tomorrow (1 November) is thinner, lighter and faster than any other Nexus - and a great flagship for the firm’s new KitKat version of Android.

Crucially, the hardware is a big step forward for Google and LG, its manufacturing partner, sporting specs that many Android smartphones would go to the refurb store just to even get a chance of upgrading too.

It really feels like a truly high-end phone in the way that even the previous Nexus 4 didn’t, and Google has clearly spent a lot of time perfecting not just how it works, but crucially how it feels. There’s a new "silk" backing which is a slightly sticky plastic, and makes the phone feel secure.

READ: Google Nexus 5 vs Nexus 4: What's the difference?

The touchscreen, buttons and casing are all a significant improvement, but at 130g, it’s the weight loss that makes the Nexus 5 a real revelation.

Switch it on, and KitKat takes over.

It’s also been tweaked and polished, and it noticeably faster and more responsive than any other Android version we’ve seen.

Tap the search box, an you’re instantly in search, while a swipe left shows you Google Now - which has also been improved with new cards and each cards for groups of search results.

The new translucent menus look lovely, and the Nexus 5 screen shows it off well, with sharp, vivid colours.

READGoogle Nexus 5: Where can I get it?

The new dialler is also impressive, and something many of the Nexus rivals have overlooked - the search integration here, particularly with voice commands, is excellent, with the system walking you through each step of sending an email or text.

The cameras in Nexus devices have often been perceived as so-so - likely because Google uses Nexus to flaunt Android features rather than claims of a high-quality camera. That said, the camera has been slightly improved for the Nexus 5. The sensor is actually the same as the Nexus 4 (8 megapixels on the back and 1.3 megapixels on the front), but the Nexus 5 features optical image stabilisation and other nifty software bumps like HDR+. 

Check out the image below, as well as the gallery at the bottom, for a closer look at what kind of pictures the Nexus 5 can take. Reds and yellows seem a bit saturated. There's also some noise, not enough brightness, and bolstered contrast levels. Other than that though, the pictures do look vivid and crisp. The Nexus 5's camera quality will certainly be suitable enough for people not looking to buy a DSLR-smartphone combo.

Overall, this is arguably the best Android handset on the market - and we think it should should see Google making inroads into the high-end smartphone market, where it has traditionally struggled against Apple.

KitKat also raises the possibility of Google finally addressing the fragmentation issues that had plagued app developers, and Google promises it will run on every Android handset, high or low end, released in 2014.

While it’s unlikely to persuade iPhone owners to switch, the Nexus 5 is a much needed handset, showing that Google really does understand that quality hardware and attention to detail is as important as having good software.

In the US, the Nexus 5 will cost 16GB $349, 32GB $399 - available from today. In the UK, it will be available from tomorrow, 1 November, on Play and through O2 for 16GB £299 32GB £339. Carphone Warehouse will also stock the 16GB model.