Nuu Mobile G5 is the new flagship from Nuu Mobile for 2020. And the G5 continues the tradition of being priced attractively and starts at $159.99.
The Nuu Mobile G3 was a great sub $200 device when it was introduced in 2018. And, we had a lot of good things to say about the Nuu Mobile G3 in our review.
But this is 2020 and 2 years is an eternity in the fast-paced and ever-changing smartphone market. Thankfully Nuu Mobile G5 checks all the boxes in its price segment for 2020. Great design, good ergonomics, large bright display, punch hole for the selfie camera, thin bezels, big battery, and of course a quad camera. Oh, and they actually brought back the headphone jack!
Of course, there are plenty of tradeoffs to hit that $160 price point. The camera performance is nowhere close to a flagship let alone the Pixel 4a. The processor for that matter is actually a tiny bit slower than the G3. But let's be real. This phone is targeted at the budget-conscious crowd. And the target audience wants a phone that offers a good all-round experience in daily use.
Nuu Mobile G5 does perform admirably well in day-to-day use. The cameras perform quite well in daylight and the camera app itself is very robust. Battery life is great thanks to a generous 5,000 mAh cell. Software is basically zero bloat stock Android which is great. Nuu Mobile also includes a nice TPU case, factory-installed screen protector, and headphones in the box along with a 10W charging brick and a USB-C cable.
In a nutshell, this is a lot of smartphone for the money. But let's take a closer look at how the pros and cons stack up after a week of using this device.
G5 Design is comparable to more expensive phones
One thing Nuu Mobile does well is hardware design. The G3 looked stunning with its Galaxy S9 inspired design, especially in red. The G5 continues in the tradition but is completely refreshed for 2020. The front has a clean look with a punch-hole display and uniform bezels on the top and side rails. There is a slightly larger bottom chin but it isn't too egregious. The top earpiece speaker grille integration into the frame is tastefully done. This phone is significantly larger too but it feels quite light in hand.
The fingerprint scanner is on the rear backplate in the center towards the top. In my review period, the FPS always worked quickly and accurately.
On the top left-hand rear corner is a rectangular quad-camera module including the flash. The quad-camera module gives a nice premium look to the phone. However, the camera module shows a raised lip on the left edge since it is close to the curved edge of the backplate. While the right-hand side of the module side is flush with the backplate.
I absolutely love the deep blue color backplate which reflects light in some neat eye-catching patterns. There is one major flaw though. The backplate is extremely static prone and picks up dirt/lint very quickly and is a pain to clean the back surface. And this behavior carries over to the fingerprints as well. So your best option is to put that smoke color TPU case which comes with the phone.
Power and volume buttons are on the right-hand side in an easy to reach position. The textured power button from the previous generation is gone. The left-hand side has the dual-SIM tray slot towards the top. On the bottom frame are a 3.5mm headphone jack, call microphone, USB-C port, and a single speaker from left to right. The top frame of the device has a clean uncluttered look.
Build quality and is top-notch, no squeaks, rattles, or creaks at all. I am impressed with the overall fit and finish. To be frank I didn't expect it to be this good.
Let's check out the big 6.55" display
The 6.5-inch display with a 1600 x 720 HD+ resolution has good brightness levels and color gamut. The display has 266 pixels per inch density so pixel peeping is not going to yield any major pixelation flaws. Overall screen to body ratio is 83.1% with a 20:9 widescreen ratio. You should expect no issues with everyday reading, browsing, or watching videos on YouTube or Netflix. Night light mode is also available which is a nice touch.
Nuu Mobile G5 screen is significantly better than the G3 in my opinion. Colors are accurate, brightness is good in pretty much all viewing conditions and the screen responds to touch input without any errors. The screen has around 400 nits of brightness and did not have any outdoor visibility issues in sunny Southern California.
Even though side by side it looks like G3 has a brighter screen in direct sunlight, the colors on the older G3 are too saturated and unnatural. The display on the G5 looks more realistic and pleasing. One more thing, the G5 display is 266 ppi whereas the G3 display is 282 ppi. So on paper, the newer screen is slightly worse. However, in my time with the G5, I felt that the text is easier to read on the G5 without any pixelation. This is something I can never say about the G3.
The display panel is protected by scratch-resistant 2.5D glass. Keep in mind that underneath that matte film on the front display is a factory-installed HD film screen protector which is of far superior quality than the tinted sheen cheap film Samsung put on my S20 FE.
Nuu Mobile G5 performance
The G5 uses a MediaTek Helio A25 processor which is basically a slightly underclocked Helio P25 processor that was in the G3. The older processor was a 16nm design while this is a newer 12nm FinFET processor. The improvements are mostly in battery life at lower clock speed using the same big:little Cortex A53 core architecture from before. There are four Cortex A53 cores clocked up to 1.80GHz and four Cortex A53 cores at 1.50GHz. Performance is not flagship or mid-range level. However, since there is 4GB RAM onboard, in daily use I had zero issues running my regular apps.
So regular apps are fine, but what about gaming? The short answer is, don't try PUBG or Call of Duty or even Fortnite on this phone. But low graphics intensity games like Angry Birds, BB Racing, Subway Surfers play just fine. Switching between these games and regular apps was also not an issue in my use case.
Geekbench 5 CPU scores are in line with expectations, 140 for Single-Core score, and 839 for Multi-Core score. The older G3 scores are just a tad bit better, at 179 for Single-Core and 861 for Multi-Core. In case you are wondering, neither device was capable of running the Compute benchmark test.
Look the A25 isn't the fastest processor in this segment, but with 4GB RAM and stock Android, the phone runs just fine. However, you'll definitely feel that it's a budget phone when compared to a phone with a better processor, more RAM, and a high refresh rate screen.
Upon initial setup, you will notice that about 10GB storage gets used up for system software and Google apps. So about 50 GB of storage is still available for your photos, videos, other apps, and games. If additional storage is a must, just add a micro SD card to the slot next to the SIM card. Just remember that you will lose the 2nd SIM functionality if you use a micro SD card for storage.
Near Stock Android 10 out of the box
My test unit G5 came with Android 10 and the September 2020 security patch. During the initial setup, it automatically downloaded the October 2020 Google Play system update. Outside the settings menu, the phone looks and feels just like how my Google Pixel 4XL prior to the Android 11 update.
The launcher, the standard Google feed as you swipe left and the home screen are all stock Android. So are the pulldown notifications and quick settings menu as well. There are some subtle differences in the Settings menu. I saw a lot more options rows compared with regular Android. I am okay with a long list of options. However, my main complaint is that it takes a few more taps and clicks to get information in the settings menu when compared with stock Android. For example, trying to find out Screen-On-Time in the battery menu isn't as straightforward as tapping Battery Usage.
The 'About phone' menu hides a few tutorials about some of the camera features, gesture navigation, and a few more items. The OTA wireless update toggle is also tucked away in this particular setting.
Overall stock Android with virtually zero bloatware means the phone feels fast and snappy in regular use. Only one extra app gets loaded during setup, which is the Nuu Live Support app and it cannot be uninstalled. But hey, you can contact Nuu easily if you need any after-sales support.
My main gripe about software is not the version currently running on the device. It is about when Android 11 will come to the phone or if at all. You see, my skepticism stems from the fact that my old G3 is still stuck on Android 8.0 Oreo. I thought at a minimum it would get the goodness of Android 9.0 but nope. Now to be fair, it did get a security patch update earlier to March 2020 version. Nuu does say that this device will get 2 years of security patch updates but no word on OS updates.
Nuu Mobile G5 Camera takes great daylight shots
The quad-camera array in the back consists of a 16MP f/1.8 main sensor, an 8MP f/2.2 wide-angle, and two 2MP sensors. The wide-angle camera has a 119° field-of-view. The 16MP selfie camera is f/2.0 and so is slightly inferior to the rear main camera.
The camera app has a lot of features. It has dedicated Night Mode, HDR, Super HD, and Pro Mode in addition to the regular Photo and Video modes. Portrait mode is available on main rear camera and selfie camera as well. There are some additional options in the More toggle towards the right including Panorama, Time Lapse, Slow Motion, Macro mode, QR code scanner. Additionally, there's also a GIF creator, Creative filters, and Glamor mode.
For the most part, you should stick with the Photo and HDR modes which use the main camera sensor. The main camera is by far the best of the bunch. Wide-angle camera is accessible only via Photo mode. And once you select that its point and shoot – no HDR, no portrait blur, no other options are available. What is even sadder is that you cannot shoot any video using the wide-angle camera.
Let's take a look at some of the pictures in full resolution in our Flickr gallery.
In daylight, pictures have good detail with lots of contrast. Although I did notice that the pictures tend to come out on the cooler side with a slight skew towards red tint. The pictures have punchy colors, but this can sometimes come at the expense of shadow detail. Images are not oversharpened and that is actually a good thing. I had no issues capturing moving objects with reasonable clarity with the main camera. Overall daylight pictures using the rear camera are good for viewing on the phone's screen or sharing on social media
Side-by-side comparison with HDR, Photo and Super HD mode yield mixed results. After a lot of pixel peeping on a large 22-inch monitor here is my advice. Use Photo mode when you need a picture in a pinch, if the subject is still use the HDR mode which takes about two seconds more to process the image. Use Super HD mode sparingly as the incremental improvement in detail and sharpness is offset by some ridiculously large image file size. Oh, and the Super HD mode picture takes about 4 to 5 seconds longer to process so keep that in mind as well.
Portrait mode in good lighting produces decent overall results but struggles with hair especially if it is loose or wavy. This observation applies to the main rear camera and the front selfie cam.
A few other interesting tidbits to close out the photo section. Macro mode doesn't use the 2MP camera but uses the wide-angle lens so I was curious about what the 2MP extra sensors do. Covering each lens one by one reveals that the app only takes photos/videos using either the main camera or the wide-angle camera. So perhaps the other two cameras are there just for the sake of being present?
Moving onto low-light situations, let's just say that the pictures come out really dark and grainy without any meaningful detail. For all intents and purposes, the cameras are good in daylight only. The final low-light performance is definitely not surprising especially at this price point.
The G5 is able to capture videos in FHD or 1080p for both front and rear cameras. Microphone performance in video mode for both front and rear cameras is good. I think the rear camera microphone performance is slightly better though. As long as you are not running or walking fast (no image stabilization) and there is daylight, the video quality is serviceable.
Long story short, in daylight, the camera performs well, the app has a lot of modes and options. Results in terms of videos, photos including selfies are reasonably good considering the price. If you are looking for better pictures including portraits, and image stabilization in videos then I believe you need to consider other options.
2-Day battery life on Nuu Mobile G5 is definitely within reach
Despite my efforts, I wasn't able to kill the 5,000-mAh battery in a day. With about 4-5 hours SOT on average in a day, I still saw about 50% left in the tank. The Nuu G5 is definitely a 9+ hour SOT phone. This very easily translated to recharging the phone at night every alternate day. Battery life is one area where the newer 12nm processor outperforms the older P25 processor in the G3.
So the battery life is stellar without a doubt. But this also translates into some really long recharging times for the massive 5,000 mAh battery. Additionally, there is no fast charging support of any kind.
Charging time was over 3 hours from zero to 100% battery capacity using the 10W charging brick in the box. The charging time is definitely on the high side. So the best option would be to just charge it every other night.
Comparing G5 audio quality with that of G3 yields interesting results
The G3 impressed us with its audio quality in 2018. So how does the new G5 perform in this department? I decided to use my wired MEE X1 in-ear-monitors along with the Bluetooth Enacfire E60 earbuds for audio testing. For the G3 I had to use a 3.5mm to USB-C dongle for the wired audio test.
The G3 and G5 side-by-side comparison reveal a couple of interesting observations. First, the wired headphone output is absolutely on point with both these devices. The audio output is crisp and clear and rivals that of what LG phones have typically put out in the past. You feel like the audio is going through a high-end DAC before reaching your ears. It is great to see the headphone jack alive and well on the G5. And it is even better that the audio output is so good.
On the wireless audio front, the audio output is good but needs a volume level bump of about 3 clicks to get the same results as the headphone jack. Pairing was seamless and quick with the E60 earbuds. Bluetooth connection stayed put while playing music or watching videos without any drops.
There is only one bottom-firing speaker on the right-hand side of the device. The speaker gets plenty loud but lacks bass. On a side note, the huge size of the phone makes it a nice sound chamber. So if you manage to cover it by accident there is still enough sound traveling up and coming out of the earpiece.
Same great connectivity as before
Nuu Mobile G5 supports GSM networks so if you are an AT&T or T-Mobile or their MVNO customer it should work just fine out of the box. Verizon and its MVNO users need to look elsewhere. This trend of Verizon being left out in the budget segment seems to be becoming more and more common these days.
In my particular case, VoLTE and VoWiFi symbols popped up as soon as I put my T-Mobile SIM card in the phone. The data speeds are comparable to what I get on my Pixel 4 XL on the same network. It is unreasonable to compare this device to a 5G capable device and hence the comparison with the Pixel 4XL. The G5 supports a robust 11 different LTE bands so connectivity shouldn't be too much of an issue. Texting, streaming music via Spotify, or watching videos on YouTube is a breeze on the go on 4G LTE.
Bluetooth connectivity did not show any difference compared to other flagship-level devices. My E60 earbuds synced up with the phone every time without any issues. I didn't notice any difference in call connectivity using wired or wireless earbuds. Speaking of calls, the call quality was excellent using the main mic (handset) or using the speakerphone mode. FM Radio works just fine once you plug a pair of headphones into the 3.5mm jack.
The only knock against this phone as far as connectivity is concerned is the lack of NFC for Google Pay or Android Share. Now to be fair, a majority of phones in this price range don't have this feature. However, Nuu Mobile G3 did have it so the omission this time around is a bit perplexing and a definite step back. Moreover, touchless payments are on the rise in the COVID-19 era so it would have been a nice feature to have and definitely made the G5's case more compelling.
Last thing to note that the phone is Dual-SIM so you can theoretically run on both AT&T and T-Mobile networks here in the USA. However, note that if you use a micro SD card for extra storage you will give up one of the SIM slots. Not a huge deal breaker but something to definitely keep in mind prior to purchasing the G5.
Is the Nuu Mobile G5 a good buy for $160?
So is the Nuu Mobile G5 worth $160? The short answer is yes.
While performance stays the same as the previous phone, the G5 is arguably better in a lot of ways. The screen is substantially larger with minimal bezels and just a punch hole giving it a clean look in the front. The back gets a nice looking camera module which produces good results in daylight. It retains the clean stock Android software and the fingerprint scanner is still fast and accurate. Battery life gets a huge bump to 5,000 mAh making this easily an 8+ hours SOT or 2-day battery life phone. Oh and Nuu actually brought back the headphone jack with the G5 which pumps out great sound. If it had not omitted NFC I would have zero hesitation in giving this phone 5 stars.
In summary, if you are looking at sub $200 unlocked smartphones, the Nuu Mobile G5 should definitely be on your shortlist.