Nexus 5X hands-on: a look at Google’s new affordable phone

by: Joshua VergaraSeptember 29, 2015
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Mid-fall has always been a special time for Android fans, thanks to Google’s habit of releasing new Nexus devices and new versions of Android around this time. This fall is no different. Actually, it’s better: Google has launched two Nexus smartphones for the first time ever, and we’ve got to play with both of them following the company’s media event in San Francisco.

The Nexus 5X has some big shoes to fill. In spirit, it’s the successor to the Nexus 5, probably the most beloved Nexus smartphone to date. LG is at its third Nexus smartphone, but is it the charm we’ve been waiting for? We find out in our Nexus 5X hands-on!

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Design and build quality

The leaks were spot on. The Nexus 5X features a clean front, but a rather busy backside, dominated by the center-mounted protruding camera. This is a design element that has become prevalent on new smartphones, but Google’s implementation sticks out both visually and physically, and is bound to be controversial. For what is worth, the company says it’s due to the need to accommodate a very large camera sensor.

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Near the camera, we can see the dual LED flash and the window of the laser-based autofocus system (evoking the LG G4), as well as the vertical Nexus logo.

The Nexus 5X is built of plastic and comes in white, black, or “ice blue.” The plastic construction somewhat resembles the build of the Nexus 5, and that’s not a bad thing. At a little over 130 grams, this is a light device that feels pretty good in the hand. The volume rocker and the power button are placed on the right side, while at the bottom you’ll find the USB Type C port, making the Nexus 5X among the first smartphones on the market with this feature.

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Display

The Nexus 5X keeps the Full HD resolution of its older namesake, but expands to a more modern 5.2-inch size. Quad HD has supplanted Full HD as the default resolution of flagship phones, but we won’t fault Google for keeping the Nexus 5X to Full HD, given the questionable benefits and increased power consumption of the higher resolution. Moreover, this looks like a very good LCD display, with nice brightness levels and color reproduction.

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Hardware and performance

The Nexus 5X is powered by a hexa-core Snapdragon 808, along with 2GB of RAM. The Nexus 5 is living proof that you can run Marshmallow without any issues on 2GB of RAM and an older processor, but moderns apps have higher requirements, raising the question of whether the Nexus 5X is future-proof enough.

Unlike the more upscale Nexus 6P, the 5X still starts from 16GB of storage; that’s a little disappointing in this age of high resolution content and complex apps, and we’d recommend opting for the 32GB model if it’s possible.

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Google adopted a USB Type C port for the Nexus 5X, and unlike the OnePlus 2, this is a true USB 3.1 connector that supports fast charging. That’s a welcome feature given that the 2,700 mAh battery does not come with wireless charging.

The other big hardware feature of the Nexus 5X is the fingerprint sensor on the back, which Google calls Nexus Imprint. This is supposed to unlock the device in 0.6 seconds, allowing you to bypass the lock screen. The circular fingerprint will also work with Android Pay and a number of third party apps, including the password manager LastPass.

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Camera

The Nexus 5X (like the Nexus 6P) features a 12.3 MP camera, whose sensor features 1.55 micron pixels that are larger than the typical smartphone camera fare, thus allowing in more light in challenging situations. This sensor is paired with an f/2.0 lens, a dual LED flash, and a laser-assisted autofocus system. Unfortunately, there is no optical image stabilization. On paper, this sounds like a solid combination, but as usual, the devil resides in the details. One notable usability improvement is the ability to quickly launch the camera with a double tap of the power button.

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Software

Perhaps the most visible user-facing feature in Android 6.0 Marshmallow is Google Now on Tap, which makes a contextual-aware version of Google Now available with a simple home button long press. Google also touts its biggest advancements yet in battery management and the Doze feature in particular should greatly extend standby times. The fingerprint authentication should make mobile security a bit less of a hassle and the new permissions system promises to give users more control over the info they share with apps.

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There you have it, our first look at the Nexus 5X. Two years ago, the Nexus 5 was almost only alone in terms of what it offered for the money. The market has migrated downrange since then, and the Nexus 5X has some strong competitors in its price bracket. Our review will settle whether the Nexus 5X is a good buy or not, but tell us your impressions: what do you think of LG’s third Nexus?

  • Dzulsallehhuddin Mohd Zol

    Wait it arrive Malaysia market.

  • Mike Bastable

    The pricing on the Nexus range in Europe is prohibitive and really needs some action from Google…how come they can sell the Chromecast for a basic 1 to 1 currency exchange but CANNOT (will not) do the same for the phones?
    Until the prices drop they will not sell many here, like even the Android One program phone is expensive in Holland….until they do something it is still better to go with LG or Moto for price AND quality.

    • LJ

      And it isn’t as if the currencies are even 1 to 1 when you compare it against a fairly weak dollar.

    • Shem68

      Agreed. I was eager to buy the Nexus 6P, but I’m NOT gonna spend 699€ on the 64Gb version. Not when you see the price of this year’s flagships these days (Galaxy S6 and LG G4 especially). And even more so, not when I know that prices are way higher specifically in Europe, like Google really intended to suck us dry. Well, not gonna happen, ima wait a price decrease, which I hope will occur soon, as son as they realize they’re not gonna sell much with these ridiculous prices.

    • meagan.donald

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  • Maik Adamietz

    I wouldn’t call over $300 affordable, over here it’s price will be over €400,- if not €500,- for the N5x…… As a buddy of mine said, the N5x is Based on the LGG4 but has lower hardware in every department but has a higher price tag for less phone.

    • Dan McSweeney

      €479 in Ireland forr the 16GB entry level 5X €649 for the 32GB 6P.
      Bonkers!

      Unknown yet if Moto X Style will be available direct in Ireland, but like previous models can be bought from the various European Amazons and a few other sources. Pricing looks like it will be around the 500 Euro mark, which seems a much better deal than 5X for just €20 more, unless you absolutely must have a fingerprint reader and USB-C.
      Currently you can get a 32GB Galaxy S6 off contract for about €465 from some sources here.
      LG G4 off contract can be had for €400 or less here.

      I don’t see many of these new Nexus phones selling here if the current pricing remains.

  • Mayur Gondhalekar

    Pricing for Europe seems ridiculous. One plus one for eg is available for only Euro 300 in Germany and has everything that Nexus 5 X has save for the fingerprint sensor (plus 3 GB RAM). Nexus 5X at max should sell at Euro 350 in Europe else its pointless.

    • Diskus1

      By law consumer prices in Europe always include VAT. For Sweden this is 25 %, Germany 19 % etc.

      • hdplus

        370$ are ~337€. It’s the opposite from what you told. Or am I wrong now? lol I suck at changing money haha but I heard it’ll be much more expensive. Oh, read now it will be 479€ Google is so stupid. I know taxes aren’t on there. But compared to other phone’s prizes… I can get a G Flex 2 with SD810, 2GB RAM for 140€ less…

        • Diskus1

          No, you are correct. I was fooled by my bank listing “EUR/USD -0,28 1,1196”. The € is worth more, so:

          $379 / 1,12 ($/€) x 1,23 (VAT Ireland) = € 416, so rest of difference is shipping and whatever.

          • Mayur Gondhalekar

            LG is doing business all over the world. It sells the G3 and G4 in Germany at normal prices (not US price + export etc). for E.g. LG G4 costs about $600 in US and Euro 500 in Germany. That way almost all countries have some sort of import taxes but companies work around these rules by having warehouses and plants in multiple countries.

    • Joshua

      United States is better. Plain and simple. I’m glad google charges more, Europeans whine to much.

  • Scr-U-gle

    So Google are ripping you off again, changing the charging connector.

    All those old speakers etc are now junk. What a con by Google.

  • WarTeiner

    you guys are not using Youtube Anymore?

  • tony solinan

    I am going for the nexus 6P,as the price and spec’s are just what I have been waiting for from all the android phones,I HAVE BEEN waiting for, there I 1 other that I might go for, and that’s the 2015 moto x or should I say the Motorola style!