The Nexus 5 was arguably one of the most popular Nexus smartphones ever made, and with LG also manufacturing its predecessor, the company was quickly becoming a fan favorite as a Nexus manufacturer. Motorola may have been given the opportunity to create the high-end Nexus 6 after it, but here we are, two years after the Nexus 5 was launched, with its somewhat unexpected, yet highly anticipated sequel, once again from LG.
The growing number of high quality but affordable smartphones means that the competition is completely different from what the Nexus 5 had to face, but does its spiritual successor manage to improve upon what made the original so good? We find out, in this comprehensive Nexus 5X review!
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The LG-manufactured Nexus 5X features a design language and build quality that is very similar to the Nexus 5, but in today’s landscape filled with metal-clad and glass-backed premium handsets, the latest Nexus smartphone is considered more of a mid-range device than a flagship, especially now that the more high-end Nexus 6P is in the picture. The Nexus 5X is made entirely of plastic and, therefore, feels extremely lightweight, weighing just a little over 130 grams. That’s not to say that the device feels cheap in the hand, as it is very sturdily built, but the Nexus 5X doesn’t offer the premium feel that you get with a device made with metal or glass.
It is a very attractive device as well, with its rounded corners and back that tapers slightly. The plastic rear comes in a matte finish that not only helps avoid fingerprints, but also makes it very easy to grip the phone. With a comparatively smaller 5.2-inch display, the handling experience available with the Nexus 5X is fantastic, with the phone’s relatively compact size also allowing for comfortable one-handed use.
As was the case with the last few Nexus smartphones, there is a Nexus logo on the back of the Nexus 5X, written in the landscape orientation. Unlike previous iterations where the logo was embossed or made of separate pieces, it is simply painted on this time around. This has likely been done to avoid any issues with the letters falling off, which has happened in the past, but this also means that the paint might fade over time. There is also a slight bulge with the rear camera, but it isn’t as glaring as some other devices with protruding lenses, due to the back panel tapering upwards to meet the lens.
Taking a look around the device, on the right side is the power button and the volume rocker, and while the buttons are very easy to press, the tactile feedback isn’t as solid as would be expected. The SIM card slot and a microphone are on the left and up top respectively, and at the bottom is the headphone jack and the USB Type-C port, with the Nexus 5X joining the slowly growing ranks of smartphones that have adopted this new standard. In true Nexus fashion, there is also a bright LED notification light that is cleverly hidden under the grill of the front-facing speaker.
USB Type-C is a slight inconvenience at the moment
USB Type-C does remain an inconvenience however, with the latest USB standard being so new. The reversible nature is great, but given the fact that the cable included in the box is USB Type-C on both ends, it is certainly a hassle for charging the device on the go, with you having to remember to keep the included charger and cable at hand. Unlike with the Nexus 6P, there is no USB Type-C to regular USB cable available in the box, so you will need to shell out some extra money to pick up one of these cables for your data transfer needs, depending on what your computers support.
The Nexus 5X comes with a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display, with a Full HD resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 424 pixels per inch. Even though this screen isn’t of the Quad HD variety, you won’t find yourself missing the higher resolution, with this display still offering plenty in the way of sharpness. The viewing angles are fantastic, and the colors aren’t overly saturated. The drawback here is when it comes to outdoor visibility, which is still manageable with the brightness set to the highest level, but this isn’t the easiest screen to see in direct sunlight.
Under the hood, the Nexus 5X comes with a hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, clocked at 1.82 GHz, and backed by the Adreno 418 GPU and 2 gigabytes of RAM. This is similar to the processor package found with LG’s current flagship, with the exception of a lower 2GB of RAM, which might seem a little low, but there have been zero issues with performance thus far. It handles everything from general tasks to multi-tasking to gaming very well, and things remain smooth and snappy throughout, undoubtedly helped along by the pure Android experience available on-board. It will be interesting to see how future proof this device is, but for now, it manages to hold its own quite well.
Setting up Nexus Imprint for the first time is extremely fast
The most notable addition in hardware is the fingerprint scanner on the back, a useful addition possible because of Android 6.0 Marshmallow’s built-in fingerprint support, which Google is calling Nexus Imprint. The scanner is conveniently located to be within very easy reach of your index finger, and lets you wake up and unlock the device in one go. The setup process is also extremely fast, requiring just up to 5 taps to register a fingerprint. Waking up and unlocking the device may not be instantaneous, but is quick enough that you likely won’t even see the lockscreen, and the scanner is also surprisingly accurate, with there having been no instances of the fingerprint not being recognized so far.
16 or 32 gigabytes of on-board storage is available, but with no expandable storage via microSD card to found here, you will definitely be better off opting for the larger storage option. The device comes with a single front-facing speaker on the bottom chin, which sounds quite good, but is a little on the flat side. While a dual speaker setup would have of course been better, this implementation is still better than any rear-facing or bottom-firing speakers out there.
In the case of the battery, the Nexus 5X comes with a 2,700mAh unit, which generally lasts for a full day with average use, but not a whole lot more. The battery is also very easy to kill with heavy gaming, so you will have to remember to have the charger handy in case that is what you are planning to do. The new battery-saving feature introduced with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, called Doze, does work very efficiently. It puts the phone in a very deep state of sleep and limiting any unnecessary app activity. This will cause notifications to be delayed unless set as high priority however, with the device only periodically syncing them in this case, but it is a small price to pay for better battery life.
Unlike the last couple of Nexus iterations, the Nexus 5X doesn’t come with support for wireless charging, but you do get fasting charging on here, with the device able to charge fully from 0 in about 90 minutes.
One of the disappointing aspects of most Nexus smartphones has been the camera experience, and while the Nexus 6 has changed that to some extent, Google is hoping to continue to improve in this regard with the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P. There is a new 12.3 megapixel sensor to be found here with a pixel size of 1.55 microns, f/2.0 aperture, and a laser auto focus system. There is no optical image stabilization however, and while it may not be needed to take great pictures, its unavailability does make a noticeable difference when recording video. This new sensor also allows for the recording of slow motion video at 120 fps, and this feature is a lot of fun to play around with. The slow motion capture is extremely smooth, and Google’s photo editing application let’s you select exactly which parts of the video you want to slow down.
It is very easy to launch the camera, requiring only a quick double press of the home button. The camera application found here is still very minimalistic, but does bring some improvements over previous iterations. You can swipe left or right to toggle between video recording or taking pictures, and the HDR toggle is located conveniently on the viewfinder, making it easier to locate than other camera apps out there, that has the setting hidden in a sub menu.
With the Nexus 5X, we finally have a camera on a Nexus smartphone that is capable of taking some excellent photos. Images are sharp and full of detail, with just the right amount of saturation to make the subject pop, and the dynamic range is also excellent. The overall shooting experience with this camera is also very fast, with quick shutter speeds, and fast focusing courtesy of the laser-guided auto focus.
Low-light and nighttime shots are good, but they're not as great as Google have hyped them up to be
Low-light and nighttime shots are good as well, but they may not be as great as Google might have hyped them up to be. There is still a very respectable amount of detail to be had, but you can definitely notice some heavy noise reduction being done in the darker parts of the image. If you are taking shots with HDR Auto, every shot in low light is guaranteed to be processed as an HDR image, but this is not always a good thing. The photos turn out cleaner and with punchier colors, but the processing does make the images overly yellow, and the final image doesn’t look as natural as the non-HDR version.
Overall, the Nexus 5X camera is a lot of fun to use, and with the competition extremely intense when it comes to this aspect of the smartphone experience, Google has certainly picked a great time to get things right in this regard.
Where Nexus devices have always led from the front, and one of the big reasons for the existence of this series, is when it comes to software. The Nexus 5X is running Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, and apart from the promise of timely updates, if you are looking for the purest Android experience available, Nexus is the only way to go.
The latest version of Android brings tons of behind-the-scenes improvements
There may not have been a dramatic upheaval in aesthetics between Android 5.0 Lollipop and Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but the latest Android OS version brings with a lot of neat improvements under the hood, such as the previously mentioned battery saving feature called Doze. There are some changes to be seen of course, with the first noticeable difference being the application drawer that is now once again a vertical scrolling list. There is a search bar at the top to quickly look up an application, and using the scroll bar results in a letter indicator popping up, to let you know exactly where you are within the list.
In previous versions of Android, app permissions were granted upon installation, and you couldn’t pick and choose which permissions to allow or deny. This all or nothing nature was a cause of concern for many, but that is all changed with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Now, app permissions are only granted at the time that an app needs access to a particular feature, and you can choose which app gets what permission directly in the Settings.
One of the most highlighted features of this latest version of Android is Now on Tap, which essentially brings the power of Google Now to any application that you are using. It is contextually aware, which basically means that it analyzes the content on the screen, and offers suggestions and information based on what it thinks you are looking for. There haven’t been a lot of instances of use in a real world scenario thus far, but what it is capable of doing is really good, and is only bound to improve over time. What this results in however is the removal of the simple swipe up from the home button to access Google Now, which now requires an additional step to get to, by tapping on the G logo that pops up.
|LG Nexus 5X|
|Display||5.2-inch LCD display|
1920 x 1080 resolution, 424ppi
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
|Processor||2.0GHz hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 MSM8992 processor|
LTE Band 2/4/5/7/12/13/17/25/26/41
|Software||Android 6.0 Marshmallow|
|Fingerprint scanner||Yes, rear-mounted|
|Camera||12.3MP rear-facing camera, f/2.0 aperture, laser-assisted autofocus|
5MP front-facing camera, f/2.2 aperture
|Dimensions||147.0 x 72.6 x 7.9mm, 136g|
|Colors||Charcoal Black, Quartz White, Ice Blue|
Pricing and final thoughts
The Nexus 5X is currently available with a price point starting at $379. Color options include black, white and a mint-blue color, or as Google likes to call them, Carbon, Quartz and Ice.