Google took the wraps off not one, but two new Nexus smartphones this year, and while the premium Nexus 6P is the star of the show, the successor to the highly popular Nexus 5 has got its fair share of attention as well. The Nexus 5X offers users a footprint that is far more manageable, but also heralds the return to what many people expect from the Nexus series – quality at an affordable price.
There are more premium, and more expensive, devices for those who want them, but there is a reason the Nexus 5X exists. We will, of course, be giving both new Nexus devices the full review treatment, but before that, here is a quick look at the unboxing and the first 48 hours we’ve spent with the Nexus 5X!
In the box
The Nexus 5X comes in a nice square package with a minimalist design featuring a stylized X, setting it apart from the Nexus 6P box, which features the same general design with a stylized P.
Opening up the box lid, which doubles as a quick instructions diagram, reveals the Nexus 5X, as well as the USB Type C cable and the wall plug adapter. The entire experience is in the spirit of the Nexus 5X, as it offers the quality essentials, without any bells and whistles.
Underneath the Nexus 5X, you will find a 90-day free Play Music card, though unfortunately it’s only for new customers, as well as the obligatory warranty leaflet.
There’s not much to talk about the USB Type C cable and charging plug, with their all-white esthetic and no-frills look, but of course, the big story here is the adoption of the new-generation Type C standard. USB Type C feels like the future, though truth is, for now, this future is a little inconvenient – but more about that in my impressions below.
Impressions after 48 hours
The first thing you will notice when you pick up the Nexus 5X is how light and compact it feels. At 136 grams, the 5X feels very light and very nice to use in one hand, especially when you compare it with the current crop of high-end devices, which predominantly feature heavier metal and glass constructions.
The Nexus 5X is all plastic, but it doesn’t feel like cheap plastic, even if you won’t get that “premium” impression that metal or glass can offer. The texture is matte, just like on the black version of the Nexus 5, and that really helps to repel ugly oils smudges and fingerprints. The rounded corners and tapered design further help with handling.
On the bottom of the device, you will find the small, symmetrical USB Type C port, a feature you will only find on a handful of other devices right now. In this respect, the Nexus 5X is a road opener, as most smartphones launching next year will probably feature a USB Type C port.
However, because the Type C ecosystem is still barren, having this feature is more of an inconvenience right now, than anything else. Unless you happen to own a Chromebook Pixel, a MacBook, or another device featuring USB Type C, the cable that comes with the Nexus 5X won’t be useful for anything else besides charging the 5X. And, when travelling or even when moving to another room, you will need to carry along the Nexus 5X’ cable and plug adapter.
We do need to keep in mind that this is a small inconvenience, and probably only a temporary one. I loved the fact that the USB Type C cable is fully reversible, so you can plug it in any direction, hassle free.
Speaking of charging cables, the Nexus 5X supports fast charging, and in my experience, it charges very quickly. It went from 0 to 100% in 1:20 to 1:25 minutes, and that is not bad at all for a 2,700-mAh battery.
Battery life was pretty good, and I didn’t have any problems going through a full day of usage. I doubt you will be able to get much more than that, but if you are used to charging your device every night, the Nexus 5X battery life will be great.
The single front facing speaker is quite good, and definitely an improvement over any rear- or side-mounted speakers. That said, this speaker is not the best I’ve heard, especially when it comes to the lower frequencies.
The 5.2-inch screen is 1080p, but personally I didn’t find that to be a problem, and the screen sharpness, colors, and viewing angles are all great. When you use it outdoors, you will need to crank up the brightness, because the screen is a little hard to read in bright light. At 5.2 inches, this display is absolutely great for anyone who prefers one-handed usage.
A quick assessment of the performance. The Snapdragon 808 processor and 2GB of RAM may sound a little inadequate for 2015, but in using the Nexus 5X for about 48 hours, I did not encounter any performance issues, with no lag whatsoever. The 2GB of RAM is not an issue, as far as I am concerned.
The Nexus 5X features a 12.3MP Sony-made sensor with large 1.55-micron pixels, and Google said that the large size of the pixels makes OIS unnecessary. That said, I would’ve preferred to have OIS, especially for video recording.
Picture quality is great in bright scenes, as the nice dynamic range leaves no room for overblown highlights or crushed shadows. As usual, problems arise in low light, where images lack details, in particular in the darker parts of the shots. Another issue I noticed was with the white balance, which caused many images to turn out yellowish. Of course, more in-depth testing of the camera will be required, and you can expect all that in our upcoming full review.
On the software side, Android 6.0 Marshmallow doesn’t bring many esthetic changes, but it does offer a series of functionality improvements, of which I will only mention Google Now on Tap. The feature analyzes the content of the screen, be it in an app or in the browser, and tries to come up with app suggestions and other relevant info. In my two days of playing with Now on Tap, I only encountered one real world scenario where Now on Tap worked great: I was able to quickly load up an address I received via text message into Google Maps, without any back and forth and copy-pasting. Your mileage will vary of course, and Now on Tap should get better in time, as Google gets better at anticipating your needs.
One other key feature I’d like to mention is Nexus Imprint, which is the fingerprint sensor functionality that app developers can tap into for their apps, and which allows you to wake up and unlock the Nexus 5X with just one touch. The scanner is very reliable and quick – I estimate the time required to unlock the device at about 0.5 seconds – not the fastest around, but still very nice.
That’s it for my initial impressions of the LG-made Nexus 5X. Check out our Nexus 6P impressions, and keep it tuned to Android Authority for more in-depth coverage of all things Nexus over the following days.