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Google Nexus 5X review: LG's Nexus legacy continues with the best of the mid-range

  • Editors' rating
    9.3 Spectacular
  • $219.99

Pros

  • Impressive fit and finish
  • Pocketable form factor
  • Excellent camera performance
  • Competitive mid-range pricing

Cons

  • No OIS or wireless charging

One of the most, if not the most, beloved Nexus smartphones was the LG-made Nexus 5. While I think the Nexus 6P could have been released by itself and satisfied the Nexus fans, I understand that the Nexus 5X will appeal to Nexus 5 fans while also offering a more pocketable device for those tired of big slabs.

LG's latest smartphones have been excellent and the LG G4 remains one of the best smartphones available today. I attended the Nexus launch event and was able to handle the cool mint green, official color name of ice, Nexus 5X. My first impression was that it was extremely light, the back plastic felt fantastic, and it was easy to slip in my front pants pocket.

Out of the box impressions

The Google Nexus 5X arrived in a simple white square box with a sleeve that showed a big X on one side and the front and back of the 5X on the other. Glued to the under side of the box cover you will find a visual guide to ports, cables, and buttons found in the retail package.

The Nexus 5X retail package includes the Nexus 5X, USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable, A/C adapter for USB Type-C cord, SIM card removal tool, warranty guide, and Google Play Music offer card. One cable missing from this package, compared to the Nexus 6P package, is the short USB Type-C to USB cable. If you want to connect the 5X to a computer without a USB Type-C port or use one of your existing A/C USB chargers then you can pick up this USB Type-C to standard USB cable for $12.99 from Google.

I love the feel of the Nexus 5X and the back smooth plastic reminds me of the HTC One X, which used my favorite plastic material ever. It has a matte finish and is tough for me to stop sliding my fingers over it. I was sent the white, aka quartz, model with 32GB of memory to test out.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 1.8 GHz hexa-core 64-bit with Adreno 418 GPU
  • Display: 5.2 inch LCD at 1920 x 1080 pixels resolution, 423 ppi, Corning Gorilla Glass 3
  • Operating system: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • RAM: 2GB LPDDR3
  • Storage: 16 and 32 GB internal options
  • Cameras: Rear 12.3 megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture and large 1.55 micrometer pixels. 5 megapixel front-facing camera with f/2.0 aperture and 1.4 micrometer pixels
  • Speaker/mics: Single front-facing speaker, 3 microphones
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, proximity, motion, compass, gyro, barometer, Android Sensor Hub
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.2, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac @x2 MIMO WiFi, GPS, NFC
  • Battery: 2,700 mAh battery with fast charging via USB Type-C (up to 7 hours of use with 10 minutes of charging)
  • Dimensions: 147 x 72.6 x 7.9 mm and 136 grams
  • Colors: Carbon (black), quartz (white), ice (mint green)

As you can see, the Nexus 5X has reasonable specifications, especially when you consider you can pick one up for just $379 or $429. Looking at other mid-range smartphones, the Nexus 5X offers quite a bit at a fair price and looks great doing it.

Hardware

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The front of the Nexus 5X is dominated by the 5.2 inch 1080p LCD display and it looks great. The display is bright and at this size, the fonts look crisp and clean. All models of the Nexus 5X have a black front, which I prefer for focusing on the display.

There are no physical buttons on the front with only the two mesh areas and front-facing camera clearly visible when the display is off. An LED also appears just to the left of the front-facing camera when a notification is present. The top mesh area houses a mic while the bottom one houses the loud mono speaker. You can also lift, shift, or move the device in some manner and see the time, date, and on-screen notifications (if you have this on in the settings).

The USB Type-C port is centered on the bottom with the 3.5mm headset jack positioned over to the right side of the bottom. There is nothing on the top of the Nexus 5X The power and volume buttons are positioned on the right side and are smooth black plastic. The SIM card slot is found on the upper left side.

There is a split around the edges about two-thirds of the way down from the top where the two halves of the Nexus 5X are put together. The bottom piece is where you will find the different color back panel.

The flash and laser auto-focus sensor are positioned to the left of the camera on the upper back. Much like the HTC One X, the camera rises above the back with a smooth white slope leading up to the flat camera lens cover. I think it looks good, but it also means the phone rests on the raised camera area when placed down on a table.

The fingerprint scanner is positioned on the center upper back. The white model I have contains a silver ring around the fingerprint sensor. Nexus and LG names are etched into the device on the back as well.

The 12.3 megapixel rear camera doesn't have optical image stabilization, but does have large pixels and IR laser-assisted auto-focus for quick photo capture. I have a pretty steady hand, but still find OIS helps me capture clearer photos. You can launch the camera at any time by quickly double pressing the power button, another good reason there is tactile texturing on the power button.

Compared to something like my Note 5, the Google Camera software is pretty basic. For example, you cannot capture a still photo while recording video and there are no fun filters in the camera software. However, since the majority of people use auto mode it is the results that matter more than the software. There is no RAW capture or manual mode on the Nexus 5X so look to the LG G4 or Samsung Galaxy 6/Note 6 line for this functionality.

DxOMark recently tested out the Nexus 6P in more detail than I ever could and gave it a very high rating. The Nexus 5X has the exact same rear camera as the Nexus 6P, which currently sits in third place. This is very impressive given that the iPhone 6s is in 10th and the Nexus 6 down at 14th.

Check out my Flickr album for a comparison of full resolution images from the Note 5, iPhone 6s Plus, and Nexus 6P (same as the 5X). In my opinion, the two Android phones best the iPhone in these photos. I look forward to hearing which photos and phone you like best.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

A few updates that come with Android 6.0 Marshmallow are hardware related and the Nexus 5X includes these in an attempt to show what Marshmallow can offer you. The fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C support are part of this version of Android and are welcome additions I have been enjoying on the 5X.

For enterprise users who want to use Android, the Nexus devices are a great choice as they will receive the latest security updates in a timely manner. The Google Imprint fingerprint scanner also makes it a device that is easy to secure, making it much more likely that your employees will actually use some form of security on their devices.

In terms of security, Android Marshmallow also improves security control at the application level. Now when you first launch an application that is trying to access data on your device, a pop-up appears to clearly inform you what data is trying to be accessed and gives you the option to allow this or not.

I am particularly excited about the promise of the Doze battery management software. When I go to bed with my iPhone 6s Plus off the charger, I only see a loss of 2 to 3 percent throughout the night. I've never seen such good standby performance on an Android smartphone so look forward to further testing the ability of the Nexus 5X to help me get through more than a day.

One of the most significant software enhancements in Android Marshmallow is Google Now On Tap. In the past you could launch the Google Now cards interface with a long press or press and slide action. Now when you press and hold on the home button Now On Tap appears over the top of the app you are currently using and then presents information related to what is shown on your screen. With Now On Tap you can easily make reservations or find directions to a restaurant that someone mentions in a text, watch a trailer for a movie that your friend is talking about on Facebook, or get quick links to more information about all those football players on your Fantasy Football team that you aren't familiar with. Like 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s, Now On Tap could change the way you use your Android smartphone.

At first I was a bit frustrated by the control over the status bar and quick actions. I then found this Android Central post that lets you enable the System UI Tuner. Once this is enabled, then you can have the battery status percentage remaining appear on the battery icon, customize the quick actions that appear in the drop-down menus, and select what icons appear in the status bar.

Pricing and competition

The Google Nexus 5X is available now for $379 and $429 for 16GB and 32GB storage capacity models. By comparison, the Apple iPhone 6s is available for $649 and $749 for 16GB and 64GB models. As you can see, the Nexus 5X is $270 less.

Looking at other comparable mid-range smartphones we see the Moto X Pure Edition with 16GB priced at $399.99 and with 32GB priced at $449.99. The ZTE Axon Pro, with 32GB, is priced at $449.98 and the OnePlus 2 16GB model is $329 as we see the battle for sub-$450 smartphones continue to heat up.

As long as size is not that important to you, I would personally choose the 32GB Google Nexus 6P for $70 more to gain the higher end specifications over the Nexus 5X. However, the 5X is definitely easier to carry being 12mm shorter and 5.4 mm narrower than the 6P. The 5X is also 42 grams lighter than the Nexus 6P.

You can also finance the Nexus 5X if you sign up for Project Fi. Payments are interest-free and spread over 24 months.

Accessories

There are a number of cases and cables available for the Nexus 5X. A Speck CandyShell Grip case was included with my evaluation unit. It is white with black highlights and priced at $34.99. The raised rubber black ridges offer a much better grip than carrying the device naked, but the plastic feels so good on the Nexus 5X that I might have a hard time using a case.

You can also find cases from Adopted and Google. Google also has two official Nexus 5X cases available for $34.99 and $39.99.

If you order your Nexus 5X soon you will also receive a $50 Google Play credit and 90 days of free Google Play Music ($9.99/month value). These bonuses are worth about $80, but if you are already a Google Play Music subscriber then you won't get the free months of Play Music.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

I don't mind using a big phone, but it's much easier to slip a phone into my front jeans pocket on a daily basis. The Nexus 5X offers a lot for the price and has performed very well over the last few days.

Phone calls over the Project Fi network have been good, the single front facing speaker is loud, the camera is on par with the other great smartphones today, the battery has been lasting me through the day (more extended testing is still required), and I am having fun learning the ins and outs of Android Marshmallow.

In the past, it was rare for a non-carrier phone to work with T-Mobile's WiFi Calling. Thanks to the Project Fi support and use of T-Mobile as one of the carriers, Sprint is the other, WiFi Calling works perfectly fine on the Nexus 6P. WiFi Calling was one reason I usually purchased T-Mobile branded devices so this is a nice benefit.

If you are looking for an excellent mid-range device that you can count on for future Android updates, then the Google Nexus 5X is definitely one of the best. The 32GB internal storage may be an issue for power users, but then again power users should pick up the bigger Nexus 6P.

Specifications

Details
SAR Value 0.696 W/kg (body) / 0.564 W/kg (head)
Integrated Components Rear-facing camera, front-facing camera, voice recorder, navigation
Body Color Ice, Quartz
Cellular
Technology CDMA2000 1X / GSM / WCDMA (UMTS), WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM
Type smartphone (Android OS)
Integrated Components front-facing camera, navigation, rear-facing camera, voice recorder
Navigation GLONASS, GPS
Band WCDMA (UMTS) / GSM 850/900/1800/1900 / CDMA2000 1X 1900/800
Mobile Broadband Generation 4G
Phone Form Factor touch
Service Provider not specified
Operating System Family Android
Operating System Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
Intelligent Assistant Google Now
SIM Card Type nano SIM
Input Device Multi-touch
Phone Features
Phone Functions Speakerphone, call timer, conference call, flight mode, vibrating alert, Speakerphone, voice control, call timer, conference call, flight mode, voice dialing, vibrating alert
Sensors Accelerometer, ambient light sensor, proximity sensor, digital compass, barometer, gyro sensor, hall sensor
Additional Features Android Beam, Noise Cancellation Technology, Google Caller ID, Three microphones
Security Devices Fingerprint reader
Miscellaneous
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, digital compass, gyro sensor, hall sensor, proximity sensor
Messaging & Internet
Messaging Services Google+ Hangouts, MMS, SMS
Supported Social Networks and Blogs Yes
Communications
Data Transmission EDGE, EV-DO, FDD-LTE, GPRS, HSDPA, HSPA+, HSUPA, TDD-LTE
4G LTE Band Band 1, Band 12, Band 13, Band 17, Band 2, Band 20, Band 25, Band 26, Band 29, Band 3, Band 4, Band 41, Band 5, Band 7
Wireless Interface Bluetooth 4.2, IEEE 802.11a/b/g/n/ac, NFC
Processor
Clock Speed 1.8 GHz
Type QUALCOMM Snapdragon 808
Manufacturer QUALCOMM
Processor Core Qty 6-core
64-bit Architecture Yes
Display
Technology IPS
Display Resolution 1920 x 1080 pixels
Pixel Density (ppi) 423
Diagonal Size 5.2 in
Diagonal Size (metric) 13.2 cm
Smartphone Diagonal Size 5.2 in
Protection Corning Gorilla Glass 3 (scratch resistant glass), fingerprint-resistant oleophobic coating
Color Support color
Features In-Cell Display Technology
Camera
Focus Adjustment automatic
Camera Light Source LED light
Features Low light shot, Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS), Photo sphere, Slow Motion mode, video recording
Multimedia
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 418
Digital Camera
Lens Aperture f/2.0
Focus Adjustment automatic
Camera Light Source LED light
Video Recorder Resolutions 3840 x 2160 (2160p)
Features Low light shot, Optical Image Stabilizer (OIS), Photo sphere, Slow Motion mode, video recording
Header
Brand Google
Product Line Google Nexus
Model 5X
Packaged Quantity 1
CE Input Device
Type touch sensitive screen (multi-touch)
Features
Sensors accelerometer, ambient light sensor, barometer, digital compass, gyro sensor, hall sensor, proximity sensor
Phone Functions call timer, conference call, flight mode, speakerphone, vibrating alert, voice control, voice dialing
Security Devices fingerprint reader
Additional Features Android Beam, Google Caller ID, MIMO technology, Noise Cancellation Technology, Three microphones
RAM
Installed Size 2 GB
Flash Memory
Internal Memory Capacity 32 GB
Graphics System
Graphics Accelerator Qualcomm ADRENO 418
Optical Sensor
Sensor Resolution 12.3 megapixels
Front-facing Camera
Sensor Resolution 5 Megapixel
Lens Aperture f/2.0

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Where To Buy

Google Nexus 5X (32GB, quartz)

Part Number: CNETNEXUS5X32GBQUARTZ