Google’s Nexus line-up has always been an interesting part of the Android story. We never know what to expect. This year, Google has changed things up again by releasing, not one smartphone, but two. The Nexus 5X is the long-awaited successor to the popular Nexus 5, while the Nexus 6P follows on from last year’s less loved Nexus 6.
If you felt the Nexus 6 was too expensive, and it looks as though many people did, then you might be excited by the pricing on the Nexus 5X. It starts at $379 for the 16GB version and it has a pretty enticing set of specs. But does it compare to the value for money that the original Nexus 5 represented two years ago? The market has moved on since then, prices have fallen, and the Nexus 5 was originally offered at $349. Is the Nexus 5X a good deal?
The high points
The first stand-out feature on the Nexus 5X, both figuratively and literally, is the 12.3MP main camera. Google knew it had work to do on this front. One of the biggest disappointments about the Nexus 5 was the performance of the 8MP camera. It looks as though the 5X is going to be capable of capturing quality shots, and it needs to be. The front-facing camera has also been overhauled in the wake of selfie-mania, and it’s rated at 5MP, undoubtedly a massive improvement over the old 1.3MP effort in its predecessor.
Nexus Imprint is the other thing that immediately jumps out about the 5X. A conveniently placed fingerprint sensor on the back of the phone, under the camera, is a smart move, and less awkward to use one-handed than a traditional home button placement. It only requires a single touch and it looks lightning fast.
If these two features are as good as they look, then they definitely make the Nexus 5X a tempting prospect at this price.
Middle of the road
The rest of the specs are less impressive. The screen is 5.2-inches with a standard 1080p resolution, it’s actually slightly less sharp than the Nexus 5, which was 4.95-inches and 1080p. The hexa-core Snapdragon 808 backed by 2GB of RAM looks a little lightweight compared to current flagships.
Storage options are the same: 16GB or 32GB. For most people, 16GB isn’t going to be enough in the long term, but the extra 16GB costs $50 and there’s no Micro SD card slot. $429 is still relatively cheap, but it’s not a special price when you look at what’s out there. The battery is a respectable 2,700mAh, and it’s not removable.
There are also a couple of disappointing compromises in the Nexus 5X. Wireless charging support has been dropped. Google has gone all-in with USB Type-C instead. It’s reversible, so it should be much easier to plug in, but for anyone used to wireless charging it’s still going to feel like a step backward.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but the Nexus 5X design certainly doesn’t stand out. The original Nexus 5 had the angular, monolith thing going for it, with curves top and bottom that gave it a unique, instantly recognizable profile. The 5X is a rectangle with rounded corners that would be tough to pick out of a line-up, though, it is at least slimmer.
When the Nexus 5 came out, it was the best value budget smartphone on the market. There really wasn’t another phone at the time that offered quite as much for $350. We can’t say the same about the 5X. If you’re thinking of dropping $379 on the Nexus 5X, there are actually quite a few other options that you could consider.
The Asus Zenfone 2 is only $300 and it manages to pack in a 5.5-inch display, with a 2.3GHz quad-core processor, and 4GB of RAM. The OnePlus 2 starts at $329 and has an octa-core processor, more RAM, a bigger battery, USB Type-C support, and a fingerprint sensor. You could pick up an LG G3 for around $330 now, with a 5.5-inch, 2560 x 1440 pixel display. Even the Moto X Style (Pure) is only $400 and it boasts a 5.7-inch display and a 21MP camera.
Moto X Style/Pure
The Nexus 5X may be better than some or all of these, it’s impossible to say for sure until we get some decent time with it, but it’s clearly launching into a much more competitive landscape than the Nexus 5 did. If you agree that you’ll need at least 32GB, which will cost you $429, then it’s only an extra $70 for the Nexus 6P, which starts at 32GB, but also has a bigger and sharper screen, a better processor, more RAM, and an 8MP front-facing camera, not to mention a metal body.
If we rewind to the beginning of LG and Google’s Nexus partnership we can put the Nexus 5X into some perspective. The Nexus 4 was a phone that had a surprisingly premium design with good build quality, a set of specs that didn’t look out of place with the flagships of the day, and it started at just $299. If the Nexus 5X was being offered at $299 we’d be lauding it as an incredible bargain. Even if it landed at $350, like the Nexus 5, it would stand out in the budget field, but at $379… it’s not so clear.
There are lots of other little improvements in the Nexus 5X, and it’s impossible to judge properly without using it for a while. It will run Android 6.0 Marshmallow out of the box, and there’s no telling when some of the competition mentioned above will get that. For Android fans, the stock nature of the Nexus 5X can’t be underestimated. We also have high hopes for the camera and the fingerprint sensor, but there’s no hiding the fact that there are some disappointments here, too.
On paper, the Nexus 5X looks good for the money, but it doesn’t look great.