Alongside with the Nexus 6P, Google also launched a smaller, and more importantly, affordable Nexus smartphone in the Nexus 5X. With LG at the helm once again, the spiritual successor of the Nexus 5 built upon everything that users loved about the original, while obviously featuring all the appropriate updates needed to keep up with current smartphone trends. Granted, the Nexus 5X may not offer the full flagship experience that is available with its larger sibling, but it is still a great phone to have on the daily.
Lanh has already given us a fantastic in-depth review of this device, but here, I would like to take the opportunity to express my own thoughts on certain key aspects of this smartphone, in this “second opinion” look at the Nexus 5X!
The Nexus 5 was a very well-received device, and even if it wasn’t the sturdiest phone out there, it was still very easy to use, given its size and the build material. The same can also be said for the Nexus 5X, that retains a lot of the build quality from its predecessor but now uses a two-tone color scheme that is pretty nice, even if it doesn’t offer the unified look that the Nexus 5 had.
The Nexus 5X is also not a particularly sturdy device, and the soft plastic backing will likely suffer some damage from accidental bumps and drops. Overall, the design is still very enjoyable however, and the build quality does fit with what would be expected from the lower-end of the two current Nexus smartphones.
The Nexus 5X features a 5.2-inch IPS LCD display with a 1080p resolution, resulting in a pixel density of 424 ppi. This display may not match up to the current flagship standard of Quad HD, but Full HD more than gets the job done, and is perfectly fine for a screen of this size. The display offers plenty in the way of sharpness and viewing angles, and is easy to view in broad daylight as well. This is definitely a very nice display to have, and work and play are both very enjoyable on this screen.
Unfortunately, it’s only when you compare this screen to another, such as the AMOLED display of the Nexus 6P, do you see its shortcomings. It doesn’t necessarily have really high contrast, the black levels are a little bit washed out, and it lacks the punch in colors. That said, these factors don’t really detract from what is a pretty good display experience to have with your daily driver.
Performance and hardware
Under the hood, the Nexus 5X packs an octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, backed by the Adreno 418 GPU and 2 GB of RAM. The Snapdragon 808 is definitely a good performer, and is seen with a few other 2015 flagships out there, but the main detraction here is the availability of just 2 GB of RAM. When it comes to general everyday tasks, where you aren’t doing a whole lot on the phone, or shuttling between two or three applications that are not very demanding, you will have a good time with the device.
However, when it comes to the power user experience, the shortcomings of this processing package did show up. There have been plenty of times where I have been able to overload this device, especially with just 2 GB of RAM, which seems kind of paltry, with the expectation of at least 3 GB nowadays. There are three different tasks that I do on a regular basis, with them being GPS navigation, a lot of listening to music or podcasts in the background, and using the camera. In a situation where I was listening to a podcast while using the GPS navigation, and needed to take a picture of something, the camera would unfortunately not load at all.
Everything remains smooth for about 80% of the time, and for the most part, transitions and opening, closing, and switching between apps are snappy. The device also performs at its peak when it isn’t getting warm, but after some demanding usage, where the phone starts to heat up a little bit, is when instances of slow down are seen. It’s not wrong to say that the performance is very smooth, but that is something that will unfortunately not be seen a 100% of the time. Granted, this might be true for a lot of smartphones out there, but the Nexus 5X tended to face these issues more often than not.
In terms of hardware, the main addition with the current generation Nexus smartphones is the fingerprint scanner. The placement on the back is something that I am very used to now, and I actually find myself instinctively reaching for the back with other phones as well.
Google has also adopted the new USB Type-C standard with these devices, and that change is still something that is taking some getting used to. If you have a lot of extra charging docks or external power banks, you will need to get new cables to actually be able to take advantage of these peripherals to charge the device properly. Battery life has been about average, with two and a half hours of screen-on time with heavy usage, which can be pushed to about an hour more with more casual use. The device also comes with fast-charging capabilities, so it doesn’t take long to get the phone back and running quickly.
Android 6.0 Marshmallow’s battery-saving Doze feature has also been working very well, but worth mentioning here is that it is a good idea to put the applications you do want notifications from on the priority list. Since Doze keeps notifications from coming in when the device is in its low power state, if an app is not on the priority list, you might get a flood of notifications at once when you wake the device up again after a while.
The camera has also been really good on the Nexus 5X, and there have been no issues on this front. The only thing that is missing is optical image stabilization, and it has to be said that OIS does make some difference when compared to other devices that have this feature. However, the larger sensor of the new Nexus smartphones definitely does a great job of enhancing what used to be a lackluster experience with previous generations.
The software experience has been one of the best parts of the Nexus 5X. Not only do you have optimizations and new features with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but the entire package itself is very appealing. Changes include the now vertically-scrolling app drawer, with a row up top that houses your most used applications, which proved to be very useful. Google Now on Tap is also a nice addition, but is something that I don’t find myself using all that often. What we have here is probably the best version of Android thus far, and even with the addition of a few new features, it’s great to see that the optimizations do still allow for a smooth and snappy experience overall.
So there you have it for this second opinion look at the Nexus 5X! I really wanted to love this phone, and in a lot of ways I really do. However, there were a few issues, mainly to do with performance, that proved to be a let down. On way more than a few occasions, I did have an issue with getting everything I wanted to done on this device, with the little bit of lag creating issues with typing, or resulting in slow loading times.
These problems may not be as much of a big deal for a lot of users out there, and the Nexus 5X is definitely a good choice in the affordable segment, but the flagship experience you may be looking for might not be available with this device.