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Google Nexus 5X Review: In Depth

4
The all around champ is back

The Good

  • Clean design
  • First to run Android 6.0
  • Great camera
  • Fast charging

The Bad

  • All-plastic build
  • Non-expandable
  • Type-C USB is awkward
  • No wireless charging

Google Nexus 5X Review: The LG-made Nexus 5X is the more affordable half of Android 6.0 Marshmallow's launch party and we've thoroughly tested the Full HD screen, 12.3-megapixel camera, fingerprint sensor and other slick features.

Design

The original Nexus 5 was one of the most attractive stock Android devices ever (and one of the most popular), when it launched back in 2013. Its glossy piano black frontage and the satin finish contrasting white back made for a simple, minimal elegance that gave the phone its understated, but distinctive looks (unless you picked up the all-matte black version or the rare red version).

Nexus 5X front Nexus 5X back

The Nexus 5X continues that lineage, but Google and LG have expanded on what makes for a signature Nexus device and used a design that highlights the benefits of the newly launched Android 6.0 Marshmallow.

Read next: Nexus 5X vs Nexus 6P vs Xperia Z5 vs Galaxy S6

The 5X features more prominent rounding on its all-plastic body and comes in three colours: carbon black, ice blue and quartz white – the most reminiscent of its predecessor. The finish means that it retains the understated qualities of the Nexus 5 and leaves more room for the new hardware elements to shine.

Nexus 5X side

The most defining features externally on the 5X are its centrally positioned fingerprint sensor – which lets you wake and unlock the device in under a second and a Type-C USB connection on the phone’s base that promises fast charging.

Ergonomically, the fingerprint sensor’s position lends itself to left and right-handed use, although it takes a little getting used to if you’re already using a fingerprint sensor-laden handset, as most place their sensor on the front below the home screen.

If you're after a more premium design, check out our hands-on Nexus 6P review, the new Nexus packing an all-metal body.

Screen

Like its predecessor the Nexus 5X packs a Full HD screen, but as is commonplace on flagship devices now, it’s a little bit bigger this time around, featuring a 5.2-inch LCD panel protected by Gorilla Glass 3.

Nexus 5X screen

It follows LG's trend of offering up impeccably bright displays (up to 500nits) and on offers solid colour reproduction and usable viewing angles that appear to trump every Nexus device before it. The Full HD resolution won’t be to everyone’s liking, but it actually makes for a wonderfully crisp and clear viewing experience.

OS

Aesthetically the new Android 6.0 Marshmallow doesn’t deviate far from the Material Design language put in place by the developmental version of Android Lollipop, but there are a ton of new features to play with beyond that.

The 5X’s fingerprint sensor works in conjunction with what Google is calling Nexus Imprint. This lets you authenticate device access or Android Pay purchases and it’s particularly useful as it’s one of the fastest sensors to register a print on and lets you unlock the device from sleep.

Other tweaks manifest in an improved apps drawer that prioritises your four most frequently used app and a scroll bar, similarly to the one found in the contacts app that highlights alphabetical order of your apps as you scroll.

Google’s Now service aims to anticipate your needs and queries with travel information, sports scores and news headlines, but Now On Tap provides an even deeper level of integration with apps, letting you ask things like ‘what else has he sung’ whilst streaming a track from The Weeknd on Spotify for example.

In addition you can call upon Now on Tap with a single long-press of the home button and it’ll scan the information onscreen to pull up relevant data on people, places, times and more. It’s a powerful new feature and the crown jewel of Marshmallow on the 5X.

Read next: Best new features in Android M

Performance

If you look explicitly at the numbers the 5X reads like a slightly stripped back LG G4, and that’s no bad starting point. It boasts the same 64-bit 1.8GHz Snapdragon 808 hexa-core processor paired to 2GB of DDR3 RAM. In practice the chipset performs well, although the phone can take a little time to boot and UI stutter does occasionally crop up, which we found surprising.

Nexus 5X fingerprint sensor

As is reflected in the material choices of the phone’s exterior, the Nexus 5X is the more affordable of the new Nexus phones, which is also partly apparent in the two storage options it can be had in too: a 16GB and a 32GB version, neither of which are expandable.

Power is a big component of the Android 6.0 experience with a myriad of new abilities at your disposal.

Unlike previous Nexus devices, wireless charging isn’t part of the equation this time around, which is a little disappointing, but the 2700mAh battery should keep you powered up for a full day’s use, just don’t expect Z5 Compact-class longevity.

Instead Google’s engineering team thought fast charging was a more useful quality than wireless charging as it’s more useful in a pinch and reduces thickness in the phone’s overall design (Google quotes four hours use from ten minutes charge).

You also have the ability to turn the Nexus 5X into a charger for another device, which is a particularly handy feature if you’ve got juice and your friend’s phone doesn’t.

Camera

Whilst there are some notable hardware differences between the 5X and its launch partner, the bigger, bolder Nexus 6P, the cameras on both phones are the same. The rear 12.3-megapixel snapper leverages Sony's Exmor R IMX377 technology (never before used in a smartphone), with enlarged 1.55μm pixels that yield decent low light results albeit with a heavy touch of grain.

In practice the camera really does impress. As promised autofocus is fast and seldom could the shots it captures be considered unusable. Low light is it’s biggest adversary, with grain and colourful noise creeping in in more extreme circumstances, however it still makes for a great rear snapper in most conditions.

The silicon powering the Nexus 5X is powerful enough to offer up 4K video at 30fps too and footage looks good if you’re looking to future-proof you home videos, but even capturing content in Full HD and 720p HD will yield great results.

If it’s slow motion you're after, you can capture 720p video at 120 frames per second and the editing experience lets you determine a start and end point for the effect to kick in and cease, although it doesn’t pack quite the same elegance as the easing utilised by iOS.

Read next: Google Nexus 5X camera review

Verdict

We’re excited for the return of the Nexus 5 name and the 5X is as good an incarnation as we could have hoped for.

It doesn’t pack as premium a design or hardware as its launch partner, but it’s still wholly equipped to deal with the average user’s needs; from gaming, to photography, productivity and more.

Nexus 5X handheld

Android 6.0 will also grow and improve the software experience the 5X packs over time, but there’s already plenty of new functionality to explore and enjoy, with Now on Tap and Nexus Imprint leading the charge for Android's innovative streak.

The 16GB model sells for £339 and the 32GB sells for £379 direct from Google, which based on the performance available is a little pricey, pushing its appeal more specifically towards Android purists than the general masses. For those who want a great all-round flagship, there are a number of devices from earlier in the year that continue to drop in price, which might serve as ideal alternatives if the Nexus 5X doesn't tick every box, but otherwise, we're pleased.

Read next: Our hands-on Nexus 6P review, the new premium Nexus with an all-metal design

Key Specs

  • 5.2-inches
  • Full HD (1920x1080)
  • 136 grams
  • Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • 12.3-megapixel w/ laser autofocus
  • 5-megapixel
  • 1.8GHz hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
  • 2GB
  • 16GB/32GB (non-expandable)
  • Yes
  • Fingerprint sensor, Google Now On Tap, Android Sensor Hub, Ambient screen

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