Google’s Nexus 5X, made by LG, offers a fantastic mix of today’s latest hardware features, complete with a modern mix of software goodies.
Availability and Price
There are two main variants of the Nexus 5X: a 16GB model, and a 32GB model. The larger of the two will run you $429, while the smaller capacity is $50 cheaper at $379. Given the 5X lacks a microSD card slot, you may want the 32GB model due to its increased storage.
In addition to two capacities, there are three colors to choose from. While I received the white (quartz) model, black (carbon) and light blue (ice) versions are also available.
Despite its mid-range price, the 5X still has a pretty respectable spec sheet.
- 5.2-inch 1080×1920 display with Gorilla Glass 3
- Fingerprint sensor (rear)
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 octa-core CPU @ 1.8GHz + 2GB LPDDR3 RAM
- 2,700mAh non-removable battery
- 16GB/32GB storage options, no microSD card slot
- 4G LTE (+ band 12)/3G/2G support
- 802.11a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi (2.4GHz + 5GHz), Bluetooth 4.2, NFC
- Android 6.0 “Marshmallow”
- 12.3MP rear-facing camera w/laser-guided autofocus & 4K30/1080p30 video recording
- 5MP front-facing camera w/1080p30 video recording
- 5.8 inches tall, 2.9 inches wide, 0.3 inches thin
Design and Hardware
The Nexus 5X retains a number of design cues from 2013’s Nexus 5, which was also made by LG. Plastic materials can be found throughout, which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, as it helps keep the 5X very light. That combined with the ever-so-slightly curved back and rounded sides help keep the 5X quite a comfortable device to hold.
On the white “Quartz” model, the rear, non-removable cover is matte white, the side is matte black, while the front panel is all black. The matte textures allow for little to no fingerprints, smudges, or visible scratches. I like to call this the 2/3 Oreo design. I personally like this, as the use of black and white colors make for a very neutral design no matter where you’re at. The overall design is kept clean, smooth and simple, which are all things that most people should find very appealing.
Placed on the right side include the power button and the volume rocker. They’re a tad mushy when being pressed, but are otherwise fully functional. Interestingly, the power button is placed above the volume rocker, sometimes making it harder to reach with one hand. Fortunately, this doesn’t take much time to get used to. There’s a lone microphone pinhole along the top and a nano-SIM tray along the left. Looking for that fancy new USB type-C port? It’s at centered along the bottom, with another microphone pinhole and 3.5mm headset jack to its right.
Like many other of today’s smartphones, the rear-facing camera on the back of the 5X is a bit raised, so the phone (without a case, at least) isn’t completely flat when placed on a surface. To the left of the camera are two LEDs for flash photos and the laser for fast focusing. New to the Nexus line is a fingerprint reader, with a circular one placed centered just below the rear-facing camera. There is also some Nexus and LG branding.
Lastly, the front of the 5X. In addition to the 5.2-inch display, you have a widened earpiece at the top, the 5MP front-facing camera to the left of that, and a front-facing speaker at the bottom of the panel. There’s also an activity LED embedded within the bottom speaker.
Speaker & Audio
What could undoubtedly be better is the 5X’s single front-facing speaker. It’s maximum volume is adequate enough, though that’s about it. Actual quality hardly satisfies anything other than quick speakerphone calls. I would best describe audio quality as plain, with hardly any bass. Once you turn the volume up past roughly the 70% mark, there’s some serious clipping/distortion to where you just want to turn it off and use headphones.
But that’s another area where the 5X could use some improvements. The volume is mostly there (though, when maxed out for headphones, does fall a bit short compared to other devices), but also sounds rather plain. There’s a built-in equalizer, though this brings the overall volume down very much to where maxing the volume still may not provide enough sound.
Fortunately, the rest of the device makes up for these mostly minor shortcomings.
With its great colors, viewing angles, touch response and maximum brightness, the screen on the 5X is great to use, and is on-par with the rest of this year’s top smartphones. What I wish would’ve been improved is its amount of brightness when at the lowest level. There’s just nothing to fault in regard to the 5X’s display.
Software, Apps and Features
As this is a Nexus device, the 5X runs a completely stock version of the latest version of Android, now at version 6.0, and called Marshmallow. While it doesn’t offer drastic changes over Android 5, it does bring some improvements to performance, power management, security and more. One of the marquee “and more” features is the “Now on Tap” feature in Marshmallow. Let’s say you’re browsing a web page. Hold the home button, and the OS scans what you’re looking at and pulls up relevant information, such as movie times.
Fingerprint capabilities are now baked with into the OS, not only allowing you to use it to unlock the device, but to authorize payments, app downloads, and much more. I found the rear placement to not be the most ideal for if you’re simply using the device while it’s docked or on a table, but it feels just right when you’re already holding the phone in your hand. It’s incredibly accurate and fast — noticeably faster than on my iPhone 6 Plus — but not too fast (like on the 6S/6S Plus).
Performance has proven to be a non-issue for the 5X. There was never a moment where I wish the processor was faster, or that I wanted more than 2GB RAM. Switching between multiple apps was quick and smooth, as was launching them. Playing games proved to fine as well. I didn’t do any synthetic benchmarks, as they don’t translate to real-world usage. Simply put, there’s nothing to worry about in the performance department.
I typically take battery screenshots at the end of the day, but completely forgot to do this during my 5X usage. This was because I never found it to be of any concern.
With mixed usage throughout the day, I was able to go 15-16 hours before plugging it in to charge overnight, even though it always had 30-50% left. Even if it’s low, you won’t have to wait long to get a long charge. Google says you can get 4~ hours of usage after just a 10-minute charge, which I’d estimate to be 20-30% worth of battery. To do so, you’ll have to make sure that you’re using a fast charger, which the 5X includes.
Call and Cellular Network Performance
I’ve been testing the Nexus 5X with T-Mobile in the US, which is completely compatible with the device. The 5X also has band 12 LTE, though it won’t be active until a software update, which isn’t yet available at the time of this video. Still, it works with everything else that T-Mobile has, including VoLTE, HD Voice and Wi-Fi Calling. HD Voice call quality through the front-facing earpiece has been just as you’d expect, which is quite good. The 5X also holds on to low LTE signals very well. Data speeds have also been stellar. Antenna wise, the 5X seems to do well overall.
Nexus devices have never had the strongest camera quality, but they’re far from bad. With enough light, the 5X takes pretty good shots, though results in areas with low light aren’t too nice. And while the rear camera supports 4K video recording at 30FPS, it doesn’t do 1080p60 recordings, just 1080p30 and 720p30. It can also record slow-motion video at 120FPS, but I was unable to test this, so I’m unsure of its resolution. Regardless, I think most people will be perfectly happy with the results.
While the software doesn’t have as many bells and whistles that you’d find on something like a Galaxy S6 or LG G4, the stock Android experience on the Nexus 5X has been excellent. Performance has been excellent. The display is nice to look at. It has one of the simplest designs in the smartphone industry today. It’s got a good price. It will get new Android software updates before almost every other Android device.
With lines like those, there’s no reason why you shouldn’t be interested in the Nexus 5X, except for the fact that there are other devices with similar prices while offer similar experiences. There’s still very little wrong with the Nexus 5X to where, should you get one, you wouldn’t be disappointed. It’s a very capable device with a simplified design and set of features that are sure to please.