The Nexus 5X is the smaller and cheaper of Google’s new flagship Android 6.0 Marshmallow smartphones, and is billed as the phone for everyone. It has a great camera, fingerprint sensor and 5.2in screen for £339.
Nexus devices are Google’s way of showing what the latest version of Android can do, made in partnership with different manufactures. They run Android as Google intends it, without modifications, and receive software updates first.
The Nexus 5X is the successor to 2013’s Nexus 5 – Google’s most popular Nexus device to date – and like 2013’s Nexus smartphone, the 5X is made by LG.
The Nexus 5 remade
It’s still a relatively compact smartphone, but now has a 5.2in screen and a longer body than the Nexus 5, which lets it fit in a front-facing speaker at the bottom. The top and bottom speakers do not work as a stereo pair, unfortunately.
It is 7.9mm thick, covered in a smooth soft-touch plastic, and weighs 136g, making it one of the lightest top-end smartphones currently available. The 6.8mm thick Samsung Galaxy S6, for instance, weighs 138g. The iPhone 6S is 7.1mm thick and weighs 143g.
It doesn’t feel quite as premium as the iPhone or Galaxy S6, but its plastic is high quality, warm to the touch and a lot easier to hold onto. The buttons on the side feel a little basic and cheap, but the rest of the phone feels very well built.
The 5.2in screen is excellent. It has a 1080p resolution, a density of 423 pixels per inch and is pin sharp. The Galaxy S6’s 5.1in 2K display with 577ppi is technically sharper, but it is very difficult to spot the difference at that size of screen.
- Screen: 5.2in 1080p LCD (423ppi)
- Processor: hexa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
- RAM: 2GB of RAM
- Storage: 16 or 32GB
- Operating system: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Camera: 12.3MP rear camera, 5MP front-facing camera
- Connectivity: LTE, Wi-Fi, NFC, Bluetooth 4.2, USB-C and GPS
- Dimensions: 147.0 x 72.6 x 7.9 mm
- Weight: 136g
Snappy, but only for a day
The Nexus 5X uses Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 808 hexa-core processor, not the company’s top of the line octa-core 810. It’s the same processor that LG used in the G4 to great effect.
The phone feels snappy, switching apps is rapid, and while it’s not quite the fastest-feeling Android smartphone currently available – that would be the Galaxy S6 – it is on par with the best of the rest.
In fact, I’d say that only hardcore gamers will even notice that it’s not the fastest processor on the block and only has 2GB of RAM when competitors have three or four. It didn’t even get warm while playing Shooting Stars for 30 minutes.
The one area where the Nexus 5X is weaker is battery life. In my testing the smartphone lasted one day on average, but only just. I would get home from work with 30% and it would still have 10% by the time I woke up the next day. A night out would push it to the limit. It is only just good enough, and in a year may not be.
Google’s new Doze system works as advertised. If I went to bed with 10% battery left I woke up with 8% the next day without activating battery saver mode.
I used it as my primary device, with hundreds of emails, push notifications and messages coming in, 2.5 hours of browsing, five hours of listening to music via Bluetooth headphones, around 20 minutes of gaming and a couple of photos per day.
The Nexus 5X has the new USB type-C charging port, which can be inserted either way up and feels much more solid and satisfying to use than microUSB. It was first introduced with Google’s Chromebook Pixel. Other phones including the OnePlus 2 also use it.
Unlike the OnePlus 2, the Nexus 5X has rapid charging reaching 80% in an hour at its fastest rate. The biggest downside is that you’ll end up having to buy some extra cables as LG only ships a USB-C to USB-C cable in the box, which means you will likely not be able to plug it into your computer.
A standard USB (A) to USB-C cable costs around £10.
Call quality was notably better than the Nexus 6. The Nexus 5X has a notification LED, but it is turned off by default. I found I didn’t need it when using the ambient display notification system, but it could be used instead to save battery.
Android 6.0 Marshmallow
The Nexus 5X is one of the first smartphones available running Google’s latest version of Android 6.0 Marshmallow. There are no software features that are unique to the Nexus 5X beyond the Nexus Camera and Nexus Imprint fingerprint scanner.
Marshmallow runs smoothly, is well optimised and feels as if it was designed for the Nexus 5X, which it was.
For more information on Google Now on Tap, Doze and app standby battery-saving features, and the rest of Android 6.0 Marshmallow read:
The Nexus Imprint sensor is the best fingerprint scanner I have used to date. It’s one of the fastest available instantly recognising my finger and unlocking the phone with near 100% accuracy.
Its position on the back, below the camera, is a natural place for your index finger to rest when holding the device. I found I unlocked the phone simply by picking it up and I never felt like I was going to drop it when unlocking it, as I have done with home button-style fingerprint scanners.
The one downside is that you can’t unlock the device when it is flat on the table with a fingerprint, but you can just tap in a pin, password or pattern to unlock it instead.
Marshmallow brings baked-in support for fingerprint scanners, which means greater third-party app support will come. Once you use a fingerprint scanner of this quality you will never want to go back to tapping in a pin.
The new Nexus camera is excellent – easily one of the best, if not the best camera I have had the pleasure to use on a smartphone. In good light the level of detail captured in photos is fantastic, and when blown up to full size suffers none of the over-sharpening or artefacts that many other do. Colours were natural and white balance was solid.
I found the autofocus to be snappy and accurate for the most part, and macro shots looked particularly good.
In low light I found it capable, producing good-looking photos in the kind of indoor lighting most photos are captured in. Like all smartphone cameras it really struggled in very dim light.
The biggest issue is that the camera app is slightly slow. Taking HDR photos takes a steady hand and a second’s patience, for instance. It takes smooth video and can do 120FPS slo-mo, as well as 4K at 30FPS.
The front-facing selfie camera did an admirable job, and produced snaps with surprisingly good detail in middling light. Double-pressing the power button launches the camera app, which works well.
This is the best camera fitted to a Nexus device by a factor of 10 and is easily up there with the best of the rest.
The Nexus 5X comes in three colours, black, white and ice (a kind of duck egg colour) and with either 16GB of storage costing £339 or 32GB for £379 from Google.
The Nexus 5X is a brilliant phone, with only minor downsides. The biggest is lacklustre battery life. It generally lasts a day, but no more, which is disappointing.
The camera is excellent, the fingerprint scanner fantastic, it’s snappy, has a great screen and is both light and relatively small in a smartphone landscape dominated by phones with screens larger than 5.5in.
It’s well future-proofed, apart from the lack of wireless charging, and is excellent value. The Nexus 5X is arguably the best smartphone available for around £350, but buy the 32GB version as 16GB of storage just isn’t enough.
Pros: excellent camera, fantastic fingerprint scanner, great screen, feels nice, light, Android 6.0 Marshmallow, snappy
Cons: battery life could be better, no microSD card slot and no option for more than 32GB of storage, no wireless charging, only comes with USB-C to USB-C cable in the box
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- iPhone 6S Plus review: barely better than the iPhone 6 Plus
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