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Nexus 5X Review: a great budget smartphone

Everybody loved the Nexus 5 – even my mother had one back in the day and she truly loved that phone. The year after that, Google and Motorola took us by surprise and released the Nexus 6. It definitly was (and still is) a great smartphone but many people were not happy with the size of it. The problem with the Nexus 6 wasn’t that it was big – it was huge…6 inches huge. While I did like that phone and I have never been a hater of whale smartphone, the Nexus crowd were fawning over another Nexus 5-like device with up-to-date specifications for a cheap price. This year, Google delivered. Or did they?

Design and Build quality

Of course, the design is a relatively subjective point, but the Nexus 5X carries on the same ilk as the ‘Nexii’ before it sporting a very simple yet appealing look. The smooth camera bump is lovely and the texture of the polycarbonate body is a pleasure in the hand. The fingerprint scanner or ‘Nexus Imprint’ is just below the camera and it adds a nice touch to the design of the phone. Of course, you will find the now traditional “Nexus” name on the back as well (this time round it is etched onto the device as opposed to using stickers). The front, without any logo or text, features two grills. But don’t be fooled, only the bottom one is a loudspeaker. The top grille also hides behind it an RGB LED which is a nice re-introduction back to the Nexus line. I do use an LG G Watch R smartwatch to let me see notifications, but not all the time and the LED comes in very handy during tho those moments.

nexus-5x-white

The build quality is pretty much what you would expect for this price point. There is nothing wrong with it per se but it is not following the current trend that all smartphones should be made out of metal. I feel like it is indeed better quality build than the original Nexus 5 – so if you were fine with the 5, the 5X should satisfy you a little better. I have the black one and the texture on the back is a little smoother that the black Nexus 5. To be completely honest all my phones are in a nice TPU case so I don’t care too much about the material used unless the finish is bad – this is not the case here!

I have heard some people complaining about the back cracking (did someone said Nexus 9?) but this doesn’t seem to be the case on my unit. It’s definitely not cheap, but not premium. The buttons are both on the right side and have a decent travel with the buttons being nice and ‘clicky’, too. Some people were worried about the original Nexus 5 and its power button, but that should be much less of a worry now we have Nexus Imprint.

Both the USB Type C connector and the 3.5mm jack are on the bottom of the phone. I won’t start the big debate here, but this is my favourite placement. Having a device with USB Type C makes me feel like I’m in the future and it’s a nice addition to not have to worry about getting the cable the right way around. However don’t forget that the Nexus 5X doesn’t come with a cable USB Type C to Micro USB so you will need to get one if you want to transfer files from your computer or indeed intend to modify it.

Nexus 5X screen

Screen

The Nexus 5X has a 5.2-inch 1080p LCD display. My two previous phones had AMOLED displays and I must be the only one on this planet who likes LCD more. The viewing angles are incredible and colours, while staying a bit punchy, looks way more natural. The blacks are really dark for an LCD, not on par with an AMOLED of course but this is a really, really great LCD panel. The display gets incredibly bright in direct sunlight and you won’t have any problems using the device outside.

Now the big question, did I notice the change from QHD to HD? Well, no. Keep in mind that the last screen I had in front of my eyes was 6 inches and this one is 5.2 inches which are still 423 pixels per inch. I didn’t find myself seeing pixels on my screen or being frustrated. If the Nexus 5X had a 6-inch display, it could have been a very different story. For the price, I find the screen to be just perfect. No complaints here.

Nexus Imprint

The Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P are the first smartphones from Google to implement a fingerprint scanner and it even has a fancy name! The first step is to setup a finger and boy is it quick. It takes less than 10 taps to learn your finger. It is supposed to learn from that point. Since the very first day, my Nexus 5X recognises my fingerprint ALL. THE. TIME. It doesn’t matter where I put my finger, in less than a second I’m on the home screen. It’s blazingly fast and incredibly accurate. I’m very impressed by the sensor here.

Nexus Imprint

The only complaints you could have is that it’s on the back. For me, it has been a breeze to adapt and now it is a very natural way to put my finger there every time I pick up the phone. The last device with a fingerprint scanner I had was the Galaxy S6 and Nexus Imprint is miles ahead. To be perfectly honest, I wouldn’t be surprised if Google deletes the lock screen in Android N, since you rarely see the lock screen due to the sheer speed of the sensor. But that idea is as crazy as removing the app drawer…

Camera

Let’s start by saying that the camera sensor is exactly the same on the Nexus 6P, so whatever you read before about the 6P applies here. They both feature a 12.4 Megapixel sensor from Sony and holy Duarte those two Nexus devices are miles, miles ahead in terms of picture quality than the previous ones. Is it better than the LG G4 or the Galaxy S6? I’m not sure. It’s honestly hard to tell. In bright light, the pictures have tons of details and the colours are very accurate with an extra punchiness for added effect. The pictures in low light are even more impressive. With HDR+ on, the 5X can take in a lot of light and produces a decent picture. And helped with the laser autofocus, the phone is very quick to focus on what you want.

[envira-gallery id=”1049″] The Google Camera is fairly basic but doesn’t forget that Nexus devices support CameraAPI2. So feel free to install any apps on the play store if you’re looking for more granular control. I am a photographer, and when I need professional quality pictures, I take my DSLR. For the rest, my Nexus 5X is more than enough.

Battery Life

This is always the hardest part of reviewing. If I wanted to tell you quickly how the battery life is, I would stop after saying ‘good’. On my scale from Galaxy S6 to OnePlus One, it’s closer to the OnePlus. To give you some rough numbers here I am able to consistently get 4 to 4.5 hours of screen-on time over the course of 24 hours. I mainly use my Nexus for browsing the web, twitter, Reddit, listening to podcasts or music. For me, it’s more than what I need. If you don’t use your device much and keep it on a table, Doze will kick in and make it last for a long while. But as with most people, you have it in your pocket the whole day and don’t see Doze until the night.

The Nexus 4 was a terrible smartphone when you talk about battery life and the Nexus 5 wasn’t a champ either. Here, with the bumped 2700 mAh battery and an 808 chipset, we get very decent battery life. If you’re not a smartphone gamer, you’ll probably be very happy.

Performance

This is where the controversy starts. A lot of people have been reporting since the Nexus 5X launch that their device is disappointing in the performance department. The number of people reporting that is way bigger than what I have ever seen from any other smartphone. The question is: why? Well, sorry, but I have no answer to that. If you know me, you know that I like to dig and find answers all over the internet. But I haven’t found any patterns yet. What I can tell you is that my unit is smooth, fast and lag-free. I would even say it’s faster than my Nexus 6.
So why are some people having so many lag issues? My understanding is that it’s related to the hardware. Even in Safe Mode, people have reported lag. Some of them send it back under warranty and the new unit they got, with the same apps, were totally lag free.

My experience has been perfect so far and I really like stock Marshmallow. It’s running just great in my day to day use. If you get a laggy Nexus 5X, try to RMA. It may well be a hardware problem.

Conclusion

The Nexus 5X is a great phone. Is it the one for you? First of all, don’t get the 16 GB version. It’s way too small in 2016. Secondly, if the Nexus 6P is almost the same price and you like phablets, maybe consider the 6P. The aluminum build, with a better CPU, more RAM (1GB extra), AMOLED QHD screen is more than worth it. On the other hand, if your budget is tight or you just want a smaller Nexus, the 5X is a very good choice.

The build quality is great if you don’t mind polycarbonate, the screen is gorgeous if you don’t need QHD, the fingerprint scanner and the camera are top notch, the battery life will get you through the day without any problem. The icing on the cake? The performance backed up with a Snapdragon 808 along with 2GB RAM will be more than enough to satisfy most of your needs.
The Nexus 5X 32GB is sold in Switzerland at around 340 euros and at that price, I would recommend it to anyone.

About Chris Wallace

Techie, Gamer, Biker

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