Nexus 5X Review : 5-inch Android revisited

After the whale-sized Nexus 6 was slammed by many for its large body, the Nexus 5X we’ve just put through a review, was launched by Google as an answer to a smaller pure Android device. Since it’s based on the Nexus 5 blueprint, the makers knew exactly what they wanted from the device, and that’s what should work in its favor. The question that remains now is whether they’ve been able to recreate the perfect 5-inch (this one’s 5.2 inches by the way) Android device or not. We’ve put the new Nexus 5X through its paces to try to find the answer.

Specifications

– Display: 5.2-inch IPS LCD, 1080p full HD (423ppi)
– OS: Android 6.0 Marshmallow (upgradable)
– CPU: 1.8GHz hexa core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 (64-bit)
– GPU: Adreno 418
– Memory: 2GB RAM, 16GB/32GB storage space
– Cameras: 12.3MP rear with dual LED flash, 5MP front
– Battery: 2700mAh
– Weight: 136gm
– Dimensions: 147 x 72.6 x 7.9mm
– Connectivity: 4G LTE, Wi-Fi ac, Bluetooth v4.2, GPS (A-GPS, GLONASS), NFC, USB Type-C

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Design

At 136gm, the Nexus 5X is an incredibly light smartphone, considering it has some really top-notch hardware crammed inside its body. People with small hands or all those who prefer using 5-inch phones will find it a delight to hold. One-handed use is easily possible, and never does it feel unconformable to handle. Google has gone with the decision to place the fingerprint scanner on the rear surface rather than the front. This means you’ll be using your index finger to unlock it rather than your thumb. While this does not alter anything fundamentally, it does start a debate over where the optimal spot for the fingerprint scanner is.

We believe that the functionality and fast nature of this particular feature is more important than its placement. LG has taken this point seriously, and equipped it with an incredibly quick response time. It will flawlessly recognize your fingerprint as long as you are placing it inside the circle, which is an advantage over devices like the OnePlus 2 that are quite inconsistent with their recognizing abilities. The fingerprint reader on the Nexus 5X allows you to pick your device up, unlock it and have it ready for use in just around 1.5 seconds; that’s how good it is.

5X Fingerprint Scanner

Did we tell you about the front facing speakers of the Nexus 5X? Well yes, they exist and again taunt all other manufacturers who still do not understand their importance. Their symmetrical arrangement with the earpiece enhances the looks of the handset furthermore. Coming to the body, it does not have metal on it, which should be off-putting for those expecting a premium finish. However, this particular Nexus is not targeted towards that sort of crowd anyway, and hence invests in a polycarbonate body with a fingerprint-repelling matte finish on its rear surface.

The sides are a standard affair and to be clear, they are not made of metal either. Oddly, the 3.5mm audio jack is placed at the bottom beside the device’s USB Type-C port. This didn’t bother us a bit during our time with the Nexus 5X; so it’s nothing to worry about. Another unique aspect is that the notification LED shines from inside the speaker at the bottom. We have to admit, this is a pretty neat addition we’d love to see in other smartphones.

Nexus 5X LED

Flipping the Nexus 5X over will show you the sweet horizontal Nexus logo that’s screaming for you to notice it. The fingerprint scanner has a nice silver ring around it and of course, the rear camera has a protruding lens that sticks out a few millimeters. While this does not spoil the show in any way, it won’t please those who like texting with the device placed on a flat surface. A dual tone flash and laser autofocus module complete the rear decorations on this phone.

Display and audio

A sweet 5.2-inch display sits on the front surface of the Nexus 5X, hogging all the limelight when it’s on. A Super AMOLED panel like the one on the 6P model would have been a great addition, but LG has instead settled for an IPS LCD. On a basic level, this changes literally nothing in the visual department, but observing closely will make you notice that the colors appear a little less saturated than on AMOLED panels. The display can get incredibly bright as well dark to suit your needs; it even boasts of killer viewing angles.

Display

The fact that this 5.2-inch panel features 1080p full HD resolution means that the pixel density count comes up to 423ppi, making it appear quite sharp to the naked eye. The Ambient Display functionality of the 5X is great at showing you breathing notifications. We couldn’t help but be bothered about the battery it was consuming even though the feature works in gray-scale mode. That wouldn’t have been the case with a Super AMOLED panel. Just saying!

Like we said, front facing speakers are a great addition for any smartphone since the audio has the straightest reach to your ears. At the same time, the quality of the speakers on the Nexus 5X is nothing to drive home about. They’re not stereo in nature, and neither are they bassy or capable of providing deep sound. Despite being average, they’re pretty loud.

Nexus Speaker

Software

Google has released the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P as flagship devices for showcasing the Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS, and they’re doing a damn good job of it. Despite the change in nomenclature, this software release is not a big one as it only adds a few new features to the mix. For the privacy conscious, the pop-ups with granular app permissions will be a pleasure to view. This allows them to ensure that no app is snooping on things unnecessarily.

Marshmallow is the first version of stock Android that gives you the ability to tune the UI of your device yourself. Once you’ve enabled this option by tapping and holding the gear icon from the notifications menu for a few seconds, you’re free to gain access to a number of visual changes. These include what icons you wish to see in the quick settings menu, the facility to move those icons according to your convenience and the ability to have the battery icon show the percentage of power remaining in the phone.

Google Now On Tap

One of Android 6.0’s most attractive features is Google Now On Tap. It allows you to get additional information about anything that’s on your screen without having to type it out in the search bar. All you need to do is long-press the home button and a swift animation later, you’ll have detailed links as well as information about the stuff you wish to learn about. So for instance, if you’re reading an article about the Indian cricket team, and it mentions a player you haven’t heard about, you can just long-press the home button and Google Now on Tap will show you his profile and even provide links to his social media accounts.

You’ll notice lots of other small changes like fresh and bouncy animations and such, but there are things in Marshmallow that are hard to notice as well. One of them is Doze, and it’s aimed at saving the battery of your device while it’s on standby. We’ll have a thorough look at it when we talk about the battery life of the Nexus 5X later on in this review.

Camera

Stepping out of the megapixel race is a decision that has worked wonders for the camera setup on both the new Google offerings. The 12.3MP camera oboard might not boast of a high resolution, but its two other features more than make up for that. First is of course its f/2.0 aperture opening and second is its adoption of 1.55-micron pixels. This large pixel size basically enhances the camera’s ability to capture more light, thus improving its low-light shots. And boy do the low-light shots shine!

http://imgur.com/a/oA2K3

In dim conditions, it’s almost hard to detect noise in your images. And with little to no light, the graininess does appear, though at a relatively small level. Where the camera does suffer a bit is indoors when there’s little light available to show the highlights. But it’s a trade-off one would gladly accept. The post-processing of the Nexus 5X is more focused on capturing the exact colors than adding punch to them with over-saturation. This may disappoint some, but the simple image-editing options of the phone should do the trick for them.

Daylight shots with this camera are as good as DSLR images if their low resolution is to be ignored. They are sharp and helped a lot by the large aperture and the laser auto-focus to distinguish the subject properly. In terms of camera, this is by far the best Nexus handset there has ever been, along with the 6P model which too grabs the exact same snapper. As for selfies, they are clicked pretty convincingly by the wide 5MP front shooter.

Sample video shot on the Nexus 5X

The things that didn’t please us were the occasional bugs in the Camera app which should have been fixed by now, but haven’t. Also, this app is at times slow to open. The interface is pretty standard and easy to understand. The Nexus 5X has missed out on grabbing optical image stabilization. It does offer 4K video support. These clips carry over the sharpness and details from camera’s photographs, delivering promising results. 120fps slow motion videos are supported as well, if you’re fond of them. As for 240fps clips, they are possible only on the Nexus 6P.

Performance and battery life

The fact that just 2GB worth of RAM is on offer through the Nexus 5X might be a cause of concern for some, but there’s really no need to worry. Thanks to its incorporation of a 1.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 processor, the phone is able to offer buttery smooth performance no matter what tasks you throw at it. Apps are quick to launch, the animations seldom miss a frame and the multi-tasking is silky as well. We should warn you that the benchmarks will tell you a different story due to their low scores. We guess the fact that the phone runs stock Android allows it to better handle the performance despite its relatively low-end hardware.

Monument Valley

This Nexus handset packs a 2700mAh battery which has failed to impress us with its abilities. It’s capable of lasting one whole day. You’ll unfortunately need to hold back on using the phone often if you want it to last till bedtime. We took it with us on a 350-odd kilometer journey without any power bank or power outlet at hand. The usage involved clicking a few pictures, making lots of phone calls and a whole lot of WhatsApp messaging. The Nexus 5X made it through this 8-hour journey with around 30 percent charge still left on it. It should be mentioned that the brightness was set to low and the GPS switched off so as to ensur the battery did not die out on us.

We gave it whirl under moderate usage conditions as well. It’s safe to say that around 12 hours of use can be achieved. What hurts is that you cannot go beyond this even if you try. What helps is one of Marshmallow’s biggest features called Doze. It tremendously increases the standby time of your device by better managing background apps. So if your phone happens to be on standby for long periods of time, you can rest assured that it won’t be losing much juice.

Nexus 5X

Pros

– Amazing camera for daytime as well as low-light photography

– Excellent performance under all conditions

– Quick fingerprint scanner

Cons

– Absence of expandable storage hurts base (16GB) model

– Average battery life

Our Shout

Final verdict

Those who have waited a long time for a Nexus 5 successor have finally been treated to it by Google and LG. The Nexus 5X revisits the medium-sized display segment and comes out with flying colors as a pocket-friendly affordable Android smartphone. It does face a few setbacks, prime among them being its moderate battery life. Its newly lowered price of around Rs 25000 (for 16GB) should entice many to buy it. Its rates in the US for the 16GB and 32GB versions were $379 and $429, as of December 2015. Users can be sure of getting a pretty solid device featuring an awesome camera, a crisp display and great overall performance. Not to mention quick software updates as and when they are released. Our score for it is 4 out of 5 stars.