My month with the Nexus 5X

By Jesse Simms

We previously covered one of the best contenders in the sub-$200 range, and thought we’d step it up a notch for our second “Month with” smartphone review.

The Nexus 5X is part of a new generation of affordable flagships that claim to offer top-notch performance at a reasonable price. As a big fan of the Nexus 5, Google’s first true breakthrough in the Nexus smartphone world, I was excited to see what was in store for its successor.

I used the Nexus 5X for just over a month and from my first impressions, I felt like LG and Google did a pretty good job addressing the drawbacks of the original Nexus 5 while adding some useful additions into the mix. Launched alongside the release of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, this software update made a bigger difference than I would have expected.

But did the Nexus 5X live up to the hype? If you’re interested in my thoughts, read on.

Build Quality

The look and feel of the Nexus 5X was absolutely perfect for me. The grippy sides and matte plastic finish felt great in my hand, and as a clumsy guy, I much prefer this sort of non-slip shell than what’s considered today’s premium materials like metal or glass.

Solidly built and able to fit into my jeans pocket with ease, it’s a slightly a refined version of the Nexus 5, outside of two new additions, a fingerprint sensor and USB-C charging. While USB-C was useful for charging the 5X in a flash, the fingerprint sensor, and more specifically its positioning, was seriously a godsend.

Compared to its placement on latest iPhone, Galaxy and OnePlus smartphones, Nexus Imprint is just better. Once I got used to exactly where the sensor was located, I’d unlock my 5X as I’d be pulling it out of my pocket, so it would be ready to go even before I’d have a chance to look at the screen. I know it only shaves a second or two off each interaction, but it made a much bigger difference than I would have ever expected (and made a lot of friends jealous).

Software

The Nexus 5X ships with Android 6.0 Marshmallow, the latest version of Google’s smartphone OS, and it felt like a game changer from the first time I picked up the 5X. While Stock Android is often considered to be a “bare bones” operating system, I found Marshmallow to be more feature-rich than any previous version of Android in a Nexus device.

Two features in particular made a big difference to my daily experience.

Now on Tap instantly scans anything shown on your smartphone screen and shows you what can be done with the information at hand. I found it super handy when my friends would text me an address – I’d just long-press the home screen to launch Now on Tap, tap the Maps icon and start the navigation process. While this was my favorite use case, I used it for a lot more than that, like sharing screenshots and looking up Wikipedia pages. Learn more about Now on Tap in our Ting tip.

The second feature, Doze, works behind the scenes to make your phone last longer when it’s not in use. I noticed that almost any time I laid my phone down, it had the exact same battery life the next time I picked it up. Even overnight was no issue; I remember leaving the 5X unplugged at 22% and waking up 10 hours later with 22% of juice still inside.

While Doze isn’t specific to the Nexus 5X, it’s definitely my favorite improvement to the Android operating system. I guarantee you’ll notice a difference once you get your hands on Marshmallow.

Hardware

The 5.2 inch display was just right for me – small enough to easily navigate and type with one hand, but big enough that the screen didn’t feel cluttered. YouTube and Netflix videos were bright and sharp, even when watching them outdoors.

I used the Nexus 5X for absolutely everything: calling, texting, Snapchat, Clash of Clans, browsing social media, taking pictures of my cat, taking videos of my cat, and more (pictures and videos of my cat). Why so many photos, you ask? Well, I had just gotten a kitten… and the Nexus 5X’s rear camera is really, really good.

I loved how it took excellent pictures without requiring any sort of set up. I wouldn’t consider myself a good photographer and I’m not interested in fiddling with settings, I just want to point, shoot and end up with something nice to look at.

My only complaint with the 5X is that it would often slow down and get laggy when processing HDR photos and using Snapchat. I didn’t experience this using any other apps, so I’m confident that this is an isolated bug that will hopefully be patched in the near future.

In terms of its battery life, I never had an issue getting through a full day of moderate use. At 2,700 mAh, it’s a respectable battery and a step up from its predecessor, but I definitely felt that Doze was the main reason the 5X could last for as long as it did.

In other words, if you’re using your phone all day long and it doesn’t get a break, you’ll like hit the limitations of the battery and be scrambling to find a power outlet before the day is done. Otherwise, though, you should make it through the day without issue.

Storage

The Nexus 5X has two storage options: 16 GB and 32 GB. I had the 16 GB model and found that after downloading my Spotify music for offline use and taking a bunch of pictures, I came pretty close to running out of space. Fortunately, Google Photos (Android & iOS) offers free unlimited cloud storage for all your photos and videos, so after uploading everything to the cloud, I wiped them off my phone and freed up a ton of space.

If you’re looking to install a lot of apps and games, you may want to consider the 32 GB model, but as someone who’s always around Wi-Fi and can take advantage of the cloud (without it taking advantage of my cell phone bill), I’m comfortable sticking with the smaller option.

Who should consider the Nexus 5X?

If you’re only looking to spend a couple hundred dollars on a smartphone that’ll last, the Nexus 5X is an excellent choice. The fingerprint sensor will improve your daily life, Stock Android will give you updates for years and its camera will provide memories for life.

Pros:

  • Perfect size (actually fits in your hand)
  • Amazing camera
  • Fingerprint sensor works like a charm and is in the exact spot your finger rests
  • USB-C gets you four hours of battery life with just 10 minutes of charging
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    Cons:

  • Lagginess while taking HDR photos and using camera apps like Snapchat
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