Nexus 5X review: A solid, no-frills, pure Android experience at an affordable price

BY GreenBot Staff

Published 26 Oct 2015

Nexus devices have always been for developers—or so they say. works in concert with hardware partners to make sure developers have an affordable phone that runs Android,  just Android, but a growing number of consumers want pure Android too.

Indeed, Android enthusiasts have always been interested in Nexus phones, but the -built Nexus 5, released in 2013, caught on especially well. It featured a top-of-the-line processor an 1080p display, the version of Android it shipped with (4.4 KitKat) was usable enough for most people without requiring an interface overhaul. At a very reasonable price of $350, you could forgive its workmanlike design.

en opted for a much bigger more expensive phone in the Nexus 6, legions of Nexus 5 fans were disappointed. Sure, it was “better,” but at what cost? ll, you can now consider the Nexus 5X, again built by , a love letter to the substantial number of Nexus 5 fans.

At $379 for 16GB or $429 for 32GB, the Nexus 5X is exactly the update the Nexus 5 fans have been asking for. It’s got the right size, right price, right performance, right feature set. It captures everything the original Nexus 5 did so well, then some.

nching above its weight

You get a lot for your $379. The 5X sports a Snapdragon 808 processor 2 gigs of RAM—not top-of-the-line, but 2G is good enough to power the G4, among other more expensive phones. The 5X comes with a 12-megapixel camera with big 1.55 micron pixels an f/2.0 aperture that performs great in low-light environments. The 5.2-inch 1080p D display offers great color reproduction.

But the first thing you’ll notice is how chunky it looks. At 7.9mm, the phone isn’t thick, but its plastic two-tone build gives it a somewhat inelegant appearance. ck it up, you’d be forgiven for thinking something must be wrong: It can’t be that light, can it? At only 136 grams, the Nexus 5 weighs less than the ione 6s (143 grams), which only has a 4.7-inch display. The size weight combined make it feel light as a feather in the h. In fact, the Nexus 5X is almost exactly the same weight as the original 3.5-inch ione!

nexus 5x 02

At only 136 grams, the Nexus 5X feels surprisingly light in the h.

Still, despite the plastic build, it feels solid. It doesn’t bend, twist, or flex. The buttons activate with a satisfying click. Your headphones B-C cable snap in with precision. It’s inexpensive, but it is doesn’t feel cheap.

Outright performance is good, as you would expect from a device with pure Android a fairly high-end processor. chmarks are roughly in line with other Snapdragon 808 devices, in everyday use the interface feels snappy responsive, with smooth scrolling quick app switching.

nexus 5x benchmarks pcmark

In some benchmarks, like , the Nexus 5X produced scores just slightly lower than we’d expect.

nexus 5x benchmarks antutu

In most benchmarks, however, performance was right in line with what the Snapdragon 808 should deliver.

There are times when it bogs down a little, but these are rare. Every now then, launching the camera app is just a little bit slower than it should be. I also experienced some hitching when scrolling down Twitter, as well as slightly laggy taps in games. These issues aren’t frequent they don’t persist, but a Snapdragon 808 with 2GB of RAM shouldn’t run into these problems. I chalk it up to hot-off-the-presses Android 6.0 drivers that aren’t quite fully tuned yet.

re Android, better than ever

Of course, one of the motivations for buying a Nexus phone is to get a pure Android experience, unsullied by manufacturers who change up the interface where it’s not needed, unencumbered by bloatware from carriers phone makers that you’d rather not use can’t remove.

nexus 5x 04

The Nexus 5X supports always-on “OK ,” even when locked. Once you have it, you can’t go back.

th the 6.0 Marshmallow release, pure Android is better than ever. The interface design took a big leap with Android 5.0 llipop Material Design, 6.0 adds plenty of welcome tweaks. You can more easily control permissions for your apps, notifications are improved, the app drawer is better, uninstalling apps is easier, enthusiasts have more visibility into how their apps are behaving. ’s OS delivers a great user experience all on its own, makes a tough case for Touchz Sense the UI.

Of course, you also get Android updates direct from the instant they’re available. You don’t have to worry about broken promises for rapid updates that still take weeks, or whether your carrier will ever roll out some minor patch. You don’t have to wonder if your phone will get Android 7.0 next year. Given the sorry state of Android OS updates on most phones over the last year, this is no small benefit.

More than an all-day battery

The Nexus 5X offers no removable battery nor SD slot for expable storage. That’s a bummer, but it’s par for the course with Nexus phones now. Fortunately, the battery is not likely to be a problem. The 2700 mAh battery is quite beefy for a 5.2-inch phone under $400. Tack on the new Doze feature of Android 6.0, which puts your phone into a deeper sleep state when you’re not using it, you get some killer battery life.

nexus 5x benchmarks battery

Battery life benchmarks are quite good, but real-world battery life is even better.

Our Geekbench battery tests ran for 5 hours 43 minutes 4 hours 53 minutes, respectively. Those are good (but not amazing) numbers, particularly for such an inexpensive phone. In real-world use, the situation was better. I went all day with typical use, from 8 in the morning to 10 at night, still had 20 percent remaining. I left it unplugged overnight woke up to find the battery drained only 6 percent.

nexus 5x charging rapidly

The included B-C charger tops off the phone very quickly.

The new Nexus phones feature B Type-C plugs, come with special B-C chargers. They’ll quick-charge when using the included charger, charging speeds are impressive. I went from dead to half-charged in about 40 minutes, a full charge took only an hour a half. Note that the fast-charging tech in these phones is not compatible with Qualcomm’s Quick Charge nor Samsung’s technology. I tried about eight different chargers of various makes, they all worked, but the only one that would produce the “charging rapidly” text on the lock screen was ’s own included charger.

nexus 5x 05

The move to B-C will be painful for those who have invested heavily in micro B cables quick chargers.

It’s unfortunate that the phone doesn’t support wireless charging, though. The Nexus 6can blame its lack of support on its metal body, but the 5X doesn’t really have an excuse. It’s about the only feature I really miss on this phone.

An affordable Nexus with a good camera?

No Nexus phone has ever had a good camera. Some were passable for their time, others were a disappointment. But never have you been able to say, “the latest Nexus has a really good camera.”

Until now.

The Neuxs 5X 6share similar rear-facing cameras. The 12 megapixel sensor with huge 1.55 micron pixels f/2.0 lens are the same, but the image processing differs slightly. In the case of the 5X, the burst-shooting mode is absent the slo-mo video mode is limited to 120fps 720p resolution. They both have dual-tone rear flashes laser autofocus. Both phones take fantastic photos with the rear camera. No, really!

nexus 5x vs iphone indoor

In this indoor shot, you’d be hard pressed to justify the phone on the right costing nearly twice as much as the one on the left.

In all lighting conditions, the Nexus 5x produced photos that were sharp well exposed, with good color reproduction tone. The white balance errs slightly on the cool side, but not so much as to be a problem.

nexus 5x vs iphone low light

The Nexus 5X 5kick ass in low light shots, like this dark subject in a dark room.

The camera experience, however, is not quite as good as the final photos. ’s camera app is improved over past versions, where every setting was hidden away in a menu. Now, a couple of the most common controls, like timer, flash, HDR, slo-mo video, are instantly accessible along the edge of the display. And all it takes is a swipe left or right to switch between photo video mode. It’s still simple to a fault, though. th such good camera hardare, support for Android’s new Camera2 A, it’s a shame that ’s own camera app doesn’t offer an expert mode with manual controls, or the option to save RAimage files.

nexus 5x vs iphone bright

Color reproduction is good, but the ione 6s delivers better shots in bright light.

Camera speed is good, but could be better. The app launches quickly, but in general it still takes too long before you’re ready to take a shot—the Galaxy S6, Note 5, ione 6s offer much better “pocket to shutter” performance. There’s a hy shortcut whereby you double-tap the power button to jump right to the camera, which is useful if your phone is locked. But it’s jarring if you’re using another app want to pop over to the camera quickly; the phone actually goes to sleep then wakes up jumps over to the camera. The laser-assisted autofocus helps the phone focus quickly, shutter lag is a lot better than on previous Nexus phones, but it’s still not as snappy as the fastest phones you can buy.

It’s a testament to how far camera performance has come on Android phones in the last year that I consider the Nexus 5X to have a “very good, but not outsting” photo-taking experience. A year ago, this would have been one of the best cameras on any phone.

Missing out

Of course, when you buy a sub-$400 phone, you can’t have everything. And as much as you get with the Nexus 5X, you still leave plenty on the table for more expensive phones to pick up. There’s no premium all-metal construction. There’s no wireless charging. The phone’s speaker is loud clear, but there’s only one—it’s not stereo. The display is bright color reproduction is good, but in bright sunlight you’ll wish it would get brighter. The vibration motor is surprisingly weak—it feels like an insect buzzing in your pocket.

nexus 5x 03

The Nexus 5X may not have all the features of a premium-price phone, but it does have a lightning-fast fingerprint reader excellent camera.

It would have been nice to have these things, indeed you spend a bit more on the Nexus 6to get some of them. But this is clearly a mid-tier phone meant to provide core Android features perform well with an eye on the price tag. If you want a phone to show off to your friends, you’ll have to spend a little more.

Not the best Nexus, but Nexus at its best

For long-time Android phones, the Nexus 5X is what it’s all about. It’s like an affordable pickup truck. It won’t turn heads, doesn’t have every feature on the market. It’s not the fastest thing on the road. But when your friend needs to run to Ikea, who do they call? The guy with the pickup truck.

Nexus fans are used to not having every little feature of every other phone on the market. They buy a Nexus because they want a carrier-agnostic, bloatware-free phone that performs well doesn’t cost much. It’s what made the Nexus 5 of two years ago so popular, it’s why there was such an uproar in the Android community when the Nexus 6 hit the market at $650 in a gargantuan frame. was wise to offer two Nexus phones this year, one larger, high-end premium “show off” phone with a higher price tag, a less expensive, smaller workhorse for Android enthusiasts developers.

The Nexus 5X isn’t the best phone; it’s not even the best Nexus. It’s not meant to convert buyers of $600 Samsung premium phones to the Nexus program. It’s meant to please the Android fans who have been buying Nexus phones for years, it will.