Video review: Google's Nexus 5X is a new twist on an old success

The Nexus 5 was a big hit two years ago. Now LG and Google are hoping to top the charts again with the Nexus 5X.

Google Nexus 5X review Android 6.0 Marshmallow

The Nexus 5X is a refresh of the Nexus 5, introduced in 2013. The original Nexus 5 was critically acclaimed as a well-designed, modestly priced, full-featured and unlocked smartphone.

The design goals are the same for the new Nexus 5X, and differ from those for flagship phones – an exercise in system design using components to create a phone with a mid-range price that showcases most of the features of the latest version of Android. These two phones were designed to be useful and entertaining, not to win benchmarks and spec-marks like the flagship phones.

The Nexus 5X is a timely hardware update needed to continue to deliver good performance and an excellent user experience, with an expectation for at least two years of use or two or three new Android updates. The old Nexus 5 started with Android Kitkat 4.1, updated to Lollipop 5.0, and it will get at least a third update with Android Marshmallow 6.0. For the Nexus 5X, it would be reasonable to expect a few updates.

In addition to delivering balanced performance, by introducing the same camera on the Nexus 5X as the top-tier Nexus 6P, Google is saying that great photography is part of Android and no longer the exclusive realm of flagship phones. The rear camera has a 12.3-megapixel sensor with large 1.55µm pixels that capture more light as raw material used to create great photos. It has a dual-LED flash that produces balanced colors in low light. The laser focus substantially brings clarity and detail to the foreground and background. It will record 4K HD videos at 30 fps and slow-motion videos at 120fps. It has a 5-megapixel front-facing selfie cam.

The Nexus 5X screen has been enlarged to a 5.2-inch, full HD, 1920-by-1080 pixels. At 423 ppi, its pixel density trumps that of the the iPhone 6s and 6s Plus and improves color saturation.

The Nexus 5X has a single speaker and three microphones, two in front and one in back for echo-cancellation.   

In addition to a new camera, a fast and accurate fingerprint reader was added to unlock the phone and authenticate with Android Pay. The Nexus 5X can be unlocked often times with one hand because the fingerprint reader is located on the back. “OK Google” voice search works when the screen is unlocked, but does not respond when the screen is locked like more expensive phones.

Subtle but important changes to the hardware were made for improved performance. Google and its partner LG bumped the processor to a 64-Bit Snapdragon 808 system on a chip (SoC), which doubles the number of cores to eight, making it both more powerful and more energy-efficient.

The Snapdragon 808 SoC brings with it not just faster processing but faster communications, adding LTE CAT 6 support and Wi-Fi MIMO. Image processing used to capture and process photos can render images four times faster with the new SoC, using two integrated image-signal processors. The 808 SoC has improved power efficiency and faster charging.

The Nexus 5X has a 2700-mAh battery, an adequate size to hold a day-long charge. The phone also supports Doze Mode, new with Android Marshmallow, which predicts the best times to activate sleep mode, saving battery power by restricting access to services LTE and GPS. The payoff is two-to-three times standby time.

If the battery runs low, it supports USB Type-C for fast charging. In 10 minutes, the Nexus 5X will store a 4-hour charge. That mean Nexus 5X users won’t be able to borrow charger cables from their friends or coworkers. But you can find affordable TypeX cables on Amazon, if you need extra.

The Nexus 5X polycarbonate case won’t be confused with the aircraft-grade, all-metal Nexus 6P. It has a nice light feeling, though, at 4.75 ounces, and gives the impression that it might withstand a drop better than most phones. The small-ish size – 5.79 inches long, 2.86 inches wide, and 0.31 inches thick – results in a phone that most people can use easily with one hand.

The Nexus 5X comes in two configurations: a 16GB version priced at $379 and a 32GB unit priced at $429. It is available in three colors: carbon, quartz, and ice.

The Nexus 5X is a capable successor that will please people looking for a mid-priced smartphone with a great camera and the latest version of Android. Buying a Nexus device brings the added benefit of regular over-the-air updates from Google.

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