Nexus 5X review

Google's palm-friendly handset puts function over form

Nexus 5X review
Nexus 5X review

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When I first heard the name Nexus 5X, I was worried that Google wanted to take its beloved Nexus 5 to an unnecessary extreme. However, this is a phone update within reason.

The real "extreme" turned out to be last year's phone. Although I adjusted to the Nexus 6 size and appreciated its larger display at times, bigger isn't always better. The Nexus 5X proves this.

We liked

The 5.2-inch display is the tipping point for one-handed Android phones. Reaching icons all the way across the big screen doesn't require two hands. It's not really a phablet, but it's close.

That's how I'd describe its performance against its closest rivals. It's not the best, but close. It has a fast enough Snapdragon processor and an above average camera that stands up to low light, a fight it wins more than any other phone.

Low light photo quality is subjective at this point. So is the quick and accurate fingerprint sensor being on back. It has reasonable all-day battery life and charges quickly via USB-C. There are better options out there that use micro USB if you're not ready to upgrade your cable collection.

We disliked

Then there are the things that haven't changed but should have. With 2GB of RAM and 16GB of internal storage for the entry-level price, you're likely to max out both forms of memory more than a few times over the next year or two.

The 2GB of memory affects performance, even if our tests prove it's minimal now, that can be a problem 12 to 23 months after launch, right before you upgrade. All of a sudden, you'll turn into that person who says, "I can't wait to get rid of this phone." You can solve the internal space dilemma by springing for the more expensive 32GB Nexus 5X. It's worth it.

The Nexus 5X doesn't have wireless charging capabilities (for no reason, I might add - it doesn't have a metal wireless-charge-blocking back like the Nexus 6P), so that Nexus Qi Wireless Charger is an expensive paperweight for some owners. Good recently stopped selling it in its store. Out with the new, in with the old way of doing things, unfortunately.

Final verdict

Google modernized the its normal-sized flagship for modern times with a slightly larger display, a faster processor and reversible USB charging method.

It's still inexpensive, and the fingerprint sensor is fast and accurate. I found relief switching back to this smaller, lighter and substantially cheaper phone. Your pocket is going to appreciate it in more ways than one.

No, The Nexus 5X isn't the best phone you can get - it's not even in the top 10. It's not even the best Nexus anymore due to the Nexus 6P being the bigger and faster of the two. It's more like the the perfect fit for one hand and the closest thing to a five-finger discount given the specs.

Nexus 6P

Nexus 6P

The Nexus 6P is the 5X's big brother in both size and price, coming in at 5.7 inches and £449/$499. That all means it's not really a direct competitor to the Nexus 5X, but as both phones run stock Android Marshmallow they could both be considerations.

The Nexus 6P is far more of a flagship than the 5X, as you'd expect given the price. It has a QHD display, an octa-core processor and 3GB of RAM, plus a metal shell which leaves it looking far more premium than the plastic-clad 5X.

OnePlus 2

OnePlus 2

In the world of affordable flagships the OnePlus 2 perhaps stands out the most, as at £219/$299 it's even cheaper than the Nexus 5X. Yet with a 5.5-inch 1080 x 1920 display, an octa-core Snapdragon 810 processor and up to 4GB of RAM it's a lot higher spec.

Like the Nexus 5X it also has a fingerprint scanner, though there's no NFC here, so it's not quite as well equipped to take advantage of contactless payments.

Moto X Play

Moto X Play

Like the Nexus 5X the Moto X Play is just shy of being a flagship. An octa-core Snapdragon 615 processor and 2GB of RAM keep it chugging along, which if anything makes it slightly lower end than the 5X.

It's bigger than the Nexus 5X at 5.5 inches and it packs in some features that phone lacks, such as a water repellent coating and a massive battery, but it's missing a fingerprint scanner.

It is however a little cheaper than the Nexus 5X and with the juice to keep on going all day and beyond it's better suited to power users.

First reviewed: October 2015

Matt Swider