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Google Nexus 5X Review: The lower-cost Nexus option

The Nexus 5X returns to the affordable roots of the Nexus program.

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Quick Verdict
One of the better choices in terms of mid to premium range handsets to consider if the Nexus 5X appeals is also an LG handset: the LG G4.

Strengths

  • Power at a mid-range price
  • Not a significant downgrade from the Nexus 6P
  • Great battery life
  • OS updates

Could be better

  • Cheap hand feel
  • Vanilla Android is vanilla
  • USB C charging is tricky
  • No expandable storage

When Google launched its first Nexus phone back in 2010, it did so with a mission in mind, bringing a clean and simple Android experience to market at a competitive price point. We’ve slowly seen that mission changed to a line of devices at a near-premium price point, with the recently released Nexus 6P being a stark case in point. That’s great if what you want is a premium device, but what if you want uncluttered and up-to-date Android device that doesn’t cost close to $1000?

That’s the market that the LG-produced Nexus 5X pursues, as it’s the lower-cost, smaller Nexus for 2015. The Google Nexus 5X sells outright in two storage variations in Australia, with an RRP for $659 for the 16GB version and $739 for the 32GB variant.

But is it worth your money?

Here’s the basic specification rundown for the Nexus 5X.

Nexus 5X
Screen size 5.2in
Storage 16GB or 32GB
Weight 136g
Processor Snapdragon 808 v2.1 64-bit
Rear camera 12.3MP
Front camera 5MP
Battery 2,700 mAh
Resolution 1920 x 1080
Display density 423ppi

Upsides: Why you’d want the Nexus 5X

  • Power at a mid-range price: The Nexus 5X runs on the Snapdragon 808 processor with 2GB of RAM. That’s not quite top-tier, but the combination of those internal innards and Google’s new Android 6.0 ("Marshmallow") OS makes for a speedy user experience. The Nexus 5X doesn’t quite reach the heights of performance that you’d get from an absolute premium handset, but it easily punches above its weight in both the observable experience and popular benchmarks. For comparative purposes, here’s how the Nexus 5X ranks against a range of current premium handsets in the cross-platform Geekbench 3 test.
    Handset Geekbench 3 Single Core (higher is better) Geekbench 3 Multi Core (higher is better)
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 1492 4893
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge 1324 4626
    Google Nexus 6P 1251 4597
    Samsung Galaxy S6 1347 4569
    Apple iPhone 6S Plus 2491 4391
    Google Nexus 5X 1188 3198

    Google Nexus 5X

  • Not a significant downgrade from the Nexus 6P: Usually, when there’s a "better" and "worse" handset in a range, the smaller version has a lot of compromises. The Nexus 5X shares the same good-but-not-quite-great camera sensor as the Nexus 6P, and it’s also got the truly excellent Nexus Imprint fingerprint scanner on board too.
  • Great battery life: The Nexus 5X packs in a 2,700mAh battery, which seems a little weak compared to the 3,450mAh battery in the Nexus 6P. Put the Nexus 5X to the test, however, and it delivers very solid actual battery life, lasting an easy day in our ad-hoc tests. We tend to use smartphones heavily, but if you’re a light user it’s even feasible, we’d say, for the Nexus 5X to last you two days between charges. Using Geekbench 3 in its battery test mode with screen dimming active, here’s how the Nexus 5X compares to a range of handsets.
    Handset Geekbench 3 Battery Test Duration Geekbench 3 Battery Score
    Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ 8:24:10 5041
    Apple iPhone 6S Plus 7:48:10 4681
    Samsung Galaxy S6 6:51:30 4115
    Google Nexus 5X 7:14:20 4062
    Google Nexus 6P 6:39:20 3754
  • OS updates: Android operating system fragmentation is a real pain, but Google’s Nexus handsets dodge that with the first updates for Nexus devices when they’re ready to go. The other positive aspect here is that the version of Android on Nexus is absolutely plain vanilla Android, which means if you’re a tinkerer who wants your smartphone exactly your way, there’s no vendor bloatware getting in your way. Even if you don’t want to change a thing, having the latest optimised Android experience means everything’s fast and easy to access.

Downsides: Why you might not want the Nexus 5X

  • Cheap hand feel: Classic Nexus phones weren’t premium priced devices with simple plastic frames. The Nexus 5X sits in a weird middle ground where it’s not exactly "cheap", and there’s certainly cheaper feeling phones, but the plastic frame design doesn’t exactly feel premium either. We'd definitely advise trying one in the hand in a store if that's feasible for you prior to purchase.
  • Vanilla Android is vanilla: Bloatware is annoying, but the flipside of no preinstalled apps is no freebies. Some comparable handsets, especially Samsung ones, often have free apps or service subscriptions bundled.Google Nexus 5X
  • USB C charging is tricky: Like the Nexus 6P, the Google Nexus 5X uses the newer USB-C connector for charging. It’s fast to charge and impossible to put in upside down, but the downside is that right now very few devices have direct USB-C ports. Just as early Lightning-equipped iPhone users struggled with chargers, the Nexus 5X’s use of USB-C as its charging port means that all your friends and co-worker’s chargers won’t easily work with the Nexus 5X unless you invest in a secondary USB-C to USB-A type cable.
  • No expandable storage: On the metal body Nexus 6P, the lack of a microSD card slot is somewhat understandable, if irritating. On the plastic body Nexus 5X it’s downright annoying, especially as it's something that LG manages on its own premium LG G4 handset.

Who is it best suited for? What are my other options?

Like the Nexus 6P, the core market for the Nexus 5X remains hardcore Android fans who want an uncluttered experience with the guarantee of future Android updates delivered directly to the phone. That’s something that many Android handsets and makers struggle with, so there’s definitely a benefit from buying directly from the Android source.

It’s also a solid option if you want a mid-range handset for general usage that should last you a good couple of years thanks to the promise of future upgrades.

One of the better choices in terms of mid to premium range handsets to consider if the Nexus 5X appeals is also an LG handset: the LG G4, which can be had for a similar kind of price to the Nexus 5X if you shop around.

If you'd like to compare phones and plans, check out our comprehensive Australian mobile phone plan checker.

Where Can I Get It?

The Nexus 5X is no longer available on contract in Australia.

If you’re keen to compare how the Nexus 5X stacks up against other handsets, why not use our comprehensive comparison tool, which can also sort out whether it’s a better option for your needs for outright purchase or via contract.

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