LONDON -- LG knows what the Google seal of approval can do for sales and it will be hoping that the Nexus 5X will prove as successful as the original Nexus 5 it launched.
The Nexus 5 has proved to be the most popular smartphone from Google’s Nexus line to date, and South Korean manufacturer LG Electronics is hoping the second-generation model it launched Tuesday will prove just as popular. The Nexus 5X has a bigger screen, boosted camera specs and the very latest version of Android while retaining its relatively low price. But can it succeed like the original?
Nexus 5X: Design
I have to admit that I was a Nexus 5 owner when it launched two years ago. I found at the time it was the perfect mix of a just-big-enough screen combined with an attractive design that was slim and lightweight. There was nothing flashy about it, but that was what I liked.
The Nexus 5X retains the same plastic construction, and just like in the original, the camera enclosure protrudes on the rear -- and just like the original I like it, even more than the more expensive Huawei Nexus 6P.
The new phone is slightly thinner than the original (8.8mm vs 7.9mm) but weighs a little more (136g vs 130g). It is also 10mm taller than the original, and while I feared this would be a problem when using the phone one-handed, it wasn’t.
The phone was well-built and the matte black plastic finish on the model I tested felt great, and certainly not cheaply made. The phone is available in three colors, with white and a sort of turquoise joining the black model.
Nexus 5X: Screen
The Nexus 5X has increased the size of the screen significantly from 4.7 inches to 5.2, while retaining the 1920 x 1080 pixel resolution. That increase means the pixel density of the screen has dropped from 445 pixels per inch to 433 ppi.
This is still higher than the density of the Apple iPhone 6S, and on initial viewing the screen looks sharp and crisp, with the Android Marshmallow interface looking impressive and colors popping -- though not excessively so.
Nexus 5X: Performance, Hardware And Battery
From a hardware point of view, the Nexus 5X is very much in the middle ground. It is powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 chipset with 2GB of RAM, which will be more than sufficient for 99 percent of what you will want to do on the phone. The Nexus 5X will come in 16GB and 32GB models with no microSD slot to expand this storage.
Add to this the use of pure Android, and in my testing the interface was snappy and responsive, with apps opening and closing instantly and HD videos playing without a problem. Real world tests will of course tell us more about how well the Nexus 5X performs in the longer term.
To coincide with the support for fingerprint sensors in Android 6.0, the Nexus 5X features a scanner on the rear cover that allows you instantly unlock the phone by tapping it. In my tests the sensor was fast and responsive, and crucially it will allow you unlock the phone without activating the screen. But given its position in the center of the rear cover, I can see myself accidentally unlocking the screen simply by where I naturally place my finger.
The Nexus 5X also supports the USB-C standard, which is quickly being adopted as the de facto data transfer and charging standard for smartphones, and this should get even more widespread in 2016.
Finally, in terms of battery life, the Nexus 5X has a 2700mAh battery, a significant boost over the 2300mAh on the original, and Google is promising all-day battery life. Thanks to USB-C, the Nexus 5X also has quick-charge technology providing four hours of use from just a 10-minute charge. Absent, however, is wireless charging support, which had been available on previous Nexus models.
Nexus 5X: Camera
When I owned the Nexus 5, the reason I decided to change it and buy an iPhone was that the camera was just not good enough. With smartphone cameras on the iPhone 6S and Galaxy S6 producing close to DSLR-level imagery, Google and LG really need to up their game.
The Nexus 5X has a rear camera with a 12.3-megapixel sensor, which features larger pixels to provide more light in low-light situations. The camera also features laser-autofocus, dual flash and the ability to record in 4K. The front-facing camera has a five-megapixel sensor. There is no optical image stabilization for the Nexus 5X.
In my testing at Google’s London headquarters following the launch, the Nexus 5X performed adequately, though it struggled a little in harsh lighting conditions. It would not be fair to judge a camera solely on these initial impressions, however.
Nexus 5X: Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
As one of two reference models for Android Marshmallow, it is no surprise that the Nexus 5X will have the latest version of Android installed from the outset. Visually I found it hard to tell the difference between Android 5.0 and Android 6.0, but there are some interesting improvements under the hood.
As well as natively supporting fingerprint sensors to boost security, Android 6.0 also gives you more granular controls over what permissions each app you install has access to. There is also a feature called Doze that will boost battery life by automatically putting your smartphone into sleep mode when the screen is off.
Nexus 5X: Price And Release Date
The Nexus 5X is available to pre-order now through the Google Store in the U.S., U.K., Ireland and Japan. The 16GB version will cost $379, while the 32GB version will set you back $429. The phone will only be sold online, and initially at least, won’t be offered through carrier stores. Google is offering three months access to Google Music streaming service as well as a $50 Google Play credit with every purchase.
Nexus 5X: First Impressions
I was predisposed to like the Nexus 5X given I liked the original so much, and first impressions suggest LG has got it right again. Google is calling the Nexus 5X the "all-round champ," and while this sounds a little trite, it does reflect the smartphone. This is never going to compete with the flagship devices from the likes of Apple and Samsung, but that's not what it's trying to do.
The Nexus 5 was launched at a time when the smartphone market was not as saturated, so the Nexus 5X will need to do a lot more to prove as successful as the original considering the huge number of smartphones now flooding the market.
Nexus 5X Key Features
- 5.2-inch screen (1980 x 1080)
- Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
- Snapdragon 808 chip with 2GB RAM
- 12.3MP rear camera
- Price: From $379