Google Nexus 5X review: A superb all-rounder, but not the best looking

Not the most attractive phone around, but the rest of the 5x is sheer brilliance. The Nexus is back with a bang

16 May 2016
5
Price when reviewed 
339

Update, 16/5/2016: Don't forget that owners of Nexus handset such as the Nexus 5X benefit from being able to install and run Google's latest Android OS before anyone else. This year, however, Google is taking things a step further and has already enabled over-the-air updates to Android N, much earlier than it usually does. Upgrading to such an early version of any operating system isn't something I'd recommend you do unless you have a backup phone to hand, but if you want to get a flavour of what's coming from Google, it's well worth a try.

And, when Google announces Android N's big new features at its annual I/O developer conference on the 18th of May, you'll know what to expect, and will be ready and raring to go with the new version. You can read about our first impressions of Android N here, and our full, original review of the Nexus 5X follows.

The Nexus 5X is at the vanguard of a new wave of handsets. First established by Google with the hugely popular Nexus 5, and followed by phones such as the OnePlus One and more recent OnePlus 2, this new breed sits neatly between the low-cost Moto Gs and the flagship iPhones of this world in an attempt to offer the best of both – a smartphone that aims to have everything you need, but none of what you don’t.

That, in short, is precisely what the Google Nexus 5X delivers, and it represents a welcome return to form for Google, after the Motorola-manufactured Nexus 6 last year. That was a phone that, while far from a disaster, failed to recapture the success of its predecessor, mainly because it was too big, too flashy and too unwieldy to appeal to fans of the stripped-back, basic Nexus 5. The £339 inc VAT 16GB Nexus 5X (manufactured by LG) goes back to basics, and fans of the Nexus everywhere will rejoice at the new no-nonsense approach.

Google Nexus 5X review: Design

Given the price, it shouldn’t surprise you to discover that the Nexus 5X is no supermodel. Available in black, white and light blue, it has a smooth, eggshell finish to its coloured plastic back. Although this feels pleasant in the hand, it makes an ugly contrast with the phone’s all-black frontage.

Google Nexus 5: Logos

In terms of its shape, the 5X moves away from the Nexus 6’s extensively curved rear and chiselled edges, instead preferring a flat rear panel with only short radius curves at the sides. It’s a more practical design than the Nexus 6 – you can place the phone on a table and tap away without it wobbling annoyingly – but it’s far less pretty. The autofocus sensor and flash are above the camera, while the LG and Nexus logos alongside each other look as if they’ve been thrown on randomly rather than thoughtfully placed.

Google Nexus 5: Buttons

More seriously, perhaps, the cheap feel also extends to the mechanical aspects of the design. The power and volume rocker on the right edge feel plasticky and insubstantial. The nano-SIM drawer doesn’t close with a positive click. Tap the rear panel and the whole thing feels somewhat hollow. Overall, it’s a far cry from the Motorola-built Nexus 6. The only advantages that the Nexus 5X holds from a physical point of view is that, for a phone of its size, it's astonishingly light, weighing a mere 136g, and is very comfortable to hold and slide into a pocket.

Google Nexus 5: Front, left side showing

The front is less of a design disaster, mainly because - as with most smartphones - it’s reasonably featureless. Importantly, the speaker is on the front, a design choice I thoroughly approve of. I’m sick and tired of having to be careful how I hold a phone like the Apple iPhone 6s for fear of blocking the grille and muting the audio. However, although it looks like there are two speakers here - one above and one below the display - only the one at the bottom actually works, and sound quality isn't great. 

Price when reviewed 
339inc VAT, 16GB £379 inc VAT, 32GB

Google Nexus 5X specifications

Processor Hexacore (dual 1.8GHz and quad 1.4GHz), Qualcomm Snapdragon 808
RAM 2GB LPDDR4
Screen size 5.2in
Screen resolution 1,080 x 1,920, 424ppi (Gorilla Glass 4)
Screen type IPS
Front camera 5MP
Rear camera 12.3MP (f/2, laser autofocus)
Flash Dual LED
GPS Yes
Compass Yes
Storage 16/32GB
Memory card slot (supplied) No
Wi-Fi 802.11ac
Bluetooth Bluetooth 4.2
NFC Yes
Wireless data 4G
Size (WDH) 73 x 7.9 x 147mm
Weight 136g
Operating system Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Battery size 2,700mAh

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