Of the two smartphones revealed at Google's latest product launch, the Nexus 5X was overshadowed somewhat by the bigger, bolder Nexus 6X phablet. This was mainly down to its weaker on-paper specs, although for a device that starts at £100 less than the Nexus 6P it does achieve feature parity in a surprising number of ways.
We took a more in-depth look at what the Nexus 5X can offer by finding a test model and trying it out for ourselves.
The Nexus 5X isn't the sleekest of smartphones. The black case looks - dare we say it - boring, and the squareness of the edges makes it feel chunkier than it actually is despite being only 7.9mm thick.
Nonetheless, it does seem solid and durable, and we couldn't find any glaring structural weaknesses while handling it. The Nexus 5X isn't without some nice touches, either - mainly the rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, which unlocks the screen almost instantly. The usual microUSB port has been replaced with a USB-C connector which should, in theory, enable much speedier file transfers and battery charging.
However, Google still hasn't added a microSD slot to any Nexus smartphones, including this one. Whichever amount of internal storage buyers opt for, they'll be stuck with it.
It's not as beautifully sharp as the Nexus 6P, but the Nexus 5X's 5.2in, 1920x1080 display still looks crisp and clear. Colours are pleasantly vibrant, but it's not too vivid either. The screen doesn't affect the colour balance of videos with intentional desaturation effects, for example.
Like most mobile devices, the Nexus 5X can suffer from reflectivity problems under certain lighting. The Gorilla Glass 3 screen is slightly fingerprint-resistant, but can't fight off glare so well. Still, this could largely be solved by cranking up the brightness.
Operating system and software
As expected, the Nexus 5X will launch with the latest version of Android, 6.0 Marshmallow. It's a great fit, as Marshmallow introduces native support for USB-C and integrated biometric readers, both of which are present here.
We're also particularly fond of the upgraded apps drawer, which features a Spotlight-esque search bar and A-Z indexing, as well as the more privacy-oriented app permissions model - we found we had much more control of what data apps could access than in Android 5.1 Lollipop. Another interesting addition is Doze, a revamped battery-saving mode that uses the Nexus 5X's motion sensor to detect when it has been left still long enough to go into a low-power state.
What's more, there are no custom skins to complicate the UI or delay future Android updates.
This was about what we'd expect from something in the £300-£400 bracket. The Nexus 5X is noticeably more responsive than most mid-range smartphones we've used, but isn't quite as buttery-smooth at swapping between windows and loading apps as truly top-end devices.
Further testing will be required to fully appraise how the 2GB of RAM and Qualcomm Snapdragon 808, a well-performing but ageing chip, will perform in the most intensive tasks. We tried to sneakily download and run the Antutu benchmarking tool, at which point the Google representative who'd lent us the Nexus 5X appeared and wordlessly took it back.
Since the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 6P share the same 12.3MP camera, it's no surprise that they take similarly high-quality shots, even in low light - a common stumbling block for integrated cameras. It also shoots 4K video, which is a rarity for smartphones in general, let alone those below £400.
The 5MP front camera isn't quite so impressive. Shots lack detail unless the subject is up close to the lens, and there's a lot of visual noise in dark scenes.
The Nexus 5X will launch with only 16GB and 32GB models compared with the Nexus 6P's 32GB, 64GB and 128GB. That's a pretty significant drawback to the cheaper handset. As app files get ever larger, the 16GB option in particular is fast becoming outdated. Cloud storage would almost certainly be essential, especially for those who want a single device for work and personal use.
Again, there's no microSD capability to help out either, an omission that is becoming increasing difficult to justify as even cheap entry-level smartphones now include such a feature on a fairly common basis.
Individual aspects of the Nexus 5X range from very impressive - the 4K camera, speedy fingerprint sensor, Android 6.0 Marshmallow - to the utterly underwhelming, like the low-detail front camera and minimalistic storage options.
Its strengths are just enough to make it stand out in its own price bracket - that limbo between the mid-range and high-end - but at this point in time, we'd rather simply splash out a little more for the full-fat Nexus 6P.
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