- Nov 30, 2015
The lesser of the 2015 Nexus phones is a bit of a mixed bag, even after three months of use.
After doing a roundup of our thoughts on the Nexus 6P after three months of use, we wanted to offer the same treatment to the Nexus 5X. Though it doesn't have the power or draw of the high-end 6P, the Nexus 5X has a considerable following — due in part to the nostalgia factor of its ties to the original Nexus 5, its smaller screen and more affordable price.
Plenty of folks bought the Nexus 5X, including several of us here at Android Central, and now after three months with the phone in our hands it's time to reflect a bit and see how we're getting on with the phone.
I had the highest hopes for the Nexus 5X when it was announced. A smaller screen — both in physical size and the number of pixels — means less power is needed to drive everything, and the battery life should be better than ever. The size was closer to my ideal phone, which had me thinking the 5X is the phone I'd be toting around in my pocket for the year.
Things didn't quite work out that way.
The 5X does everything, getting there just seems to be full of mystery jank
I really love the more secure and up-to-date software. I do really like the size, and the way the 5X is put together. Even the finish (I've got the white one here) feels smooth and sexy. But the performance — especially when I compare it to the Nexus 6P — isn't cutting it for me.
Not that the 5X won't do anything I throw at it — it's completely capable. Getting there just seems to be full of that mystery jank we've seen before and will see again. Things like stuttered scrolling, laggy keyboards and general "weirdness" while doing the things I do every day are tough to swallow when I have access to a phone that doesn't have any of those issues. Thankfully, none of the reported wireless bugs have reared their heads in my use.
I do have to say that the camera lives up to the expectations, as does Nexus Imprint. The audio is tinny and what we should expect from a phone where no attention to audio hardware was paid, but the screen is crisp and sharp. On the hardware side, it's a bargain. But the software needs some magic to put it on the pedestal I expected it to live on.
Maybe the Nexus 6P has spoiled me. In fact, I don't want to say the 5X runs any worse than most of the phones on my desk. It just doesn't work as well as I'd like it to. That's a disappointment, and what keeps my Nexus 5X in the drawer instead of my pocket.
When the new Nexus phones were announced late last year, I was immediately drawn to the Nexus 5X. Sure the power and metal of the Nexus 6P caught my eye, but after I had loved using my original Nexus 5 much longer than I probably should've I was drawn toward its spiritual successor in the 5X. As such, I purchased a Nexus 5X instead of a 6P — I was even fine going with a 16GB model.
The build quality on the Nexus 5X isn't great, but it's solid, looks nice and again calls back well to the legacy of the Nexus 5. I think the display itself is good for a phone of this price, and the smaller size is my personal preference when it comes to phones. Camera quality is very good, though maybe lacking a bit of dynamic range, and while the speaker isn't the loudest out there it does the job.
There are so many reasons why the Nexus 5X is the phone for me, but it's just too slow to use
The one thing that really hit me from day one was the overall slow performance. Whether it was opening apps, scrolling heavy webpages or switching between different areas of the phone, everything seems to take a little longer than it should. Sometimes I'll tap app icons and there's just enough hesitation to make me reconsider whether I actually tapped them. In some areas, like launching and using the camera, the slowdown is unbearable — it can take upwards of 10 seconds to successfully launch, and God help you if you try to take multiple HDR+ photos in a row. Doubling down on the pain of the slow performance is that it's coupled with weak battery life — the Nexus 5X is good for about 13 hours here, even with basic use, which just isn't enough.
For my first few days using the Nexus 5X, I was actually pretty happy with it. The real issues set in after I used it a while longer, had it set up with all of my accounts and apps, and got frustrated by all of the little slowdowns and lags I had to put up with throughout the day. Things got more frustrating when I had a chance to use it side-by-side with the Nexus 6P, which showed me just how quick and fluid Marshmallow can be on a Nexus phone (even though the 6P is far from perfect itself). Even comparing it to 2013's Nexus 5 made me regret my Nexus 5X purchase.
If it weren't for the depressingly slow performance throughout the OS, I'd be using the Nexus 5X every single day. I held out hope for a good while expecting an update to clear up some of the pain points (such has been the case on previous Nexus phones), and at this point my patience is waning. I'll keep it powered on and up-to-date. I even use it from time to time just to remind myself of why I bought it in the first place — it's a compact phone with a good camera, solid screen and great fingerprint sensor that offers a clean Nexus software experience. But the Nexus 5X is too slow and frustrating to be in the running as a phone I'm going to use every day.
Lots of folks love the original Nexus 5. I am not one of those people. It was never a particularly good phone to me, and so I didn't really get into the hype of the 5X. The original pricing was too close to the Nexus 6P, and the day one performance issues ultimately left me wondering why the phone existed at all.
Now three months later, but nothing so far to address the performance issues
We're now three months later, with three different security patches available for the phone, but nothing so far to address the performance issues. Those rare moments when everything on the phone just sort of stops and you have to wait to use it again, or when you take a photo and the camera app just sort of forgets to save the photo to your Gallery. These little performance issues that happen at least once a week every week make it hard to recommend to anyone, especially with nothing from Google addressing these issues so far.
Now that the price has come down to $299 for the base model, which you still shouldn't buy because no phone should come with 16GB of storage in 2016, these issues are a little easier to stomach. After all, the camera is still incredible and the battery is good enough to get me through a whole day most of the time. USB-C is still my favorite, and even though I still haven't seen any evidence of Nexus Imprint improving over time like Google claims, the fingerprint sensor is one of the best out there today.
There's still a lot of room for improvement, and Google really should publicly prioritize that like they've done with other Nexus phones that stumbled at launch, but overall you'd be hard pressed to find a better experience for $349 (or more likely, less).
I fell a bit in love with the Nexus 5X the first time I picked it up. It's a great fit in my hand, and doesn't have a slippery coating liable to have me dropping it on a regular basis. Being able to use a phone one handed again without fear of dropping it is a big deal when you're as clumsy as I am.
This is the first phone I've had where I actually use the fingerprint sensor, and it works marvelously. Nexus Imprint is done really, really well on the Nexus 5X. It reads quickly and intuitively, and the sensor is super easy to find with your finger. I wind up unlocking my phone with the sensor most of the time because it's so much easier than even tracing an unlock code on the screen.
I fell in love with the Nexus 5X the first time I picked it up
The Nexus 5X isn't without its problems though. I've had some issues with stuttering, or with apps that like to crash at a moment's notice. However it's nothing that makes me write off the phone, since those small moments are more than made up for by what the Nexus 5X does really well.
Taking photos on my phone is a constant hobby of mine. The problem is that I'm not always great at gauging the light, or knowing how to adjust things to get the best picture possible. Thankfully the Nexus 5X take great pictures in normal and dim light. One of the things I immediately notice is that I can take clear photos even when my hands are shaking, which is a big deal both because my hands shake constantly and the Nexus 5X doesn't have baked in Optical Image Stabilization.
I spend more time playing random games on my phone than I will ever willingly admit. This also means that I am a serious Pac-Man-level pro when it comes to eating up batteries. Here is where the Nexus 5X really wins my love: if I plug in the night before, I can expect at least eight hours of solid and heavy use before I need to charge again. When I do need to top up my charge, it's a quick and painless process thanks to the USB Type-C and quick charging capability.
The Nexus 5X isn't without it's problems though
Compared to the last phone I used, the Galaxy S6 edge, the battery is superior (which, honestly, isn't saying a ton). I was an immediate fan of having access to USB Type-C as well because it makes plugging in effortless. One of the big differences between the two for me, came down to the fingerprint sensor. I don't think I ever used it on the GS6 more than once or twice because of where the sensor was placed. The Nexus Imprint sensor is placed really intuitively though and I use it constantly.
I'm aware that the Nexus 5X is far from the biggest, beefiest, or even prettiest phone on the block right now. It gets me where I need to go, while giving me the battery life to get there. For me, that's the important stuff.
The Nexus 5X has been surprisingly light, almost perfectly-sized for my hands, and ... I cannot for the life of me use it as a daily driver. The 5X is a solid little phone, and I'm still in love with the size of the 5X (and the HTC One A9 that I am still using on a daily basis), but the 5X is just too small where it counts: on the inside.
I've seen plenty of crashes on the 5X, especially in regards to the launcher theming I'm spending lots of time on the phone doing. I maybe see a launcher crash once a month while theme-setting on other phones; that number has been significantly higher on the 5X. The general lag also confounds me, especially as I don't use the phone for the brunt of my daily activities.
The general lag confounds me, as I don't use the phone for the brunt of my daily activities
Frustration also extends to the storage. I know that there is a 32GB model out there. But that's not what I have. I have a 16GB model, and when one of Marshmallow's most useful features is adoptable storage, I'm wishing that it had been included here. It's been a while since a Nexus phone had a microSD slot, and given the screwy situation with removable storage the last few years, that was understandable. But now that Google has found a way to make microSD cards play well with the system and stay secure, there are few reasons to forgo the microSD slot.
As I am not using this device as my primary phone, I am very surprised and appreciative of Doze, which means that I can go days and days without needing to charge, unlike the Lollipop phones I tote around.
The camera has also proven adept, though the lag from the rest of the device means that the camera's shots are just as slow, and I've had several instances of the device either not responding when I press the shutter, or taking the photo but not saving the picture. So when I go on vacation in a few months, the 5X will not be accompanying me. I won't have time to deal with making sure each and every picture I thought I took is saved.
These are our experiences after using the Nexus 5X for the past three months, but we know there are plenty of people out there who have also been using the phone. We want to know how you've been handling the Nexus 5X — the good, the bad and the indifferent. Sing out in the comments and let us know how it's working for you!
- Nexus 5X review
- 5 things to know about the Nexus 5X
- Read the latest Nexus 5X news
- Learn about Nexus Protect insurance
- Learn about Project Fi
- Join the Nexus 5X forums
- Nexus 5X specs
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