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Google Nexus 5X first impressions: a pocket-sized flagship that's plasticky and pricey

|October 13 2015 |Android Phones, Android, Google, First impressions, Nexus

“The Nexus 5X is a successor to one of the most popular Nexus phones of all time. Here are our hands-on impressions”

While Google is known for its search engine along with several other software-based initiatives, the Alphabet-owned brand has invested seriously in hardware too. Its Nexus devices are among the most popular hardware offerings from the company, which always push the envelope by showcasing what's next for Android smartphones along with exploiting the full potential of the latest iteration of Google's mobile OS.

Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P

With the past six generations of Nexus phones and tablets, Google had partnered with a variety of device manufacturers, including Samsung, LG, HTC, ASUS and Motorola. However, with the seventh iteration, Google has doubled down (quite literally) by introducing not one, but two smartphones - the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P (related read: Nexus 5X vs Nexus 6P). 

The Nexus 5X, as the name indicates, is the successor to one of the most popular phone in the series, the Nexus 5, which was launched back in 2013. Just like the last time, the search titan has joined hands with LG to launch this smartphone, and having got our hands on it briefly, here's what we think about it.

While the Nexus 5 (review in pictures) was built around a display panel of 4.95-inches, its successor boasts a screen size measuring 5.2-inches. However, the phone still manages to be compact and nestles in a single hand well. It can also be operated single-handedly quite easily. Adding to the ergonomics is its lightweight body of 136g and lean frame of 7.9mm.

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The fascia of the Nexus 5X is minimal, with the display panel being flanked by symmetrical grilles above and below (while the vent above is an earpiece, the speaker is at the bottom). The secondary camera is also located alongside the speaker mesh at the top. Towards the right spine, you’ll find the power key followed by the volume buttons, while the left is home to an ejectable tray that can hold a nano-SIM.

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Both the 3.5mm audio interface and a USB-Type C port that allows reversible plugging-in of the cable along with enabling faster data transfers.

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The handset is built out of plastic, but it feels robust. That said, we aren't sure if the plasticky build quality matches its premium price tag. While our demo unit was in black, you will also be able to purchase the Nexus 5X in white and blue hues. At the back of the unibody device, there’s the primary camera module, which juts out from the body slightly. The camera is accompanied by an LED flash and an IR emitter. The rear panel also holds a fingerprint scanner, dubbed as Nexus Imprint, placed at a position ideal for your index finger to reach and unlock the phone within a jiffy. Lastly, there’s also Nexus and LG branding at the back.

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The Nexus 5X’s window to the world is its 5.2-inch IPS display panel, which features full HD resolution. With the pixel density of 423ppi, the display looks extremely pleasing to the eyes and offers good viewing angles as well. A layer of third-gen Gorilla Glass protects the display against scuff marks.

Nexus 5X first impressions 01

Under the hood, the Nexus 5X draws power from a 64-bit hexa-core Snapdragon 808 chipset, which offers two high-power cores running at 1.8GHz and four low-power cores ticking at 1.4GHz. The processor can be found in flagships like the LG G4 (first impressions | FAQs), and hence should be able to handle any tasks you throw at it. In our brief usage, the handset operated smoothly and multitasking wasn’t an issue either thanks to 2GB of RAM.

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The Nexus series played a key role in starting the concept of non-expandable memory in Android devices, and the Nexus 5X is no different. It’ll be available in two variants offering 16GB or 32GB storage. Our demo unit with 16 gigs of storage offered around 10.67GB for installation of apps or storing personal content.

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Along with powerful hardware, the pillar of the Nexus 5X (along with its sibling, the Nexus 6P) is that it runs the latest iteration of Android, i.e. Marshmallow 6.0. Android 6.0 builds on the Material Design ideology started by Lollipop 5.0. The internet giant also mentioned that the new Android build comes with lesser number of apps preinstalled, and users get the option to install other apps from its stable while setting up the phone. It also has some interesting features such as Google Now on Tap, which allows you to quickly search for the contextual info by double tapping the home button. The best part is that it can be called upon anytime, irrespective of the apps you’re using.

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Android 6.0 also offers an Ambient Display feature, showing time and missed notifications. Just like Motorola’s implementation in its offerings, you can see it whenever you remove the phone from your pocket or reach towards it. But thanks to Android Sensor Hub in the Nexus 5X, you can also see it when you nudge the handset slightly.

The Nexus smartphones weren’t known for their cameras, though Google has put in a lot of effort with its latest offerings to change that. On offer is a 12.3-megapixel primary snapper with 1.55 micron pixels on its sensor, which absorbs more light to shoot even in dim environments. For shooting in low light, there’s a dual-LED flash. The camera can capture videos in 4K resolution. For selfie-enthusiasts, the Nexus 5X sports a 5MP camera at the front with an aperture of f/2.0. The interface of the camera app has also been overhauled with a complete focus on the subject, ability to quickly toggle between HDR+ or flash, starting the self-timer or accessing settings menu.

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For connectivity, the Nexus 5X supports all the usual options, including support for 4G (both TDD and FDD bands in India), dual-band Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC and GPS.

Rounding up the spec sheet is a 2,700mAh battery. Google claims that the unit would allow the smartphone to last an entire day. Additionally, thanks to the quick charging feature, the smartphone can be juiced up quickly with the bundled adapter.

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While the Nexus 5X carries forward the legacy of the series in most aspects, it differs in one thing, which perhaps is the most crucial of all. Till 2013, the series was known for offering powerful specs at an affordable pricing, but last year’s Nexus 6 (first impressions) changed that notion. Sadly, the latest devices from Google also follow Nexus 6’ footprints. Priced at Rs 31,999 (the 32GB variant will be available for Rs 34,999), the 5X falls in the premium category and hence will be up against tough opponents. By virtue of price drops, it will be competing with some flagships like the HTC E9 Plus and the slightly-pricier Samsung Galaxy S6 (first impressions). The recently-launched Moto X Style (first impressions) also poses serious competition to the Nexus 5X.

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While the alternatives beat the 5X in terms of specs, they can’t win if one is looking for a compact smartphone, and one that runs the latest Android and gets regular updates. Of course, it all depends upon the real-life performance of the Nexus 5X, and that’s what we’ll be checking out during the course of our review. So, stay tuned for that to know how it fares in day-to-day usage.

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