After two mostly great years with the original Nexus 5, I’ve taken the plunge and picked up a Nexus 5X. I enjoy the Nexus line because I love the customization and affordability of Android, but with Nexus, I’m less beholden to carriers when it comes to bloatware on the phone and waiting for the latest version of Android to be available for my phone. Like many Nexus owners, I decided to take a pass with last year’s Nexus 6 due to the cost and large size. I was hoping Google would do something more in the spirit of the Nexus 5 in 2015, and obviously they did.
Nexus 5X Improvements
If you are a current Nexus 5 owner, you already know what the two biggest weakness were with that phone: camera and battery. There have been plenty of reports that the camera is improved for the Nexus 5X, and I can confirm that my experience has been dramatically better. True, the quality of the pictures is noticeably better, but I was always ok with the Nexus 5 picture quality. The bigger gain comes from the speed with which the Nexus 5X takes pictures. As a father of two small children, I often found that the Nexus 5 did not quite keep up with the pace necessary to capture little ones. That problem is solved with the 5X, as there is very little delay between pressing the button to take the picture and the image capture.
The battery life is also a huge improvement from the Nexus 5. I haven’t had to do a mid-day charge on my phone yet, and while I’m probably a moderate user, not heavy, I would not have been able to accomplish this on my Nexus 5.
I do like the home screen space that is available with the Nexus 5X. Every screen now displays 5 x 5 icons instead of the old 4 x 4. You may find you’ll need to do some rearranging if you take advantage of the fact that Android can now copy the entire setup of your old Nexus device to the new, down to how you had the icons arranged on the home screen.
USB-C is interesting. I appreciate the fact that I can pop the USB charger into my phone in either direction as it is reversible. I am less appreciative of the fact that the phone came only with a USB-C to USB-C connector. I picked up a 4 pack of standard USB to USB-C cables on Amazon to make this transition a little easier for car charging, computer charging, etc.
The build quality and size of the Nexus 5X are also up to par with my expectations. I haven’t noticed any creaks or imperfections in my phone. This is a pretty light phone and feels good in my hand. I do notice the very slight increase in width from the Nexus 5, as it makes it difficult to swipe on the keyboard with one hand, but just barely.
I have a few complaints where I think Google (and the industry) are outsmarting themselves. Having the headphone jack on the bottom of the Nexus 5X is a change I don’t imagine anyone asking for. If this were 1979 and the Walkman hadn’t been released yet, you could maybe make the argument that this is a slightly better location for the headphone jack. However, it’s something that is really not worth changing when your customers have years of experience of using the headphone jack as a cue for how to orient the device, a device that is almost perfectly symmetric when the screen is not illuminated. It’s irritating.
I’m also unclear what the advantage of a nano-SIM card is over a micro. The great thing about a SIM should be to pop it out of your old phone and pop it into a new phone without missing a beat. This doesn’t work as seamlessly if the card size changes with every phone generation, and it has with my last 3 phones.
The biggest frustration I have is that with Android Marshmallow, Google conceded to the carriers and took away WIFI (and USB) tethering without having your carrier enable it. I’ve re-enabled this by rooting my phone (something that seemed completely unnecessary to me with the Nexus line until now), but I’m always disappointed when an “open” operating system like Android sees more restrictions enabled by default.
Bottom Line Nexus 5X Review
If you are old enough, you remember that in the 80’s and 90’s, every time you upgraded your PC, you were blown away by the performance of the new machine. 286 , 386, Pentium I, Pentium II (400!). Eventually, though, my experience has been that getting a new PC was less mindblowing, as the rate of improvements became less critical to keep pace with the software developers.
That’s where I’m at with the Nexus 5X. It’s a very good phone. I think it is a very fair value, and I’m happy with my purchase. It’s definitely an upgrade from the Nexus 5, but really, it’s just giving me what I expect out of a phone. And almost 10 years into the smartphone revolution, I think that’s fair. Rather than the technology itself being the technology being the focus of my attention, I don’t have to pay much attention to its bells and whistles while I use it to do the things I enjoy with it: take pictures, watch videos, listen to music and podcasts, read about what is happening in the world, and by that measure, the Nexus 5X more than exceeds expectations.
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