LG Google Nexus 5X – Long Term Test, June 2017
The LG Google Nexus 5X was released in late 2015 alongside the Huawei Google Nexus 6P as the cheaper, non-premium Nexus device of the year. The Nexus 5X is the last of the mid-range, inexpensive Nexus devices, following in the footsteps of the LG Google Nexus 4 and LG Google Nexus 5.
The smartphone is based around the Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 System-on-Chip backed up by 2 GB of RAM and either 16 GB or 32 GB of internal storage. There’s a 12MP main camera, a 2,700 mAh battery and a 5.2-inch, 1080p resolution, IPS LCD panel. When launched, this hardware was mid-range: the chipset is the same as is found in the 2015 LG G4 but with less RAM. In mid-2017, the Nexus 5X is heading into lower-model territory.
In June 2017, the LG Google Nexus 5X is over eighteen months old. Google has updated the operating system from the original Android 6.0 Marshmallow through Android 7.0 Nougat and at the time of writing, Android 7.1.2 Nougat. Google support their devices with platform upgrades for two years after launch and tack on another year of security updates: I expect the Nexus 5X will receive Android 8.0 “O” when released, but no further platform updates.
The LG Google Nexus 5X doesn’t even try to be a premium model. There’s no metal unibody chassis, instead there’s soft touch polycarbonate. This makes the device relatively easy to grip and handle, but it’s also easily marked, especially around the main camera. My own device has lived in a case for almost all of its life but has acquired some minor marks over the months. It won’t win any design contests and it’s not especially small for the screen size of 5.2-inch across the diagonal. It’s functional rather than beautiful, but function has it’s own kind of appeal.
Performance, Battery Life
The Nexus 5X is nothing special in the performance respect. It lacks the snap and speed a flagship device delivers. There are occasional lags and delays associated with the device having to reload applications, documents or webpages when multitasking. I only see this bottleneck a few times a week, but it’s there and it’s caused by the device shuffling memory. Once in an app the Nexus 5X performs well.
Battery life is mediocre: used indoors over a Wi-Fi network, I can see four hours of screen-on time, but in a typical day of mixed indoors, outdoors, LTE, 3G and Wi-Fi networks, I’ll see around half this. The USB Type-C port includes fast charging technology and the phone only takes an hour and a half to fully charge. Android Doze is present and correct, and performs very well.
I also leave everything enabled on the device – I don’t mess around disabling Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, NFC or AutoSync, but I often use the Data Saver mode and this helps. Much of my use during the week is using Hangouts, either messaging or for calls. VoIP calling, especially over a cellular data network, is unkind to the battery. I don’t use many third party applications, either.
So far, I’ve not painted the most positive picture of the Nexus 5X, but the reason why I enjoy the device is the handset does the things that I need it to do very well. Call audio clarity is excellent, something that’s important to me. The Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor on the back is very fast and accurate, and by the time I’ve pulled the device from my pocket, it’s unlocked and ready to go. I can put the phone down and come back to it a few hours later and it hasn’t drained the battery, even at my office where there’s no Wi-Fi and poor cellular network coverage. If I need to top up the battery, the Nexus 5X charges quickly, even over a conventional USB power block.
I should mention the camera, as the Nexus 5X is a very capable in this respect. Images are sharp and detailed, and in low light the device captures pictures very well. It’s not class leading and much of the skill behind photography is with the operator rather than the hardware, but the Nexus 5X acquits itself very well.
I do have to explain that up until this point, my use of the Nexus 5X has been predominantly using UK cellular networks, and whilst subjective I’ve found battery life to be better using a US carrier, in the US. In Britain, the device supports all necessary bands, but British networks are of a lesser quality compared with US carriers: data speeds are slower and coverage is poorer. This hurts battery life because the handset spends time waiting for the carrier to provide the data. I’ll be sure to add another article after I’ve spent more time in America, using an American service provider.
There’s another aspect to write about, which is how Nexus devices tend to be improved over time with Google’s software updates. This is as true of the LG Google Nexus 5X as it has been with my other Nexus smartphones and tablets. Arguably, one shouldn’t have to wait a couple of years to see the best from a Nexus device, but it helps mitigate the creep of hardware obsolescence.
On a related note, and something beyond the scope of this review, is the active custom software community. I’ve used stock Google software, but if I wanted to use a custom ROM, there are many available for the device. Most offer the promise of greater performance, battery life, and new features that Google omitted.
The 2015 LG Google Nexus 5X is not a glamorous smartphone. It’s a notch down from flagship devices and it shows in the look, feel and use of the device. It hasn’t been on sale for some time now, so if you are reading this with a view to buying one, it will be a used device. Should you be considering a used Nexus 5X in place of a similar cost new model? That depends on what you are planning on using the smartphone for. Out of the box, the Nexus 5X should be receiving Android “O” later in 2017, and then another twelve months of security patches. It has a good camera, very good call clarity and everything else is functional.
If this isn’t enough, there’s a busy community likely to support the device for some considerable time yet. The device is likely to continue to receive unofficial operating system upgrades more frequently than a 2017 low or mid-range model.