After our first full day with the new Nexus 5X from Google and LG, we're tentatively satisfied that a Nexus is again one of the better phones out there, and among the best values in flagship phones (or near-flagship, if you prefer) this year.
This is a phone that's in kind of an awkward position as the little brother to the other new Nexus phone, the Nexus 6P phablet from Huawei. You'd be forgiven for thinking that Google is still trying to compete directly with the iPhone by introducing a standard and plus-sized phone at the same time.
Fortunately, the 5X has the advantage of being a kind of indirect follow-up to one of the more beloved devices from the Nexus line, the Nexus 5 from a few years ago. For those of us who never quite got on the phablet bandwagon and love a phone that can easily be held and even operated with one hand, there are reasons to choose the smaller 5X over the 6P (besides its price, which is also smaller.)
Some of the best features from the premium, more powerful Nexus 6P are also carried over into the Nexus 5X – including the backside fingerprint sensor, which can be set up in under 30 seconds, works well and is positioned perfectly. Called Nexus Imprint, the added security system is much quicker to set up than the iPhone's Touch ID and seems to work extremely well.
But the real subtle coup with Nexus Imprint is the positioning of the fingerprint sensor on the back panel, just below the camera bulge, right where the happy little divot used to be on the Moto X. It allows for quick one-handed unlocking – just grab the phone, tap your finger on the sensor on the back and you're already up and running.
Google claims that Imprint gets smarter and more accurate the more you use it. You'll probably need to set it up for both of your hands since fingerprints can vary from one hand to the other, but once you've done this, we've found it already to be almost 100 percent accurate, with the exception of using the pinky finger, which it sometimes has trouble with, but that hardly seems like an issue.
The other immediate thing we noticed about the 5X is how light but sturdy it feels in the hand – reminiscent of the original small Moto X. This is surely due to its plastic construction, but it doesn't feel cheap and weighs over 40 grams less than the aluminum-bodied Nexus 6P.
While the display on the 5x is "only" 1080p, it's 423 pixels per inch, which for most people will be plenty sharp enough on a 5.2-inch display. The screen is also remarkably bright, making it easy to read in most lighting conditions so far.
On our first evening with the Nexus 5X, I hiked up a little hill outside town to try out the 12.3 megapixel camera on some sunset shots. Subpar cameras have been a knock on the Nexus line over the years, and while we'll need some more time to evaluate this shooter and its touted laser auto-focus, early results were decent enough and the camera shortcut (double-tapping the power button) worked great, even if the stock camera app seems to be as limited as ever in terms of features.
As for battery life, we got through the first day of use easily and the turbo charger gave it a quick boost of juice as advertised. One thing we did notice while using the phone when it was plugged in was that its battery charged very little or not at all while the screen was on. As soon as we put the phone down and the turned the screen off, it charged right up. Some Android phones will throttle or stop screen-on charging when the battery temperature hits a certain level, so perhaps that's what's happening here.
The implementation of Android 6.0 Marshmallow on the Nexus 5X is a pleasure to explore so far – including the first days of the context-aware Google Now on Tap feature (you can read more about this in our full Marshmallow review).
The Nexus 5X does include a reversible USB Type C port for charging and data transfer, but one minor annoyance is that it doesn't come with the USB-A to USB-C adapter that Nexus 6P buyers get bundled in. One can, however, be purchased for about US$10.
So far, the Nexus 5X is shaping up to be a great value, starting at $379. We'll be spending more time with the phone, its nifty Android 6.0 Marshmallow OS, more powerful Google Now integration, camera and other features over the next few days to bring you a comprehensive review soon.