A Week with the Nexus 5X

As I approached the end of my two year contract with Verizon, I started looking around at other phones. When I realized the subsidized two year contract phone no longer existed, I resolved to make my Galaxy S4 last as long as possible. And then I dropped it. (My Otterbox case was looking worse for wear, so I had my custom CaseMate case on it). And the screen didn’t break, but something happened to the digitizer (I’m assuming, screen went black with a white line at the top). I tried to make an old S3 work, but it just wasn’t happening (and it couldn’t upgrade past KitKat which is a security issue). It was time to get a new phone.

Why The Nexus 5X

Anything bigger would be ridiculous.

I was really leaning towards the Motorola X Pure, which had most of what I was looking for in a phone. It’s somewhat affordable, decently specced, replaceable battery, and Micro SD slot. The camera was meh, but better than Motorola has been in the past. And then Google announced the new Nexus line, with a decent price and awesome camera, so I gave up the replaceable battery and Micro SD card.

The Nexus 6P really isn’t too much more expensive (about $70 if both are equipped with 32GB of storage). So why go with a less powerful, smaller screen phone? After holding my coworker’s iPhone 6+ (which has similar dimensions to a Nexus 6P), it just wasn’t happening. It was like palming a basketball. Since I have a tendency to drop these things anyway, something I can’t grip properly didn’t seem like a great idea. I was really nervous about going with the smaller screen, but I can honestly say it doesn’t feel like I’m missing out. It’s a great size for me.

The Software

The Nexus 5X shipped with Google’s latest iteration of Android, Marshmallow. It uses the same material interface as Lollipop, which I really like. The Google Now launcher seems OK, but I only used it for a few hours before I went back to using Nova Launcher from TelsaCoil Software. I like having things just so, and Nova allows me to do that.

Overall, Marshmallow adds some really nice features for users. The specific app permission system is simple and easy to understand and use. It’s simply “App X wants access to your Y” and you can accept or decline. Do Not Disturb is easy to trigger, and will automatically turn on when the ringer and vibrate is off. And one of my favorite features from KitKat is back! The alarm clock time now shows on the lock screen again! That being said, there’s some really odd things missing too. The only odd thing is you can’t natively set a lockscreen wallpaper that’s different from the home screen wallpaper. There are apps that let you do this, but it’s just a weird thing. And I can’t control Audible from the lockscreen, but I think that’s Amazon’s issue because I can control Google Play Music and Spotify.

The Hardware

This isn’t my first Nexus phone, I also had a Samsung Galaxy Nexus several years ago. The battery life on it was atrocious. Going into a Nexus 5X, that was a concern again. I am happy to report the battery life doesn’t suck. It’s going not to blow you away, but it doesn’t suck. I can go an entire workday without charging, which really is good enough for me. What is awesome though, is how fast this thing charges with a proper USB Type-C charger. I’ve gone from 15% battery to 85% battery in an hour. That is simply amazing to me.

While we’re on USB Type-C, it’s new so it’s expensive. And there are a lot of bad cables out there, to the degree a Google engineer is posting reviews on Amazon to warn users when something is not certified USB Type-C. The adapters I bought aren’t certified it turns out, and while they charge the battery it’s super slow. It’s more of a “this will make the battery not go lower” kind of thing. It will only charge if you aren’t using your phone.

Aside from that, the phone is lightweight and slim. The screen is super sharp (it’s a bit smaller than the iPhone 6+ screen but has the same resolution). The fingerprint reader is one of those things I thought was super gimmicky, but I love it. I haven’t had a chance to properly test the camera, but here are a few shots from around my house.

In the low light of the nerd cave.

Super close up.

A picture of Pixel where she’s not a complete blur. Pretty hard with a terrier.

Flowers in the shade on a sunny day.

At the end of the day…

I’m very happy with my Nexus 5X. The biggest compromise to me was that it doesn’t have a removable battery or a Micro-SD slot. I’d take the extra bulk (which is why I’m assuming it doesn’t have these things) to get those features.

Update 11/23: The screen seems very prone to surface scratches, to the degree that I’m ordering a screen protector. It doesn’t impact function, and you can only seem them when the screen is off, but still.

Originally published at www.puregeekery.net on November 13, 2015.

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