Google and OnePlus take solid swings at low-cost but high-value phones, and each one has its merits.

The number of great phones in the $200 to $400 price range is growing, and the two phones we have here — the Nexus 5X and OnePlus X — are perfect examples of what you can get for your money today. Admittedly the $130 (MSRP) price difference between the $379 Nexus 5X and $249 OnePlus X is nothing to sneeze at, but both phones aim to punch above their weight to offer a solid experience despite a less-than-flagship price.

Having used both for a good bit of time, I'm going to analyze the differences between the Nexus 5X and OnePlus X to show which one comes out on top for the money, and where each one succeeds in individual areas. Read on.

Different approaches to hardware

Your first interaction with a phone is its external hardware and styling, and the OnePlus X gives an excellent first impression. Under further inspection, you really see the immense quality on offer here. With solid panes of glass on both sides of the phone flowing perfectly into a metal frame, the OnePlus X is a step (or three) above what you expect for $249. The tolerances are tight, the design is simple but well executed, and though it's a tad slippery there's no arguing it's a great execution.

The OnePlus X provides better external hardware, but falls short in raw features

Just like the previous Nexus 5, the new 5X is hardly a wonder of modern engineering and materials. Its full plastic build leaves something to be desired, especially at the price point. While the phone is put together solidly for what it is, there really isn't any design flair that gets you excited. Just like the OnePlus X it has a weak speaker, but the Nexus 5X has the distinct advantage of having a fantastic fingerprint sensor. And then there are the radio bands ... where the Nexus 5X has the right ones for the U.S. (and beyond), while the OnePlus X comes up short in one key area with weak AT&T support.

Read our full OnePlus X review

Read our full Nexus 5X review

The OnePlus X has a slightly smaller screen at 5-inches compared to the Nexus 5X's 5.2, and both screens are really good — the 1080p resolution on each is fine, and colors, viewing angles and brightness all fit the bill. You may have a preference of AMOLED (on the OnePlus X) or LCD (on the Nexus 5X), but the Nexus 5X tends to be tuned a bit warm while the OnePlus X is a bit on the cool side — it's really noticeable side-by-side but you hardly notice in regular use.

As far as specs go, the phones are quite similar. The OnePlus X has an older (but very capable) Snapdragon 801 processor with 3GB of RAM and 16GB of storage (plus an SD card slot), while the Nexus 5X has a newer Snapdragon 808 but less RAM at 2GB and the same storage of 16GB (bumping to 32GB will cost you $50). Notable wins for the OnePlus X are an SD card slot (that can double as a second SIM slot) and more RAM. The Nexus 5X has an advantage with newer Wi-Fi specs, NFC, a larger battery, rapid charging, and a USB-C port.

Category OnePlus X Nexus 5X
Operating System Android 5.1.1 Lollipop Android 6.0 Marshmallow
Display 5-inch 1920x1080 (441 ppi)
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
5.2-inch 1920x1080 (423 ppi)
Corning Gorilla Glass 3
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 quad-core @ 2.3 GHz
Adreno 330 GPU
Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 hexa-core @ 1.8GHz
Adreno 418 GPU
Storage 16GB
MicroSD card up to 128GB
16 or 32GB
SIM Dual SIM slots or single SIM + MicroSD card Single Nano SIM
Rear Camera 13MP ISOCELL 3M2 CMOS, f/2.2
1080p resolution video; Slow Motion: 720p video at 120fps
12.3MP, 1.55 μm pixels, f/2.0
IR laser-assisted autofocus, Broad-spectrum CRI-90 dual flash
4K (30fps) video capture, 120 fps slow motion video capture
Front Camera 8MP OV8858, f/2.4 5MP, 1.4 μm pixels, f/2.2
Connectivity 802.11n, Bluetooth 4.0, FM radio 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.1
Battery 2525 mAh 2700 mAh
Charging Micro USB
5V/2A charger included
Rapid charging
LED notification light Yes, multicolor Yes, multicolor
Dimensions 140 x 69 x 6.9 mm 147.0 x 72.6 x 7.9 mm
Weight 138 g (Onyx)
160 g (Ceramic)
136 g

One camera runs away with it

Nexus 5X and OnePlus X

Turn and twist it any way you want, only the Nexus 5X should be considered if you're on the fence between these two phones and hold camera quality to a high standard. The 12.3MP sensor has very large pixels to take in tons of light, and while it could still benefit from the addition of OIS it's great to see how good the photos are despite it not having the feature. I've taken absolutely great photos with the Nexus 5X, and it blows away all previous Nexus phones. The only real downside of the Nexus 5X's camera is speed — it's slow to open and operate, and even slower to process HDR+ photos.

Look at it any way you want, the Nexus 5X wins the camera battle

The 13MP ISOCELL sensor in the OnePlus X is generally competent in good lighting conditions, but is quite poor when the lights get dim at all. The HDR and Clear Image modes do nothing to remedy this (and even make it worse sometimes), which is a real shame. This is a really basic camera setup, and it shows. Comparing favorably to the Nexus 5X, though, is the camera speed — it's super fast to open, capture, process and share photos.

Neither phone has a camera app worth writing home about, and the OnePlus X actually takes the lead when it comes to straight-up speed in opening and capturing photos, but with such a big delta in quality between the two the extra speed isn't enough to make it worth considering. Again the Nexus 5X really should have a better camera considering the price bump, but there's an even larger difference here than you'd expect heading in to using both phones.

Similar software and performance

Nexus 5X and OnePlus X

Since moving to its own take on Android, called OxygenOS, OnePlus has actually done a great job of keeping a stock-like experience for its users. The latest OxygenOS build on the OnePlus X is working with a base of Android 5.1.1 Lollipop, and adds in just a handful of features that improve the experience without getting in the way. You get a system-wide dark mode, lock screen gestures, customization options in the quick settings and a few included OnePlus apps, but the rest of the experience is the same as you'd find on a Nexus — right down to the included Google apps.

Marshmallow is a better platform, but the Nexus 5X still isn't a great performer

As for the Nexus 5X, well it's one of the two latest Nexus devices and so it's the bar by which all other phones are measured in terms of experience. Android 6.0 Marshmallow includes tons of nice features, even though it isn't a dramatic change visually from Lollipop. You get new animations and design changes, Doze for battery savings, Google Now on Tap for content searching, runtime permissions for apps, and of course the latest security updates right from Google. Marshmallow is a solid version of Android, and while it won't blow you away with any individual feature it's a great overall package.

It's no secret that the Nexus 5X is far from a speed demon, as it even gets outperformed by the original Nexus 5 in regular single-core tasks, and setting it beside the OnePlus X continues that trend. The OnePlus X outperforms the Nexus 5X most of the time when opening and switching quickly between simple apps, but in-app performance was basically identical between the two. I still expect the Nexus 5X's performance to improve in later updates from Google, but as it stands now the OnePlus X does edge it out in overall software performance — though the differences aren't so extreme that you'd be willing to give up Marshmallow just to get it.

When it comes to battery life, the Nexus 5X's 2700 mAh battery is just 175 mAh larger than the OnePlus X, and that basically tells the whole story. Neither phone is an industry-leading battery champion, but the Nexus 5X does come out just a bit ahead of the OnePlus X — thanks to larger overall battery capacity, a more efficient processor, and Marshmallow's new Doze feature. Both phones can hit critical battery levels before you go to bed at night if you're using them heavily, but for average use they'll both make it through a day. Rapid charging on the Nexus 5X will help it juice up just a bit quicker, but the OnePlus X is hardly slow to charge in its own right.

How much do you want to spend?

Nexus 5X and OnePlus X

When just looking at the merits of each phone, it's a pretty easy recommendation to say that the Nexus 5X is the superior phone of the two. Though it doesn't have as striking of external hardware, a few extras like a fingerprint sensor, NFC, more LTE radio bands and USB-C pull it closer to the OnePlus X overall. The Nexus 5X also has a dramatically better camera than the OnePlus X, which is increasingly becoming one of the most important features of a modern phone. In terms of software the Nexus 5X doesn't run away with the lead in terms of today's performance, but when it comes down to future support and having the latest software version it has the upper hand.

But of course as I mentioned at the top of this article, the Nexus 5X actually does cost a considerable amount more than the OnePlus X. $130 is a pretty big bump when you're talking about the OnePlus X sitting at a mere $249, and for that lower price you're getting a whole lot of great phone for your money that in many ways does come out on top of the Nexus 5X. If you're looking for the best overall package and are willing to spend a bit more then the Nexus is probably your best bet of these two, but if the bottom line is a big deal you really can't go wrong with the value of the OnePlus X.