Nexus 5X versus the original Nexus 5

At the time of its launch back at the end of 2013, the first Nexus 5 was a bit of a revelation. Following up on the inexpensive wonderment of the Nexus 4, LG cranked out another budget-friendly phone in partnership with Google that ended up being quite a hit with both average consumers and hardcore Android enthusiasts alike.

Two years later, we have the Nexus 5X, once again coming from a partnership of LG and Google, with naming and design clearly harkening back to the somewhat-inexplicable nostalgia toward the original Nexus 5. Understated design, simple materials and a "value greater than the sum of its parts" mindset have all carried over to this phone from its predecessor.

Have these two companies paired up to make a worthy successor to arguably the best-received Nexus of all time? We're going to explore just that.

Nostalgic hardware

Nexus 5X and Nexus 5

"LG's second Ne​xus is the best phone you can buy for $350," said our review of the Nexus 5 back in 2013, and those are some big shoes to fill. Of course anyone who owned or used a Nexus 5 will know that that value didn't come from its outstanding hardware chops — far from it, as the Nexus 5 was squarely in the "passable" arena of external build quality. And really, it's the same story all over again on the Nexus 5X.

The hardware can be described as nostalgic ... or just dated.

The phones are nearly identical in materials and build, with soft touch coatings layered on completely plastic exteriors, dotted with buttons and ports where necessary. The only real identifiable differences are the symmetrical speaker grilles on the front, and change in camera design on the back, of the Nexus 5X. To be fair to the newer model the Nexus 5X does seem to exhibit a bit better fit-and-finish, though the improvement isn't dramatic — it's still just serviceable hardware, and it's expected to simply fade away and let you experience the software.

Perhaps one of the reasons we were all so willing to put up with the less-than-stellar build on the Nexus 5 was its size — even in 2013 and '14 a 5-inch display felt compact compared to the growing average screen size, and the Nexus 5 was very small even for its screen size. The Nexus 5X is compact for its day as well at 5.2-inches, though symmetrical bezels on the top and bottom have boosted its overall footprint a bit. It's still super easy to slip into a pants pocket or grasp in one hand, and that's important to a lot of people still.

Simply adding a little bit of physical size to the screen isn't the only thing that's changed here, though. Display technology has advanced notably in the past two years, and the LCD panel in place on the Nexus 5X is considerably nicer than the Nexus 5. Though both phones are the same 1920x1080 resolution the Nexus 5X is brighter and has more accurate colors, and doesn't exhibit the light bleeding from the edges of the screen often found on the Nexus 5.

Additions like the fingerprint sensor, USB-C and an improved display shouldn't be overlooked.

Internally, things have made a pretty predictable progression. The Nexus 5X has a Snapdragon 808 hexa-core processor, a step above the Snapdragon 800 quad-core in the 5, along with the expected bumps in things like radios and sensors. The questionable choices? RAM and base storage, which stick at 2GB and 16GB, respectively, two years later. We've also lost Qi wireless charging, which is a hard-to-explain loss. (If we had to guess, we'd blame thinness.)

The Nexus 5X has also taken a few more steps forward in the hardware department, namely with its absolutely wonderful fingerprint sensor, an improved speaker and jump to a USB-C port. Each add something extra to the hardware experience, and remind you that this is a modern phone when you set it alongside the Nexus 5.

Software and performance

Nexus 5X and Nexus 5

When you set the two phones next to each other, both running Marshmallow of course, you actually can't immediately find a speed increase on the Nexus 5X over the Nexus 5 when just launching and thumbing through various apps. That's really a credit to the Nexus 5, which runs Android 6.0 at quite an amazing pace. Sure apps launch just a hair faster on the 5X, but it isn't something that'd be noticeable if you weren't running a side-by-side comparison.

Performance has only slightly improved, but battery life took a solid jump.

The Nexus 5X starts to pull away when it comes to multi-core performance, such as gaming or scrolling and interacting with heavy web pages and apps with lots of content. That's really what the newer generation of processor is going to give you by default, and in typical Nexus fashion we'd expect the Nexus 5X to only get faster in subsequent updates.

Where the differences really come out is in battery life. The Nexus 5X's 2700 mAh battery is over 15 percent larger than the Nexus 5's, but you're getting far more than that amount of longevity. Even a brand new Nexus 5 (i.e. one not run into the ground over two years) doesn't stand up to the full-day battery life available on the Nexus 5X, and if you've ever owned a Nexus 5 you know this is one of that phone's critical issues.

Now one of the main reasons why you may have had a Nexus 5 in the first place is software updates. Google (generally) does a pretty great job keeping its Nexus phones up to date for years after their release, but that well has to run dry at some point. We venture to guess the Nexus 5 is in for one more major release of Android — that'd be the N release, presumably — before being cut off, as we've just seen with the Nexus 4 only making it to Lollipop. Of course the Nexus 5X is two years further down the road and slated for multiple big Android releases in the future.

Camera prowess

Nexus 5X and Nexus 5

For all of the similarities you can draw between the Nexus 5X and 5, the camera has taken a large jump in quality. Despite losing OIS (Optical Image Stabilization) on the Nexus 5X, we've gained resolution — 12.3MP up from 8MP — along with larger individual pixels and improved image processing. The end result is and important jump in camera quality, with the Nexus 5X being able to take better photos in a variety of situations.

You can't deny the solid improvement in camera quality, even though it's still a tad slow.

While the Nexus 5 pretty much required the use of HDR+ processing to get a good shot — and in the end could definitely take some great ones — that's no longer the case on the 5X, and your average non-HDR+ snapshot is pretty solid as well.

Much like the rest of the software experience the Nexus 5X hasn't dramatically improved the speed at which it captures photos, with HDR+ images still taking a while to process and general camera performance being simply good and not exceptional. But the bump in image quality can't be overstated here, and while we wish OIS was still incorporated like on the Nexus 5 there can't be many complaints here — it's clear that Google has finally taken cameras seriously with the Nexus 5X (and Nexus 6P).

A steady (albeit unspectacular) progression

Nexus 5X and Nexus 5

With two years separating the release of these phones, it's somewhat tough to evaluate how well they stack up against one another. The Nexus 5 was a standout offering for the end of 2013 (and through 2014 as well), and anyone who owned one is likely to agree. The Nexus 5X has improved solidly over its predecessor with a better screen, longer battery life, new hardware features and a markedly better camera, though we wouldn't blame you for expecting a larger progression in terms of build quality and overall performance.

And in the end, it's worth noting that the Nexus 5X retails for only $379 unlocked, just $30 more than the Nexus 5 debuted at when it was released. Keeping that it mind the rate of improvement seems understandable, though the Nexus 5X is at a bit of a disadvantage here as it has stiff competition of great inexpensive unlocked phones that the Nexus 5 never had to face. The 5X is also being pitted against another Nexus, the 6P, launched at the exact same time starting at just $120 more, which also raises our expectations for what it should be.

It's true, the Nexus 5X may not be the low-cost wonder that's a dead easy buying decision like the Nexus 5 was. But in attempting to fill the undeniably-large shoes of its predecessor, the 5X has done a pretty good job overall. This is a solid second take on a great original device, even if it falls short of being spectacular in itself.

Andrew was an Executive Editor, U.S. at Android Central between 2012 and 2020.

96 Comments
  • I know I have never had the popular opinion here, but I think the Nexus 5 was and is one if the most attractive phones physically. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I agree with you. My only complain on the nexus 5 was battery. I had to carry a charger with me all the time. Lol Posted via the Android Central App on Moto X 2014/Moto G3/Moto G1/Lenovo Tab S8/ Lenovo Yoga 11 on $35 Cricket wireless plan.
  • i loved my N5, abysmal battery performance (and google's awful tech support in italy) was the reason i switched to a Sony Z3C...
  • I completely agree. Though I may be slightly biased.... Posted via the Android Central App on my Nexus 5 M 6.0
  • Agreed. I am still sporting the 5 and will for another year. The 5x isn't a good enough upgrade and the forums are filled with reports of defects and less than stellar performance.
  • It's predecessor was prettier in my opinion. I remember being a bit disappointed with the design of the nexus 5 after the 4. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I agree, I'm still using my N4 without any issues. With that I have been thinking about upgrading to the 5x, but I'll wait till 2016.
  • I was still using it until a couple of months ago, now it's in service as my pip boy. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Best feature about the Nexus 5 has to be the processor. My phone has handle everything I have put it through from heavy graphics games to all the updates it has received its never run so smoothly before like right now. Best purchase I have ever made. Posted via the Android Central App
  • The Qualcomm Snapdragon 800 is a fantastic processor. A lot of good phones came out of that processor and the 801. It still runs great today and phones like the Nexus 5 and Nokia Lumia 1520 can still keep up with the latest.
  • Indeed
  • Yep, the 801 isn't far behind the 808 in bench marks. And in real world, I don't think you would notice for the most part. Not enough at this point. If I were to buy a phone on processor alone, I would not pick an 808 over a 801 unless I use it for a lot of graphics. This is why I am considering the OnePlus X, with it.
  • Yes, my N5 is working so well with Marshmallow that there's no reason to buy a new one right now; however, I dropped it and the case didn't save the screen this time. So, if a new screen is too expensive to be worth adding, I'll re-think this.
    Any thoughts on where/how to have this repaired?
    I must say, I'm now getting 2 and sometimes 3 days outta the Marshmallow improved battery. For instance, after more than a day of music, I'm still at 49% battery level.
    Now, if they would just give it the "feel" of the N1, I'd be in Heaven once the screen was fixed.
  • Agree. I think it's simplicity in design is what made it look great.
    I hated the speaker and sound quality tho. Everything had to be at max volume if u ever had to plug it to a speaker. I also had to replace the battery before selling it. I miss it tho, even though it went to a good home *tear*.. Lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • Oh yeah the speaker sucks lol. And the audio captured when taking video is almost as bad. Posted from my Nexus 5 via Android Central App
  • The Audio Capture during video is the only reason I changed phones. Lot of kids in the family now needed a phone that could record them without sounding like we were all underwater. I saw the AC video they shot on the Plane, definitely sounds like the Audio Recording issues has been fixed.
  • Ditto! There's something I liked about the Nexus 5's minimalist design. I still use it from time to time, so I still haven't quite let it go. :-) From my Nexus 6P or 5 via the cooler than cool Android Central App
  • I agree. But I think that's a popular opinion though.
  • If better quality materials, definitely
  • I loved it as well. Everyone is so into "premium" materials these days, but the Nexus 5 looked damn good and felt great in the hand. Nexus 4 had a nice back, but was slippery. I love how the nexus 5 was very minimalistic. It feels and looks much better than my LG G4 (with it's premium leather - which scratches easily.. but I use a case).
  • It's understated design won't date quickly. And it was so grippy. Say what you want about plastic phones, but my N6P feels like a lubed up slip-n-slide compared to my N5.
  • Haha! Yeah, it is a trade off. I like the best of both world. Metal frame with non-slip back cover. Thats my ideal design.
  • I agree. I know the tech press is almost unanimous in loving metal phones. But I disagree. For one thing, almost everyone who gets a metal phone ends up getting a case - for fear that they will damage the metal body. And was is the case usually made of? Plastic.
  • THIS!
  • I agree. If I could find a new one and if google would do Project Fi on it, I would get one. I just wish the 5X would have taken a more substantial step up in performance and had 3GB of ram. It would make it more worth it too me. I sitting on the fence.
  • This review exhibits some marketing bias and is misleading with regard to the operations comparison between the two phones. Every test, shown on videos clearly demonstrates the NEXUS 5 superiority to the compromised 5X. NEXUS 5 is faster, smother and has no lag regardless of the applications and demands on the phone. The 808 is a sluggish processor, which is probably the major reason for the poor sales of LG G4, an otherwise excellent device.
    That is how the Korean inflexible minds work. Plain stupid. Take the NEXUS 5X for example. Instead of keeping the very successful NEXUS 5 basic hardware and excellent, superfast 800 processor, then add the new camera and battery - well the 5.2" screen, perhaps, but no fingerprint sensor, the LG screwed up royally with the 5X, a sluggish, lagging, stuttering phone with a price tag of $350-400. We hear many problem and customers complaining, while the price has come down to #220-250 but not many takers. By contrast, the NEXUS 6P has been very successful. Meanwhile the Legend NEXUS 5 continues.
  • It's one of the best looking phones I have ever used. Dropped it a hundred times without case, still running strong.
  • Nexus 5 still a good phone Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • I believe the HTC One A9 at $399 is comparatively better than the Nexus 5x. Build quality Display 32 GB storage with micro SD and 3 GB RAM OIS Sound Free 1 year next day replacement warranty
  • But it's not actually $399. That was only a limited time offer. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It will again be offered for $399 just as it was yesterday, Nov 10. Currently demand has outpaced the pipeline. Keep vigilant for holiday season special offers.
  • Yeah jimbo we already know what you think. Posted from my Nexus 6/Nexus 7 2013/Surface Pro 3
  • And you forgot something of the biggest importance - A9's battery capacity :) via AC App on
    VZW Moto X DE/N7
  • I realize we all have become accustomed to comparing specs, especially battery capacity. Running out of power is among the top 3 important factors / considerations claimed by smartphone users. The other 2 are display and camera. With 2015 phones the 'capacity' of the battery is 'less problematic' than we've been accustomed to due to significantly improved hardware and software efficiency including bullet fast rapid charging. Sure, one might drop to 40% after 5 hours of mixed use yet now with this year's devices we can plug in and boost up to 85% in 15 min. And we have yet to experience Quick Charge 3.0 and the estimated 40% improved power consumption efficiency with soon to be released next generation SOCs like the SD 820. Now if one is isolated from the ability to briefly plug in, alternatives would have to be considered.
  • I think Nexus 5 is still a very attractive phone today. Yes, it has a poor battery, but what about most flagships this year? Quick charge? Oh... In my opinion, it is not so different carry a turbo charger, normal charger or a power bank. Not necessary to talk about the great performance of this phone, simply it is fast and stable.
  • Owned/Own them both and both are great phones. Andrew touched on the 'bump ups' nicely. Screen, battery. camera (wow, big difference!) and the fingerprint scanner really works well (I have to password protect my phone for work email) and fast. I do miss the wireless charging, but the USB-C is super fast at charging which (almost) makes up for it. I'm a techy and tinkerer so will always be a Nexus user. Love customizing the crap out of it. Both are great phones, especially for the price.
  • For me the Nexus 5 (2013) was the 2nd best Nexus ever created (the Nexus One holds a special place as #1) and the Nexus 5X is a perfect upgrade for me in every way. Sure there are hiccups with the software but In my past experience with new android software and most new software in general there are always going to be some issues.
  • I just think a device with an 1080p screen and Snapdragon 808 should be snappier. The performance is only marginally better than the Nexus 5.
  • Actually the OG nexus 5 is the better performer overall out of the box, and I only say that because I think encryption is taking a serious performance toll on the 5X. There really isn't any meaningful performance bump between the Krait 800 series and the 808. It only has 2 high powered A57 cores at its disposal for max performance as opposed the quad core A57 setups on the 810 and 7420.
  • Really miss the wireless charging of the nexus 5. I would get the 5x if it had it.
  • I liked my Nexus 5 a lot. My only real gripe was the really poor battery life. Wish the 5X had more storage as I need at least 64GB nowadays so it's no longer an option.
  • So much taller yet no dual front facing speakers. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have the N5 and the only thing I don't like is battery life. Other than that it still works great two years in. I didn't know if the battery was a problem with it or because I probably over charge it with fast chargers. Plus I'm on mine constantly. I'll probably go another year with it because others in family need new phones more but this would be a worthy upgrade.
  • Just bought a brand new Nexus 5 on ebay for $175 to replace an aging Nexus 4 for a family member. Out of box, the Nexus 5 went through about 4 or 5 system updates immediately, ending up on 6.0. Not bad considering I had almost settled on the newest moto G for that person. So far I think it's a great deal at that price, and the only issue so far is a very warm colored (yellowish) display. Maybe I'll pick up the 5x in a year or two at the same price to replace my LG G2. Although my G2 isn't even a year old itself....but hoping it will see 6.0 to breathe new life into it.
  • Google should have made a Nexus 5P as well. I just can't seem to find sufficient reasons to upgrade to a Nexus 5X coming from a Nexus 5. Not willing to give up wireless charging. Also 808 processor does not impress me at all. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I would miss ois and qi alot, but I also use magnetic mounts for the car and the Nexus 5 has the plate built in so I dont need a sticker or add a case. No one every talks about that feature but i always thought it was really smart and useful. N5 will last another year... I don't really see the 5x as a true replacement for the 5
  • Same here! Sticking up the wireless charger into the car is one of the most amazing things you could do with a Nexus 5!
    This not only looks incredibly good (no docks or wires), it´s really really convenient..
    Since other phones simply lack the metal pucks in the back cover, the N5 is the one and only phone you could do this with.
    (look for videos on youtube, it´s just fu***g amazing) ;-) It´s one of N5s most underrated features imaho ;-)
    ...at least if you spend a lot of time in your car.
  • I still love my Nexus 5. I'm at a desk all day so wireless charging addresses the weak battery. The camera can get great shots when it decides to focus (is it me or has that problem worsened with Marshmallow?). Performance is top notch considering it's old hardware. The size is damn near perfect. I have a nice slim case on it so I couldn't give a crap about build quality. Seems fine to me. I hope to get another year out of it. $400 spread over three years is what I call a great value. Posted from my Nexus 5 via Android Central App
  • I dropped my N5 a long time ago and ended up selling it on eBay to pay for an N4, but I remember the time it took for the N5's camera to focus was a nightmare at how long it took. I think that was my only problem with it too.
  • Wireless charging > Doze.
  • I actually owned the Nexus 5X and sent it back after about a week of having it. It was too big coming from the N4 Im using at the moment. I pretty much fell in love with the original N5 and would like to have it again someday. Even if the battery life isnt as potentially good. There was just something or a multiple of somethings that made it a great phone. I hope that one day LG will make a new Nexus 5 in the same body size and style as the original and it just be a spec update.
  • I have a 6 month old Nexus 5 and I have no desire to upgrade. Sure I throw on the charger at work in the afternoon, but it performs amazingly. I use my Nexus 9 in the evenings mostly, and it really can't be beat for media consumption and gaming. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You guys were die hard purists in 2013.
    I was happy and feeling superior with my Note 3. Now the worm is turning (and the market).
  • Got my N5x about a week ago after 2 years with the N5.
    The N5x is actually much slower than the N5!!! The animations and webpage scrolling are smoother on the old phone. Actually there are websites that the N5x can't handle. Games like Sim City are sluggish on th N5x and runs much better on the Old N5.
    On the other hand, the camera of the N5x is on another level (but many bugs and crashes of the camera app) and battery life is also better.
  • I wonder if the slowness is related to encryption being enabled? Maybe Russel will do a follow on article for the 5X. http://www.androidcentral.com/how-does-android-lollipops-encryption-affe...
  • I use my Nexus 7 2013 for the majority of my web stuff, so I don't use my Nexus 5 all day long, or for very intensive stuff all that much. That said, my N5 is still smooth as butter. Only downside, as everyone who's used one well knows, is the battery. Thankfully I just plop it on either of my two Tylt Vu chargers. Couldn't possibly upgrade to a phone without Qi.
  • Another point for the 5x is it's one of only three phones that works on Project Fi. In my opinion, a plus Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have the 5x. Have had for about 3 weeks and very happy with it. It really is an excellent evolution from the Nexus 5. Wonder if there was no 6p, if the reviews of the 5x would be more glowing. Just speculating.
  • Love love loved my N5. Sure, it needed charging by noon, and loved to focus on any object int he photo except the one I was interested in. And I spent an hour each week deleting apps, clearing caches, downloading home videos and purging music to try to survive with 32GB. But it was solid as a rock, really small with fantastic handfeel, and exhibited no lag anywhere. And it had a nice clean Nexus UI. But then the well-know power-button issue reared its ugly hear, and after two weeks of random and repeated reboots (each requiring 20 mins to optimize apps), it was time to move on. Urgently. Needed lots of storage and a great camera. Wanted a smallish phone, and a good battery, and approx $400 price. Pretty indifferent about the rest: specs, fingerprints, NFC, fancy charging, design. N5x didn't meet my storage needs, has a ho hum battery and camera, and is quite a bit bigger than the N5. Pass. Picked up the LG G4. Lots of storage, great camera. Decent battery. Good price at $379. Good specs, NFC, QC2. Only compromise was size: it's a big phone (not N6 big, but still). Seven days in, I'm a happy camper. Device build is solid, like the N5. With the Google Now launcher installed, the only remaining LG thorn in the experience remains the notifications/quick settings bar. Battery is good - 40% when I get home from work, which is amazing for this N5 user. And the size? Bigger than I want, but I can still just barely work it with one hand, and it fits in all my pockets. I can live with the size.
  • I'm pretty much in the same boat as you.. that's why I got the G4. Been using it since it came out.. however, I just used my Nexus 5 the other day.. It feels snappier despite being a year and a half older.
  • I went from the OG Nexus 5 to the LG G4...then back to the Nexus 5. The size of the G4, after 3 months, was too much for me. The Nexus 5's size is beautiful for one handedness! Posted via Android Central App
  • I'm just OK with the G4 size for now, but I'll admit that every time I pick up my old N5, my brain does register relief. If I can get the power button of my N5 fixed at low cost, i might switch back. Contemplated buying a new N5 from Expansys, but couldn't justify $250 or whatever for a 2 year old phone. Will probably just live with the G4, which I otherwise like a lot, until something suitable in an N5 size comes up.
  • I'm not sure if you have one near you, but repair shops like uBreakiFix can take care of the power button replacement.