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Samsung Galaxy S7 versus Nexus 5X: Same size, different audiences

A good number of smartphone fans were excited to see that with the latest generation of Galaxy S phones, Samsung decided to keep its flagship a very modest size. The Galaxy S7 has just a 5.1-inch screen, which is pretty small for today's standards and is even notably smaller than its sibling devices the Galaxy S7 edge.

Much the same story played out late last year with Google's Nexus device release, where it resurrected the spirit of the Nexus 5 in the brand new Nexus 5X. The screen size jumped just a tad, but this is very much a "smaller" phone at 5.2-inches diagonal screen size and generally with small dimensions compared to the big 'ol Nexus 6P.

But even though both of these phones have the same appeal to those who want something a bit more compact to carry around every day, they each target different audiences beyond that. Right off the start pricing is a huge differentiator, and the phones have divergent takes on hardware and software. Despite the differences, we want to see how these two phones compare head-to-head. Here's a look at the Galaxy S7 and the Nexus 5X.

Hardware and specs

Samsung Galaxy S7 versus Nexus 5X

If you're someone who enjoys having a smaller phone that's easy to wrap a single hand around and use without worry of dropping it, you'll be happy with either of these phones. Though the Nexus 5X is a tad larger thanks to bigger bezels, both phones are compact and stand out from the large screens covering the mobile landscape. They're also both thin and light, with rounded corners and edges along the back.

Beyond that, just about every detail pertaining to the hardware on these phones is different. Just at a glance you can already tell that the Galaxy S7 is manufactured from better materials and executed to a higher standard, and with your hands on both you'd be hard-pressed not to lean toward the great feel of Samsung's latest. The metal and glass come together absolutely perfectly on the GS7, and even if you prefer a plastic phone the Nexus 5X isn't exactly the best example of what can be done in polycarbonate.

Compact phone fans will enjoy holding both, but the GS7's hardware is on another level.

What you're holding onto is a big part of the hardware equation, but so is what you're looking at: the screen. Saying that the Galaxy S7 has a better screen shouldn't come as any surprise here, because that's going to be the case no matter what you compare it to. But in this case, the delta is a bit larger with the Nexus 5X. The 1080p LCD on the Nexus is good, for sure, but it doesn't exhibit the great saturation of Samsung's latest — nor does it come anywhere close to the brightness or daylight visibility.

Coming to the line-item specs, you can't really find a place where the Galaxy S7 isn't ahead. The Snapdragon 820 (or, where applicable, Exynos 8 Octa) processor is far ahead of the Snapdragon 808 in the Nexus, as is the 4GB of RAM that doubles the competitor. The default storage is doubled, too, at 32GB and also offers an SD card slot for expansion. The GS7 has a larger 3000 mAh battery, but also has wireless charging that was unfortunately left out of the Nexus 5X. And you can't talk hardware without mentioning the GS7's complete waterproofing.

Despite the overall lead the Galaxy S7 has here, the Nexus 5X definitely stands up to it in a few areas. The Nexus 5X's fingerprint sensor is absolutely up to speed with the GS7's, and in some people's eyes better due to its rear placement. Its USB-C port is definitely preferable overall compared to the old micro-USB connector, and the front-facing speaker, while not necessarily louder, is dramatically better for sending sound toward you and not being blocked by your hand when in use. And while the Nexus 5X's plastic may not feel great, it doesn't pile up smudges and get slippery like the Galaxy S7's glass.

Software and performance

Samsung Galaxy S7 versus Nexus 5X

If you'll recall, we dove into this software comparison a little while back when setting the Galaxy S7 edge up against the Nexus 6P — things are the same here. Even though both phones are running Android 6.0 Marshmallow, there are obviously very clear differences in flavoring applied.

Samsung's take on software can be a bit polarizing, particularly if you're someone who has taken a liking to the way Google does things on the Nexus 5X. The Galaxy S7 has a lot more baked-in features and apps, along with some visual changes that are cohesive albeit a little heavy-handed compared to the "stock" Marshmallow offering. The GS7 is very much capable of handling all of this extra overhead, but that doesn't mean you necessarily are.

Aside from the simpler and easier-to-understand interface that the Nexus 5X offers, there's something to be said for its basic set of pre-installed apps. Unlike the GS7, the Nexus 5X doesn't come pre-loaded with tons of apps you can't remove, and it offers just one app to do each task — no duplicate email, messaging, calendar and gallery apps to deal with. And that's before you get to all of the carrier cruft that you're going to have to deal with when you buy the Galaxy S7 in the U.S.

The GS7 can handle all of the extra software overhead, but that doesn't mean you can.

There's also the discussion of security updates. The Nexus 5X can of course count on getting them monthly from Google without any hiccups, and while Samsung has definitely stepped up its cadence the sheer number of models it has to support often slows things down. At this point you can expect to get a "monthly" update about every other month, and while that's a big improvement it certainly isn't as reliable as what the Nexus gets.

A much-needed performance update hit the Nexus 5X in March, bringing it from a frustrating experience up to a capable performer. Even still, its Snapdragon 808 processor and 2GB of RAM just can't push its software fast enough to catch the top-performing Galaxy S7.

Using the Nexus 5X daily you'll be able to find some slowdowns here and there when working in heavier apps or quickly switching between several apps in a short period, and when you set it side-by-side with the Galaxy S7 the speed differences are pronounced. I wasn't able to find a single situation where the Galaxy S7 was slower than the Nexus 5X, and that's not completely unexpected. Though the Nexus 5X is perfectly capable of handling everything I threw at it, it was just a couple beats slower than the industry-topping GS7.

And even though the Galaxy S7 performs better, it also offers longer battery life. Now that makes sense when seeing the 3000 mAh battery that's larger than the Nexus 5X's 2700, and you can probably expect about 15% longer battery life out of the GS7. Both phones of course offer great fast charging solutions, but not having to worry about that as often is a great feature of the Galaxy S7 — the Nexus 5X just comes up short in battery on a regular basis.

Camera quality

Samsung Galaxy S7 versus Nexus 5X

Samsung was coming from a position of strength with an absolutely wonderful camera on the Galaxy S6, and chose to make some dramatic changes with the Galaxy S7. The move to a lower megapixel count in conjunction with larger individual pixel size is a big one, and it's arguably an overall side-step in quality from what we had before. On the other side of things, Nexuses have historically had very compromised (and just straight-up bad) cameras, but the Nexus 5X (and of course 6P) is easily the best Google has ever put out.

Numbers-wise we're looking at 12-megapixels from both cameras, though the Nexus 5X has larger individual pixels at 1.55-microns (versus 1.4-microns). The GS7 has a faster f/1.7 lens, as well as OIS, to support that sensor. Take a look at a few side-by-side comparison shots here:

Galaxy S7 (left) / Nexus 5X (right); click images to view larger

It only takes a few shots with these cameras to see their personalities in taking photos. The GS7 lets in an obscene amount of light into every photo, regardless of whether you use HDR, and pumps up the saturation in colors across the board — sometimes to a fault. On the other end, the Nexus 5X is rightly criticized for having a very low dynamic range, and often reproduces the scene closer to life but not necessarily in a bright or appealing-to-the-eye way.

The results are closer than you may think.

What's interesting to see is how much more detail the Nexus 5X is able to capture, particularly when using its (admittedly slow) HDR+ mode. Even zooming in slightly to photos shows how crisp and clear every shot is, even compared to the Galaxy S7, which is no small feat. The Galaxy S7 is definitely an overall better camera, especially when it comes to quickly capturing photos in a variety of conditions, but the contest is closer than you might think — the Nexus 5X offers more realistic photos and better clarity in most shots, it just leans heavily on HDR+ to accomplish it.

While the merits of the photo quality from each phone are easily debated, it's tough to say that the Galaxy S7 doesn't come out on top in terms of its camera software. Even though the Nexus 5X's software is simplistic and easy to understand, the Galaxy S7 manages to keep things simple as well while also enabling advanced features to be at your fingertips. The interface from Samsung gives you quick toggles for your most-used features, while hiding a full "Pro" mode for those who want it. It's also just downright faster than the Nexus 5X, from processing photos to general navigation.

Read: Camera showdown: Galaxy S7 vs. Nexus 6P vs. iPhone 6s Plus vs. Lumia 950

The bottom line

Samsung Galaxy S7 versus Nexus 5X

Naturally, this comparison will start and end with a discussion of price and value. At a starting price of $349, the Nexus 5X is at least $300 less than a Galaxy S7. Even bumping up the storage to 32GB to match the Galaxy S7's default configuration, you're saving at least $250. Considering Project Fi? If so, the $199 Nexus 5X is a whopping $450 less than a Galaxy S7. That's not even close — in some cases multiple times the cost — in terms of pricing, and that should weigh heavily on the conclusions in this comparison.

These phones target different audiences — and price is the biggest factor here.

The Galaxy S7 obviously offers better external and internal hardware, more features, a better screen and an overall better camera. The Nexus 5X has a few key features that are nice, along with much cleaner software and appeal to those who like simplicity — all while not giving up too much in terms of performance or camera quality.

Obviously this is a bit of a lopsided fight, but that's why we have the great equalizer of price involved. The Galaxy S7 is definitely the better overall phone here, but is it nearly twice as good as a Nexus 5X, as the price suggests? I wouldn't go anywhere near saying that's the case, but there's never a linear relationship between price and phone quality.

Someone looking for a solid, budget-friendly phone with sprinkles of high-end experience will get one heck of a phone in the Nexus 5X. If you want to spend top-dollar and get a corresponding top-end experience, the Galaxy S7 is the only one that's going to satisfy.

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

  • Samsung pay is a game changer. It is the reason to get a new Galaxy. I only use Samsung pay to pay for everything everywhere. I havent found a place it doesn't work. All my credit cards are safe at home. The Galaxy's are great phones besides Samsung pay with it there is nothing that can touch them. FYI Samsung bring back the IR port I love using my phone as a universal remote. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I don't think u like Samsung pay Posted via the Android Central App
  • What samsung phone are u using that have an ir port? Afaik, s7 doesnt have them Posted via the Android Central App
  • The s6, s6 edge, s6 edge+ and Note5 exist..
  • Nope, only the regular flat s6 got ir blaster Posted via the Android Central App
  • He said a new galaxy which is s7 so... Posted via the Android Central App
  • So I should pay double the price for the phone so I can pay with Samsung Pay??
  • I have the Note 4 Nexus 6 and Nexus 5X, I use the Nexus 5X as my daily driver, nice size and smooth as butter with great camera and fantastic fingerprint sensor, unlocked and rooted running Pure Nexus ROM, hard to go back to TW hell and bloat filled device. Will be putting the Note 4 on sale. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Alfred is my daily driver......that term irks me, I kno, opinions are like a$$holes Posted via the Android Central App
  • Imagine how Alfred feels about your comments.
  • The size difference may be minimal on paper but the physical dimensions of the GS7 make it feel like a much nicer size. The height and width make the 5X seem a lot larger. I still wouldn't buy a GS7 over a 5X though for a lot of other reasons. I'd prefer a front fingerprint sensor though. Since you can map more than one finger you could unlock the phone while it lays on a desk or you could unlock it with your thumb if you're holding it which is just as easy and natural as the rear placement.
  • I really don't see any notable difference in the size when it comes to usability. Sure the bezels on the Nexus 5X are a tad bigger, so it's a few millimeters wider and taller, but the grip of the plastic easily fixes that when compared to the slick glass on the gs7.
  • Motorola should have had a contender in this size and performance.
  • They did, the Moto X 2014. Too bad it had other issues.
  • Yep Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well it's 2016 so... Posted via Galaxy S7 edge
  • Yeah neither of these phones are Compact at all. Not even by today's "standards". What defines the standards? Just because the 6P is a mini-diner tray it doesn't set any standard. Besides, with the likes of the Xperia Compact and the SE thankfully existing, if anything, 5" is the standard. In that sense, both these phones have the standard size. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Standard:
    an object that is regarded as the usual or most common size or form of its kind They are the standard "mid sized" phones.
    The SE and the X pedia compact could be called "compact phones"
  • Other manufacturers have phones with 5.5" screens in this size.
    The nexus 5, and oneplus x are compact, these phones not really. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Even the Xperia Compact is not that compact. Isn't its screen something like 4.7"? That has it competing with the standard sized iPhones rather than the actually compact SE or the phablet Plus.
  • I've found I actually like the lower light shots by the 5X more than the S7. The S7 makes it too yellow and muddies things up so much (reminds me too much of the LG G2). The 5X does a great job keeping things realistic while bringing in just enough light to make it more visible, and also maintains some semblance of sharpness. To be quite honest, the S7's camera has disappointed me a bit as it also has issues with figuring out where to focus, even in great light.
  • Couldn't edit... was going to add that in spite of that, I kept the S7 and not the 5X. :)
  • Wow, I had a completely different experience. The camera was my least favorite thing about my 5x (the fact it would crash half the time didn't help). But the camera on the S7 is my favorite feature of that phone. I'm literally in awe everytime I take a photo with it. My girlfriend has an iPhone 6, and she is even starting to think about switching because she loves the photos so much. I admit I haven't shot a bunch in low light situations. But the normal landscape or foodie shot has been awesome for me.
  • Oh yeah, I should've clarified. I was really only talking about low light. And even then the S7 isn't bad by any means. But in pretty much every other scenario the S7 owns the 5X in photo quality, let alone functionality of the app, etc.
  • You do know that all the issues where fixed with the March point release for the 5X, no camera crashing here, everything is smooth as butter. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Parkay.....
  • Zero lag in my wife's 5X although she did just get it,obviously after the March update. Posted via a still buttery smooth nexus 7 2013 .
  • The March update was very, very good. Fixed most of the issues up for me. Posted from one of my various Nexus devices.
  • Wait until you get the April update!!
  • laggy, slow, camera issues (nexus 5x) vs fast, bloat infested, slow updates (galaxy s7) had both, realized i cared less about no bloat and fast updates than i do about the lag and slowness and terrible camera performance. swapped out for an s7, haven't looked back.
  • Exact same situation here. I also switched from Fi to Verizon. The service nagging from Verizon is terrible too. I've been in Nexus land so long, I didn't realize how bad it was. It is worth it though, like you mentioned.
  • No camera issues anymore since March update
  • True!!!!! Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have the 5X, I would not call it a compact phone. It's still on the large side. And I've had all the updates but the camera is still not reliable. Regularly lags trying to open and sometimes... Doesn't open at all! Plus it definitely feels cheap. I know it's supposed to be the Nexus 5 successor but no way is it as good as the Nexus 5 when that first came out. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I have none of the issues you are talking about. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Well that makes me feel even better... Thanks(!) Just goes to show how unreliable this piece of garbage phone is. Posted via the Android Central App
  • So you're saying that it's a piece of garbage because only some people have problems with it? Posted from outer space on my Moto X Style
  • No, it's because I have a problem with it, f*** everyone else! If theirs works, great but if mine doesn't... You want me to be happy??! If was a great phone...until the camera screwed up. What can I say. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Do a factory reset, something happened during an update. Posted via Techmology
  • For a person who prefers phones in the 5'2 screen or smaller. The GS7 is absolutely the phone to buy. It's just an amazing device with lots of power, long lasting battery, gorgeous display and the camera is just fast and takes gorgeous pictures. I find myself using the camera a lot more than before, OIS is definitely a plus. Now for those who constantly use TouchWiz as its weak point on Galaxy devices, well there's a solution for that. It's called Nova Launcher. This phone has zero lag or apps crashing. I honestly don't miss stock Android one bit, I also realized updates are not that important to me no more. I prefer having the best phone in the market even if it means spending a little extra money. Its definitely worth it. Posted via Samsung's beast S7
  • I also use Nova Launcher, it does not take away the funky bloated TW experience.
    Heck I use Nova Launcher on my Nexus devices, smooth as butter, do you know why. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Nova is a launcher. Touchwiz is much deeper into the software that just the launcher. Moto X Pure
  • The 5x is awesome!!!! Be Together Not The Same
  • Too right. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Be careful what you say in here, the Samsung fanboys will roast you on a steak. Posted via the Android Central App
  • No. Just you. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Lol!
  • How old are you, seriously, I suggest you get off the sauce. Just me, what. Posted via the Android Central App
  • So you're the only one allowed to make sparky remarks? Must be nice. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Where you mentioned in any way shape or form in my post, just asking. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I'm just roasting you a steak, like you predicted. Want a beer with that? Having some fun with you. Calm down. :) Posted via the Android Central App
  • P Posted via Android Central App
  • Roasting on a stake would be even more painful.
  • lol Posted via the Android Central App
  • Hahaha good one. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I wish the 5X was closer in size to the LG G2. Performance is pretty good on the 5X, with the occasional slow down, but overall, I'm happy with this phone. For the price (got it with the $150 Fi discount), it's hard to beat this phone.
  • I bought my wife the 5X with the insane deal Google was offering to join fi. I have to say that I'm very much impressed with the camera and the over all performance of the device. She actually loves it coming from moto. Posted via a still buttery smooth nexus 7 2013 .
  • With the deal that you get on the Nexus 5X with Fi, I'd probably consider getting one as an Android testbed for new Android releases. Personally, it doesn't suit me as my daily driver since the camera lacks stabilization and while battery life is adequate, I want a little more, but as an Android testbed, I don't think I could ask for any more than what it offers. Unless I want a 6P, but that would be my daily if I only had to choose between 2 of them. Posted via the Android Central App
  • You got it,5x as a play phone,that's what I'm doing with a moto x pure. Posted via the Android Central App
  • Samsung could have a core i7 processor and a 8k screen and I wouldn't choose it over guaranteed security patches and os updates. In six months the s7 will slow down enough that the nexus will pull close in performance and you will wonder why you spent $500 more for the s7
  • That's why choice is good.They took the 5x off my list when they pushed it out with only 2gb of RAM and I believe the performance issues it has had have shown that to be a poor decision.They really did have enough differentiation between the 6p and the 5x without low balling the RAM. Posted via the Android Central App
  • I give most companies a chance, but sorry I would never own a Moto phone. I'd go Huawei first. Posted via the Android Central App
  • It's cool,the moto was only used as a phone for a few months,it's just to play with.It fell in between my lg g3 and now S7edge. Posted via the Android Central App Also,I don't think there will be any more moto for me.Lenovo has cleaned house and I expect them to turn moto into garbage now. <