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Hands-on with Google’s Nexus 5X, a smartphone that’s very similar to its predecessor

The first thing many people will likely notice about Google’s refreshed Nexus 5, the Nexus 5X, is that it feels strikingly similar to its predecessor, at least at first glance.

The Nexus 5X looks nearly identical to the now two year old Nexus 5, right down to the device’s slightly larger 5.2-inch screen size, as opposed to the Nexus 5’s 4.95-inch display. But in terms of the Nexus 5X’s actual form factor, the size difference is relatively negligible, with the Nexus 5X measuring in at just 16mm longer and 7mm wider than the Nexus 5. Essentially, if someone put both smartphones beside one another, they’d notice very few initial differences. But under the hood is where the Nexus 5X has received a significant upgrade.

And as one might expect, the inherent similarities between the Nexus 5X and the Nexus 5 don’t stop there. The Nexus 5X features the same soft plastic that was used with the Nexus 5, which will likely disappoint Android users hoping Google and LG would improve the smartphone’s build quality. However, it’s important to keep in mind that Google still seems to be touting the Nexus 5X as budget device (the Huawei-manufactured Nexus 6P is Google’s new high-end smartphone), and with this in mind, the Nexus 5X’s build quality feels appropriate when considering the device’s price tag.

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The Nexus 5X’s build quality is very similar to the Nexus 5’s.

With that said though, it’s important to point out that at $499 CAD for the 16GB Nexus 5X, and $559 for the smartphone’s 32GB variant, Google’s new device is approaching high-end price point territory, which as someone who always takes cost into significant consideration when critically looking at a smartphone, is rather disappointing.

The phone comes equipped with a rear-mounted fingerprint sensor, which I didn’t get to test out during Google Canada’s hands-on event since it requires a lengthy setup process, and a USB Type-C port complete with quick charging capabilities. While USB-C is the future of how we’ll connect our devices, the port’s presence could frustrate some people considering USB type-C isn’t widely adopted yet.

Furthermore, as expected, Google’s recently announced Nexus devices will be among the first smartphones to feature the company’s latest operating system, Android Marshmallow, which brings, among other features, a unified fingerprint authentication API and Now on Tap, Google’s more intelligent and reactive version of Google Now, to the company’s mobile ecosystem.

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Google’s Nexus 5X (right) and the 2013 Nexus 5 (left).

The device also features a Snapdragon 808 processor (the same processor included in the LG G4, as well as a variety of other high-end smartphones), which is an upgrade over the Nexus 5’s Snapdragon 800 processor, 2GB of RAM (the same amount as the Nexus 5), and an Adreno 418 GPU. When it comes to battery, the Nexus 5X includes a larger 2,700mAh power source, compared to its predecessor’s 2,300mAh battery, which hopefully means the battery life issues the Nexus 5 suffered from will be resolved with the 5X.

While I was only able to test out the Nexus 5X’s upgraded camera — a 12.3 megapixel affair on the back, and an improvement over 8 megapixel main shooter the Nexus 5 had— for a brief period of time, it seems to focus more quickly on subjects and also snaps better photos in low-light conditions. However, more extensive testing is definitely needed before delivering a final verdict on the smartphone’s reportedly improved photography capabilities.

With the 5X, Google and LG are once again looking to grab the attention of Android users on the hunt for a budget device with high-end technical specifications, in the same way the Nexus 5 did back in 2013.

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Despite the fact that the Nexus 5X weighs more than the Nexus 5, I found the phone to be extremely light.

But it’s not 2013 anymore an the marketplace is different now when it comes to devices that fall into this category, and many will argue that there are better and more affordable smartphones (like the $420 Moto x Play for example) already available.

Still, with the Nexus name comes the assurance that you’ll receive the latest Android software immediately, which in the world of Android, is certainly a good thing. However, with the addition of the Nexus Imprint fingerprint scanner, USB Type-C, as well as improved technical specifications, the Nexus 5X will likely be a worthy purchase for any Nexus user.

Nexus 5X USB Type-C

Google Nexus 5X features a USB Type-C port.

Google’s Nexus line has never been about providing a top of the line hardware experience – at least until the Nexus 6 – and instead was initially focused on giving users an affordable, no-frills Android smartphone, and with this in mind, the Nexus 5X is a return to the smartphone series’ reasonably affordable, albeit now slightly more pricey, roots.

The 16GB Nexus 5X is priced at $499 and the 32GB version costs $559. Colour options include charcoal black, ice blue, and quartz white. The device will reportedly be available on the Canadian Google store at some point “in the coming weeks.”

Related links: Google updates one of its best smartphones with the LG-made Nexus 5X

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