Zit Seng's Blog

A Singaporean's technology and lifestyle blog

The Year of Two Nexus Phones

Google launched the much loved Nexus 5 in 2013. In 2014, they thought phablets were the way to go, but while the Nexus 6 worked for some people, many others shied away. This year, Google appeased both groups of people, those who preferred phones that were easier to grasp, and others who preferred more screen, by launching two Nexus phones: Nexus 5X and 6P.

Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P

It’s simple, or at least it’s supposed to be. If you like smaller phones, or if the Nexus 6P was just too big, then there’s the Nexus 5X for you. If you like phablets, then go for the Nexus 6P. If the 6P was too big, get the 5X. If the 5X wasn’t premium enough, get the 6P.

That there’s a choice this year seems to be a really good thing. But the choice that Google offers also presents a conundrum. What if you preferred a smaller phone that is premium in specifications and build quality?

This year, it’s not just about choosing small phone or big phone. It’s choosing between:

  1. Small and affordable
  2. Big and premium

You could not, therefore, choose small and premium. I used to complain that Samsung has too many phones (especially tablets) selling at the same time. But in doing so, they made sure they have a device that suits every customer preference.

How can we compare the Nexus 5X with the 6P? You can read about my Nexus 5X review. I’ve not yet posted a Nexus 6P review, at least not yet, but you can read the plenty others elsewhere. Here are some key differences.

1. Size: 5X with 5.2-inch display; 6P with 5.7-inch display

First up, the most obvious difference is in their size. Many people, myself included, longed for the return of phones that were of more manageable size, and in particular, suitable for comfortable one-handed use. This is what the 5X is. The 6P is clearly in phablet category. The 6P might be a thinner phone (7.3 mm), compared with the 5X (7.9 mm), but it’s really tall. The 6P is also much heftier, weighing 178 g vs the 5X’s 136 g.

2. Processor: 5X with Qualcomm Snapdragon 808; 6P with Qualcomm Snapdragon 810

The Nexus 5X has got the weaker processor of the too. A couple of months ago, when the Snapdragon 810 was struggling with heat issues, the Snapdragon 808 might have seemed to be a better choice, despite it’s lower performance. However, version 2.1 of the Snapdragon 810, which is used in the 6P, seems to have addressed all those issues. I’ve found that the Nexus 5X’s Snapdragon 808 can keep up with most casual phone tasks quite well, but it struggles with games. Even the stock camera app hints at some bottlenecks. The more powerful processor of the Nexus 6P is the winner here.

3. Memory: 5X with 2 GB of RAM; 6P with 3 GB of RAM

I know, the iPhone doesn’t have much RAM either. But in Android land, 2 GB is so last year. We’d expect 3 GB of RAM in phones this year. It may not yet be necessary this year, but perhaps it might be a lot more relevant next year, and you’d certainly still want to keep your phone around to next year, yes?

4. Display: 5X with 1080p IPS; 6P with 2K AMOLED

I personally don’t care too much about 2K resolution. The 5X has 423 ppi pixel density, and if this is enough pixels that you can’t see them how hard you try, there’s really no benefit to go to higher pixel density. This is not something you need to future proof; your eyesight isn’t going to get better next year. However, the 6P’s AMOLED display produces far higher contrast with better colour accuracy. The 5X’s display may be bright, but it’s a little washed out. The 6P’s AMOLED has an advantage with being more power efficient, when unlit pixels don’t consume power, which is useful with Android’s Ambient Display feature.

5. Battery: 5X with 2700 mAh; 6P with 3450 mAh

What matters most, of course, is how long the battery will last. My days are long. For me, my phone usually gets off the charger at about 6 am, and I usually don’t get to put it back on the charger until about 10 pm. In my experience, the 5X will make it through the day, with just casual use. By this, I mean mostly just messaging, interacting on social media, web browsing, and occasional few photos. Screen-on-time is usually in the region of about an hour, or just a little over. The 5X won’t stand up to heavy use, such as gaming and videos, if I want to be sure there’s still juice left at the end of a particularly late day. The 6P, on the other hand, will easily accommodate videos, more photos, and some gaming. Even with over 2 hours of screen-on-time, I don’t worry about running dry before a long day is over.

6. Build: 5X is plastic; 6P is metal

For the most part, plastic is just fine, and the Nexus 5X is a well built phone. The Nexus 6P’s metal built certainly feels more premium, but many people could still be quite happy with the 5X’s build. I personally find the Nexus 6P’s design, size aside, to be quite nice. The visor at the top, where the rear camera, flash, and other sensors are placed, had looked really horrid in renders and early photos, but it turned out to be quite alright. The Nexus 5X was just a little too roundish for a 2015 design. However, I would nevertheless be happy with the 5X design.

At the end, it’s still a difficult choice to make between 5X and 6P. Despite not gaming, I have high expectations on smooth, fluid, UI transitions. I expect the phone to be snappy, and keep up with me. Battery longevity’s also important. I don’t want to worry about running out of power. The 6P is a really nice phone. It’s just too big, though not as clunky as last year’s Nexus 6.

Still, it’s a tough choice.

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