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Nexus 5X and 6P deep-dive review: Google's dynamic duo

JR Raphael | Oct. 28, 2015
Google's latest Nexus devices set a new standard for how good Android can be -- and how much a standout smartphone should cost.

And that's where spending time with the two Nexus models together is both enlightening and frustrating: The 5X's 5.2-in. 1080p LCD screen is actually really good for its class. It's razor-sharp, bright as can be and just as easy to see as the 6P's display in even the glariest conditions. If you were using only the 5X -- the way most people who buy a new phone would -- you'd probably be thrilled with the quality of its screen and wouldn't spend a second of your time second-guessing it.

When you view the two phones together, though -- or move back and forth between them, as I've been doing these past several days -- the 5X's panel looks noticeably muted and less vibrant in its coloring. It sometimes even appears a little washed out next to the 6P's punchy nature (a common criticism of LCD panels compared to modern AMOLED displays). The difference is especially apparent with blacks, which are kind of grayish on the 5X -- almost like someone took the 6P and cranked the contrast level way down.

Here's a little secret, though: As a normal single-phone-using person (not a weird minutia-obsessed reviewing robot like, ahem, some of us), there's a good chance you won't notice or care about this level of detail. For perspective, I showed my wife the two phones together and pointed out what I just described about the displays. While she could certainly recognize what I was talking about, she didn't find it meaningful or relevant -- and in fact, she ultimately decided she preferred the 5X for its size and feel. So the importance of this is really all relative to your preferences and priorities.

Both new Nexus phones have a Motorola-inspired feature called Ambient Display that's supposed to show the time and any pending notifications on the screen whenever you pick up or "nudge" the device. The movement-dependent parts of the feature don't work consistently or quickly enough to be useful, but the screen does light up briefly anytime a new notification comes in -- which can be beneficial when your phone's sitting on a table in front of you. It's more suited to the 6P's display than the 5X's, but it's nice to have on both devices.

Each new Nexus phone also has an old-fashioned notification LED if you'd prefer that kind of visual alert; you just have to go into the system settings to enable it.

One other distinction worth mentioning is in the realm of audio, where the 6P holds an undeniable advantage with its dual front-facing speakers. The phone's audio is loud and clear, though somewhat on the tinny side. It's leaps and bounds ahead of the 5X, which has a single front-facing speaker that's serviceable -- but not much more than that.


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