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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.

The two areas where there's a meaningful difference are in motion-filled photos and images taken in low light -- and much to my surprise, the Nexus phones actually outperformed the Note in both departments, with less motion blur in the former and clearer, more realistically colored results in the latter. 

The only thing separating the Nexus devices from each other, meanwhile, is that the 6P has a few extra photo-centric features. One is a Smart Burst mode that lets you hold the shutter button down and take a ton of rapid-fire photos -- then have the phone automatically select and save the eight best shots, and also generate an animated GIF of the movement. With a perpetually flailing eight-month-old in the house, this has proven to be a great way to capture a cute moment without having to worry about missing the right frame.

The 6P can also record video with two levels of slow-mo -- 120fps and 240fps -- while the 5X is limited to one. And only the 6P has electronic image stabilization for video recording, which helps cut down on visible shakiness.

If there's any limiting factor to the phones' photography capabilities, it's Google's new camera app. The app works well much of the time but is sometimes bafflingly slow to focus and take a photo -- on both phones, regardless of whether the default Auto-HDR+ mode is activated or not. Some basic features are also M.I.A., like the ability to capture still images while recording a video and any sort of burst mode for the 5X.

The app is simple as can be to use, though -- focused more on quick photo taking for the masses than granular control for photography buffs. (Those who want more advanced controls can always turn to the Play Store to find a more fully featured third-party alternative.) And a system-wide shortcut of double-tapping the power button makes it easy to open the camera at a moment's notice, regardless of whether the phone is sleeping or awake.

Performance, stamina and storage

Before we wrap up, a few quick words on fundamentals: Both Nexus phones are smooth and snappy, with no discernible jerkiness or lag. The 5X does have a limited amount of horsepower compared to the 6P, but for most people, the real-world difference should be minimal -- if noticeable at all.

The only issue I've seen is that when I'm moving rapidly between several resource-heavy apps, the 5X will occasionally run out of active memory. As a result, apps refresh and start over when I return to them instead of picking back up where they left off. I've only encountered this a couple of times, during particularly intensive use -- but if you consider yourself a power user, it's something to keep in mind.

 

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