A smartphone's display is unquestionably one of its most important aspects, and failing to deliver a good display can be a fatal flaw for a device. If the screen doesn't have sufficiently high brightness and contrast then its usability with high ambient lighting will be severely crippled. Inaccurate color rendition will cause photos and videos that are taken and viewed on the device to look radically different from other devices. Pushing a wide color gamut can also have ramifications that go beyond making the display inaccurate, such as reducing battery life on AMOLED devices by having to drive a higher voltage in order to achieve the wider gamut.

Last year's Nexus 6 ended up being a significant disappointment as far as the display was concerned. It was immediately obvious to me that the gamut was far too large, and that peak brightness was too low. My testing confirmed both of these things, and I was disappointed mainly because the Nexus 5 from the previous year sold for significantly less than the Nexus 6, and sported imperfect but relatively good display calibration. While this year's Nexus 6P is an AMOLED display that we are yet to test, the Nexus 5X sports an IPS LCD like its predecessor. At 5.2", this year the display is a bit bigger than the 4.95" Nexus 5, but it's still a far cry from the 5.96" display that was on the Nexus 6.

To analyze the quality of the Nexus 5's display I've run it through our standard display testing suite. As always, displays are calibrated to 200nits of brightness, and results are measured with an i1Pro 2 spectrophotometer, and managed using SpectraCal's CalMAN 5 software. Contrast measurements are done with an i1Display Pro colorimeter due to the i1Pro 2's more limited accuracy with very low brightness levels.

Display - Max Brightness

Display - Black Levels

Display - Contrast Ratio

The most basic data point to examine when moving beyond resolution is a display's maximum brightness and its contrast ratio. The Nexus 5X does very well here, with a peak brightness of 486 nits, and a minimum black level of 0.32 nits, which leads to a contrast ratio of 1479:1. This is the result of the use of photo-alignment to influence subpixel orientations and reduce light leakage, which results in deeper blacks and thus a higher contrast ratio. While many other LCD-based smartphones are also using this technology, to see it applied to a $379 smartphone is very exciting. The display's maximum brightness is also a healthy improvement over the Nexus 5, and I haven't run into any situations where the display can't get bright enough to counter glare from the cover glass.

Something that doesn't really show up in any of our figures is the visibility of the display's capacitive sensors. On the Nexus 5 these were fairly noticeable when there was any light shining on the display, and this is unchanged on the Nexus 5X. This is something that can be observed on every device with capacitive touch, although on AMOLED devices and iPhones it's extremely hard to see. I only felt it was worth pointing out because it does seem more pronounced on the Nexus 5X than some of the other devices I have.

Display - White Point

Display - Grayscale Accuracy

Greyscale accuracy on the Nexus 5 is impeccable. Gamma does tend slightly upward as one moves past the 20% mark, but it's still quite accurate and most greyscale errors are approaching the point where the human eye could not even distinguish them from their reference colors when placed side by side. The RGB component balance for each shade of grey is also very good, and the display's average white point is only ever so slightly above the targeted 6504K. There's not much more to say, as this level of calibration is exceptional for a device of this price. The Nexus 5 certainly had fairly good calibration, but issues with the gamma made the display appear washed out which was a common complaint, and the Nexus 5X resolves that while also boosting accuracy significantly.

Display - Saturation Accuracy

The accuracy for 20% saturation steps on the Nexus 5X is also incredibly high. It's actually the lowest DeltaE on record for a smartphone - lower than even the Galaxy Note5 and iPhone 6s - and there's honestly nothing at all that I could criticize about the rendition of primary and secondary colors on the display. The chart above also shows how much improvement has been made compared to the Nexus 5 and Nexus 6, with the latter being especially bad due to its overly wide gamut.

Display - GMB Accuracy

Once again the Nexus 5X provides an incredibly high level of accuracy, with color mixtures being reproduced almost as accurately as primary and secondary colors. It's not the absolute best result on record due to the Mi Note Pro's even higher level of accuracy, but you would only be able to tell that the rendition is wrong if you had the color right beside the reference color with absolutely no motion occurring, and that's well beyond the level of accuracy that is really necessary for a mobile device.

I really don't know what else to say about the Nexus 5X's display, because there's really nothing that can be criticized. I would certainly like if the brightness went up to 600 nits, but I would also prefer that it went to 6000 nits, and obviously that's asking a bit much. As far as LCDs go, the Nexus 5X has one of the best, if not the best that I've seen to date. At this point Google and their OEM partners are going to have to look to gamut as a vector of improvement, but only after proper color management is available at the OS level in order to avoid the problems that have plagued wider gamut displays, which have lacked suitable color management to properly map sRGB content into the wider color space.

Introduction and Design System Performance
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  • vFunct - Monday, November 9, 2015 - link

    How can anyone take any smartphone with 8 cores seriously?

    It really does represent the worst in marketing - a big number that's completely useless because of software doesn't use more than one core at a time.

    Apple really is raping Android in this area, and it affects usability directly. People are complaining about the state of Javascript on Android devices being stuck in 2011, because of the slow CPUs in Android phones.
  • Drumsticks - Monday, November 9, 2015 - link

    You should really check out Anandtech's article analyzing multi-core usage on Android:http://www.anandtech.com/show/9518/the-mobile-cpu-...
  • neo_1221 - Monday, November 9, 2015 - link

    While it's true that not a lot of software (currently) uses more than 4 cores, saying it doesn't use more than one core at a time is completely false.

  • vFunct - Monday, November 9, 2015 - link

    Javascript web apps rarely use multi cores. The bigger issue is the weakness of these Android cores. Single cores are important for responsiveness, as single threads usually control the UI event handlers. This is why so many developers are complaining about Javascript performance in their web apps. This is why you see massive performance gains on the Javascript benchmarks here.
  • vFunct - Tuesday, November 10, 2015 - link

    > This is why you see massive performance gains on the Javascript benchmarks here.

    by Apple devices
  • LoneWolf15 - Friday, November 13, 2015 - link

    Only the Snapdragon 808 has six cores, not eight. The 810 has 8 cores.

    And due to the big.LITTLE design, not all cores are simultaneous. There's a set of heavy duty cores, and a set of lighter-duty battery saving cores. I would suggest reading up on Qualcomm's architecture.
  • Sonic12040 - Monday, November 9, 2015 - link

    Great review! I hope a review of the BlackBerry Priv is coming, because the reviews are so mixed that one at the anandtech level of depth would be a great deciding factor for the phone!
  • Esko747 - Monday, November 9, 2015 - link

    The part on sustained performance is quite insane really. 2 minutes unthrottled?
  • Tom Womack - Monday, November 9, 2015 - link

    What on Earth are you doing on a phone that runs it flat-out for two whole minutes?

    Enable ad-blocking so your browsing experience does not include running arbitrary Javascript from anywhere on the planet, and if your phone still throttles, complain to your software provider.
  • NeoteriX - Monday, November 9, 2015 - link

    Well, there are games for one thing...

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