A few weeks ago, the very idea of comparing the OnePlus 2 and the Nexus 5X would have seemed ridiculous. After all, they were separated by a significant price gulf – the Nexus 5X was launched at Rs 31,900 while the OnePlus 2 was priced at Rs 24,999. However, recent price cuts to the Nexus 5X (which LG insists are not official) have brought it to a price point that is actually below that of the OnePlus 2. Which has led to some anointing it as the best smartphone below the Rs 25,000 (USD 375) price point, a place that was previously occupied by the OnePlus 2. Which in turn has led to a spate of “should I buy a OnePlus 2 or a Nexus 5X?” queries. Well, here is our attempt at answering that.

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Appearance

In terms of looks and design, this is pretty much a no-contest. The OnePlus 2 is actually slightly larger than the Nexus 5X – its proportions are 151.8 x 74.9 x 9.9 mm as compared to the 147 x 72.6 x 7.9 mm of the 5X – but has a much more premium feel to it thanks to its metal frame and that iconic sandstone finish back. The Nexus 5X for its part, is a relatively plain looking, all plastic device with the camera jutting out at the back. Ironically, while the back of the OnePlus 2’s back is removable, it seems as if of the two, it is the Nexus 5X which will have the removable back as the device seems to have two distinct parts, separated on the sides. The OnePlus 2’s metallic buttons make a better impression than the plastic ones on the 5X, and the fact that the OnePlus 2 has its home button doubling up as its fingerprint scanner also makes it appear less cluttered as compared to the Nexus 5X, which has the scanner right at the back. In sheer physical terms, the 5X is smaller than the OnePlus 2 and its 136 grammes make it much lighter too than the 175 gramme OnePlus 2, but it looks far too plain to mount a challenge in the looks department to the OnePlus 2. You want a device to turn heads? Go for the OnePlus 2.

Winner: OnePlus 2

Hardware

The OnePlus 2’s dominance continues when we scratch the surface of the devices to find what lies beneath it. The 5X matches the OnePlus 2’s full HD display in resolution terms and as its display is slightly smaller – 5.2 inches to the 5.5 on the OnePlus – it actually has a higher pixel density (423 ppi to 401 ppi). And when it comes to processor, the jury is out on which is better – the octa core Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 in the OnePlus 2 (which has a penchant for heating) or the hexa core Qualcomm Snapdragon 808 in the Nexus 5X. Both devices also have more or less the same connectivity options (4G, Wi-Fi, Bluetooth, GPS), and if the Nexus 5X has NFC up its sleeve, the OnePlus 2 supports dual SIM connectivity.

But that apart, the OnePlus 2 is in a different league from the Nexus 5X – it has 64 GB storage at that price point against the 16 GB that the Nexus 5X offers, has a bigger 3300 mAh battery as compared to the 2700 mAh one on the 5X, and most significantly for many users, comes with 4 GB RAM as compared to the 2 GB on the 5X (which many are calling its Achilles Heel). When it comes to the camera department as well, the OnePlus 2 has the megapixels on its side – 13.0-megapixel at the rear and 5.0-megapixel in front as compared to the 12.3-megapixel at the back and 5.0-megapixel at the front for the Nexus 5X – and even though Google has hyped up the camera on both the 5X and 6P, the OnePlus 2’s comes with optical image stabilisation. There is only one winner here.

Winner: OnePlus 2

Software and UI

This is where we see the Nexus 5X making its presence felt. Yes, we did like the Oxygen OS on the OnePlus 2 which seems to have been inspired by the stock Android that is the Nexus trademark, but in terms of sheer smoothness of performance of routine tasks (Web browsing, social networking, mail and the like), the Nexus 5X just seems to operate more smoothly than the OnePlus 2. Add to that the fact that the Nexus is more likely to get updates not just in a timely manner but is also likely to face less issues in installing them (the OnePlus 2 has a slightly spotty record in that area) and the Nexus 5X emerges triumphant here. Yes, some might like the fact that the OnePlus 2 has a gallery app and does not push you into using Google Photos, and also looks more distinct in pure UI terms, but we do think that until Oxygen irons out its rough spots, in sheer software terms, the Nexus holds the edge.

Winner: Nexus 5X

Performance: Camera

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When it comes to the camera department, it is incredibly hard to choose between the two devices. Yes, we know that the hype has been with the Nexus 5X and truth be told, we think it delivers some of the best low light performance we have seen from a device, handling glares with an ease that we have not seen from much more expensive devices. But when it comes to normal light performance, we found the OnePlus 2 superior in terms of color and detail. It also has a much better photography app than the rather plain one on the Nexus 5X (while on the matter, we really think it is about time Google overhauled the photography app on its Nexus devices). Yes, we do give the low light title to the 5X but as most pictures are taken in good light conditions, we hand this one to the OnePlus 2. But the margin is VERY close – those wanting a camera that works really fast might gravitate towards the Nexus 5X.

Winner: OnePlus 2

Performance: Gaming and multimedia

Again, this is very close. If you stick to general multimedia and gaming like playing full HD films, songs, and casual games (Angry Birds, Temple Run, etc.), then the two phones are neck and neck. We would even say that the Nexus 5X’s front facing speakers give it an edge in the audio department although the OnePlus 2’s display seems discernibly brighter. However, get into heavy duty gaming (Call of Duty, FIFA, Asphalt) and the OnePlus 2 pulls ahead comfortably, loading and playing most games much faster than the 5X. Even in multi-tasking, while the Nexus 5X did seem to get a little laggy at times, but the OnePlus 2 had no such problems. That said, we must confess that the OnePlus 2 showed a greater tendency to heat up than the 5X, which never got uncomfortably hot. All said and done, this goes to the OnePlus 2 but by a thin margin again.

Winner: OnePlus 2

Performance: General

And once again, we have a very tough call to make. The smaller and lighter Nexus 5X does feel a lot easier to use initially but over time, we must confess that we prefer the more “solid” if slightly weighty feel of the OnePlus 2. We also feel that the fingerprint scanner on the home button is a better idea than having it at the back – hitting the home button is more natural. That said, we are still not convinced by the utility of the “alert slider” on the OnePlus which allows us to prioritise notifications for different times – we found moving the phone to silent mode more convenient. In terms of call quality, we felt that the OnePlus handled calls better whereas some people complained of our sounding “too distant” when we used the Nexus 5X. For most routine tasks, we found the Nexus 5X working just a bit more smoothly but the moment we got into heavy usage, the OnePlus 2 pulled away. In terms of battery, the OnePlus is a runaway winner with its 3300 mAh battery easily seeing out a day (and a bit) of heavy use while the 2700 mAh one on the Nexus 5X will have you getting worried towards the evening.

Winner: OnePlus 2

Future proof-ness

Yes, we know that that heading sounds odd, but there is really no other way to describe what we wanted to cover here. Suppose you went and invested in one of these two devices, which of the two is likely to get outdated sooner? Yes, we know that the Nexus 5X comes with the assurance of regular Android updates just as the OnePlus 2 comes with a commitment of regular OS updates (although installing them might be a pain), but if we look in terms of pure hardware, the stark fact is that the 4 GB RAM and 64 GB of storage of the OnePlus 2 is likely to see you through more days than the 2 GB RAM and 16 GB storage of the Nexus 5X will (we experienced lags on the 5X already and with most flagship Android devices having at least 3 GB RAM, we do wonder if future updates will work smoothly on it). We also think that the metal frame and sandstone finish will ensure that the OnePlus 2 ages more slowly than the all-plastic Nexus 5X.

Winner: OnePlus 2

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I have Rs 25,000. Should I buy the OnePlus 2 or the Nexus 5X?

The answer depends on how much you really value pure Android. For, let’s face it, that’s really the only edge that the Nexus 5X holds over the OnePlus 2. As you could see in our seven parameter comparison, the OnePlus 2 betters the Nexus 5X (albeit narrowly in some cases) in six. Don’t get us wrong, we love the fact that you can get a new Nexus device for around USD 375 in India and the 5X has some clear muscle when it comes to low light photography, loudspeaker sound and a more compact frame. However, the OnePlus 2 scores in terms of design and pure hardware – we reckon it might have given the Nexus 5X a much tougher battle with Cyanogen on it instead of the still-raw if promising Oxygen OS – and try as it might, the Nexus 5X cannot compensate for it. It is a bit like a middleweight boxer fighting a heavyweight one – the former might have the speed, but the latter has the heavy punches and lasting power… and the bigger muscles. So all things being equal, we think the OnePlus 2 holds the edge over the Nexus 5X and is perhaps the best phone you can get for under USD 375. Mind you, that could change – we have not finished our review of the very promising Qiku Q Terra yet!

But as of now, if you have Rs 25,000 to spend on a great smartphone, the Force (hey, it is Star Wars season) is very much with the OnePlus 2.


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Editorial Mentor

Nimish Dubey has been writing for more than a decade now (well, Windows 3.1 was around and Apple was on the verge of being finished when he started). He has been published in a number of publications including The Times of India, Mint, The Economic Times, Mid-Day and Femina on subjects that vary from tech write -ups to book reviews to music album round ups. He managed to interview Michael Schumacher once and write two books for young adults along the way.