LG Nexus 5X review

It is customary for me to have a second phone, usually an Android to complement my main phone - the iPhone. Let’s face it, as much as I like the iPhone with it being perfect and all, the battery could barely last the entire day at work especially with heavy use. That’s why I need another phone to use exclusively for work. My last Android phone the Xiaomi Redmi Note 3 was okay but some of its drawbacks had forced me to look for a better phone. That’s when I found out about the LG Nexus 5X.

Of course I’ve heard of the Nexus 5X along with its larger brother the Nexus 6P since last year. Its a pair of Google flagship phones so everybody in the tech circle should know about it. The main reason I didn’t give it much thought is because of the price point which beyond my budget on launch day (and a few month after). Fast forward 12 months later, the Nexus 5X’s price has dropped considerably that I was able to afford one.

Out of the box you get the Nexus 5X, a pair of USB-C charger and cable, some quick start guide and that’s about it. The USB type C charger and port is one of the defining feature of the Nexus 5X. It’s the first Nexus phone to use one and it will be the standard for all future Nexus or Google Phones. At the time of writing, they have just announced the Google Pixel phones which will be the successor to the Nexus line of phones. There will be no more Nexus phones after this and the Nexus 5X and 6P will be the last of its kind. Talking about USB-C, I definitely am loving it. Its reversible, no more wrong way to connect your USB cable. It features quick-charging so I don’t have to wait too long for my phone to charge. And its future proof. Sooner or later all new Android phones will be using USB type C.

On the inside, the Nexus 5X is powered by a Snapdragon 808 processor, Adreno 418 GPU and 2,700 mAh battery. The screen is 5.2’ Gorilla Glass 3 so it’s a decent size for a smartphone these days. The back cover and frame are unabashedly plastic but the back cover is not your normal polycarbonate kind of plastic. It has a rubbery, premium feel to it, a nice change from all the unibody metal phones in the market right now. Like all recent Nexus phones before this, the Nexus 5X also doesn’t feature any microSD slot so you’ll have to make do with either 16 or 32GB of storage. You might have noticed the battery is a skimpy 2,700 mAh which is rather mediocre by today’s standard. That said, I still managed to get it to last from 9 to 5 during work day with the battery having 20% left after work. Not bad for a small battery and you can thank Android 6.0’s optimisation and doze mode that puts the phone in a sleep state when it's not in use.

Design-wise, I love the minimalist approach that the Nexus 5X brings, with its gently rounded corners, a slender profile and smooth, curved edges that feel incredibly comfortable in the hand. Like I said, the soft rubbery feel makes the Nexus 5X easy to grip and not slippery at all. At the back of the phone is the fingerprint scanner which aligns perfectly with your index finger and the unlocking is quick, accurate and almost seamless. Similar to Touch ID on the iPhone, you can also use the fingerprint scanner for Android Pay although that service is only available in limited countries at the moment. And also, too bad you can only use the fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone and nothing else. I would have liked to use it to say take a picture, scroll a page or lock the phone maybe?

Nexus 5X sample photos

The phone comes with a 1.55μm pixel, f2.0, 12.3 mega-pixel camera which is capable of recording 4K video. I suppose it is normal for every decent-sized flagship smartphones today to have a camera bump at the back. I could do without out but the Nexus 5X’s blends smoothly with the back cover I hardly noticed it after a while. The camera captures some really nice photos. Sure not as good as the benchmark - the latest iPhones or Samsung’s flagship but its passable. As you can see the pictures look brilliant in bright daylight but not so much in low light.

So how does the phone fare in every day use? I must say its one of the smoothest and speediest Android phones that I have ever used. Android 6.0 really made the difference and I experienced almost no glitches or slowdown whatsoever from daily use. Upgrading to Android 7.0 however does make the phone noticeably slower and glitchier. Maybe because I’m using the beta version of the software but the one thing for sure things started going downhill in performance after the upgrade. My advice to you, stay with 6.0 or if you must upgrade, wait for the official 7.0 update and do not download the beta version.

To wrap things up, I have to say the Nexus 5X is by far the best Android phone I have used. I just loved everything about it - design, build, specs and software. Sure its not the fastest or longer-lasting but for RM1400, its definitely value for money. If you’re looking for last year’s flagship Nexus phone at midrange price and stock Android, the Nexus 5X is perfect for you. You can be sure to get the latest Android update first too (at least until the next cycle). You can hardly go wrong with the latest or in this case a newer flagship Android phone from Google and Nexus 5X is also the case.

Sony Smartwatch 3 review

After selling off my Pebble Time, t didn’t take me long to get another smartwatch. This time it’s the Sony Smartwatch 3. The Smartwatch 3 ticks a few box in my list - it’s got GPS, Wi-Fi, NFC, waterproof and of course Android Wear. The recommended retail price for the watch is RM999 but you can get it for as low as RM688 on Lazada.

Out of the box, you get the Sony Smartwatch 3 SWR50 and a short micro USB cable - that’s it. Needless to say, you’ll be charging the watch with the micro USB cable which in one way pretty convenient because micro USB cables are cheap and easy to find. However compared to magnetic charging offered by Pebble, Moto 360 or Apple Watch, it is quite a chore to charge the Smartwatch 3 simply because the charging port located at the back of the watch is not really that accessible. You have to open the USB port cover and carefully plug in the USB cable to charge.

First impression, I got the one with a black silicone band (there’s an option of white and pricier steel band). Unlike most smartwatches out there, the Smartwatch 3 is detachable from the band. The benefit of this ‘core unit’ design is you can easily take it out and swap bands. The down side is you don’t get much choice in term of bands because apart from the official silicone and steel bands, there’s nothing else to choose from. No cottage industry or third party bands or straps for the Smartwatch 3 unlike other Android Wear watches.

The first thing I noticed about the silicone band is that it’s a dust and lint magnet. I only managed to keep it clean the first minute after unboxing. I guess this is normal for silicone bands and you’ve just got to live with it although I must say I don’t get that much dust/lint from my old Pebble band. And compared to the Pebble Time’s band, this one is pretty rigid and stiff and it uses a clasp system not unlike the early Samsung smartwatches. This inadvertently magnifies the nerdy look of the watch because let’s face it, most consumers would like their smartwatch to look and feel like a normal watch as much as possible.

Did I say the watch face is yuuge? It features a 51mm height compared to 42.5mm for the 42mm Apple Watch or 47.1mm for the Pebble Time. Now I have a relatively medium-sized wrist and it looked pretty big on my arm. If you have smaller wrist or a woman, just forget about wearing the watch because it would look positively oversized on your wrist.

Now for the real world test. The main reason I sold my near-perfect Pebble Time for this one is the GPS capability. You know how I like to run sometimes, on the road, park or even the gym and having a smartwatch take could record my distance, pace and running route is quite desirable. The first thing I did after putting on the Smartwatch 3 is try to find the GPS app. But where is it? Apparently there’s no built-in GPS app for the watch. You have to install third-party running apps like Strava or RunKeeper to use the GPS functionality. Using Strava or RunKeeper is fine, it records my distance and route pretty well but the thing is I have clocked a total of 1674 kilometers since 2012 with my Nike+ app which does not sync with either Strava or RunKeeper. I had to enter my running records manually into my Nike+ app which is not ideal because that beats the point of having a smartwatch on your wrist while you run. I want my runs to sync automatically and seamlessly to the Nike+ app or at least indirectly like my old Garmin watch. That said, there’s no telling when they’re gonna make the Nike+ app for Android Wear. There’s been a Nike+ app for the Apple Watch since the beginning but none for Android Wear and I don’t think we’ll be seeing one anytime soon for as long as Tim Cook is on Nike’s board of directors.

Okay enough of the bad news, let’s explore other features of the Smartwatch 3. As with other Android Wear smartwatches, this one syncs with both iOS and Android phones. But just like other Android Wear and Pebble smartwatches, the Smartwatch 3 works best with an Android phone. You get the full functionality - the ability to reply and send texts, messages and emails straight from the phone, use voice command for search and maps and get updates from Google Now etcetera if you sync it with an Android phone. If you sync it with your iPhone though, the Smartwatch 3 will only display notifications and let you make or answer calls, that’s it.

Although the Smartwatch 3 has NFC capabilities, there’s no Android Pay yet in this country and like many new tech coming from the west, I’ll give it a 1 or 2 more years until it arrives on our shores. You can however use NFC to connect to the watch to NFC-enabled devices like a speaker or Bluetooth headset although I have yet to try that myself yet (I don’t have NFC anything in my possession). The watch also comes with 4GB of storage and if you subtract half of that for the OS, you’ve got about 2GB left for music and other stuff. Now here’s the kicker - you need to have Google Music subscription to be able to play music on the Smartwatch 3. First you download music to your Google Music app on your phone and then you sync the playlist or the songs to your Smartwatch 3. And guess what? Yes we also don’t have Google Music subscription yet in this country so that’s that. There is a workaround for this limitation however which involves a third-party app which allows you to transfer music via Bluetooth to the smartwatch. I’ve tried it and it’s painfully slow. A single mp3 file would take 6-7 minutes to transfer wirelessly and no you can’t do it via the USB cable for some reason. 6 minutes for a song that’s about an hour for 10 mp3 files. Life is too short to be wasting my time for that.

The Smartwatch 3 features a square watchface design and I like the few pre-installed Sony watchfaces fine. Some of them is customizable but most of the third-party watchfaces just doesn’t look good enough for me. Maybe because it’s square or they just need to make better designs. In the end I just stick with the default watchface which is the least ugly of the lot. Battery wise, I get about a day and a half with normal use (no GPS).

Overall the Sony Smartwatch 3 is a pretty decent Android Wear smartwatch. It’s relatively affordable compared to most Android Wear watches in the market today and it comes with some very nice features too like NFC, GPS and Wi-Fi (although I have no idea how the Wi-Fi works, it can’t independently connect to Wi-Fi). The screen is huge, the silicone band is a lint magnet, the GPS needs a third party app and the NFC and 4GB space are pretty much useless (at least for this market). Would I recommend it? You guessed it, probably not. You should invest on a better Android Wear watch out there, perhaps or Moto 360, a Huawei, Asus or even (gasp) Samsung. Just make sure you get the correct size for your arm. As of writing, Pebble has just been acquired by FitBit and they have effectively killed that brand. There’s a rumor of a Google-made Android Wear watch coming soon although I’d expect that one the be less-affordable for the rest of us. If you don’t mind having a Android-optimized little calculator on your wrist, then the Sony Smartwatch 3 is perfect for you.

Unboxing video:

Langkawi trip

For our post-bonus family trip this year, I’ve decided to bring my family a little far away to Langkawi island in Kedah. After much planning and cost-counting, we decided it’s slightly cheaper to go on a direct flight to Langkawi rather than drive all the way to Kedah and take a ferry there. So I bought return tickets for 5, book a hotel and rent a car for our 3 days 2 night visit.

Believe it or not, this is our first time taking a flight to anywhere. We don’t really come from a well to do family and during the early years of our marriage we didn’t have much to spare for expensive holidays on a tropical island, up until now that is. Booking the flight tickets was simple enough. I just browse and compare a few airlines prices and bought the cheapest one (obviously) which was Air Asia at that moment. Return flight tickets for 2 adults and 3 children was nearly 600 ringgit. I didn’t know they charge separately for checked-in baggages so I had to fork out an extra RM65 for that. I asked everybody about the procedures for checking-in, what I can carry and put in the baggage and what time to arrive at the departure hall. No shame in asking.

My brother in law was kind enough to drop us at the KLIA 2 airport that fine Saturday afternoon. It was my first visit to the new airport as well. First impression: KLIA 2 is like a huge shopping mall attached to an airport terminal. That said, we had no problem finding the check-in counter. Yes I have already checked-in online a few days earlier so the only thing I had to do was to check in our baggages, well baggage since it’s only one bag and then head to the departure hall. We had a minor scare at the check-in counter since my eldest identity card (IC) was totally erased on the front side due to the poor quality of its printing. Luckily the counter officer and subsequently every security officer from there on accepted our explanation and the medical card that contained his name was proof enough. Otherwise one boy will be devastated to not be following us to Langkawi. Usually I don’t let important things like Adam’s blank MyKid pass but we were waiting for his 12th birthday to renew his IC which is in December so it kind of pointless to renew it any sooner. Anyway that blank IC incident aside, our journey from the check-in to the plane waiting lounge was smooth. Sure our flight was delayed for more than an hour (typical Air Asia) but we got on the plane fine without any further incidents.

Our kids were naturally the most excited about getting on a plane for the first time. My two youngest girls were literally counting the days for over a month before our departure date. We took turns to sit by the window for the one hour flight so that everybody could have a chance to see the clouds and the land below. We arrived at Langkawi International Airport around 4:30 that evening. Our rent a car owner was already waiting outside. I searched the Internet for his contact and finally settled for a gold Proton Waja instead of the original Viva since it’s slightly bigger. That proved to be a big mistake because that old Waja produced knocking sounds from behind from the second day of our visit onwards. I suspect it’s the suspension or something but needless to say our journey across the island was not so pleasant after that due to those annoying noises from that beat up car. Remind me to rent a newer car next time?

Our first agenda of the day was to visit the Mahsuri’s tomb which is not too far away from the airport. Since our flight was delayed, we only had half an hour to visit the place, not that there’s much to see in there anyway. The entrance fee was RM12 for adults and RM6 for children which I thought kinda steep just to see a tiny tomb of a local legend. Sure there’s a few nice kampong houses to see and a little gallery about the legend but seriously, 12 ringgit? It’s a tourist trap I tell you. From the tomb we head to the Kuah jetty to see the famous eagle landmark. Luckily nobody gave a toss about Perak’s mufti idea of demolishing so the eagle statue is still standing proudly when we got there. We hung around the place and enjoyed a fabulous sunset by the sea.

From the jetty we finally checked in to our hotel just outside town. The G Langkawi Motel offered the best rate at just RM78 per night on Agoda so I chose to stay there. Our room was understandably small but it is still pleasant to sleep in plus we get to enjoy free superfast wifi throughout our stay. The next day we went island hopping to the nearby islands. This one cost us RM150 for 5 persons. My colleague said he previously paid 10 ringgit but I suspect he must have been cramped together with 30 other people in that tiny boat with no life jacket. Our boat on the other hand had life jackets for everyone, including the kids and we went along with no more than 15 people that day. The boat ride was bumpy but we thoroughly enjoyed it. Our first stop was the Beras Basah island. We disembarked on the sandy beach filled with other tourists. If you want to take a dip, now is the time because you can’t do so at the next two stops. There’s no toilets or changing rooms on the island though so if you have to relief yourself, you’ll have to do it au natural.

Next stop was the eagle-feeding activity. We didn’t get to feed the eagles ourselves but the boat captain will drop some chicken meat into the water and the eagles will dive down and grab them with their claws. It was some spectacle to see. Who doesn’t like free lunch right? After that we went for our final island-hopping destination which was the renowned pregnant maiden island (Pulau Dayang Bunting). Until previously, you don’t have to pay anything to get into the marble geoforest park which includes the lake but now it is RM6 for adults and RM3 for kids. Once again there’s not much to see inside. You take a short 20 minutes hike through the jungle tracks and wooden platform to the lake and should you feel like swimming in it, you can rent a life jacket (it’s quite deep they say) from the operator there. Legend says if you’re having trouble getting pregnant, bathing or even drinking the lake’s water could help you with that but honestly, the waters look rather dirty and polluted to me. Besides, unless you’re a fish or water Pokemon there’s a slim chance of you getting pregnant from wading in that dark greenish water.

After the last island, we head back to the jetty and arrived safely. We had lunch somewhere in town and then went back to the hotel to change and freshened up. Next on our itinerary is the SkyCab cable car ride up the Machincang mountain. It claims to feature the longest free span mono-cable car (in Malaysia I presume?) but the journey up doesn’t feel that long. Kinda like the Genting Skyway without the exorbitant price. Talking about the price, it cost RM126 for all of us to go up the mountain with the cable car which is pretty steep in my opinion. You do get to see much of Langkawi or at least the southern part from the top. However half of our view was shrouded by fog so it wasn’t much of a view. There’s another tourist attraction at the summit called the SkyBridge which is basically a 125 meters long curved suspension bridge. I would have loved to walk on the bridge but it’ll cost us another 19 ringgit, something I am reluctant to spend after that RM126 earlier (stingy I know). So we hung around the summit for a while, staying clear of the pricey cafe and souvenir shop before making our way down to the foothill.

From Machincang mountain we headed to our final destination for the day - Chenang beach on the west side of the island. Initially we wanted to let the kids play in the water but it was high tide and the strong waves were not suitable for bathing. In the end the just played on the beach while watching the beautiful sunset. The beach spot that we visited offered parasailing for visitors but for 60 ringgit a pop we just have to pass. We had dinner at GM Burger near Kelibang which offers a decent variety of western food and that conclude our second day on the island.

On the third and last day, we did what most visitors to Langkawi would do - shop at one of the numerous duty-free shops in town. We bought cheap chocolates and kitchen utensils for ourselves and as souvenirs and then head to the airport to catch our return flight. As always, Air Asia was late again, delayed for over 2 hours from the original time. After the one hour journey, we arrived safely back to KL thus ending our annual ‘lavish’ holiday in a far away place (last year was Legoland). How do I rate this one? I’d give it 3.5 out of 5 stars. I enjoyed the island hopping and sightseeing. The beat up rental car somewhat ruined our travel on the island. We couldn’t forget all the knocking at the back of our rented car from the second day onwards. If you plan to visit off-season, it might be a good idea to rent a car from one of the car rental counters at the airport terminal. Heck even your hotel might even provide car rentals at standard rates. Our hotel was decent but as with most other tourist attractions elsewhere, we had to pay dearly to enjoy some of them. Island-hopping was memorable but Mahsuri’s tomb and the cable car were not worth it in my opinion. Just one of those tourist traps for first time visitors. Then again there’s little else that we could do for free on the island. Overall I think we spent nearly 1,500 for the entire trip including fare and accommodation. If you are used to travelling abroad or if you’re rich, that’s not much but it is a lot for us. However come to think of it, it’s not often we get to bring our kids (and ourselves) on a jet plane and enjoy sightseeing on a tropical island.

Here’s a video I made from our Langkawi trip.