Updated : Nexus 5X Cooling Mod

The First 64bit SoC Is Always The Hottest.

My Nexus 5x has finally bootlooped few days ago. RIP, you will be missed.

The Nexus 5X is, by far, the most interesting smartphone I have ever used. Coming from the phablet Nexus 6, I can confidently say that it does everything right for its price. Despite not having the fastest Snapdragon SoC at the time, it excelled in everyday tasks. The device takes great photos, charges rapidly with USB-C, and features a 3.5mm audio jack at the bottom, along with a single front-facing speaker – all highly appreciated features. And let’s not forget the super-quick fingerprint sensor.

However, back in 2015 when the Nexus 5X and 6P were released, the flagship Snapdragon SoCs of that time – the 808 6-core and 810 8-core – were Qualcomm’s initial attempts at 64-bit SoCs, intended as a response to Apple’s 64-bit A7 SoC released back in 2013. Unfortunately, while Apple’s chip turned out to be a success, Qualcomm stumbled. In their rush to compete, they made a fundamental error by using standard ARM Cortex A57 and A53 cores, paired with the Adreno GPU, instead of creating custom ARM cores like they had done with previous Snapdragons.

As a result, we were left with a toasty SoC. Samsung opted to use their own Exynos SoC, LG fell back to the Snapdragon 808 for their flagsip, and the rest manufacturers who didn’t, like HTC with the M9, suffered from severe thermal throttling issues. Even the flagship killer, the Oneplus Two, couldn’t escape the heat.

When I decided to make the Nexus 5X my next daily driver, I had already formulated a plan to modify the cooling system after examining the device’s teardown. Most smartphones dissipate heat from the SoC into the frame that holds the display. I believed that by replacing the standard thermal solution provided by the manufacturer with a more efficient option, such as a copper shim or a superior thermal pad, I could reduce the likelihood of thermal throttling. The Nexus 6P had already undergone similar modifications with excellent results, so I was eager to replicate that success with my Nexus 5X.

Note: Do not attempt this mod if you don’t have the proper tools. And if you do attempt it, I am not responsible for any issues that may arise. Proceed at your own risk.

Disassembling the Nexus 5X is a straightforward process. Begin by ejecting the SIM card and use a spudger to gently pry off the back cover. Remove the ten Philips screws that secure the midframe and carefully detach the frame using a spudger. Take caution as there are two pieces of the midframe.

The Nexus 5X received a repairability score of 7 out of 10 from iFixit. Link

Remove the original cooling solution provided by LG for the Snapdragon 808 SoC and clean any residue using rubbing alcohol.

For this mod, I opted to use Coolermaster Mastergel Pro to fill the gap between the frame, copper shim, and the 808’s SoC. If you’re using a thermal pad instead of a copper shim, you won’t need to apply thermal grease.

Before reassembling, double-check everything to ensure everything is in place. It may be beneficial to clean the Nexus Imprint’s connector pins with rubbing alcohol, as my fingerprint sensor didn’t work initially after reassembly. I had to repeat the process and apply a fix to get it working again.

To evaluate the results of the modifications, I ran benchmarks both before and after.

Before vs After : I am pretty sure someone at LG and Google is laughing at me.

While the overall results remained unchanged, I observed that the device cools down more quickly than before, and the display feels slightly warmer to the touch after extended periods of use. However, even with these modifications, the Nexus 5X remains my daily driver and has yet to experience the infamous bootloop issue. I hope to continue using this phone for another year before considering an upgrade to the Pixel 2.

If you decide to attempt this mod, please share some pictures with me.

Posted September 11, 2017