Build quality is excellent. I do not doubt that this player is built to last thanks to its metal body and high manufacturing tolerances. On the other hand, it feels tank-like, built to take the abuse of day-to-day use whether at home or on the go. However, you don’t get that same wow factor as you do when picking up a DAP from other high-end manufacturers like Astell & Kern, Pioneer, and Sony. It feels solid, but it doesn’t feel special or premium if you get what I mean.
The buttons have an excellent tactile feel to them and seem hard-wearing (although longer testing would be required to verify such a statement). The volume control sits high on the left-hand side, and while I would rather have this option than a digital control, I just don’t like that it sits in such an unnatural position for a one-handed operation. A top-left position, I think, suits better and is easier to access one-handed with the thumb. Additionally, it feels small when I go back and forth with my AK70 unit and is fiddly to reach in the pocket.
Fiio has opted to place the connectors at the bottom of the DAP, making sense because there is nothing more irritating than having cables flopping over the screen as you get with top-mounted jack points. Having them bunched together in one place also allows for simplified cable management.
Another bonus for the build of the X5 is the use of brushed and textured metals as opposed to surfaces being slick and shiny. It feels more secure in the hand, gives an overall nicer feel, and doesn’t turn the DAP into a fingerprint magnet that you spend half your time cleaning.
Lastly, on the build quality, I have to say that the enclosed drawers for the micro-SD cards are a great little touch. Most other audio players opt for the spring-mounted card slot, but Fiio has designed its 2 card bays to operate like the Sim card tray on your smartphone. It feels more premium and helps clean up the overall aesthetics of the player whilst reducing the ingress of dirt and dust.
Fiio X5 3rd Generation: Battery Performance
The battery was fairly unimpressive; however, it is also sadly not uncommon for this sort of device. There are many electronics and a rather large touch screen that has to be driven on the X5, and we found ourselves getting between 8-9 hours throughout the review. That’s not great, but it’s not terrible.
The way you use the third-generation X5 will also have a big effect on battery performance. The X5 has a lot of options that can impact runtime. WIfi and Bluetooth are big drains, and again if you have the screen on for extended periods, you could chomp through the battery.
Fiio X5 3rd Generation: Screen Quality
Ok major bonus points for the screen go to Fiio. It’s a big 4.0-inch number, and next to most other Hi-Res music players it’s glorious. DAPs, of course, don’t offer the kind of resolution that you would find in today’s top smartphones, but then they don’t need to as the predominant function is listening to them rather than looking at them. Still, the android installation does allow for apps to be used, and it can be used to browse web pages in a pinch.
It’s pretty clear with little grain or distortion, and in comparison to what we have seen from other manufacturers, it can keep up. We found the touchscreen to be responsive the first time every time, even if the OS (Operating System) was a limiting factor here.
Fiio X5 3rd Generation: User Interface
The UI is good, and I can’t believe I am saying this; I definitely still prefer the interface on the Astell & Kern AK70 to the Fiio’s uglier Android styling and icons.
The difference between the 3rd Gen X5 and those players is that they feel like a music device. The X5 feels like a clunky android tablet with some audio-specific hardware tagged on.
It’s just an android experience, and you start on an Android home screen and select the app you want to play music with. I’d rather it just was a music player from the get-go. I also experienced some quirky glitches and crashed throughout this review. I thought maybe it’s just a dodgy unit, so it was returned, and I grabbed another, same result. After that, upon reading online (something I never do to avoid bias during a review), I saw many frustrated people. Of course, these may be issues that Fiio addresses in future firmware upgrades.
I do like the inclusion of the Play Store, it works well and has a lot of apps that will benefit from the hardware, and anyone who has used the Play store before will feel right at home operating the DAP.
Placement of settings and apps is all pretty intuitive, it’s an easy device to get around for anyone that has ever used an android device before, but it just doesn’t feel slick or special in any way.
Fiio X5 3rd Generation: Dedicated Music Player App
So rather than waste time talking about the other functions, let’s get right into the core product—the music player app.
My experience with the Fiio internal music player was pretty much all positive. There are many options for playback, such as shuffle repeat, etc., and you also get plenty of choices on how you want to browse the files. I found scanning of the SD cards to be slow, though, and I did notice some skipped files and incorrect artwork when trying to import; on the whole, it wasn’t a bad experience.
The app is straightforward to get around and can definitely be considered feature-rich, but if you prefer to use something from a third party, both Neutron and the Black player should be supported.
Fiio X5 3rd Generation: Memory
Fiio killed it with the expandable memory on the X5 3rd gen. You get not one but two card slots in which you can place micro SD cards up to 256GB each. This gives you a monstrous 512GB external capacity to go along with the 32GB internal memory.
Using this memory in combination with apps like Tidal and Spotify should mean you never go hungry for something to listen to, and it’s certainly one of the big plus points for the player.
Fiio X5 3rd Generation: 3rd Party App Support
Officially, I can no longer live without apps on my DAPs. As time goes on, I seldom find myself listening to physical copies of music unless specifically DSD files or obscure recordings. For me, Tidal is the king right now thanks to its simplicity, high resolution streaming, and fairly large (although not massive) library.
Tidal worked perfectly with the Fiio X5, and there is little that I need to say on the subject. It’s a great inclusion with these new wifi-enabled DAPs, and everything works as expected, and there were no compatibility issues. Spotify was a similar experience as was a Black player.
Other than music Apps, I won’t bother to comment on anything else because my LG G6 can better run all other apps than the X5. I didn’t test out games, Facebook, and all that other nonsense. If you are spending roughly $400 on a digital music player, I expect you will have a pretty decent smartphone, and all of these apps will be way better on that.