The most specification heavy Google phone hit the Play Store in September 2015, and since then the Nexus 6P has had a variety of reviews focusing on the different aspects of the device. Let’s take a look at what we thought of the Nexus 6P.
We’ve had 2 weeks with the device and used it as our daily driver during this time. We’re also armed with the numerous editorials and review conclusions to compare our thoughts with, which make for interesting discussions within the wider MobileTechTalk team. Many thanks to Vodafone UK for hooking us up with this unit. Here’s what we thought of our time with the Nexus 6P.
The Nexus 6P is the latest high-end offering in the Nexus line of devices; the Google reference vehicle for its latest and greatest software. The Nexus 6P does indeed come with Android 6.0 Marshmallow and with a number of refined features, and some impressive claims relating to battery life thanks to the Doze feature.
Huawei are the manufacturers chosen this year to deliver the next iteration in the Nexus run, and they’ve certainly produced a unique Nexus design. Love it or loathe it the Nexus 6P is distinctive and certainly can’t be easily compared to other devices on the market.
Huawei kick off the Nexus 6P design with a brushed aluminium chassis standing at over 6.2 inches making it a rather tall device. Not Nexus 6 large, but still large. From bottom of the device and a shaded aluminium area, through the mid-point and the Nexus branding accompanied by the Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor, ending at the top of the device and the distinctive camera ‘visor’ area, the Nexus 6P feels and looks one of the most premium Nexus devices ever released.
Around front, a 5.2 inch 1440 x 2560 resolution AMOLED screen sits proudly front and centre, taking up over 70% of the device’s footprint and delivering Gorilla Glass 4 protection. An 8MP front facing camera capable of 1080p video recording sits offset to the left of the front facing speaker, with a matching speaker at the opposite end of the device.
On the right side of the device are the power and volume rocker buttons; the power button has a slightly different texture to help seek it out without looking. On the left hand side of the device it the SIM tray with nothing else of note. To the top edge we find the 3.5mm headphone jack and towards the bottom the USB Type-C port for charging. It’s worth noting here to avoid confusion that just because the Nexus 6P has a Type-C port, doesn’t mean it’s any faster. It’s using a USB 2.0 connection after all and not a 3.1 or thunderbolt one.
Performance & Use
We’re not delving into the guts of this device as the specifications are a mere ‘Google’ away. Suffice to say that the Nexus 6P does indeed make use of the much maligned Snapdragon 810 processor, and delivers 3GB of RAM with 32/64/128GB storage options. Hooray for the death of 16GB anyone?
With the 810 processor in tow, you would be forgiven for expecting a generally laggy response as well as thermal throttling when the device is put under any specific strain. We experienced none of that here with the device feeling snappy and barely warm throughout a battery of gaming tests. That’s not to say the device hasn’t had its issues since launch. A few fixes here and there though and it looks like it’s behaving itself just fine in 2016.
This device is absolutely built for consuming media. The front facing stereo speakers are great for listening to music. During testing, we opted to play most of the music directly through the front facing speakers rather than connect the device up to one of our cheap Bluetooth speakers due to the similarity of the sound. It’s not boomsound-worthy, but it’s certainly loud enough with enough clarity. Likewise, the 5.7″ QHD 1440p screen is great video playback, streaming your favourite shows. Colour is vibrant for the most part, and due to the AMOLED display, blacks are consistent and inky.
That AMOLED display also helps with the battery life on the Nexus 6P which we found to be pretty good. We say pretty good because for a 3450 mAh batter, we were expecting more on paper, however the 1440p screen does have an impact. At a couple of days standby time, but 4 hours of screen on time (actual use) we were…content. The integrated fast charging technology meant that in under 2 hours we could be back up to full strength again (which doesn’t seem all that fast, but hey) whilst the introduction of Doze and App Standby features (more on this in the software section) seemed to pay dividends.
Holding the device is something of a dichotomy. It feels premium, with the chamfered edges and smoothed lines, but it also feels big. Then there is the biggest issue we found; the button placement. Whether a left or right hander, the buttons being placed at the mid-point of the device caused us issues during testing. Gripping the device meant constantly hitting one of the buttons and causing either a volume increase or a screen standby moment; neither of which are great when you’re just trying to make sure your new phone doesn’t end up kissing tarmac. This could be a purely subjective observation however with others holding their devices differently, although we found the only other viable grip was to delicately balance the back face on our fingers.
One Connector To Rule Them All
The Nexus 6P along with its stable mate, the 5x, is the first Nexus device to sport a USB Type-C connector. Most new devices released in 2016 look set to adopt this new standard, which brings reversibility with its cables. The slightly disappointing aspect here is that whilst it’s great to have this connector, it’s using a USB 2.0 host so speed wise, it’s no better than the micro USB cables many are used to. We look forward to seeing devices with USB 3.1 and/or Thunderbolt hosts moving forward.
The fingerprint scanner, a ubiquitous feature on flagship smartphones in 2016, on the Nexus 6P is fast and well positioned. Contrary to its competitors, Huawei choose not to use the “Samsung” route of doubling up a scanner with a home button, but instead use the more refined (in our opinion) rear facing method. It works to great effect on this device with unlocking occurring in close to half a second, and the learning process taking only 6 presses to set up. We found it difficult to trip up the sensor regardless of the orientation of our finger and were pleasantly surprised that unlocking times remained constant. The only slight irritation here was the haptic feedback that accompanied the unlock. An unnecessary inclusion we thought.
The fingerprint also links with Google’s strategy of allowing authentication via fingerprint to complete more than just a simple unlock of the phone. Authorising Android Pay payments, and purchasing from the Google Play store are just two of the opening acts Google brings to the table with this Nexus line. With the addition of support for mobile banking applications available as well as password managers utilising this activity already, we expect some interesting deployments moving forward.
If you’re one of the diminishing few that still use your phone for making and receiving calls, you won’t be disappointed with the Nexus 6P. Callers said that we sounded clear and crisp over the Vodafone UK network in the Midlands, through the Borders and in Scotland, and recipient voices sounded equally clear. Using the loud-speaker wasn’t a great experience, but it gets the job done if you have your hands otherwise occupied.
Data speeds on Vodafone UK were good throughout the above areas with 4G in most areas aside from rural locations, with speeds hitting over 40Mbps in most instances. We also tested with the Three UK network and found similar data speeds, however Vodafone seemed to penetrate more when inside a building.
The radio on the Nexus 6P seems more than adequate for the making and receiving of calls and data throughput.
Software & UI
The Nexus 6P brings Android Marshmallow 6.0 to the table with improvements galore over the Android Lollipop 5.x operating system.
The App Permissions feature allows the granular control of which aspects of your device applications have the ability to utilise. For example, downloading the Instagram app might prompt your device to ask you to approve the camera and contacts permissions for the application to function normally. It’s nice to have a little more control and we’re glad to see Google taking notice here. This is just one of a host of features included in Android 6.0 to help users make the most of a device Google is well aware will follow the owner wherever they go. We’re more tethered to our mobile devices than ever and as such we need the confidence to rely on the device at the drop of a hat.
Of the many features included, some of the most notable include Adoptive Storage, improved RAM and Battery management screens, Doze, and Android Pay. Taking these in order, Adoptive Storage allows users to essentially extend the logical storage within a device onto an inserted SD Card (or other externally connected storage device) meaning seamless use of this additional storage. That’s right – no longer will users need to manually move applications across to the SD card to free up their phones’ internal memory. One slight snag with this feature; it relies on manufactures to deliver SD Card slots, something that seemed to be a dying feature in the last few years and one that Google themselves have steered clear of on the Nexus 6P.
Android 6.0 also includes better and more user-friendly screens for viewing those applications that are utilising more RAM and Battery than you’d normally like. This ties in nicely with one of the most talked about features of Android 6.0, Doze. In short Doze is a mechanism for your device to be aware when it’s not needed to perform certain tasks (i.e. when it’s not in hand or being moved) and enter a deeper sleeping state than previously achievable. The result should be that applications in the background consume less energy and as such your device lasts longer. This is certainly backed up by our testing on the Nexus 6P but we expect the process to improve over time. Finally, Android Pay is already alive and well in the states, taking on Apple Pay as the nation’s favourite NFC-enabled payment process. Those in the UK will have a to wait a little longer to used this contactless payment method, but Android 6.0 certainly supports it.
Moving to the actual UI, Google’s Material Design aesthetic is more pervasive than ever before and that’s no bad thing. Moving through menus now feels more reactive than ever thanks to small improvements in the animations. The new app drawer provides larger icons that we frankly felt was not required, but the flat, clean design is user-friendly, with recently used applications appearing at the top of the drawer in a “dock” like fashion just underneath a search function.
The general aesthetic remains largely the same with only a fresh veneer being given to an already polished product. Android 6.0 certainly builds upon a now well bedded in UI and delivers improvements and much-needed features to an already hailed operating system.
The Nexus 6P actually delivers a reduction in megapixels from its spiritual predecessor, the Motorola Nexus 6’s 13MP. A 12.3MP camera is found on the rear of the device, and whilst it may lose a bit of resolution, it gains in pixel light. The 1.55µm pixel size should mean that low light photography looks a little nicer than previous Nexus devices due to the additional light that the larger pixel will be able to store. In practice, this does seem to work, to a fashion. It’s certain a better shooter than previous Nexus devices – of that there can be no question.
Firstly, the application is more generic than ever with only basic settings available at the touch of a button, such as HDR mode and flash controls. Using the now standard menu button on the interface reveals more settings however, ranging from Google’s photosphere, through their panorama options to controlling the lens blur (pseudo-aperture resizing) feature.
Ultra Pixel Revival?
In broad daylight the Nexus 6P takes some great photos, with colour reproduction slightly on the colder side in our testing. Shutter speed is nice and snappy, even in lower light conditions and cropping in to the photos taken to 100% shows a nice level of detail. Most subjects were focused on speedily thanks to the laser auto-focus deployed in the Nexus 6P, and the integrated Lens Blur feature is handy to create shallowed depth of field effects on focused objects. In low light things get a little grainy, but the larger pixels really do seem to assist in shutter speed and capturing more light also. There is nowhere near as much grain as we’ve seen before in previous Nexus low light shots. Perhaps the “ultra pixel” isn’t dead after all? HDR obviously helps to a large amount to get some of the vibrancy, however even without HDR, pictures seem colourful enough. HDR seems to deliver a little more dynamic range (as you’d expect!) with a slightly warmer filter too.
Selfie shots are some of the nicest we’ve seen on any device outside of the Apple iPhone 6 and Galaxy S6 ranges. The f/2.4 aperture really helps to deliver some energy to the front facing camera shots and the 1080p resolution is more than adequate for video calling.
Auto exposure can sometimes be a little difficult to fiddle with in both photo and video mode (as evidenced by the 4K sample) but for the most part compensation is quite quick so somewhat offsets any frustration that this auto exposure jump brings.
Take It Slow
Slow motion video capture on the Nexus 6P is actually quite good also. On many other devices not only is there no audio (something not really required for these types of captures to be fair) but there is often an immense amount of grain in the resulting processed product. The Nexus 6P does a good job of smoothing the finished article and delivering a nice 240fpos slo-mo video.
Google chose Huawei here for a reason. Their recent run of devices have shown a maturity to their design and an accent of quality in their fit and finish that Google clearly felt warranted a shot at the Nexus line. We don’t think anyone would be disappointed with the build quality of the Nexus 6P and we certainly like the design, whilst we’re aware of others could have a less than favourable opinion of the camera panel on the rear of the device.
Aesthetics to one side, Huawei have delivered hardware worthy of the next generation of Google’s operating system, and enough features to give the flagship bearer in 2016 more than enough to play with. A fingerprint scanner, dual front facing speakers, a camera capable of some brilliant shots, 4K video recording as well as a processor and RAM combination to match. Storage options starting at 32GB is a nice sight, and a trend we hope continues. USB 2.0 host inclusion, a lack of Wireless charging, and no micro SD card expansion are really the only slight negatives on an otherwise great product.
Where the size might put some people off, the rest of the package must surely satisfy even the most vehement of Google’s critics especially with a reduced price point this year with the 32GB option starting at £449 with £50 and £80 increases to the 64GB and 128GB options.
The Nexus 6P is, quite simply, the best Nexus device, with one ‘big’ caveat. The size. If you can deal with big devices then this is certainly a viable option, but don’t complain that it can be unwieldy, as that’s the price you pay currently for an excellent media consumption device.