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Google Nexus 6P review: Huawei's design results in the most premium Nexus ever

matthew-miller
Written by Matthew Miller on
nexus-6p-5.jpg
9.6/10

Google Nexus 6P

Spectacular
Pros
  • Fantastic high quality design, fit, and finish
  • Gorgeous vibrant display
  • High capacity RAM and ample internal storage
  • Large capacity battery
  • Excellent camera performance
  • Great sounding front-facing stereo speakers
Cons
  • No OIS or wireless charging
  • Editors' Review
  • Specs

Nexus devices have been focused on providing developers with the Android experience that Google envisioned, but in the past they have also lagged behind flagships from Apple and Samsung. This is not the case with the Nexus 6P and when you consider that the price is a shocking $300 less than a comparable Apple iPhone 6s Plus. Google and Huawei have a real winner here that will appeal to developers and consumers alike.

I've been very impressed by Huawei's recent devices, including the Ascend Mate 2 and Huawei Watch, so was pleased to see Huawei partner with Google for the Nexus 6P. I was even more pleased when I attended the Nexus launch event and was able to hold onto the Nexus 6P.

Out of the box impressions

The Google Nexus 6P arrived in a simple white rounded corner box with a colorful banner wrap with a large P on the front. Open up the box and inside you will find a large silver cardstock cover. On the back of this is shown a visual guide to ports, cables, and buttons found in the retail package.

The Nexus 6P retail package includes the Nexus 6P, USB Type-C to USB Type-C cable, A/C adapter for USB Type-C cord, short USB Type-C to USB cable, SIM card removal tool, warranty guide, and Google Play Music offer card. I'm thankful for the standard USB to USB Type-C cord since I don't have a computer with an USB Type-C port and couldn't connect my computer to offload full res photos without this cable.

The Nexus 6P itself is rather stunning. The device is encased in aeronautical-grade aluminum with beveled edges, flat glass face, subtle antenna breaks in the aluminum, a slightly raised back upper portion for the camera and antennas. When you pick it up you can immediately feel the quality and expect it to be priced at the high end of the market.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v2.1 2.0 GHz octa-core 64-bit with Adreno 430 GPU
  • Display: 5.7 inch AMOLED 2360 x 1440 pixels resolution, 518 ppi, Corning Gorilla Glass 4
  • Operating system: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
  • RAM: 3GB LPDDR4
  • Storage: 32, 64, and 128 GB internal options
  • Cameras: Rear 12.3 megapixel camera with f/2.0 aperture and large 1.55 micrometer pixels. 8 megapixel front-facing camera with f/2.4 aperture and 1.4 micrometer pixels
  • Speakers/mics: Dual front-facing stereo speakers, 3 microphones
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, proximity, motion, compass, gyro, barometer, Android Sensor Hub
  • Wireless: Bluetooth 4.2, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac @x2 MIMO WiFi, GPS, NFC
  • Battery: 3,450 mAh battery with fast charging via USB Type-C (up to 7 hours of use with 10 minutes of charging)
  • Dimensions: 159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm and 178 grams
  • Colors: Aluminum (silver), graphite (black), frost (white)

There is no OIS or wireless charging, but every other specification is top notch with USB Type-C still early in adoption by others. The new large pixel camera technology and fast performance may preclude the need for OIS, but this will have to be tested out some more. Wireless charging is convenient, but it's slower than wired charging and not essential for most people.

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Hardware

The front of the Nexus 6P is dominated by a 5.7 inch AMOLED display and it looks gorgeous. Fonts are crips and clear, colors are vibrant, and movies look outstanding. The device is a bit taller than the Samsung Galaxy Note 5, by 6.1 mm, due to having the front facing stereo speakers. It's also 1.6mm wider than the Note 5.

There are no physical buttons on the front with only the two front-facing stereo speakers and front-facing camera clearly visible when the display is off. An LED also appears just to the left of the front-facing camera when a notification is present. You can also lift, shift, or move the device in some manner and see the time, date, and on-screen notifications (if you have this on in the settings).

The USB Type-C port is centered on the bottom with the 3.5mm headset jack positioned on the left side of the top. The power button has ridges on it to make it easy to find on the right side. The volume button is positioned on the right side below the power button. The SIM card slot is found on the upper left side.

The rear camera, flash, and rear mic are found up along the top with the camera and flash inside the black raised area. The fingerprint scanner is embedded into the center upper back. Nexus and Huawei names are etched into the device on the back as well.

The 12.3 megapixel rear camera doesn't have optical image stabilization, but does have large pixels and IR laser-assisted auto-focus for quick photo capture. I have a pretty steady hand, but still find OIS helps me capture clearer photos. You can launch the camera at any time by quickly double pressing the power button, another good reason there is tactile texturing on the power button.

Compared to something like my Note 5, the Google Camera software is pretty basic. For example, you cannot capture a still photo while recording video and there are no fun filters in the camera software. However, since the majority of people use auto mode it is the results that matter more than the software. There is no RAW capture or manual mode on the Nexus 6P so look to the LG G4 or Samsung Galaxy 6/Note 5 line for this functionality.

DxOMark recently tested out the Nexus 6P in more detail than I ever could and gave it a very high rating. The Nexus 6P currently sits in third place, which is very impressive given that the iPhone 6s is in 10th and the Nexus 6 down at 14th.

Check out my Flickr album for a comparison of full resolution images from the Note 5, iPhone 6s Plus, and Nexus 6P. In my opinion, the two Android phones best the iPhone in these photos. I look forward to hearing which photos and phone you like best.

Google Nexus 6P by Huawei image and screenshot gallery

Android 6.0 Marshmallow

A few updates that come with Android 6.0 Marshmallow are hardware related and the Nexus 6P includes these in an attempt to show what Marshmallow can offer you. The fingerprint scanner and USB Type-C support are part of this version of Android and are welcome additions I have been enjoying on the 6P.

For enterprise users who want to use Android, the Nexus devices are a great choice as they will receive the latest security updates in a timely manner. The Google Imprint fingerprint scanner also makes it a device that is easy to secure, making it much more likely that your employees will actually use some form of security on their devices.

In terms of security, Android Marshmallow also improves security control at the application level. Now when you first launch an application that is trying to access data on your device, a pop-up appears to clearly inform you what data is trying to be accessed and gives you the option to allow this or not.

I am particularly excited about the promise of the Doze battery management software. When I go to bed with my iPhone 6s Plus off the charger, I only see a loss of 2 to 3 percent throughout the night. I've never seen such good standby performance on an Android smartphone so look forward to further testing the ability of the Nexus 6P to help me get through more than a day.

One of the most significant software enhancements in Android Marshmallow is Google Now On Tap. In the past you could launch the Google Now cards interface with a long press or press and slide action. Now when you press and hold on the home button Now On Tap appears over the top of the app you are currently using and then presents information related to what is shown on your screen. With Now On Tap you can easily make reservations or find directions to a restaurant that someone mentions in a text, watch a trailer for a movie that your friend is talking about on Facebook, or get quick links to more information about all those football players on your Fantasy Football team that you aren't familiar with. Like 3D Touch on the iPhone 6s, Now On Tap could change the way you use your Android smartphone.

At first I was a bit frustrated by the control over the status bar and quick actions. I then found this Android Central post that lets you enable the System UI Tuner. Once this is enabled, then you can have the battery status percentage remaining appear on the battery icon, customize the quick actions that appear in the drop-down menus, and select what icons appear in the status bar.

Pricing and competition

The Google Nexus 6P is available now for $499, $549, and $649 for 32GB, 64GB, and 128GB storage capacity models. By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy Note 5 is available for $700 and $780 for 32GB and 64GB models. The Apple iPhone 6s Plus is available for $749, $849, and $949 for 16GB, 64GB, and 128GB models. As you can see, the Nexus 6P is $200 to $300 less than these competing flagship smartphones.

You can also finance the Nexus 6P if you sign up for Project Fi. Payments are interest-free and spread over 24 months.

If you order your Nexus 5X soon you will also receive a $50 Google Play credit and 90 days of free Google Play Music ($9.99/month value). These bonuses are worth about $80, but if you are already a Google Play Music subscriber then you won't get the free months of Play Music.

Accessories

There are a number of cases and cables available for the Nexus 6P. An official Nexus 6P case was included with the evaluation device and I actually prefer using the Nexus 6P in this case rather than carrying it naked. The cool pattern microfiber back material, looks like wool, looks and feels great while the TPU shell keeps the device from sliding around on a table. The case is very lightweight and makes finding the rear fingerprint scanner even easier with the beveled opening. The case also makes the upper rear camera area less obvious. This case is available for $34.99.

You can also find cases from Adopted and Speck. Google also has another official Nexus case, the Nexus 6P Folio that will be coming soon for $49.99.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

I've had a Project Fi SIM for a couple of months, but didn't want to buy a Nexus 6 to activate it. When the evaluation 6P arrived, I activated my SIM and have been enjoying Project Fi over the past few days. I will continue to test it and the Nexus 6P over the coming weeks, but given that I have great coverage and performance from T-Mobile I will likely go back to using my T-Mobile SIM with the Nexus 6P.

In the past, it was rare for a non-carrier phone to work with T-Mobile's WiFi Calling. Thanks to the Project Fi support and use of T-Mobile as one of the carriers, Sprint is the other, WiFi Calling works perfectly fine on the Nexus 6P. WiFi Calling was one reason I usually purchased T-Mobile branded devices so this is a nice benefit.

The rear fingerprint scanner is conveniently positioned just where my index finger naturally goes when I pick up the phone and so far it has performed flawlessly. I am so used to the front facing bottom scanner on the iPhone 6s Plus and Note 5 that I keep placing my finger there too. I look forward to when my bank and other apps support the fingerprint scanner like they do on the iPhone.

HTC previously set the bar with its BoomSound front-facing stereo speakers, but the ones on the Nexus 6P are louder and provide a good listening experience when you want to share video and music with others. I also like having the 3.5mm headset jack on the top of the Nexus 6P.

I haven't had the Nexus 6P long enough to fully judge the battery, but so far it looks like Google's standby improvements, called Doze, is finally ready to challenge the iPhone's magical standby battery life.

The Nexus 6P is an awesome device and earns a near perfect 10. It has great specifications, provides you with the latest version of Android and the promise of first updates in the future, and is priced less than other flagship phones.

I usually expect to be let down in some area with a Nexus phone, but that is not the case this year with the Nexus 6P and I struggled to find any cons. If you want to save some money over the current Samsung and Apple products, you can't go wrong with the Nexus 6P. It's a rather large phone, but if size isn't an issue then the Nexus 6P is tough to beat.

While I appreciate the pure Google experience, I also find lots of value in what Samsung, HTC, LG, and others offer. My Galaxy Note 5 is another amazing piece of Android hardware and personally satisfies me even more than the Nexus 6P.

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