Overview
Introduction
Design
Display
Hardware
Software and apps
Camera
Audio and video
Performance
Battery life
Conclusion
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Nexus 6P Review

Undoubtedly, the best Nexus phone yet
By Ershad Kaleebullah on 2015-11-17
Key Features
  • 5.7-inch Quad-HD display
  • 12-megapixel rear camera
  • Fingerprint scanner
  • Oleophobic coating
What we like
  • Premium design
  • Rear camera can take detailed shots in daylight
  • Good front camera
  • Incredibly fluid performance
  • Nexus Imprint is really responsive
What we don't like
  • Battery could have been optimised better
  • No optical image stabilisation in rear camera
8.7
Our Score
Introduction

Google introduced its flagship Nexus lineup of smartphones back in 2010, as a means to showcase its homegrown open-source Android operating system. Over the years, the Nexus lineup has gained a fair bit of popularity thanks to the fact that Google works closely with popular original equipment manufacturers (OEM) to create smartphones and tablets that provide stock Android without any bloatware. This ensures that consumers get a smooth and stable experience on any Nexus device along with the open-source goodness of Android that allows for customisation and deep software level tweaks. Having said that, year on year, the only crippling weakness of the Nexus lineup has been its poor camera performance. 

This year’s refresh of the Nexus lineup by Google saw the introduction of two smartphones: the mid-range Nexus 5X, manufactured by LG and the more premium Nexus 6P, manufactured by Huawei. 

The Nexus 6P is a spiritual successor to last year’s Motorola Nexus 6. It is interesting to note that the ‘P’ stands for Premium. True to its tag, the Nexus 6P uses premium material in its build, which includes top-end SoC from Qualcomm, a fingerprint scanner, and a new camera module from Sony. With all these factors combined, the Nexus 6P not only has the potential to become the best Nexus smartphone yet, but also compete with some of this year’s flagship smartphones by Samsung, LG, Sony, HTC, and Motorola. Read our review to find out if it managed to impress us. 

Design
9

While the Nexus 6P’s design invited polarising views (either people liked it or didn’t), one has to admit that it looks premium thanks to its all metal unibody, chamfered edges and an industrial design language. The front portion of the Nexus 6P is quite nondescript, and the rear is where all the action, in terms of design, takes place. On the top portion of the rear side is a rounded rectangular window protected by Corning’s Gorilla Glass 4, which Google has dubbed as ‘Visor’. This Visor includes the rear camera and the dual-LED flash. It juts out from the device slightly, but since it spans across the breadth of the Nexus 6P, the phone doesn't wobble like the iPhone 6/6s does because of its camera. There is a strip of metal at the bottom as well, without which we think the Visor would’ve looked awkward. The most important new addition on the rear is the fingerprint scanner called the Nexus Imprint. Lastly, the Nexus logo imprinted in landscape orientation on the rear, below the fingerprint scanner, looks really classy in our opinion. 

The Nexus 6P is only 7.3mm thin and not very wide either. With its flat edges, the Nexus 6P is fairly comfortable to hold. However, make no mistake, the phone is still a pretty large phone and using it with one hand is not easy. Even the thumb of our fairly large hand struggled to reach the top of the fairly large 5.7-inch display. Addressing the question that is on everyone’s minds, the Nexus 6P doesn’t flex and feels quite sturdy. It has been made using aeronautical-grade aluminium, after all. Having said that, our unit took a fall at one time during our review, which caused the phone to get dents on it. Moreover, the Gorilla Glass 4 protection on the Visor might not be good enough to withstand rough usage because we’ve already seen stray incidents of people reporting shattered glasses, and our advice would be to use the phone carefully. 



The dual speakers are lined up above and below the display. Also above the display, are the earpiece, front-facing camera, and a notification LED. As is the case with most Nexus devices, there are no physical navigation buttons, but on-screen buttons. 

The power button, on the right edge, is ribbed, which helps in distinguishing it from the volume rocker present right below it. Both these buttons have decent tactile feedback and travel. The new USB Type-C port is located at the bottom and the 3.5mm audio port is at the top. Huawei has inserted plastic slits on all four edges of the phone in order for the phone to catch cellular network signals.

Display
8

The 5.7-inch AMOLED display on the Nexus 6P has a display resolution of 1440x2560p, which translates into a pixel density of 518 PPI. The screen is undoubtedly crisp and you won’t be able to spot pixels with the naked eye. Colours are not very saturated for an AMOLED screen, which in our opinion is a good thing. We think it is adequately punchy and the blacks are really deep, which comes in handy for the Ambient Display feature of the phone. The Ambient Display feature allows you to view current notifications on the screen in ambient mode every time you simply pick up the phone from a flat surface, without lighting up the screen. We noticed that this feature was a little iffy and didn’t work as effectively as the screen didn't light up most of the times. We think the Moto X Play/Style do this better. 

The display on the Nexus 6P can get quite bright, but is not as bright as the ones on the Galaxy Note 5 or the iPhone 6s Plus. Furthermore, when we viewed the display at an angle, we could spot rainbow-coloured distortion on it. 

Hardware
9.5

Huawei has packed the Nexus 6P with high-end hardware components. It uses Qualcomm's Snapdragon 810 SoC v2.1. This SoC has a quad-core 1.55 GHz Cortex-A53 chip and another quad-core 2.0 GHz Cortex-A57 chip, and for graphic processing, it uses Adreno 430. The phone has 3GB of RAM for apps and services. It is also available in two variants in India: one with 32GB and the other with 64GB of storage. The 128GB variant, available in the US, is not available here in India, which is a letdown. 



The phone has two cameras - a 12-megapixel rear camera with a 1.55 micro pixel sensor and a dual-Led flash, and a 8-megapixel front-facing shooter. It accepts a single Nano-SIM card which can connect to 4G networks in India. The other connectivity options include Bluetooth v4.2, Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, and NFC protocol. There is also a 3,450mAh battery which provides the juice for the phone. Also, the phone has a fingerprint scanner on the rear, the functionality of which we will explore in the next section.

Software and apps
9

The latest version of Google's homegrown operating system Android 6.0 Marshmallow is visually pretty similar to Android Lollipop, except for the fact that the app drawer now scrolls vertically instead of horizontally. 

However, the most important new feature in Marshmallow is Now on Tap. It is an extension of Google Now cards. One has to long press the home button from any screen for Now on Tap to pull up contextual information in the form of cards. For example, when we were in a conversation on text with a friend about deciding on a place for dinner in Hyderabad, Now on Tap pulled up cards with information about Chutneys and Tim Tai, two restaurants in the city. We could also jump directly from the card into a 360-degree view of Chutneys on Google Maps. The icing on the cake was that Now on Tap also pulled up a card asking us if we wanted to mark the dinner on our calendar. That said, Now on Tap didn't work accurately at all times, and some fairly obvious contextual information was missing at times. For example, when we typed in ‘Johnny Depp’ in Google and used this feature, the page pulled up information about some of the movies he has acted in, but about the actor himself. We are willing to overlook this issue only because Now on Tap is at its nascent stage currently, and we are hopeful that it will get better over time. 



Google Now also has a denser layout with cards stacked up close to each other compared to Lollipop, which looks aesthetically pleasing. App permissions now pop up for each app on first use. For example, you can decide if you want to provide location access to Facebook or not. We also liked the fact that the Nexus 6P uses a 5x5 layout for all icons. 

Coming to the fingerprint scanner or Nexus Imprint, one can add up to five fingerprints. It works well almost all the time and frankly we aren't surprised because Huawei's Honor 7, which we reviewed, also had a very responsive fingerprint scanner. Google Pay also works using Nexus Imprint, and Google also provides app developers with the ability to use Nexus Imprint for an added level of security to their apps. We tested it with Telegram, and it worked flawlessly. This sort of deep level integration is great for security purposes.

Camera
7.5

We want to address the most pertinent and important question upfront - yes, the Nexus 6P's camera is a pretty competent performer and is no longer disappointing. The 12-megapixel shooter on the Nexus 6P can shoot some really detailed pictures with fairly accurate colours. Do take note that you need to view the photos on a well-calibrated computer screen to be able to judge the accuracy of colours because the AMOLED screen tends to saturate them a bit. 



We believe the large sensor size is an advantage and it is the reason our daylight samples looked pretty good. Tap to focus works well and we didn't face any sort of over-exposure issues either. By default, the dynamic range is not too bad, but the HDR+ mode does improve the highlights and shadows visibly. In fact, the mode even comes in handy while taking low light shots as it improves the details by a considerable margin. Talking about low light pictures, the Nexus 6P doesn't use software algorithms to reduce noise, which makes some low light shots taken in extreme dark conditions look mediocre. There are three other modes in the camera app: Photo Sphere, Panorama, and Lens Blur. Quite evidently, the app is not really feature rich. The Lens Blur mode is new and it creates an added sense of depth to the subject using software tweaks. It works well, but we think that by default the depth-of-field of the Nexus 6P's camera is not that bad. Photo Sphere can be used to capture a 360-degree picture. In our testing, we found that unless you are pretty stable the shots are not going to be stitched properly. The Panorama mode works fine. 



The camera can also capture 4K videos which look really impressive, but because it lacks OIS, our sample footage was shaky. It can also capture slow-motion 240fps video at 720p resolution and 120fps video at 1080p. Both these formats look good, but we noticed heavy interlacing problems in 240fps video if the light wasn’t adequate. The 8-megapixel front-facing camera also capture some really impressive details so much so that sometimes we struggled to tell the difference between images captured by the front and rear cameras. It also has a decent wide-angle to include more subjects in the image.

Audio and video
9

The dual speakers on the Nexus 6P sounds really good and expansive. However, the sound is not as full and rich as on the speakers on the Moto X Style. Huawei also bundles earphones in the box, which are good for most use-cases. That established, we did notice that the sound quality improved drastically when we used our reference headphones. 

The phone can play all sorts of music file formats that you throw at it. While the built-in video player cannot play a few video formats, finding a third-party replacement in Google Play Store should be a cinch. 


 

Performance
10

The Nexus 6P is the Usain Bolt of smartphones; it is so fast that we wonder if other smartphones can actually keep up to its speed. The fluid animations and lag-free performance is an extremely refreshing sight. It is almost as fast as the iPhone 6s, if not better, and that is saying a lot about an Android phone. What’s even better is that the Nexus 6P doesn’t even stutter even after opening many apps at once and putting it through stress. Additionally, it goes without saying that even gaming is a treat on this device as graphically-intensive games such as Modern Combat 5 and Asphalt 8 ran without any frame drops during our testing. The good thing about using metal in the body, is that the heat dissipation is good. What this means is that despite using the Snapdragon 810 SoC, which had gotten a bad reputation in the past for throttling performance and making phones hot, the Nexus 6P manages to remain cool in daily usage. While it does get warm at times when playing a game, it doesn't get unbearably hot for us to mention it as a cause for concern. 



For those of you who care about benchmark numbers, in our AnTuTu test the phone scored a healthy 54,791 points, which is lower than what we achieved on phones like the Galaxy Note5 and the OnePlus 2. However in Vellamo, which tests a phone’s browser performance, the phone scored a really high score of 4,002 points which is second only to the LG G Flex 2’s score. In GFXBench and 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited, the Nexus 6P achieved scores of 27fps and 22,818 respectively. These numbers are quite respectable and are enough for a great gaming experience on the phone. 

Huawei has fitted the phone with a really good earpiece. The sound quality in phone calls was as good as what we've experienced with Motorola's devices, and that's saying a lot. The phone manages to latch on to networks without any issue. This is truly one of the best Android phones we've used in the recent past, and it will take a lot from rival manufacturers to be able to match this performance. 

Battery life
8

The performance of the 3,450mAh battery inside the Nexus 6P is a case of Jekyll and Hyde really. Thanks to the Doze feature, introduced by Google in Android Marshmallow, Nexus 6P's battery performance in standby mode is superb. The phone had 20 percent battery when we went to sleep, and when we woke up, the phone had lost only two percent in six odd hours. Basically, Doze works in the background with apps individually to optimise battery performance. Doze activates when the phone is placed flat on a surface. This is the good bit about the battery life. 

The battery starts to show its true colours in daily usage. With 4G constantly on, the phone lasted us only around 10 hours. We streamed music for two hours, used a lot of messaging and social networking apps, made calls for about an hour, and played a game for around 15 minutes. The screen-on time varied from a really low three hours and 30 minutes to a fairly decent four hours and 21 minutes. 

We charged the battery to 100 percent from zero, which took around one hour and thirty minutes using the bundled 5V/3As charger and USB Type-C cable. There is no Quick Charge technology, though. All said and done, the battery performance is not too bad. If you want a good battery life, you have to use the phone sparingly. 

Conclusion

Squashing any apprehensions that one (Indians) might have about a Chinese OEM making a premium Nexus device, we believe that Huawei has managed to create an extremely competent flagship device with the Nexus 6P. Do note that Huawei is the fourth largest smartphone manufacturer in the world ranking just below Samsung, Apple, and Lenovo-Motorola. In fact, we believe that the Nexus 6P might give a much needed push to Huawei to be able to establish itself as a truly global smartphone brand without banking just on sales figures to highlight its might. 

The 32GB version of the Nexus 6P retails in india for a rupee less than Rs. 40,000, and the 64GB costs Rs. 3,000 more. We’d like to make a case that one should buy the variant of the Nexus 6P with the higher capacity, since the price difference is not too much. We understand that some folks might not like the threadbare approach of vanilla Android. For such people, the Samsung Galaxy S6, Samsung Galaxy Note5, and the LG G4 might be better bets because these phones have an extra layer of UI skin on top with more software tweaks. Moreover, these are great devices in their own right. Having said that, we haven't seen a more fluid Android experience on a smartphone till date, and that itself is reason enough for us to recommend the Nexus 6P to everyone.

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