If there is one Android phone that is eagerly looked forward to by every Android user, then it has to be the Google Nexus device that launches every year. Sure, you have flagships from Samsung, Sony, HTC, LG, Motorola, Lenovo and off late the Chinese phone makers such as Xiaomi, OnePlus, Gionee and so on. But the Nexus devices are generally considered to be the balance of hardware and software – since it is a showcase of Google’s latest Android OS. The last Nexus device that was really popular among users was the LG made Nexus 5 which was launched two years ago. Last years Nexus 6 did not really make any record sales so to speak, but it positioned Nexus as a premium category of phones rather than the competitively priced Nexus phones we were used to till that point.
This year though, the story is a bit different. We have seen every major smartphone maker release two, sometime three variants of its flagship devices. Samsung did it with the Galaxy S6, S6 Edge, S6 Edge+ and more recently Note 5; Apple did it with the iPhone 6s and the iPhone 6s Plus; Sony with the Xperia Z5 and Xperia Z5 Premium and so on. Google has also decided to adopt the strategy and in effect released two devices – the mid-range Nexus 5X made by LG and the premium Nexus 6P made by Chinese phone maker Huawei. This is Google’s maiden partnership with Huawei for making its Nexus device. So let us see what’s in store.
Build and Design: 9/10
While Google has not officially stated what the P stands for in the Nexus 6P name, but according to the global concensus P stands for Premium. The Nexus 6P comes in an all-metal body and comprises anodised aluminum with diamond-cut champfered edges. The phone comes in three colours - graphite, frost and aluminum. We got the silver aluminum model for testing and it screams elegance. The first thing that strikes you when you behold the Nexus 6P is the grip. Despite being made of metal, the flat edges on the sides paired with chamfering gives the phone a good grip. At 178 grams it is not the lightest phones around, but we like the way the weight is balanced throughout the phone, and gives the phone just the right amount of heft. It measures just 7.3mm thick.
On the front you have the 5.7-inch display with two metal strips for the speaker sections. The bezels on this Nexus 6P are thick on the top and bottom but thin on the sides. Single handed use may not be possible always and you will find yourself shifting the phone in your palms if you try single handed use. The right hand edge has the power button and the volume rocker buttons located in the centre region. These buttons have sufficient tactility and are quite responsive. On the left hand side, you have the nano SIM Card slot. There is no microSD card slot. The 3.5mm audio jack is located on the top whereas the base has the USB Type-C port. Now the Nexus 6P box only bundles a USB Type C to Type C cable, so you can only use it for charging. If you want to connect your phone to your computer, then you will need to get a USB Type C to Type A cable or a USB Type-C to USB Standard A adapter (Rs 910) separately. Unless of course, you own the MacBook or the Chromebook Pixel or any other laptop that has a USB Type-C port.
The rear side is where you see the design elements that make this phone stand out from the competition. Starting at the top, you have a black coloured Corning Gorilla Glass protected strip which houses the camera section on the left hand side, the dual tone LED flash unit and the laser AF system. This portion protrudes out slightly than the rest of the rear side, but leaves minimal gap when placed on the rear side. Within the pockets, the top bulge is barely noticeable. You have the Huawei and Nexus branding the the lower half of the rear side. Located between the Nexus branding and the camera section is the circular finger print scanner, which dips in a slight bit from the plane of the rear side and has a chrome ring around it to ensure your finger rests properly inside the circle. On the base and the top side edges, you have the antenna cut sections.
If you haven’t already guessed, the design on the Nexus 6P is a welcome departure from the other flagship phones on the market and is well complemented by a sturdy body.
The Google Nexus 6P houses the top of the line Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 chipset which houses an octa-core processor clocked at 2GHz. It houses the Adreno 430 GPU and is paired with 3GB of LPDDR4 RAM. It comes in three storage variants - 32GB, 64GB and 128GB and there is no provision to add in a microSD card to increase the storage.
Considering this is a Google flagship phone, the operating system is the latest flavour of Android called the Android 6.0 Marshmallow. We will elaborate more on the OS in the software section below. The phone has a 5.7-inch QuadHD (2560 x 1440 pixels) AMOLED display which gives you a pixel density of 518ppi. The display is protected by Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and it comes with an oleophobic coating. USB Type-C interface is used for charging and it houses a 3,450mAh battery. It does not support wireless charging though.
On the camera front, the Nexus 6P just like the Nexus 5X sports a 12.3MP sensor on the rear side and an 8MP sensor for the front-facing camera. We will look at the camera in detail in the camera section. On the connectivity front, you get a single nano SIM card slot which can take in a 4G LTE SIM card as well. There is Wi-fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 4.2, NFC, GPS and GLONASS and so on.
The thing with Nexus phones is the stock Android OS and the Nexus 6P comes with Android 6.0 Marshmallow. Visually speaking it borrows the material design elements from its predecessor - Android Lollipop - but there are some software flourishes which are brought on board by Marshmallow.
The first of these interesting features is called ‘Now on Tap’, which works by long pressing on the home button on any open screen. Google then scans the page and picks up certain words which you, as a user may want to look up. For instance, if you are talking about movies, Now on Tap will pull up Google Now style cards with links to IMDB, YouTube trailer, actor bio and so on. Now on Tap saves you some navigational steps while searching for something. It worked well with popular names for now and wasn't good with contextual information, but just like Google Now, it will get intelligent over time and it is good refinement building upon the Google Now experience.
The second interesting feature has to do with power saving mechanisms. Doze feature basically helps the OS realise when the phone is resting and is unused (using the gyro) and it puts the phone in the doze mode. So say you put your phone on your study desk and go to sleep at night. When you wake up the next day, there will be a minimal drop in battery percentage. This is because once the phone enters the doze mode, all CPU and network related background tasks are suspended. Another feature called App Standby, lets the OS suspend the network related activity of apps that are barely used.
Android Marshmallow also lets you adjust the volume levels for different tasks such as music, alarm and notifications. We also liked the device backup feature when we turned on the phone for the first time and entered our Google ID. It shows you which device you were last logged into and also gives you the option to download some or all the apps that you were using on the previous device. This saves up on a lot of time which is wasted in manually downloading apps again. Also every time you restart your phone, the phone will ask you to enter your security pattern, as an added layer before starting the device.
Even app permissions has got a shot in the arm. Android Marshmallow brings up app permissions as and when you are actually using the app, rather than giving you a big run down of app permissions you need to 'Accept' before installing the app. This is quite a handy feature and you can also go to Settings and check for instance which apps are using say, 'Camera' or 'Location' and may disable that app from using it if you so desire.
Google Nexus 6P sports a 5.7-inch WQHD (2560x1440 pixel) AMOLED display with a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 protection. While the side bezels are thin, the ones on the top and bottom are large thereby making the phone taller. One-handed use is possible but is uncomfortable. Thanks to the AMOLED display and the high resolution, the text appears crisp and images are sharp. Deep blacks and a good contrast ratio make this display great for watching videos and browsing through your photo library. Viewing angles are good, but you do still see that rainbow effect on the glass when viewed from the side. Reading on the display, be it long articles or ebooks, is a pleasure thanks to text sharpness.
Google Nexus 6P houses the top of the line Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC paired with 3GB of RAM which ensures that the phone performs smoothly. Snapdragon 810 SoC has been notorious for heating up, but Nexus 6P has managed to keep the heat in check. There were no instances, be it while shooting 4K video or while playing intensive games, when the phone became unbearably hot. Sure, the metallic body means that the phone will get warm but that is a bargain you have to make with any metal unibody phone, and it is true of any flagship phone. At no point during use did the phone shut down any app due to overheating.
The software complements the hardware well and we did not notice any lag or slowdown with the OS. The Android 6.0 Marshmallow works without any hitches on the Nexus 6P hardware. App switching, animations, time to first shot, gaming - everything just works quite well and there was no instance when were left twiddling our thumbs waiting for things to get done. Playing games such as Dead Trigger 2, Asphalt 8: Airborne, Modern Combat 5: Blackout gave no issues at all
The fingerprint scanner is really fast as well and its positioning is quite convenient provided you are holding the phone and it is not resting on table. The finger print scanner unlocks the phone without you having to wake up the device, which is cuts down on one navigational step. The best thing about the fingerprint scanner is that by the time you remove the phone, placing the index finger on the scanner, and bring it to your face - the phone is already unlocked and you save those couple seconds you would spend in unlocking the phone.
In terms of benchmark scores, the Nexus 6P was not chartbusting. Sony Xperia Z5 and Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ and the Apple iPhone 6s Plus gave higher numbers. Having said that, Nexus 6P is no minion. It gave a single-core Geekbench 3 score of 1321 and multi-core score of 4255 which is second only to the Galaxy S6 edge+ in the Android phones. Quadrant gave surprisingly low score at 24600 points as compared to 30k+ obtained on other Snapdragon 810 devices. Other scores were in line with other Snapdragon 810 chip sporting phones.
The Nexus 5’s camera wasn’t much to boast about considering the competition around the time. But with the Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X, Google has bumped up the camera significantly. With the Nexus 6P, we get a 12.3MP Sony sensor on the rear camera and an 8MP front camera. The pixel size is at 1.55 microns on the rear sensor and 1.4 microns on the front camera. While the rear camera has an f/2.0 aperture, the front camera has an f/2.4 aperture. The rear camera on the Nexus 6P is placed inside a Corning Gorilla Glass 4 enclosure which makes the rear side of the phone protrude out by a slight amount on the top. On the left hand side you have the camera section followed by the dual-tone LED flash unit and a laser assisted AF unit. The rear camera is capable of shooting 4K videos at 30fps.
The Google Camera app is as simple as it can get, which can be a boon as well as a bane. A boon for those who just want to click a good photo, leaving everything to the camera to decide and not bother about ISO, white balance, aperture and so on. Double clicking the power button launches the camera even from sleep mode. A bane for those who like tweaking the settings. And with a camera which is as good as that on the Nexus 6P, there should have clearly been some provision for that kind of consumer as well. Sure, you can download third party camera apps, but the native app could clearly have more than just HDR+ mode, timer mode, Photo sphere and lens blur. Simple thing such as filters are not present.
Please note: Click on the images to see the high resolution uncompressed images
Coming to the image quality, well we have to say that the Nexus 6P manages to impress. Daylight shots are packed with details, with sharpness maintained throughout the image. The Auto HDR+ mode is a bit of hit and a miss affair. While it was able to balance out the shadows well, the highlights have a propensity to be washed off in bright outdoor conditions. Purple fringing was hardly noticeable despite shooting objects against the sun, which is quite good. Laser assisted autofocus locks on focus accurately, although it does take a second to get it. Image 3 below was shot in a moving vehicle, but the object was in focus.
Low light shooting results are also quite better than a lot of the phone cameras we have tested in the past. The Nexus 6P low light images do show noise, but it appears as luminance noise rather than distracting chroma noise. There is a definite loss in fine detail on far off objects, but overall image quality is almost at par with that obtained from the Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+ in some cases. Features such as Photo sphere is fun to make 360 degree photographs, but Lens Blur is not that impressive.
Image processing does take time, but the good thing is that you can continue shooting as it happens in the background. But if you want to immediately see that HDR+ image you clicked, well then you will have to wait till the processing is done. On the whole the images obtained from the Nexus 6P have a slight warm tinge and the iPhone 6s Plus does offer more natural looking images. If we had to compare, the Nexus 6P and Apple iPhone 6s Plus’s cameras are at par - which is a huge compliment considering that Nexus phones have never really been known for their cameras. Nexus 6P is out to change that perspective.
While still images still come out blur free despite image stabilisation, the lack of image stabilisation starts rearing its ugly head while shooting videos. The Nexus 6P is capable of shooting 4K videos at 30fps along with full HD videos. Video quality is good and we quite liked the clarity of audio being recorded, despite shooting in a crowded pub on one ocassion thanks to the presence of a noise cancelling microphone just under the camera module. Slow-motion shooting is offered at 120fps and 240fps at HD resolution.
Battery Life: 8/10
Nexus 6P houses a large 3,450mAh battery which is non-removable. Here again, Nexus 6P delivers the goods. We could easily get a day and half of regular use involving surfing the web, calling, messaging, clicking pictures and videos, gaming and streaming videos. The doze mode which gets activated when the phone is not in use helps improve standby time significantly. You cannot activate the doze mode manually, but you can activate the battery saver mode any time you want which is good. PC Mark for Android gave us 7 hours 14 mins.
Verdict and Price in India.
If you have read the review completely, you may have seen some words quite often such as smooth, fast, quick. In the Android ecosystem, the Google Nexus 6P clearly stands much higher than other flagship competition. The Samsung Galaxy S6 series is the only true competitor to the Nexus 6P. But the Nexus 6P has one weapon which is still to come to competition - Android 6.0 Marshmallow!
At Rs 39,999, the Google Nexus 6P is the Android smartphone to go for if you are looking for a smooth experience, stock Android OS, great camera and a good battery life. There were barely any issues we faced with this phone. Large phone size, rear side getting warm while gaming would be nitpicking when put beside the advantages and user experience the phone offers. The Nexus 6P running Android 6.0 offers one thing that has been missing from other Android flagships - optimisation. Something we only observed with the Apple iPhone 6s Plus and iOS 9 this year. The way Nexus 6P has managed to keep the hot Snapdragon 810 chipset under check is praise worthy.
Nexus 5 owners who are looking to upgrade and are willing to spend more money, should just go for the Nexus 6P unless you aren’t a fan of large displays, in which case the Nexus 5X is a good bet. Samsung’s Galaxy S6 series has good phones but its TouchWiz UI is not to everyone’s liking. Nexus 6P being a Google device, will also be the first to get any OS updates, so you are safe from a future-proofing perspective.
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