The Huawei Nexus 6P is one of the most hyped and eagerly anticipated Android smartphones in recent memory. With such lofty expectations, delivering anything less than spectacular would probably be considered a failure. Luckily, the folks at Huawei (say it with me, “Wah-Way“) and Google have delivered the goods, in a big way.
Android purists can finally rejoice, this is the Nexus device everyone has been waiting for. A Nexus phone with little to no sacrifice. With almost every single Nexus phone prior to the 6P, you had to compromise something. Not enough storage, shitty screen, shitty processor, shitty battery life, shitty camera, etc. The 6P not perfect, no smartphone is, but I can safely say that this is easily the best Nexus phone to date.
Ports: Data & Charging: USB Type-C
Audio: Jack 3.5mm
Buttons: Power Button
SIM: Nano SIM
Indicators: 1 LED notification light (multicolored)
5.7-inch WQHD AMOLED (2560x1440, 518ppi)
Rear: 12.3MP rear camera (1.55 μM, f/2.0), IR Laser assisted autofocus
Speakers: Front Stereo speakers
Microphone: Noise cancellation
Review Unit: $549 64GB Graphite
SIZE, BUILD QUALITY, & DESIGN
Liking or disliking a design is mostly subjective. So I can’t knock ya if you don’t think the Nexus 6P is all that attractive. It breaks the mold a bit. The front of the 6P is pretty standard fare, but the back, on the other hand, is where the design departs a bit from your average everyday smartphone. The 6P’s unique visor-esque camera housing protrudes a bit from what is otherwise a very slim phone. The “bump” is much more minimal than most pictures portray, in fact, if you are a phone case user, you’d be hard pressed to even notice the slight difference in height. Overall, I am a big fan of the 6P’s design, it’s not the same old shit you see everywhere else.
The 6P is not a small phone by any means. But compared to last year’s Nexus 6, it’s a much more wieldy and manageable device. Despite being the exact same height as the Nexus 6, the 6P is about 5mm shorter in width and 3.3mm in thickness. This may not sound like much, but the difference in width, thickness and shape of the phone makes all the difference in the world.
The Nexus 6 was, and still is, the most uncomfortable phone I have ever tried to use. One handed use was virtually impossible, it was just too fucking massive. Ultimately, it’s size was it’s undoing for me personally. Luckily the 6P manages to keep fix all of the size issues I had with the Nexus 6 while still managing to keep a large display. But to each their own, if the Nexus 6 was the perfect size for you, I don’t think you have much of a problem getting used to the slightly smaller frame of the Nexus 6P.
The design of the phone plays just as big of a part as the size of the phone when it comes to usability. The width, thinness, and the flat chamfered sides/edges of the 6P provide a firm and stable grip. It’s not quite as palm friendly as say the Nexus 5 or Galaxy S6, but it’s actually quite comfortable to hold, for a phablet that is.
Build Quality & Design
I am not a fan when it comes to the word “premium” when describing a mobile device class or choice of materials. The “P” in Nexus 6P stands for premium, but I prefer the term “quality”. The Nexus 6P personifies high-quality. From its solid aluminum body to the finish on the power button, everything about the 6P screams excellence.
The unibody construction of the 6P is machined from a mostly solid slab of high-grade aluminum. The aluminum is coated with another material that leaves the final touch kind of hard to describe. The phone is cool to the touch, like any metal, but in no way is the material slippery. The coating on the aluminum provides an almost rubber-like feel, and I mean that in the best way possible. It’s not rubbery, it does not feel cheap, it just feels a bit different. As I said before, its hard to describe. But I think you will like it.
The Nexus 6P Visor
As a briefly mentioned before, the Nexus 6P features a slight hump or visor as some would call it. This visor houses the camera, flash, laser auto-focus, and NFC module. It looks different compared to every other smartphone on the market, but that’s not a bad thing. I think it looks unique and actually pretty cool, certainly a conversation starter to those who have never seen the Nexus 6P before.
Taking a walk around the sides of the phone, the first thing you notice are the 6P’s beautiful chamfered edges. The decision to go with chamfered edges, opposed to rounded, works quite well with the 6P. It adds a pleasing aesthetic look while also aiding in its ability to be held comfortably and securely.
Nexus 6P Speaker Grill & USB Type-C Port
On the top, you will find your typical 3.5mm headset jack while on the bottom you will find a USB Type-C charging/data port. In my review of the OnePlus 2, I stated my dislike for being one of the first to adopt this new technology standard while providing very little to no benefit to the end user. The same goes here, while a little more commonplace, USB Type-C is still in its infancy and still has a very long way to go before it really starts to become commonplace. You can plug it in via any direction, but this is but a small convenience compared to the larger inconvenience of needed to purchase all new USB cables. But unlike the OnePlus 2, at least the 6P supports some variant of fast charging, more on that later. But I digress, these are the growing pains often experienced by early adopters. It’s just something you are going to have to deal with and wait for the rest of the world to catch up with.
On the sides, you will find the micro SIM tray and power & volume buttons. There is nothing too spectacular going on here. The power button features a textured power button similar to the Moto X Pure Edition, which adds well to the overall fit and finish of the device. Both the volume and power buttons feature a very pleasant tactile click, but they can be a little sensitive. The buttons (especially the power button) do not require much force to push down. This button sensitivity might lead to some accidental screen offs and volume control issues. It’s annoying, not a deal breaker, but it is probably my biggest complaint about this phone.
Nexus 6P Textured Power Button
The front of the device features the traditional Nexus, all glass, all black panel, void of any carrier or device branding. The front screen also features two dark gray bars that double as the 6P’s dual stereo speakers. It breaks the aesthetic of a perfectly smooth, black surface, but the sound quality you get from the speakers is well worth the sacrifice, more on the speaker quality later.
The front and bottom bezels are a bit large, which makes for a rather tall phone, but if smaller bezels would have made for a thicker device than I wouldn’t change a thing. On the other hand, if a thicker device meant more battery, absolutely. Fatten that bitch up. But if a thicker device, means smaller bezels, then no. The Nexus 6P’s thinness makes it more manageable, the only way I would sacrifice that comfort is for a larger battery. More on battery life in a moment.
Fitting in between the categories of software features and hardware features, you have Nexus Imprint or Google’s fancy name for a rear-mounted fingerprint scanner.
With mobile payments quickly gaining ground, and security being at the forefront of today’s mobile issues, Google has fully embraced the power and security of human biometrics. Namely, your fingerprint. They are certainly not the first to implement fingerprint scanning as a security/authentication measure, but they are the first to get it right in my opinion.
The Nexus 6P’s fingerprint sensor is located on the back of the phone, opposed to the front. After using the fingerprint sensor on the OnePlus 2 and the Samsung Galaxy S6, (both feature front sensors) I gotta say that the back mounted sensor on the 6P is far superior in both its location and functionality.
Nexus Imprint Fingerprint Sensor
Android Marshmallow has fingerprint authentication baked into the OS. You can verify passwords, make purchases on the Google Play store, use it to authenticate Android Pay purchases, etc.
Nexus Imprint also allows you to completely unlock your phone without the need to press another button. Simply place your fingertip on the sensor, and you are unlocked. Almost instantly. It’s that fast, and damn accurate to boot. I’d say it works 97% (estimate obviously) of the time, and the times it doesn’t work are probably more the fault of my finger placement than anything. If you’re really good, you can unlock your phone before it’s even out of your pocket. Nexus imprint is easily one of my favorite features of Android Marshmallow and the Nexus 6P.
If you’ve seen the videos of the asshat on YouTube destroying his Nexus 6P by “easily” bending it in half, let me drop some knowledge on you. It’s not that delicate, it’s certainly not fragile. As long as you are not trying to deliberately destroy your 6P, you are gonna be just fine. That test is about as realistic as accidentally dropping your phone from the top of a skyscraper. It just won’t happen in your everyday life. So take my advice, don’t light it on fire, don’t intentionally dig into it with a rock/diamond, don’t try bending it, don’t shoot it with a gun. Basically, if you treat it like a normal human being, you shouldn’t have any concerns about the fragility of the Nexus 6P. It should hold up fine to everyday wear and tear, and if you’re concerned about the back getting all scratched up, you should probably pick up a case, because scratches just happen to unprotected devices.
SOFTWARE AND PERFORMANCE
A new Nexus device often coincides with the release of a new flavor of Android. The Nexus 6P is no exception. The 6P and the 5X are the first phones to feature the latest and greatest Android offering from Google, Android 6.0 Marshmallow.
Cosmetically, Android 6.0 might seem like a minor upgrade from Android Lollipop. But once you dig a little deeper, you’ll find that Android 6.0 has quite a few (useful) hidden gems.
The first thing you will probably notice is the sheer speed of Marshmallow on the 6P. The OS in combination with the 6P’s Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB DDR4 RAM, make for one of, if not the, fastest and most fluid Android experiences ever. Launching apps, browsing the web, multitasking, and navigating the home screen are as smooth as they have ever been. Although very rare, the occasional hiccup can be expected, but for the most part, Marshmallow on the Nexus 6P just fucking flies. Nothing can currently match it.
I am not a big fan of synthetic mobile benchmarks. From my experience, a high score doesn’t always equate to better (or even good) performance in the real world. They are good for bragging rights, and pissing contests, and gauging the all around theoretical power of a device, but not their not all that great at predicting real world performance. So I don’t put a whole lot of stock into benchmark scores. But for those that are keeping track, the Nexus 6P scored well in Antutu, 57-58K average, but not great when compared to some other high-end devices out there. But I really could give a shit, the 6P passes the eye test and it absolutely screams.
As you would expect with any major release, Google has made a slew of improvements and additions to their latest Android OS. Most of the improvements are mostly superficial, and will probably go unnoticed by the majority of Android users. But there are two additions in particular that deserve a bit of extra attention. Those additions being Doze and Google’s “Now on Tap”.
Doze basically puts your phone to sleep. When you are not using your device for a period of time, Doze will put most nonvital operations to sleep. This way, your apps aren’t draining your battery when you are not using the phone, dramatically improving standby time, thus improving overall battery life. Android can also place seldom used apps on standby automatically.
Google Now on Tap
Also new to Marshmallow is an extension of Google Now called Now on Tap. It’s basically Google Now, anytime, anywhere.
For example, let’s say you were listening to an artist on Spotify and you wanted to know some more information about the band. Instead of typing the band name into a Google search, all you have to do is long press the home button and Now on Tap will automatically find relevant information based on what is currently on your screen. In our case, Google gives us several options to choose from. You can go directly to the bands website, pull up their Facebook page, do a Google search, etc. It’s really cool when it works.
Google Now on Tap, example of use in Spotify
When the subject matter is clearly defined, I have found that Now on Tap works properly, most of the time. When the subject is not as clearly defined, or you are viewing a list of many potential topics, Now on Tap doesn’t always pull up what you are looking for. It’s not perfect and could use some refinement, but I expect this feature to mature just like any other Android feature.
The 6P sports an enormous 5.7″ 2560 x 1440 WQHD AMOLED display. It is FAN-FUCKING-TASTIC. You’d be hard-pressed to find a better display, outside of a newer Samsung device. Bright, vivid colors, deep inky blacks, and excellent viewing angles make for one hell of a beautiful display.
I have noticed that colors on the 6P tend to be quite vibrant and a bit oversaturated when compared to LCD, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing, it’s just a matter of personal preference. I personally like the color reproduction on the Nexus 6P. As far as black levels and contrast goes, you’re not going to get much better than the 6P’s AMOLED display.
Thus far, I have had zero issues with touch sensitivity. Touches register every time, I wouldn’t call it over sensitive, it just works the way it should, each and every time. There’s not a whole lot more you can ask for.
Indoor visibility is terrific and viewing angles are superb, but once you venture outside, you might want to bring an umbrella. As with most AMOLED displays, outdoor visibility can be a bit problematic in direct sunlight. It’s still usable, but lagging behind a traditional backlit LCD display.
Now on to the camera, the Achilles heel of the Nexus family. “Great phone, but the camera sucks”. You have probably read a similar statement in just about every Nexus review prior to the Nexus 6P. Luckily, this time around, Google has put greater emphasis into taking great photos. They made quite a big deal out of their photo quality at the 6P & 5X unveiling.
The camera on the Nexus 6P (and 5X) features a ƒ/2.0 aperture and 1.55 micron pixels. The camera also packs a few new features. Smart burst will allow you to take 30 shots within one second and will then allow you to easily create animated GIF’s and auto-select the best image to keep. The 6P (not included in the 5X) also includes 240FPS high-speed video, allowing you to create some very cool slow motion video shots, but in 720P only (use in good lighting).
The video camera does not feature OIS (optical image stabilization), but instead relies upon digital image stabilization. It performs admirably at stabilizing video, but OIS it is not.
If you’ve used a Nexus or Google camera before, you should feel right at home here. Nothing too exciting going on. The camera/video interface is quite easy to navigate and easy to use for the most part. Camera performance is very snappy, it’s quick to launch and quick to snap a photo. It’s even faster if you use the “double click the power button to open” camera feature. Which doesn’t require your phone to be unlocked. It’s one of the faster smartphone cameras I have ever used.
I have found that the picture quality overall is quite good, in almost all types of lighting. Video looks equally great. Colors look good, and details are sharp. It’s not the best of the best, but easily the best Nexus camera to date. But don’t take my word for it, check out the gallery below and make your own assumptions.
Direct Sunlight, Macro (click to view full resolution)
Direct Sunlight (click to view full resolution)
Direct Sunlight, Macro (click to view full resolution)
Artificial Light (click to view full resolution)
Artificial Light (click to view full resolution)
Early morning Sunlight & Shade (click to view full resolution)
4K Video sample
240 FPS High speed sample
SOUND & CALL QUALITY
The speakers on the 6P are very similar in placement, shape, and sound quality to the Moto X Pure Edition. For a phone, the speakers can really blast some sound. This makes watching movies, playing games, making calls, and listening to music that much more enjoyable on the 6P. Audio is clear and undistorted.
If you still use your smartphone to make calls to fellow human beings, you are in luck. The Nexus 6P can do just that, and it does it very well.
I am on T-Mobile here in the Indianapolis area and this is the first time I have ever had the pleasure of experiencing HD calling. I guess my wife and myself just never had compatible HD calling phones. Call quality is utterly fantastic. The audio is akin to something you would hear from VOIP, or Skype call. It sounds amazing. Non-HD calls sound great as well, but not nearly as clear, about par for the course when compared to most smartphones.
The Nexus 6P also supports T-Mobile’s WiFi calling right out of the box, just activate it in the Settings>More menu and you are good to go. I always have a great T-Mobile signal at my home and work, so I don’t really need WiFi calling, but it’s really nice to know that it’s there should I ever need it.
BATTERY LIFE & CHARGING
The Nexus smartphone line has never been known for its great battery life. Nexus is often maligned for having poor battery life from one generation to the next. While not “great”, the Nexus 6P’s battery is certainly an improvement from previous generations. Somehow, the folks at Hawaii Huawei managed to squeeze in a hefty 3450mAh non-removable battery into the slim frame of the 6P. It’s bigger than I was expecting, especially considering that the 3000mAh battery has almost become the norm as of late. The 3450mAh capacity is certainly near the top when compared to other comparable flagship devices.
Typical weekend day, heavy usage, Skype calling, sports scores, photo/video. Slight (5%) charge so I could make it through Halloween night.
Typical weekend day usage
A big battery does not always mean great battery life, it certainly helps, but many other factors contribute to overall battery life. In my experience, the battery life on the 6P has been above average. Getting through a typical workday (with WiFi on) is easy. Depending on usage, I usually leave with about 60-75% remaining (depending on usage). More than enough to get me through the rest of the night.
Even on heavy use days (Saturday’s and Sunday’s) I can get through an entire day (13-16 hours) of photo taking, score/fantasy tracking, Skype calling, and web browsing without having to plug in. Aided by Android’s new Doze feature, surprisingly battery life on the Nexus 6P doesn’t suck, not as much as it has in the past anyway. Most users should be able to comfortably manage to get through their daily routine without a snag.
If you are going to release a flagship device, you gotta have some notable form of fast charging. The days of 2-3 hour charges just don’t cut it anymore. While the Nexus 6P may not be a Quick Charge 2.0/3.0 device, that doesn’t mean it can’t charge almost as quickly as some of the fastest charging phones out there.
While it may not be the fastest charging phone on the planet, it’s no slouch either. Charge times are very respectable when compared to other flagships. Total charge time from 0% could range from an hour and a half to just a bit longer depending upon the factors involved.
One hour charge example 10:21 PM – 11:21 PM. 30% – 90% or 60% increase in 60 minutes.
If you have less time, say you want to charge up for a half hour or so at the airport before you hop on a flight, you can still get quite a bit of juice. In just 35 minutes, I was able to charge from 4% to 50%. Which is basically enough to get you through another half day. Not too shabby.
In longer, sustained charges, the speed of your charge will slow down significantly the closer you get to 100%. So technically, the lower your battery, the faster it will charge.
If you read through the entire review, you probably noticed that I didn’t have a whole hell of a lot of negative shit to bitch about, which is kind of rare. I am usually very picky, especially when it comes to Android phones, it takes quite a bit to impress me. But I’ll be damned if the 6P didn’t do just that.
At $499 for the base 32GB ($549 64GB, $649 128GB) model, it is priced about $100 more than the recent influx of $399 flagship quality devices from OnePlus, Motorola, ZTE, and Asus to name a few. But it’s price is still well below the latest flagship offerings from Samsung, LG, and that fruit company. But it’s not like you aren’t getting something for your extra cash. You’re not just throwing away money. You are getting one of, if not the best Android phone on the market, not to mention one of the biggest perks of owning a Nexus device, fast and timely updates direct from Google. Get off of the fence, if you can afford the 6P, you won’t regret it.