This year, Google was generous and gave us two Nexus devices to gawk over: the high-end Nexus 6P by Huawei and the more mid-range Nexus 5X by LG. We’ve decided to take a look at the fancier of the two — after all, the “P” in “6P” does stand for premium.
And it’s a really interesting device. Made by the relatively unknown (at least in the US) Chinese manufacturer Huawei, it veers strongly from the soft plastic design of the Nexus 5X, but you still get all the advantages of having a device running pure Android.
Is it really the best option in the Nexus lineup?
- Price: $500, $550, or $650 depending on storage options
- Screen: 5.7″ WQHD (2560px x 1440px) AMOLED (558 ppi)
- Dimensions: 159.3mm x 77.8mm x 7.3mm (6.27in x 3.06in x 0.29in)
- Weight: 178g (6.28oz)
- Processor: 2.0Ghz octa-core 64-bit Snapdragon 810 with Adreno 430 GPU
- RAM: 3GB
- Storage: 64GB
- Cameras: 12MP f/2.0 rear-facing, 5MP f/2.4 front-facing
- Speakers: Dual front-facing speakers
- Battery: 3450mAh
- Operating System: Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Extras: Fingerprint sensor
- Color: Frost
Look and Feel
This is a gorgeous phone — depending upon how you feel about that black bar along the top of the back. I think it’s a really nice aesthetic, and I love the huge landscape-oriented Nexus logo. The edges are chamfered in a nice (if iPhone-like) style, and the whole thing is made of a very solid metal.
To tell the truth, though, it’s a huge phone. It’s even bigger than my current OnePlus One, and despite my relatively large hands, I struggle to use this thing one-handed. It’s not just that it’s large, but the metal is also extremely slick. It’s a slippery phone, and I’m in constant fear that I’m going to drop it while using it.
So those pretty looks and large screen come at a price — gripability. I also pressed the volume buttons a few too many times on accident as I was trying to shuffle this monster around in my hand. The power and volume buttons are low enough to make them easily pressable, but they’re also right where you need to put pressure to be able to keep this thing from falling.
To some, “large metal phone” is going to be a bit off-putting, but for others, it’s the premium device they’ve always wanted. It really comes down to personal preference here. Personally, I’m not sure if I would want to use this phone longterm without a case.
The enormous 5.7″ screen on the 6P is an AMOLED display, which means it has good contrast and is able to selectively turn on pixels — this allows for the Ambient Display feature, which can show you the time and your notifications in black and white when you pick up the device or get a new notification. I didn’t find Ambient Display to be particularly useful — I prefer the built-in LED for letting me know about notifications — but for some, it’s a nice way to save battery by turning the screen on less.
In general, the screen isn’t the brightest I’ve ever seen. You could have some issues viewing it in direct sunlight, but other than that, it’s hard to beat that WQHD quality. You definitely won’t spot any pixels here.
If I could only choose one feature to talk about in this review, it would be the speakers. They are fantastic. Dual front-facing speakers really need to become standard in the smartphone industry. At full volume, this phone easily fills a room with music.
And if you hold the phone at full volume, you can feel the speakers vibrating — that’s some power. I really enjoyed listening to music with the Nexus 6P; its speakers just weren’t comparable to any other smartphone I’ve used. They were even louder than the HTC One M9’s dual front-facing speakers.
The 12MP shooter on the rear of the Nexus 6P has an impressive f/2.0 that results in some very good low-light photos. Even the 5MP camera on the front has a decent f/2.4 and takes solid selfies.
But what I really enjoyed was the built-in camera app — the Google Camera app. It has some wonderful secret features, but specifically for the Nexus 6P, Google has added some other cool tricks like SmartBurst (hold to take burst photos, easily create collages or GIFs), Auto-HDR+, slow motion video capture, and an improved user interface.
And honestly, it’s great. It takes photos super quickly, they come out nice and clear, and the interface is lovely.
Alright, so here’s the big notable change we can all talk about and debate the merits of. For me, I found the fingerprint scanner to be a double-edged sword.
On the one hand, it’s super fast and convenient when you’re holding the phone. The sensor is located on the back of the device right where your index finger would naturally fall, and you can unlock the screen instantly by just lightly touching it. Seriously. It’s so fast. You don’t even have to wake the phone first!
But, the other side of that coin is that if your phone is resting on a table, there’s no good way to wake it up. You have to pick up the phone to use the fingerprint scanner, and there’s no double-tap to wake, so you have to feel around for the power button and then type in your backup PIN.
I want to love the fingerprint scanner. It’s brilliant when you’re holding the 6P, but leave it sitting on your table, and it’s going to become a good deal more annoying to wake up.
Ah, now this is really why you’re buying a Nexus device, right? The 6P runs pure, stock Android, which means that you’re getting Android exactly as Google imagined it. On top of that, you get updates immediately and don’t have to wait for manufacturers and carriers to work through their bureaucracy.
Of course it’s running the newest version of Android, 6.0 Marshmallow, and it’s dead simple to use. Google has made a few nice additions to Marshmallow that generally make things more intuitive. One of the best examples of this is Google Now on Tap. Simply hold down the home button, and Google will show you relevant information about the things on your screen.
But in general, it’s the Android you know and (hopefully) love. You won’t find all the bloatware of a Samsung device here, and if you buy unlocked from Google or Amazon, you won’t have any carrier bloatware either. It feels like a clean, smooth experience in the software department.
Plus, rooting could not be easier since it’s a Nexus. If you’re a fan of rooting your device and customizing it with custom ROMs, this is the phone for you without a doubt.
Given the powerful Snapdragon 810 processor and 3GB of RAM that are in this beast, you shouldn’t expect to encounter apps that lag or stutter. I managed to multitask, watch videos, and play games without any trouble.
Many were worried about the Snapdragon 810 having overheating issues, and while it certainly got warm after prolonged periods of usage, I wouldn’t say that it was worse than other phones.
Powered by a 3450mAh battery, the Nexus 6P definitely isn’t lacking in juice. It does have to power a huge screen, though, so your screen on time might not end up being the best of any smartphone — but it’s definitely not bad. Its standby when not using the screen is great, probably thanks in part to Marshmallow’s new Doze feature that puts your apps to sleep while the screen is off.
But really, I made it through my days without a problem using the Nexus 6P. I’d say it has above average battery life, but the best part about the it is the fast-charging that is available thanks to the new USB Type-C.
Sure, your old microUSB cables aren’t going to work with the Nexus 6P, but that’s only because this phone is the future. The world is moving towards USB Type-C to replace microUSB and regular USB ports — and that’s fantastic because it’s a small universal port and it’s reversible. No more putting in your cable the wrong way.
Still, the 6P doesn’t support wireless charging. That’s a bummer, but the USB Type-C charging is much faster anyway.
The model that I tested was the 64GB Frost, but it comes in three different colors, three different storage options, and three different price ranges.
The colors are Frost, Graphite, and Aluminum Silver.
For what you’re getting, it’s not a bad deal. This is clearly a high-end smartphone, and it’s priced pretty fairly for that.
Should You Buy It?
The Nexus 6P is a mammoth of a phone, but we live in a world of phablets now. Its fingerprint scanner has its advantages, but what I really love about this phone is the speakers — and that enormous screen certainly isn’t a downside either. I just wish the phone was less slippery.
I would say that if you’re in the market for a phablet, this is definitely one to consider. If you like that fingerprint scanner and have a need for powerful speakers, it’d be worth picking this over the Galaxy Note 5. However, if you’d prefer a smaller phone that’s easier to get your hand around, there are smaller and cheaper options out there.
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