Nexus 6 Review: The Nexus 6 is DEAD. Long Live The Nexus 6P

Reviews Richard Goodwin 09:25, 10 Dec 2015

The Nexus 6 represents some pretty big changes to the way Google does phones. But not all of them are good.

Typical Price: 
Premium build materials; Plenty of power; Great OS in the form of Android Lollipop; Improved Imaging
Will DEFINITELY be too big for some; Battery isn't as good as it should be given its size; QHD display feels like overkill; Price won't impress legacy Nexus users
The Nexus 6 isn’t a bad handset; it’s just disappointing to a dyed-in-the-wool Nexus user like myself. I had high hopes for this handset –– even more so when I saw the specs and that Motorola was in charge of designing and building it. But after testing it I was left with a decidedly bitter taste in my mouth.

UPDATE: The Nexus 6 is no longer available inside Google Play, meaning your only hope in securing one is via online retailers, cash converters or on Amazon or eBay.

The Nexus 6 joins the Nexus 5 and Nexus 4 in Google’s Nexus heaven and though it won’t be missed quite as much as the Nexus 5, Google’s Nexus 6 was still a notable addition to Google’s ever-developing Nexus line of handsets.

2015 saw the release of two Nexus handsets built by LG and Huawei. During the past several months there have been A LOT of leaks about the handsets, what they will entail, and how Google plans on moving its Nexus range of handsets forwards. Never before has there been two Nexus phones released inside a year. But after the lukewarm reception towards last year’s Nexus 6, Google is coming out guns blazing with two options aimed at the middle and upper ends of the market.

Google has confirmed it will officially launch the handsets on September 29 alongside Android Marshmallow, the next evolution of The Big G’s world-dominating mobile OS. Quite a bit is now known about LG and Huawei’s Nexus handsets, but we won’t know squat about prices and availability until Google launches the devices on the 29th.

Here Are Google’s Android M Preview Release Notes 

What's included

  • Developer Preview 2 includes an updated SDK with system images, documentation, and samples for developing against the latest Android M platform.
  • SDK platform and system images (Nexus and emulator) for building and testing. You can download the updated tools from the SDK Manager, and the system images are available by over-the-air (OTA) update or download (see below).
  • Updated documentation. The Behavior Changes, API Overview, and Permissions documents have been updated to reflect the latest changes in the platform. An updated Developer Documentation download package is available, including full reference docs and API diff reports.
  • Translations of the documentation are now available. Use the language selector at the bottom right corner of any page to switch languages. Note that some of the translated docs are not yet updated for Developer Preview 2 (coming soon).

But right now, right this very minute, you can still get hold of the current-gen Nexus 6. While it's true that the Nexus 6 is a big 'ol 6in phablet and perhaps not to everyone's liking in terms of scale, it does pack a rather competetive set of hardware and features that remains very compelling. The other downside to that is the hike in price over its predecessors, but more importantly, is it worth it? We take a look...

Nexus 6 Review: Design

First and foremost the Nexus 6 is BIG. And when I say big, I mean it’s really freaking BIG. It’s bigger than the iPhone 6 Plus and the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, so if you’re not used to handsets of this size, well, it might take some getting used to. Exact measurements are 159.3 x 83 x 10.1 mm and it weighs in at 184g, making it thicker, heavier and generally more substantial in the hand than both aforementioned phablets.

The Nexus 6, therefore, is a very domineering handset. It dominates your pocket, your hand and pretty much anything you pull up on its awesome 6in QHD display. I love the back panel, the attention to detail and its more premium feel. Motorola has long been one of KYM’s favourite handset makers, and the Nexus 6 is testament to just how good Moto is at building and designing handsets. 

But this is a GOOD THING. Trust me. I came to this review from an iPhone 6 Plus, which is also gargantuan-sized handset. It’s extremely thin too, and this means you kind of need a case on it, or else it just feels like it’s going to slide out of your hand and smash into pieces on the floor. The Nexus 6 is the opposite, however, and a lot of this is to do with its thicker body and eye-catching rounded back panel, which rests up nicely against the contours of your palm.  

The Nexus 6 is about the same size as the iPhone 6 Plus yet, bizarrely, it feels easier to handle. As I said earlier, a lot of this is to do with its weight, shape and proportions –– the iPhone is too skinny for its own good. When you have a hold of the Nexus 6 you don’t ever feel like you’re going to drop it; it’s nice, grippy and it also doesn't feel like it’s made out of spider webs and fairy dust. I’ve also yet to hear about a bent Nexus 6.

The Nexus 6 is also the most premium-looking Nexus Google has produced, with its attractive metal trim, porthole-style camera lens surround, and high-quality polycarbonate chassis and back panel. If you've seen the 2014 Moto X, just imagine it stretched out and you’ve basically got a Nexus 6. But despite all of this it is still a very large handset, so if you have small hands the Nexus 6 might not be for you, not unless you enjoy daily challenges. I can just about manage to operate it with one hand, but it’s a stretch.

It also nearly had a fingerprint scanner too, as noted by Dennis Woodside in an interview with The Telegraph: "The secret behind that is that it was supposed to be fingerprint recognition, and Apple bought the best supplier. So the second best supplier was the only one available to everyone else in the industry and they weren't there yet," the Motorola CEO told The Telegraph.

The company Woodside is referring to is AuthenTec, a company Apple bought in 2012 in order to expand its fingerprint technology inside future iPhone models, starting with the iPhone 5s, from 2013 onwards. There are other players in the market, which is why you see other, non-iPhone handsets rocking fingerprint scanners. But –– at least according to Woodside –– Apple has the best technology inside its iPhones and iPads currently available. 

My girlfriend found it next to impossible to use, and also wasn’t impressed by the fact it wouldn’t fit in her pocket, either. So, yeah, the Nexus 6 is definitely not for the faint-hearted. It’s a lot bigger than pretty much everything else out there and it takes up a lot of room in your pockets. That’s all I’m going to say about its proportions, however, as the ups and downs of device size, like a lot of things, is very subjective –– some people love large handsets while others despise them. Either way, you have been warned.

The Nexus 6 is also one of the first larger handsets released that has actually got a negative response from quite a few people; a quick look in the comments below and elsewhere on the site shows just how little many care for Google’s decision to switch to a 6in display setup. Usually, as in with handsets like the original Note and the like, people weren’t bothered about the device’s HUGE proportions. But with the Nexus 6, Google seems to have ruffled quite a few feathers. And the reason why is because A LOT of people have been waiting a VERY long time for this device to arrive.

The other reason is that the Nexus 5 was a pretty much perfect device, save for its camera and battery. Had Google simply addressed these issues, upgraded the CPU and left things, mostly, as they were then I think A LOT more punters would have been asking Santa for a brand new Nexus this Christmas. 

Nexus 6 Review: Display 

The Nexus 6’s 6in QHD AMOLED display is a thing of beauty. It’s bright, colourful and boasts void-like blacks. Detail is off the charts and everything just seems to POP off the display, but that’s not surprising with a pixel density of 493ppi. I like looking at things in high quality, but I don’t recall ever thinking 1080p wasn’t up to the task. In this sense QHD displays are a bit like smartwatches; nobody remembers asking for them and yet here they are, bold as brass, costing you money.

And I’m not just being a miserable old git here, either. There really is very little point to this level of resolution on a smartphone; the costs of implementing it are high, get passed onto the consumer, and outweigh the benefits. Full HD –– i.e. 1080p –– is perfectly adequate on a mobile device for playing games, watching movies and browsing the web. But more than that 1080p is A LOT more power-efficient, which means better battery life. And what’s the chief complaint levelled at smartphones these days? It’s definitely NOT that their displays’ aren’t high resolution enough.

Seriously, every QHD smartphone we’ve tested this year has gobbled up juice like an alcoholic in a distillery. But when you figure that QHD panels have a lot more pixels to power than their 1080p brethren, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why EVERY single QHD phone to date has been a phablet –– they need MASSIVE batteries (the Nexus 6’s 3200mAh cell is no exception) just to bring battery performance back in-line with nominal, everyday standards.

Case in point, the Samsung Galaxy Alpha, Nokia Lumia 930, Sony Xperia Z3 and iPhone 6 Plus lasted all day with heavy-usage, including video, while the Nexus 6 struggled to get to 6pm with similar treatment (DESPITE having a much larger battery than the iPhone and Samsung device). And that, quite frankly, is ridiculous. A battery this size, with well-optimised software, should deliver a good two-day’s worth of use.

As I said, all those additional pixels come at a cost. 

And this trend will get worse in 2015/16 as firms like LG and Samsung look to bring 4K panels to smartphones. I’m all for awesome displays, really I am, but if they are to the detriment of battery life, which, in most cases these types of panels are, then I’d rather just wait for some innovation in battery technology before strapping a power-hungry display on my handset. I do like looking at things in 4K but I also like using my phone heavily throughout the day and I don’t like it running out of juice before 8pm, something that seems par for the course with QHD handsets in 2015.

To me, the argument here is pretty simple: do you want Full HD visuals and all day battery life, as with the likes of the iPhone 6 Plus and Sony Xperia Z3… or do you want QHD and the same old problems you’ve always had with battery?

Personally, I’d take 1080p every day of the week.   

Nexus 6 Review: Specs, Hardware & Storage

The Nexus 6 is pretty ferocious on the outside but it’s also something of a beast on the inside too, with 3GB of RAM and Qualcomm’s latest and greatest 2.7GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 CPU powering everything along. You also get the latest version of Android out the box, which is Android Lollipop, and all the benefits that come with it –– Material Design, Project Volta, ART and, bizarrely, a new Messages app. This is about as good as it gets in today’s market, so if you’re in the game for THE BEST handset currently available with respect to specs and hardware then the Nexus 6 will not disappoint. 

Performance is excellent pretty much across the board. But that’s to be expected –– this thing is packing some serious heat. Android Lollipop runs like a charm and, despite a couple of random reboots, I experienced next to no issues with the software. And that’s no mean feat when you consider the sheer volume of changes implemented inside Lollipop. Take Apple’s iOS 8, for instance, a far more conservative update, which was plagued by bugs, faults and issues from day one, forcing the company to issue emergency updates months ahead of schedule. 

You can get a full break down of Google’s new software inside our Android Lollipop Review

Navigating around the UX or browsing through webpages and applications is smoother than ever before –– Android has never felt so refined and polished. Benchmarks paint a similar picture too, with the Nexus 6 matching the Galaxy Note 4 blow for blow in almost every scenario. Ditto for gaming, multitasking and pretty much anything else you can think of. The Nexus 6 is a powerhouse of a device that’s been set-up for every conceivable usage scenario possible, from watching ultra-HD video to accessing super-fast LTE-A mobile data, the Nexus 6 has you covered. 

But then so too does the Samsung Galaxy Note 4, LG G3 and any number of other, high-end Android-powered smartphones, which begs the question: why should you go for a Nexus handset? If you asked me that question in 2012 or 2013 with regard to the Nexus 4 or Nexus 5, the answer was simple: it’s cheaper than EVERYTHING ELSE and there’s no bloatware. With the Nexus 6, however, things are different because the handset is no longer priced like its predecessors; it’s now very much a premium, high-end smartphone aimed squarely at the top of the market. And while it is cheaper than the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4, the Nexus 6 is still a lot more expensive than last year’s Nexus 5. 

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