Nexus devices have widely been considered to be developer devices. This is largely due to the fact that they ship with a camera that can rival a potato when taking images and underwhelming battery life.
Despite these shortcomings, I have been a huge fan of Google’s Nexus series since I switched to a Galaxy Nexus in early 2012 after breaking the screen of my Galaxy S2. The experience was a revelation in itself – never in my wildest of dream I had thought that Android could run so smoothly. Over the years, I kept switching devices but at the end of the year, I would always switch back to whatever Nexus handset Google released that year because of the user experience they offered.
However, the potato camera and the poor battery life of Nexus devices ensured that I jumped ship to the next flagship device from Samsung or HTC as soon as it came out. I could never really fathom why Google kept using such a subpar camera on its Nexus devices, and why they always struggled to deliver great battery life even though they shipped with no bloatware installed.
Last year, when I saw Motorola-made Nexus 6, I decided against buying the handset right away. As much as I loved Nexus devices and despite Lollipop being the biggest update to Android ever, there was no way I could use a phone with a giant 6-inch screen. Plus, I had grown frustrated with the poor camera performance of Android devices released in 2014 and the Nexus 6 was no better in this department.
A year later, after using a Galaxy S6 and LG G4 for majority of the year, I am back on the Nexus bandwagon. I had to – After all, the Nexus 6P is the most premium and perfect Nexus smartphone ever released by Google. A month later, do I still think the Nexus 6P is the best Nexus ever from Google? Read my review to find out.
After years of releasing Nexus phones that were made of various grades of plastic, Google and Huawei went all out with the Nexus 6P and decided on an aero-grade aluminium chassis for it with chamfered edges, which gives the phone a premium look and feel. However, hold the Nexus 6P in your hand and its light weight will make you doubt the strength of the chassis. When I initially started using the handset, I felt that I could snap the handset into two by applying a bit of force. The bent test videos in which the device snapped into half almost instantly did not help either.
A month later, those feelings and my doubt about the reliability of the Nexus 6P chassis have largely gone. The aluminium body has held up to my rough handling, accidental slips and a few drops pretty well. The chamfered edges might have a couple of small dings, but the aluminium body in itself is still intact and in its original shape.
The light weight of the handset was a concern for me initially, but over the last month, I have realised that it plays a major part in making the Nexus 6P usable from one hand despite its large dimensions. While the Nexus 6P has a pretty decent body-to-screen ratio for a 5.7-inch phone, I still think the top and bottom bezels — which houses the stereo speakers — could have been smaller by a few millimetres. Nonetheless, the great front-facing stereo speakers more than make up for it. While they lack the bass of HTC’s BoomSound speakers, they can get plenty loud. Smartphone OEMs really need to figure out a way to fit a speaker in the front of the phone rather than at the rear or bottom, especially because it can make a huge difference in noisy environments.
Perhaps the only real issue I have with the build quality of the Nexus 6P is not with its build quality itself, but with the placement of volume buttons which are just too easy to press.
When I first read that the Nexus 6P came with a 5.7-inch Quad HD Super AMOLED panel, I was worried that Google would have used a subpar panel just like it did on the Nexus 6. In their IAMA, the Nexus team reassured everyone that the Super AMOLED panel on the handset is the very latest from Samsung, though that did not actually turn out to be entirely true.
The Nexus 6P does not use the same Super AMOLED panel as found on Samsung’s Galaxy Note 5, but its panel is still better than the one found on the Galaxy Note 4. Ignoring the technicalities, the display on the Nexus 6P in simply gorgeous: its bright, vivid, contrast-y, big and beautiful. I have absolutely no qualms with the display.
The only issue I have with the Nexus 6P’s display is not with the display itself, but with the auto brightness levels, which I feel is outright broken on stock Android. Even in dark environments, the 6P’s display is blindingly bright, and in direct sunlight, the auto brightness takes its own sweet time to ramp up the brightness levels. I grew so frustrated with this issue within a week that I switched over to Lux.
Under the hood, the Nexus 6P is powered by the controversial Snapdragon 810 chipset that is coupled with an Adreno 430 GPU and 3GB of RAM. Despite the overheating issues of the Snapdragon 810 chipset being very much real, I have not faced any such issues on my 6P during my time with the phone. Under heavy load, the device got slightly warm, but it never got so hot that I had to pause what I was doing in fear of it overheating and switching itself off. In comparison, I have faced situations while using the Galaxy S6 where the phone got so hot that I had to keep it aside for a few minutes to let it cool down.
On paper, the Galaxy S6 and the Galaxy Note 5 totting an Exynos 7420 chipset and 4GB RAM look faster than the Nexus 6P; and even the benchmarks seems to agree with them. However, in real life, the Nexus 6P easily beats them all. Over the last one month, I have never faced any random slow downs, app crashes or just about anything else. The phone has been buttery smooth with nary a hint of lag nor skipped frames anywhere in the OS. Unlike the Note 5, the Nexus 6P does not suffer from any poor RAM management issue as well. I can have 10+ apps running in the background without the performance of the phone getting affected in anyway.
Years after the inception of the Nexus brand and after releasing hundreds of phones in the market over the years, there is still no Android OEM that can release a phone that can rival the Nexus lineup in terms of day-to-day performance.
Almost all Android devices released last year had a great battery life, but the story has been completely different this year. I have struggled to get through a day with the Galaxy S6 and the LG G4’s battery life has been just about average. At one point, I was so frustrated with the poor battery life of Android devices released this year that I switched over to the iPhone 6s Plus for a week. The blame here lies largely on Qualcomm and its Snapdragon 810 chipset, but I did expect Android OEMs to workaround this problem by optimising their software.
Thankfully Google has stepped up its game with the Nexus 6P and the various power saving features that it has introduced in Android 6.0 Marshmallow. The Nexus 6P is not going to win any battery life benchmarks, but it easily gets me through a day which is all I want. I constantly end the day with over 30 percent battery left, and thanks to Doze, I can leave my phone unplugged at night and wake up with 28 percent charge still left. On an average, I easily got around 3.5-4 hours of SoT (Screen-on time) over a mix of Wi-Fi and HSPA+ network.
Doze really is a game changer and when combined with a more power efficient SoC, I expect next generation Android devices to absolutely kill it in the battery life department.
Perhaps a major reason why I can see myself using the Nexus 6P for the next few months is because of its camera. Unlike previous Nexus handsets, the 6P ditches the potato in favour of a 12.3MP F/2.0 shooter. The 1/2.3″ IMX377 sensor from Sony features large 1.55u pixels that make it more sensitive to light. This also allows Google to not use OIS on the handset, which was initially thought to be a serious oversight from the company. To improve focus times, Google has also included a laser AF sensor on the 6P, though it is almost invisible due to the black visor glass.
Combined with the new camera app, the Nexus 6P can take some impressive pics irrespective of how the lighting conditions are. I used the 6P as my primary shooter for a short holiday trip over the likes of the LG G4 and the Galaxy S6, and never did I once regret my decision. I had initially thought that I would miss OIS on the 6P while shooting pictures in low-light, but that never happened even after I clicking hundreds of photos. Yes, having OIS would have greatly helped while recording videos, but that’s not something I or a majority of people do on a regular basis.
Now, I am not saying that the Nexus 6P camera is perfect. The camera app is still a notch below the likes of the Galaxy S6 and LG G4 and lacks any kind of manual controls, though the chances of an average joe missing them are almost nil.
The front facing 8MP camera is also a decent shooter, and is able to capture selfies with plenty of details. I do wish it had a slightly wider angle lens so that more people could fit into the groupfies (sorry!) I take.
2015 has not particularly been a good year for Android market. While the camera performance of Android smartphones improved greatly this year, they greatly regressed in the battery life department, while others suffered from poor RAM management and other software related issues.
Thus, it is remarkable to see Google deliver a smartphone like the Nexus 6P, which does not suffer from these issues. The company has also done a great job at taming the fiery Snapdragon 810 beast from Qualcomm without introducing any performance issues. The power optimisations in Marshmallow make sure that the despite the power hungry chipset, the 6P makes it through a day of medium to heavy usage.
After using the Nexus 6P for well over a month now, I can confidently say that it is the best Android smartphone released this year and also the best Nexus smartphone ever released by Google. After years of releasing Nexus smartphones that compromised on one area or another, it is great to see Google greatly stepping up its game with the Nexus 6P. Even better, at its $500 price point, the Nexus 6P offers a price-to-performance ratio that can be matched by very few phones out there.
With the Nexus 6P, the Nexus lineup has finally had its coming of age.