We tried the new Google Nexus 6P: here’s what we thought

Huawei hardware + stock Android = dream team

Image: Google

Yesterday we gave you our first impressions of the brand-new Google Nexus 5X, made by LG, and now it’s time for its premium sibling: the Huawei-made Nexus 6P. And we’ve got to tell you,¬†it’s¬†looking great.

Huawei’s effort costs a little more than LG’s: the entry-level 32GB model is ¬£449, compared with ¬£379 for a 32GB 5X or a ¬£339 16GB one. (There’s no 16GB version of the 6P). So what can you expect if you shell out a little more for your Nexus?

The handset

In our view, this one’s a fair bit nicer to look at than the 5X. It’s the first all-metal Nexus phone, made of “aeronautical-grade” anodised aluminium, but comes in three predictable colours: Aluminium, Graphite and Frost. Grey, dark grey¬†and white, in other words. There isn’t even the slightly more fun Ice blue variant that the 5X has.

Nexus 6P on the left, 5X on the right

The black camera bar across the top of the phone is divisive: half our staff are OK with it, half think it’s unforgivably ugly. Personally, it kinda reminds me of Bender from Futurama’s eyes:

Bender image: Slurmed.com

Which is a good thing. In fact, I might stick a beard on mine and call it the Nexus Flexo.

As with the 5X, the branding is strong and the Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor looks sleek with its metal ring to help your finger find the right place. It’s a bit odd that Huawei haven’t used their full logo, just the word – the 5X has the¬†creepy¬†LG face:

Are Huawei moving away from the fan design? Who knows.

On the front of the handset, you’ll find two fairly powerful speakers¬†–¬†the 5X only has one. Front-facing speakers are always good for playing music – who wants a speaker on the back that’s muffled as soon as you put the phone down?

The headphone port is on the top end (the 5X’s is on the bottom) and the reversible USB-C charging port is in the centre of the bottom edge. There’s also a really nice polished metal (“diamond cut” in Google speak) band around the sides of the phone, adding a premium feel. Unsurprisingly given the size and materials, it’s heavier than the super-light 5X –¬†178g rather than 136g – but is thinner, coming in at 7.3mm to the 5X’s 7.9.

As with the 5X, there’s a¬†lovely geometric case that looks a bit like Muse album artwork, which is ¬£25 from the Google Store:

The screen

The 6P uses a 5.7-inch WQHD (widescreen quad HD) Samsung-made AMOLED display. It has a resolution of 2560 x 1440, which is 518 pixels per inch: the 5X has 423.

The display is bright, it’s clear, viewing angles are as wide as they could be, and the colours are deep and true. At this price, we couldn’t ask for more, and frankly we’d have been happy with less.

Size-wise, though, it’s going to be too big for a lot of people. I’m constantly surprised by how many¬†people still prefer a smaller phone that you can use easily with one hand – and this is definitely¬†a two-hander. It looks terrific, but if you like a smaller device, go for the 5X.

As with the 5X, there’s an¬†oil-repellent coating on the screen but again, it still gets smudgy.

The hardware

This, of course, is one of the main places you’ll see the benefit of choosing the 6P over the 5X. Where the 5X has a hexa (six) core 1.8GHz Snapdragon 808 processor, the 6P has an octa (eight) core 2 Ghz Snapdragon 810.¬†Both are 64-bit, and Google are quick to point out that it’s version 2.1 of the 810, which has been plagued by overheating problems. These have apparently now been solved – you’d really hope so for¬†an all-metal phone. That could get painful.

We played intensive driving game Asphalt 8 on the 6P and found it quick-ish to load (it’s a beast) and very smooth to play. In fairness, we didn’t encounter problems on the 5X either in our limited gameplay time, but it certainly seemed to load faster on the pricier phone, which has 3GB of RAM as opposed to 2GB.

Storage options are different, too: the ¬£449 base-level 6P is 32GB rather than 16, and it also comes in 64GB (¬£499) and 128GB (¬£579) options. As ever, we’d advise you to spring for the most storage you can afford, especially if you’re likely to use the 4K recording feature. There’s no microSD slot so if you run out of storage later, you won’t be able to expand it.

4G is unsurprisingly included, as is¬†NFC, which is more than we can say for the OnePlus Two. The fingerprint sensor on both new Nexus phones is designed for Android Pay, but unfortunately it hasn’t come to the UK yet and we still can’t get an answer on when we should expect it. Meanwhile, Apple fans smugly touch into the tube on their Watches, and I glare from behind my S6.

Speaking of suity dudes, Google told us the 6P is designed to be good for a business audience as well as consumer, so we were surprised to see just the one nano SIM slot.

What didn’t surprise us, though, is the (non-removable) battery. Huawei – and sub-brand Honor¬†–¬†phones offer ridiculously capacious power packs¬†and impressive stamina, so we were very happy to hear that the Nexus 6P has¬†a¬†3,450 mAh battery and fast charging, giving up to 7 hours’ use on a 10-minute charge (we’ll assume that’s with the screen off). At the launch,¬†Google said the 6P “can charge fully in half the time of an iPhone 6 Plus.” Not the 6S Plus, but even so, that’s good to hear – especially when the 6 Plus battery is considerably smaller¬†at 2,915 mAh. In short, between the battery capacity and the new power management functions of Marshmallow (more on that next), this is likely to be a phone that¬†lasts.¬†

The software

If we’re being completely honest, the main downside of other Huawei phones is the software. The Chinese megamanufacturer¬†insist on putting their own ugly spin on Android, and while that adds cool functionality like the camera filters and programmable button on the Honor 7, it also detracts quite a lot from the experience. We say it over and over again: Android is great. Stop messing with it.

So when we heard that Huawei were going to be making a Nexus phone, we were thrilled. All the goodness of Huawei hardware with stock, unadulterated Android. And even better, it’s got Marshmallow – one of the first two phones in the world to get it, and guaranteed to get updates as soon as they’re out.

The most interesting new features in Marshmallow are Doze mode, which figures out when your phone’s been left unattended and automatically prioritises data from apps you use often to save battery, and the new app permissions, which let you decide which apps can do what. This means you can choose on an app-by-app basis what you’re OK with and what you’re not – although obviously bear in mind that turning off Location on Google Maps might make it somewhat useless, for instance. The OS warns you if you try.

There’s also¬†Google Now on Tap, which lets you do things like directly booking a restaurant from the home key on your phone, and a new charging indicator on the lock screen that tells you how long until your phone’s full.

Overall, it sounds like Marshmallow’s going to be excellent for battery life and privacy, and we can’t wait to start having conversations with our apps:

We hope they get sassy:

“Spotify, play 1989.”

In short, a Huawei handset with stock Android is the dream. Great choice of manufacturer on Google’s part, and hopefully a profile-raiser for what is genuinely an excellent – yet little-known in the UK – phone brand.

The cameras

The 5X and 6P share the same main snapper, and it’s fair to say Google are pretty excited about it. Dave Burke commented at the launch:

“Modern flagship phones do well for outdoor shots but they struggle with indoor – yet people spend 20 hours a day indoors. The cameras on the Nexus 5X and 6P are¬†optimised for indoor photography.”

Google also told us the¬†imaging sensor on the 12.3MP camera offers¬†larger pixels than other phone cameras – which is similar to what HTC were trying to do with Ultrapixel. Sadly, this¬†just led to no one buying their phone because a 4MP main camera sounds bad, even if it isn’t.

They also explained the lack of optical image stabilisation (OIS), saying¬†“you get less handshake with larger pixels,” which remains to be seen. However, the infra-red laser focus feature is good to see, it’s great to finally be able to double-tap the power button to take a photo (as with the¬†Samsung Galaxy line, among others), and it’s interesting to hear that the Sony camera was “originally designed for camcorders and digital cameras, and is unprecedented in a phone.”

Our camera samples were of course taken in a brightly-lit indoor launch event environment, but they do give you an idea of the kind of quality you can expect from the 6P camera.

Google Nexus 6P camera samples:

The selfie cam on the 6P is a bit better than on the 5X, offering 8MP instead of 5. We found it quick and clear – here’s an awful photo of me several hours into¬†the launch. The 6P camera is definitely meaner (read: more accurate) than the 5X’s.

Google Nexus 6P selfie camera sample:

The main camera can also shoot in 4K,¬†which is less unexpected at this price point than in the 5X, but still nice to have. Just bear in mind that you won’t be able to watch videos in 4K on the screen (because the only phone with a 4K screen so far is the Sony Xperia Z5 Premium) and that they take up a whoooole lot of space.

Nexus 6P UK price and availability

Both the new Nexus phones are¬†available to preorder in the UK now and will ship towards the end of October. So there’s not much of a wait to try¬†Huawei and Google’s first collaboration.

Price-wise, the Nexus 6P costs¬†¬£449 for the 32GB version, ¬£499 for the 64GB or ¬£579 for the 128GB, and it’s also available on contract from all the big networks. Those costs are a tiny bit higher than we’d like – the idea of paying almost ¬£600 for a Nexus-line phone still grates, even though more recent Nexii have been pricier than the super-cheap originals. And yes, ¬£579 is for the¬†128GB version, which is loads of storage, but¬†you can pick up a 128GB microSD card for less than ¬£50. You just can’t put it in this phone. Or Samsung’s, or Apple’s. Sigh.

Still, even if we’d have preferred something a little cheaper, there’s no denying this phone is looking like an excellent choice¬†for the Android mainstream. It’s right in the sweet spot of how much most people are willing to spend, it looks good, has an Android-Pay-ready fingerprint sensor, an excellent camera, beautiful screen and should last all day. Huawei? Nailed it.

If you’re as impressed as we are,¬†you can preorder your Nexus¬†6P¬†right now at the Google Store.

Main image: Google

Holly Brockwell
About Holly Brockwell 291 Articles
Tech addict Holly founded Gadgette in 2015, and won Woman of the Year for it. She's firmly #TeamAndroid, has ambitions to become a robot, and beat all other Hollies to her awesome Twitter handle.