Written in accordance with our Reddit-inspired review policy. With thanks to Google for the handset.
We were tremendously excited by the announcement that Huawei were manufacturing the Nexus 6P, the larger and more high-end of the two current Nexii (the P stands for Premium). Huawei are a massive Chinese manufacturer making superb phones like the Honor 7, and its 6P (successor to the Motorola Nexus 6) has more flagship-level specs than its LG-made sibling the Nexus 5X. We had our fingers crossed that Google and Huawei would turn out to be a dream team in the Android world, and we weren’t far wrong.
Here’s our in-depth Google Nexus 6P review, after a month of daily use.
1. The handset
- 159.3mm x 77.8mm x 7.3mm
- Colours: Aluminium, Graphite and Frost (there’s also Gold, but not in the UK at the time of writing)
- Fingerprint sensor
- USB type C
Size-wise, the 6P isn’t for everyone. It’s a bit of a beast because of that 5.7-inch screen – which means people who like to put their phone in a pocket or use it with one hand are going to struggle. It’s not impossible, but this is definitely a phablet. If that puts you off, you might want to check out the smaller (but also lower-spec) Nexus 5X. Google apparently intentionally made this one a little smaller than its predecessor, the 6-inch Nexus 6, but it’s still quite tricky to use single-handed.
The handset is made from anodised aluminium, which makes it quite cold and slippery to hold – I feel a lot more comfortable with it in a case (mine is this Android-tastic number). Most of the phone is fairly slim, but the visor (or ‘hump’ as fans are calling it) at the top sticks out a little further – and as we said in our hands-on, it reminds us of Bender from Futurama. The reason it’s a whole strip and not just a circular protrusion is that the Nexus 6 famously spun around when you used it on a table, and the Google/Huawei team wanted to avoid that this time.
You’ll find the standard headphone jack on the top left edge of the phone, power and volume rocker on the right, and a single nano-SIM tray on the left edge (no dual-SIM or microSD here). In the centre of the bottom edge is the USB type C charging port (apparently this single detail took three months of negotiations with the design team). USB C is cool, and it’s obviously the future – but as with the OnePlus Two and Lumia 950 XL, we’re still finding it a bit of a pain when 99% of our chargers and cables are the old standard. This, obviously, is not the 6P’s fault.
What is the phone’s fault is that it includes a notification LED that’s turned off by default. You have to activate it in Settings > Sound & Notification. This is because the ambient display (which shows notifications in black and white to use next to no power) is supposed to stand in for it, but I haven’t found that useful. The ambient display switches on not just for notifications but also for movement (you can’t split the two in settings), so it comes on all the time if you’re walking around with the phone in hand. Annoying.
Even once you’ve switched the LED back on, it only works for notifications, not charging. There are apps claiming to get around this but results vary and some require root access.
One of the features Google talked about a lot at the launch was the fingerprint sensor:
Known as Nexus Imprint, the sensor can remember up to 5 fingerprints and it works really, really well. After the frustrating experience we had on the OnePlus Two, this is refreshing. You place your finger on the recessed circle on the back of the phone (the surrounding ring helps you find it without looking), the pad vibrates and the phone unlocks instantly.
2. The speakers
The Nexus 6P has two front-facing speakers, which is always a good design decision. Speakers on the rear or bottom edge of a phone are much easier to muffle with your hand, whereas these are still strong when you put the phone down on a sofa or other sound-dampening surface.
They go impressively loud but do sound a little thin – we’ve heard better. That said, they’re not half bad – about what we’d expect for this price point.
3. The screen
- 5.7 inches
- WQHD AMOLED (2560 x 1440, 518 pixels per inch)
- Gorilla Glass 4
- Fingerprint and smudge-resistant coating
The display on the Nexus 6P is bright, sharp and responsive. Some users have reported tints or excessive warmth on their display panel but that hasn’t been the case on ours, which reproduces colours faithfully and has viewing angles as wide as they come.
However, while the screen is magnificent in isolation, it does unsurprisingly pale next to the curved screens on the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge(+) and BlackBerry Priv. A flat screen is never going to hold a candle to those stunning double-curves. However, comparing with the flat Galaxy S6, there’s very little difference – and there’s a good reason for that. The screen in the Nexus 6P is made by Samsung, and it’s the same one used in the Note 5 – although confusingly, it’s a less-good version. Essentially, screens vary in quality, and Samsung creamed off the best ones for the Note 5, selling the less-perfect (but still excellent) ones to Huawei for the 6P. This is a process known as binning, and it happens all the time with processors.
While the Nexus 6P screen is coated with Gorilla Glass 4, it’s still scratchable: in fact, we’ve managed to accidentally put a scratch in both the 6P and the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge+ despite being pretty careful with both. Not loving Gorilla Glass 4, if we’re honest.
4. The hardware
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v2.1 octa-core processor (4x 1.55 GHz, 4x 2.0 GHz)
- 3GB RAM
One of the saddest things about the 6P is that it has NFC and a fingerprint sensor just begging to be used for Android Pay, but we still don’t have it in the UK. “Ask Google,” says every manufacturer. “Ask again later,” says Google, like a techy Magic 8 Ball.
Also disappointing, at times at least, is the performance on this phone – and I’m as surprised about this as anyone. The 6P seems to suffer from random slowdowns that I can’t attribute to anything in particular – sometimes it just gets sluggish. As we’ll see in the camera section, this often leads to the camera app hanging or not opening at all, and Bluetooth? Holy moly. I actually had to stop listening to music on my wireless headphones because it was making the phone so slow, and the sound kept randomly cutting out. We’re told the Nexus 5X suffers from the same issue – Google are apparently working on it.
To be fair, the majority of the time the phone performs well and zips along nicely. Intensive games run well and multi-tasking is usually seamless. It only seems to be a problem a small percentage of the time, but as we all know, random problems seem so much more frequent when they involve lag.
5. The software
- Android 6.0 Marshmallow
- Stock Android
Ahhh, stock Android. This makes us happy. While the adjustments manufacturers make to Android sometimes improve the experience, more often than not, they make it worse. The Nexus line is designed to show off Android the way it was supposed to be, so you won’t be surprised to hear that it runs beautifully on the Nexus 6P (teething problems aside).
Whether you like Marshmallow and its constant requests for permission is another matter (it reminds us a bit of Windows Vista) – but for the most part, the software experience on this phone is up there with the best the ‘droid world can offer.
6. The storage
- 32GB, 64GB or 128GB storage
- No microSD slot
While we’re sad not to see a microSD slot on this phone, Google and Huawei have been pretty fair by offering three storage sizes. They make a considerable difference to the price (much more so than buying the equivalent storage on microSD) but it’s good to have the option.
The 32GB will cost you £449, 64GB is £499 and 128GB is £579.
7. The selfie camera
- 1080p (full HD) video recording
Selfies vary in quality depending on the light source, but for the most part they’re clear and colourful. However, since this phone uses the Google Camera app, there’s no beauty mode or similar – so you may find selfies a little harsher than you’re used to on, say, an HTC device with inbuilt flattery features.
Google Nexus 6P selfie camera samples:
8. The main camera
- 4K video recording at 30 FPS, slow motion at 240 FPS
- Laser autofocus, f/2.0 aperture, Gorilla Glass 4
“With the Google Camera app, you’ll never miss a moment,” say Google. This, sadly, is completely untrue. The camera app is inexplicably slow and sometimes doesn’t open at all. You can double-tap the power button for quick access to the camera (even while the screen’s off), but no matter which way you open it, you’ll spend a disconcerting amount of time looking at this:
Sometimes it never gets past that screen and you have to quit the app and start again – by which time you’ve long-since missed your shot. That quote was probably referring to Google’s “lucky shot” feature, which apparently takes 3 photos without telling you and automatically chooses the best one – that’s cool, but must make the camera slower than it needs to be. We’re told the slowness and freezing camera issues are a problem on the Nexus 5X, too.
That said, once you’re in, the camera is fantastic. Focus, colour, clarity, low-light performance – all are stellar. Google weren’t wrong when they said this was one of the best cameras ever put in a phone – it’s a Sony model they specially requested from Sony’s parts menu, and had never been used in a phone before. Unfortunately, Sony doesn’t offer optical image stabilisation (OIS) on this particular camera module, so the phone doesn’t have it. But that’s the only real oversight.
HDR is particularly good on this phone, as you can see from this before and after:
And performance is generally excellent regardless of light conditions.
Google Nexus 6P camera samples:
9. Battery life
- Fast charging
All the signs were good: Huawei devices usually have epic stamina, the capacity is massive (though so is the screen) and Marshmallow is reputed to be even better than Lollipop for battery life.
Disappointingly, the battery on this phone just hasn’t lived up to expectations. It’s not bad, just not the endless juice I was hoping for. I haven’t been able to retire my various portable power packs, because the 6P generally hits 25% in the early evening and depletes rapidly from there. I’ve seen the lurid orange bands of Power Saving mode far more often than I’d like (it kicks in at 15%). Granted, I’m a heavy user, but this is a device surely designed with Android enthusiasts in mind – and they don’t tend to leave their phones in their pockets.
An hour of screen-on time at max brightness will cost you 12% of your battery power – which is still good compared with the OnePlus Two’s 20%. Obviously the lower the brightness and screen-on time, the better your results will be.
The 6P includes fast charging, but confusingly it’s not the Qualcomm Quick Charge standard most manufacturers are using. That means if you want to quick-charge your phone, you pretty much have to use the cable that came with it – or one of the replacements on the Google Store, which will cost you £20. *Cough* Apple tactics *cough*.
The phone does charge impressively fast, though – 1% to 100% in 97 minutes – and using the official cable, we found it noticeably faster than a lot of phones. Google say it’s actually twice as fast as the iPhone 6 Plus.
As for wireless charging, which the Nexus 6 had, that’s been left out. It was considered, but Google say it would have made the phone too thick, and it wasn’t worth it when the USB C connector already made for hassle-free charging.
10. UK price and availability
The Nexus 6P is available now. Direct from the Google Store, it costs £449 for 32GB, £499 for 64GB or £579 for 128GB. You can also get the 6P from O2, Vodafone, EE and Carphone Warehouse, among others.
This is an excellent phone, and really fulfils Google’s promise to make something that shows off the best of Android. The teething problems we’ve had with it are relatively minor and will probably be fixed in a future software update, and besides, they’re far outweighed by the positive aspects. Yes, the camera app will hang sometimes, but your shots will be beautiful. Yep, Bluetooth is buggy right now but oh man, that fingerprint sensor is perfection. And while the battery probably won’t last you ’til 11pm, it’ll recharge quickly enough that you won’t mind. The design, price, hardware, software and feature set are all spot-on.
There are a few extras we’d have liked to see – OIS, wireless charging, microSD – but at this price, it’s a very appealing package. While this isn’t our favourite Android on the planet (that accolade goes to the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge Plus for that incredible screen), it’s unquestionably the best all-rounder. It has a lot of very high points, and only minor lows, making it the Android we recommend most often. A real crowdpleaser. Good job, Huawei.
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