Nexus 6P review: Google sets the new standard for “flagship” phones

8
9.5 Excellent

Google has finally perfected the ultimate Android phone. They found a perfect partner with Huawei to bring Android Marshmallow center stage on a device designed well enough to take down the reigning smartphone titans.

  • Design 9.8
  • Display 9.2
  • Performance 9.5
  • Software 10
  • Camera 9.3
  • Battery 9.5
  • User Ratings (25 Votes) 8

Throughout the entire year, many phones are announced and released. You have the Samsung, LG, and HTC phones towards the first half of the year, along with the Sony, Motorola, and a handful of others. None get me as excited as Google’s phones, which come in the fourth quarter. This year, we had two to choose from, the LG Nexus 5X and the Huawei Nexus 6P.

Like I stated in my Nexus 6P first impressions, after I had my Motorola-made Nexus 6, I knew I had to have the device’s successor. The original Nexus 6 was my favorite phone of all-time, and I’ve had quite a few devices in the past few years. The design wasn’t the best, but it worked. The phone had good specs, was very ample in every category, and had a great developer community. Heck, I was using my Nexus 6 over my S6 edge and LG G4 because I enjoyed it so much.

So, coming into the Nexus 6P made from Huawei, I had high expectations. I have always wanted a Huawei device, but they haven’t had much presence in the American market just yet. So, when I first heard Google would be partnering with the Chinese company, I was more than excited. We get a fast, stock Android experience on a Huawei-made phone. let’s just say I was sold at the first leak. Does the Nexus 6P live up to its predecessor? Let’s take a look.

Design

Here is a full-size gallery of all the device shots

Nexus devices typically aren’t known for their design, as they are usually priced slightly lower than other flagship devices. The Nexus 6 last year changed all of that. Not only was the phone considerably larger than the previous Nexus devices, it also carried a larger price tag. If there was one thing that the Motorola Nexus 6 was criticized for, it was the price. When a device starts at $649 for 32 GB of storage, users expect a whole lot of phone. The Nexus 6 didn’t carry the most premium design, but it still had a metal chassis which was nice.

When the Nexus 6P’s design was first leaked out, I was concerned that it would be priced in the same neighborhood due to the all-metal design. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case, and the Nexus 6P starts at a very, very respectable $499. In all honesty, I personally think the design on the 6P is one of the most premium on the market. It is very well made and their is no plastic to be found.

Although the Nexus 6P still has the ‘6’ in its moniker, the display isn’t the same 6 inch one found on the original Nexus 6, so it is a tad smaller. The 6P ships with a 5.7 inch display, so the device is still considered a “phablet” by most standards. The device comes in at 159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3 mm which is very respectable, considering it has dual front-facing speakers and a 5.7 inch display. Comparing it to the original Nexus 6, it is the same height at 159.3 mm, but has shaved off some width by being 4.2 mm slimmer (Nexus 6 is 83 mm wide). The 6P also cut down on some thickness as it is only 7.3 mm thick compared to the 10.1 mm (at the widest point) of the Nexus 6.

Nexus 6P front

Looking at the front of the device, the first thing you notice is the dual front-facing speakers. Since Motorola included the feature on the original Nexus 6, Google seems to be quite a fan of dual speakers on the front of their devices. In the case of the Nexus 5X, the still keep the dual speakers, but one is for in-call and the other is very everything else.

The thing I tend to really like about the Nexus line, is that the front of the Nexus 6P goes unmarked by branding of any kind. There aren’t any capacitive buttons either, so it’s just a clean, minimal look. To the left of the top speaker you will find the front-facing camera and an RGB notification light.

Nexus 6P power and volume rockers

The buttons retain the same design as the previous model as well, meaning that you’ll find both the power button and volume rocker on the right side of the device. They are all very tactile and clicky, something the old Nexus 6 was hit or miss on. The power button has a slight textured surface to it, so you know which one you’re pressing right away. On the opposite side, all you find is the nano-SIM card tray on the top of the left side.

On the top of the device you will find the headphone jack offset to the left side. Nothing else accompanies it except two antennas. That means there is no IR blaster on the Nexus 6P. Flipping the device around, the bottom is home to the USB Type-C charging port.

Nexus 6P camera hump

On the back of the Nexus 6P, you find the oft-criticized camera hump that is shielded by Gorilla Glass 4. I personally am a fan of the hump, as it adds some distinctness to the device. It houses the camera, laser auto focus, and a dual LED flash. Other than that, the back has both the classic ‘Nexus’ branding along with a small ‘Huawei’ towards the bottom.

My only issue with the hump is that Google and Huawei could have just filled out the back of the phone to make it as thick and get rid of it. That way, we could have had a much larger battery, but we all know that’s just not going to happen. They surprisingly still packed quite a large battery in the slim design, but we’ll cover that later in the battery portion of the review.

Nexus 6P back

The Nexus 6P might be my favorite designed phone of the year, and that’s saying a lot with the year coming to a close. The metal build and overall shape is second to none in my opinion. It is comfortable to hold and has a slight curve on the back to make it ergonomic. They also made the edges of the devices flat, which is something that goes unnoticed sometimes. Although it is all metal, I have no fear of dropping my device.

Display

When the Nexus 6P was first swirling around the rumor mill, many thought that it would ship with an LCD panel, not like the Nexus 6, which had an AMOLED. Thankfully, Google picked the right path and shipped the Nexus 6P with the latest Samsung AMOLED panel, the same one that is on the Galaxy Note 5, and Corning Gorilla Glass 4.

Nexus 6P display

The Nexus 6P comes with a 5.7 inch QHD display that has 515 ppi, which is up from the Nexus 6’s 493 ppi. The display looks very nice and is much cooler than the AMOLED panel seen on the Nexus 6. One issue I had with the original 6 was that when the display brightness was low, the grays would have a very strong red hue to it. That is not the case with the 6P.

The panel on the Nexus 6P holds its color all the way through and can get very, very dim. When turning the brightness down to the lowest settings, a lot of the grays become black, which I don’t mind. On the other side of things, the display can get bright, but not that bright. My Galaxy Note 5 can get much brighter, but it doesn’t get as dim. I still had no issues seeing my display in the sunlight, but I still would prefer for it to be a tad brighter.

Performance

The one thing that I always enjoy about running a device with stock Android is that it is so fluid and performs as it should. Very minimal lags or stutters and excellent transitions. I’m sure you’ve already heard, but the Nexus 6P is running the latest version of Android, which is 6.0 Marshmallow. Backing up the new software is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 v2.1 processor clocked at 2.0 GHz and 3 GB of LPDDR4 RAM, so it can definitely hold its own.

The Snapdragon 810 has been plagued with overheating issues, but that is something of the past. Google has tamed the beast and I’ll tell you first hand that it does not overheat whatsoever. Just like in our OnePlus 2 review, I had no issues with the Qualcomm processor. I will give Google more credit as they kept the processor clocked at 2.0 GHz where OnePlus under-clocked it to 1.8 GHz.

Nexus 6P AnTuTu Benchmark

Just like all of my reviews, I always put the device through the AnTuTu Benchmark just to see where it performs compared to other devices. On a fresh reboot with all of my apps closed, my Nexus 6P scored 52,574, which isn’t as high as you’d expect. It is worth noting that while OnePlus did under-clock the 2, it did perform better on the AnTuTu Benchmark by scoring 58,479 and HTC’s One M9 scored 52,789. You have to remember though, that both of those devices are only pushing FHD 1080p displays, whereas the Nexus 6P has a QHD display.

I personally don’t put too much thought into these numbers, as all I care about is how the device runs. Benchmarks are just easy ways to judge a phone without using it. Even though it got 52,574, it still outperforms the previous mentioned devices, and the Galaxy Note 5. You can never beat great specs put together with stock Android.

Nexus Imprint

Google wanted to implement a fingerprint sensor into the original Nexus 6, but the technology just wasn’t there just yet. Fast-forward a full year, and both the Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P have fingerprint sensors on the back of the devices. It was definitely a good move by Google, as Nexus Imprint is lightning fast and very, very accurate.

Nexus 6P Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor

When Google brags about something, it must be good, and the Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor is good great. I have used fingerprint sensors on iPhones and most recently, the OnePlus 2, but none come close to the one housed on the Nexus devices. They unlock the device instantly when you put your finger on the sensor. I haven’t had any issues with it not reading, but I did add my finger more than once, something that I recommend.

The greatest thing about the fingerprint sensor on the Nexus 6P, aside from the added security benefits, is that it unlocks the device, even when the screen is off. You don’t need to press the power button to bring up the lockscreen, you can just tap the sensor and your device will be unlocked. This is something small, but it’s something that is very convenient and shouldn’t go unnoticed.

Software

Software is definitely one area that can make or break a phone. I love using my Galaxy Note 5, it is one of the most powerful smartphones on the market right now with 4 GB of LPDDR4 RAM and the Exynos 7420 processor, but its software holds it back. It’s like having a turbocharged car with tons of upgrades, but not adjusting the ECU for the parts. The phone looks good on paper, but it doesn’t perform when duty calls.

Stock Android can never be replaced, no matter how many features other OEMs add to their devices, it’s never worth it. The latest version of Android widens the gap even further by building on top of Android Lollipop and adding a few new features.

Android 6.0 Marshmallow is the smoothest versions of Android I have ever used, which it should be. Using the Nexus 6P, you can fly through everything without skipping a beat. To top it off, it comes with a Google Now on Tap and a new System UI tuner. The System UI tuner is something we saw in the Developer Preview builds and it is one of my favorite additions to stock Android.

With the System UI tuner, you enable it by long pressing the settings cog in the notification panel. Once enabled, you can find it in the settings at the very bottom. It includes a battery percentage that is embedded into the battery icon in the status bar, adjustable quick settings toggles, and the ability to change which icons show up in the status bar. All of these features were one of the main reasons I rooted and installed a custom ROM on my Nexus 6, so its great to see Google listening to their customers.

Google Now on Tap is a whole different story. This is something 100% unique to Android Marshmallow and will only get better with time. If you are unfamiliar with Now on Tap, you long press the home button and the device will scan the screen. If there is an athlete, place, etc., it will pull up information on that person, place or thing. I haven’t used it too much, but it is quite handy and does work.

Sometimes doing it more than once on the same page would generate different results, but for the most part it was spot on. I haven’t really felt the need to use it just yet, but it is great knowing that the feature is there. For the very first iteration of Now on Tap, I am very impressed with how well performing it is, so it can only go up from here.

Camera

One area of Nexus devices that has been lacking in years past has been the camera. The Nexus 6 definitely improved upon that, but I still wasn’t impressed with the photos it produced. It was shaky in low-light, even though it had optical image stabilization. Google went all-in this year in the camera department and I’ll tell you first hand that it shows.

The Nexus 6P has a 12.3 megapixel camera with an f/2.0 aperture and 1.55µm pixel size, which is very capable of producing excellent shots. The camera does not have optical image stabilization this time around, but it does include a dual-LED flash and laser auto focus.

Since the 6P has a massive pixel size of 1.55µm, it excels in low-light shooting compared to other flagships and still shows a great amount of detail, even though it doesn’t have a larger aperture, larger megapixel count, and optical image stabilization. I am thoroughly impressed with the results that this camera can produce, especially since my last device I used as my daily driver was a Galaxy Note 5.

The Nexus 6P’s camera can show great detail, even though it only has 12.3 megapixel camera. That just goes to show you right off hand that megapixels aren’t everything. I personally am a fan of a 16:9 aspect ratio in my pictures, but I like the 6P too much to care. The 4:3 ratio is fine, especially with the kind of pictures it generates. As you can see above, in daylight it can show great detail and at nighttime, it still does a great job of capturing the image. It doesn’t get too grainy in low-light shots, which happens to nearly every phone.

If you like to see the full resolution of the images, you can do so at this link.

Battery

Aside from the camera, one of the most important things to the Google team this time around was to improve battery life. Usually Nexus devices in the past come with smaller batteries, but the Nexus 6P ships with a massive 3,450 mAh battery. It is more than enough to get you through a day and a little more.

What impressed me the most is that they fit a very large battery into a device that is only 7.3 mm thin. Comparing it to the Nexus 6 which only had a 3,220 mAh battery encased in a device that is 10.1 mm thick. This is truly great designing on Huawei’s part.

As we all know, the Nexus 6P ships with a USB Type-C charging port, so the battery better last longer than a day just in case you can’t find a Type-C cable when you’re out and about. Google definitely thought about that because the massive 3,450 mAh battery coupled with Android Marshmallow and Doze, provided me with some great results.

Neuxs 6P battery life

I have been using the Nexus 6P as my daily driver since I received it back on the 29th of October, and I have yet to have the phone come close to dying when I’m at work or school. To give you perspective, my device usually goes 12-15 hours as my day lasts from 6:30 am to 9:30 pm. I go to school which gets terrible reception off to work where I get great reception. I can easily get 4 hours of screen on time with my device, but I usually tend to throw it on the charger before I get close to that mark. I would usually get home and have around 50% left, which is excellent for being up for 12-15 hours.

Nexus 6P battery life 2

As expected, the device has excellent standby time, and that isn’t just when it is sitting on a table overnight.On a very moderate usage day, I averaged a drain of only 1.9% per hour which is very good. My device was up for nearly 17 hours and I ended with 68%. I haven’t got that good of battery life in a long, long time, so Google is doing something right.

Nexus 6P Doze

The other biggest feature of Android Marshmallow is its new Doze feature. Last night I gave it try, mainly because I didn’t have my charger with me. I didn’t know what to expect, but I went to bed with 32% left and woke up with 32% left. This might be Android’s greatest achievement so far. I can only see Doze getting better from here on out as well. To not lose a single percent of battery over an 8 hour span, that is just impressive.

Conclusion

The Nexus 6P built upon what was already strong on the Nexus 6, but also added what it lacked. They added a better camera, fingerprint sensor, and a more premium design, all at a lower price. The Nexus 6P is one of the best devices I’ve ever used, and that’s what I’ve come to expect from Google.

The 6P is the perfected blend of high-quality design and great performance. You just can’t beat a Google Nexus device, especially when they employ top of the line hardware like LPDDR4 RAM and a 64-bit octacore processor. The device hits all the marks, it performs well, is comfortable to hold, looks good, and its relatively cheap.

Nexus phones used to be a cheap, well-made alternative to flagship devices, but that’s not the case anymore. They are not alternatives, they are the flagships. The Huawei Nexus 6P is excellently designed and doesn’t skimp on one single aspect. To top it all off, Android Marshmallow makes everything seamless and is the best Android OS to date.

The Nexus devices are the new flagships and are the standards. I definitely think the Nexus 6P is the phone of the year and I’m pretty sure this device will be in my pocket all the way until next Nexus season, it’s that good. Honestly, I can’t really complain about anything on the device, as it will only get better.

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About Author

I skateboard, listen to metal, write on my website FWNED, autocross, and love messing with new phones. Currently I'm using a Pixel XL running Pure Nexus with ElementalX as my daily driver.

  • Mike

    Great review! Thanks, Matt!

    • Matt Kinne

      Much appreciated!

  • Amazing review, much better than anything i’ve read on the 6P.

    Thanks again!!!!!

    • Matt Kinne

      I’m glad you liked it. Thank you!

  • Rob

    Excellent review Matt. I found this site through Reddit and I’ll be following your stuff in the future. I like that you talk more about your experience of the phone rather than obsess over synthetic benchmarks and specs, which can end up meaning nothing in the real world if you are let down by something like shoddy software, as you rightly pointed out. You also strike a nice balance between useful information and the overall length of the review.

    I have one criticism though; I think you should have shown photos with HDR+ on and off to illustrate the difference and show people where it can be useful. For example, in the shot with the blue house, the clouds are blindingly white, and that is how I know HDR+ was not used as it would have corrected that error. (Although the rest of the shot looks nice!)

    Anyway, I’m a happy 6P owner myself and think you did a great job covering the details of this phone. I look forward to reading your future reviews. 🙂

    • Matt Kinne

      Thanks for your feedback, I really appreciate it! I agree I should go more in-depth with the camera in the future, currently it’s just more of an overview.

      I’m glad you like your 6P though, it’ll definitely stay in my pocket for a long, long time.

  • Keith House

    I really enjoyed your overview Matt. It was undoubtedly my favourite and your coverage was exactly what viewers want covered. I’ve had my 6p for 4 weeks and I’m loving the phone.
    Keep up the good work it’s much appreciated !!!!!!

    • Matt Kinne

      Thanks for the support, I’m very appreciative!