[highlight color=#336699 ]Introduction[/highlight]
The Nexus line is back and Google has picked Huawei to design its newest budget flagship. How does it compare to the competition?
Whenever a manufacturer steps up to the Nexus challenge, you better believe that it’s big business. Following in the line of HTC, LG and Motorola, Chinese brand Huawei has now been given the task of creating the next flagship for Google’s premium smartphone range. Featuring a much sleeker design and slightly smaller pricetag than its phablet predecessor the Nexus 6, has it ticked all the boxes to become a worthy successor? Let’s find out.
OS Android Marshmallow 6.0
Processor Snapdragon 810 (1.5GHz Quad-core + 2GHz Quad-core)
Screen 5.7 inches
Resolution 1440 x 2560 pixels (518 ppi)
Memory 3 GB RAM
Micro SD compatible No
Rear camera 12MP
Front camera 8MP
Connectivity 3G, 4G LTE
Dimensions 159 x 78 x 7.3 mm
Battery 3,450 mAh
[highlight color=#336699 ]Design[/highlight]
Okay, so the Nexus 6P is a bit of an oddity on the design front. It looks the business and will no doubt impress the many people who purchase it but there’s a certain eyesore that could be perceived as quite ugly. When you first pick up the Nexus 6P in your hand, you’ll more than likely be very impressed with its sturdy yet lightweight feel. At only 178g, it weighs considerably less than other comparative devices which veer into the phablet territory. Featuring a full aluminium unibody with machine cut edges, it gets the balance right between design and practicality. There’s no slippery materials here, with the subtle textured finish giving just about enough grip to make it feel comfortable in the hand.
On the front, it continues the minimal executive chic styling, with an all-black glass front and very little to discern it from other devices apart from the two very large stereo speakers which sit either side of the screen. On the sides we find a volume rocker and textured power button, which is a nice touch and helps to differentiate them apart when you instinctively grab the device. There’s also a SIM slot that needs to be opened with the obligatory lock tool but no microSD slot, meaning you’ll have to make do with the built-in memory this time round. This isn’t really a surprise, as the last time we saw a Google device with expandable memory was way back in the very first HTC Nexus One.
Moving to the rear, the story is much the same. Business class styling with premium materials and very little to catch your eye. Aside from the hulking great Nexus logo on the rear, the device is pretty sparse besides the fingerprint sensor above it. Or at least it would be if it wasn’t for that enormous camera bump on the back¦ What were you thinking Huawei? It’s quite possibly one of the ugliest additions I’ve ever seen to a smartphone and seriously detracts from what is an otherwise stellar build quality.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Camera[/highlight]
The Google Nexus 6P uses a custom Sony sensor with a resolution of 12.3 megapixels and while it’s not perfect, this is still one of the best smartphone cameras you can get considering the price point. Positioning itself just underneath the flagships, the Nexus 6P manages to mostly keep up with the front runners, offering a perfect blend of all round performance.
Thanks to the larger pixels included on the sensor, image noise was very low. Pictures in daytime conditions were generally very good, with only a few subtle issues due to my choice of spot focus. On auto, the camera did an excellent job of selecting the most appropriate settings for the scene and creating a very balanced and evenly exposed image. While none of the colours seemed to ‘pop’ like on other handsets, the Nexus 6P managed to impress me with a natural image that felt like it wasn’t overly processed for the generic user. Low-light shots were also pretty good, with a fair amount of ISO noise but plenty of detail retained in the fine areas. We were also impressed with the overall exposure in darker images, with the Nexus 6P able to carve every last ounce of light to illuminate an otherwise pitch black image.
Unfortunately, the camera features a distinct lack of manual settings. HDR and flash modes are all you’ll get to adjust your image, which we always feel is a wasted opportunity when the quality of the sensor is so high. Huawei did include a couple of custom shooting options, which manage to work mostly well and offer a bit of variety. Photo sphere creates a Google Maps style 360-degree field of vision and works incredibly well, while the panorama effect is equally intuitive. The lens blur effect was perhaps the standout feature, offering brilliant depth of field and bokeh without the need for a dual-sensor. In fact, I was quite amazed by just how well it performed. Confront it with a moving target and things start to struggle¦ But with a static object the setting is genuinely very useful.
The 8 megapixel front camera is also nothing to be frowned at, producing a perfectly usable selfie image in ideal lighting conditions. Low-light shots are a little noisier but overall, the image quality is exceptionally good for a front facing camera.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Screen[/highlight]
The Huawei Nexus 6P has a large 5.7-inch Samsung AMOLED panel with a resolution of 1440 x 2560, putting on the same level as the best devices currently available (aside from the ludicrous 4K Sony Xperia Z5 Premium). This gives it an overall pixel density of 513 PPI which is well over the traditional printing standard of 300. As such, pixilation is nowhere to be found and everything is crystal clear even when viewed up close. It ships with Cornering’s newest Gorilla Glass 4 for added protection and features the oleophobic coating which has been passed down from previous generations of the Nexus. This helps it to repel water and oils such as sweat much easier, which should in theory help to keep your screen cleaner.
Image quality is excellent, with vibrant, punchy colours and plenty of contrast. As with all AMOLED panels, things can almost feel too vibrant at times, though it’s nowhere near as bad as the first generation screens. While we can’t say if it’s the same panel as what featured in the Galaxy Note 5, it certainly looks very close. It’s likely that the in-house colour tuning is the only thing separating them both visually. On the topic of colour calibration, our software showed a pretty obvious green hue out of the box. Viewing angles are generally very good, though things did seem to take on a red hue when nearing 180 degrees. Still, it’s a gripe that matters little as most people are hardly going to read their device on a side!
Outdoor readability is very good, with a high maximum brightness that only falls slightly short of front-runners such as the Galaxy S6 edge and Xperia Z5. Whether you’re using this indoors or outdoors, you should only struggle under the most intense lighting situations.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Performance[/highlight]
Featuring a range-topping Snapdragon 810 and 3GB of high quality DDR4 RAM, there’s very little to complain about in the Nexus 6P when it comes to performance. For general UI swiping and web browsing, things are buttery smooth even under heavy use. I opened up multiple apps, ran a game and watched a 1440p video with little lag in the app switcher. Everything just works, which is largely down to the stock Android 6.0 and the choice of fast DDR4 memory keeping things snappy and optimised.
Gaming is about as good as it gets, with Asphalt 8: Airborne running flawlessly on the device. Benchmarks scores were equally impressive, with an average of 4093 for multi-core and 1310 for single-core over five tests. This puts it hot on the heels of the top Samsung Exynos powered devices and in the upper echelon of Snapdragon powered handsets. Single-core is perhaps the most impressive, with the Nexus 6P only narrowly losing out to the Galaxy S6 edge and jumping ahead of the Note 5. We’re also pleased to report zero overheating issues with the Nexus 6P, with the only ever getting lukewarm in our extended 30 minute playtest on Asphalt 8. This is a far-cry from similarly equipped devices such as the Sony Xperia Z5 which we reviewed last issue that get very toasty indeed.
Being a Google Nexus branded device, you would expect it to ship with the latest software. Launching with Android 6.0 Marshmallow straight out of the box, you’ll be getting the latest and greatest Android experience currently possible. In what has become something of a theme now, the software is totally stock and free from bloatware, giving a speedy and pure experience. The Material UI
While Marshmallow isn’t as big of a jump as Lollipop, it still offers several new features that are worth mentioning for those unaware. Google Now on Tap is here and fully functional, offering information for just about anything you allow it to look at. Fingerprint scanning has gotten a huge improvement with native software integration making it blazingly quick, which should be the same for all fingerprint sensor equipped future devices. You can also use the built-in sensor to access the new Android Pay service, allowing you to purchase things with a simple tap of the finger. Being a Google Nexus branded device, you would expect it to ship with the latest software. Launching with Android 6.0 Marshmallow straight out of the box, you’ll be getting the latest and greatest Android experience currently possible. In what has become something of a theme now, the software is totally stock and free from bloatware, giving a speedy and pure experience.
The Material UI while Marshmallow isn’t as big of a jump as Lollipop, it still offers several new features that are worth mentioning for those unaware. Google Now on Tap is here and fully functional, offering information for just about anything you allow it to look at. Fingerprint scanning has gotten a huge improvement with native software integration making it blazingly quick, which should be the same for all fingerprint sensor equipped future devices. You can also use the built-in sensor to access the new Android Pay service, allowing you to purchase things with a simple tap of the finger.
Aside from this, you’ve also got new features such as Doze, which dynamically adjusts phone performs according to usage for maximum battery life and a Memory Monitor that finally allows us to see what’s eating up all that RAM on our device. Usability is another factor that has gotten a bump in Marshmallow, with the ability to change things such as the system shortcuts and manage the various volume controls more intuitively. All-in-all, it’s a worthwhile upgrade that doesn’t feel much on first impression but definitely helps to further the OS and make it feel that little bit more complete.
The battery in the Huawei is quite a big talking point at a whopping 3,450mAh and in real-world usage, it lasts an age. You can easily manage two days of moderate usage on this device, even throwing in some light gaming. Oddly, our 30 minute gaming test contradicted this and dropped the battery by 15%, which was a little unexpected for such a high capacity. Our guess is that like with most things, the drain is highly dependent on the circumstances.
The new Nexus 6P doesn’t support Quick Charge 2.0 but it does support Fast Charge, which is a different technology that pretty much achieves the same thing. It only works with the included charger but it’s worth the effort, as we saw the battery capacity increase by 28% after only 20 minutes of juice. While that’s not quite as fast as Qualcomm’s Quick Charge implementation, it’ still pretty quick. As with most premium handsets, the battery is non-removable and must be charged with a powerbank if you’re on the move, though the Nexus 6P has a pretty cool trump card up its sleeve. If one of your friends owns a Nexus 5X, it’s actually possible to charge the phone directly from the Nexus 6P, with the latter acting as a powerbank. It’s a neat little trick that could come in handy if one of your friends gets caught short while away from a wall wart.
[highlight color=#336699 ]Conclusion[/highlight]
The Nexus 6P is pretty much everything you could want in a smartphone, offering the perfect blend of performance and features. While it’s still a little on the expensive side, the device is still cheaper than the previous generation Nexus 6 and easily offers a better product than its predecessor did at the time of release. If you can put up with its large phablet footprint and ugly rear camera fascia, there’s little to moan about the actual device. Even if the camera bump at the back looks a bit ugly, it’s difficult to criticise the device as a whole when everything else is so damn good. It’s a better size versus the Nexus 6, more comfortable and slightly cheaper for the base model. Without a doubt, this is easily Google’s best Nexus handset to date.