A few weeks ago I posted my first impressions of the Huawei built Nexus 6P. I covered a few of the highlights of the device that I had found to be exceptional in using the device but didn’t go into a lot of detail because this more detailed review was forthcoming. Now that I have been using the 6P as my primary phone for the last 2 weeks, I can say without question it is the best smartphone I have used to date. It is the complete package and has everything that you would expect a flagship device to have: Speed, an excellent display, a solid camera and all day battery. But that’s really just the high level stuff. There is so much this phone offers and with Android N on its way for it, a Nexus 6P isn’t a bad choice in phone even if it is a few months old.
Specifications & Form Factor
There is nothing to really frown upon once you start digging into the specifications of the Nexus 6P. It is powered by a Snapdragon 810 processor that is made up of a quad-core Cortex-A53
running at 1.55 GHz and a quad-core Cortex-A57 running at 2.0 GHz. That processor is coupled with an Adreno 430 graphics processor and 3GB of RAM. The 6P comes with 32, 64 or 128GB of storage but unlike some other manufactures, the 3GB of RAM is in all of the storage options. Like previous Nexus devices, the 6P does not have any expansion options for memory. There is no MicroSD slot so be sure you buy the proper amount of storage you need from the get-go.
From a network perspective, the 6P is going to be able to handle both GSM and CDMA bands. That means you can use the phone with virtually any carrier here in the United States and abroad. On HSPA, you can expect up to 42.2 Mbps downloads while on LTE, it supports up to 300 Mbps downloads. Obviously your mileage will vary from carrier to carrier and your location but the point here is that the phone is fully supporting network speeds. Here is a rundown of the supported bands/frequencies supported here in the United States:
- GSM: 850/900/1800/1900
- CDMA: 800/1900
- HSDPA (US Version): 850/900/1700/1900/2100
- LTE (US Version) Bands: 2, 3, 4, 5, 7, 12, 13, 17, 25, 26, 29, 30, 41
The Nexus 6P is also supported on Project Fi, Google’s own MVNO solution. With the wide range of bands it can handle, the 6P works with all three of the carriers for Fi: Sprint, T-Mobile and U.S. Cellular. If you are curious about Fi, you can read my review of it and my six month update. If you are interested in moving to Fi, be sure to check out the conclusion to this review as I cover the purchase options for the 6P including buying it through Fi.
From a Wi-Fi perspective, the 6P support 8.2.11 a/b/g/n/ac and is dual-band so you should find your connectivity is excellent on this phone. It also support Wi-Fi Direct and can act as a mobile hotspot. Bluetooth 4.2 is also built in with A2DP and LE support.
The display of the 6P is a 5.7″ AMOLED unit that renders at 1440 x 2560 pixels. That gives you a pixel density of approximately 518ppi. I will go into the overall performance of the display later in the review but I will say it is extremely crisp with excellent color accuracy. More on it later. The display is covered in Corning Gorilla Glass 4 and it has a oleophobic coating to repel oil and fingerprints. Overall it has a 71.4% screen-to-body ratio with most of the “dead” space at the top and bottom of the display for speakers, microphones and the front facing camera.
Camera wise, the main camera is a 12.3 MP f/2.0 camera with laser auto-focus and dual-LED dual tone flash. The sensor driving it is a renders 1.55μm pixel size which means it is super sharp and able to deal with low light photography much better than previous Nexus devices. This, is in part, why Google did not put Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) in the 6P. The camera is able to shoot 4K video as well as 120 fps and 240 fps slow motion action. The front facing camera is a 8 MP f/2.4 model that can shoot up to 1080p video I’ll cover the cameras in more detail later in the review.
For you audio types, the Nexus 6P has dual front facing speakers and two microphones that are front facing. There is also a single rear microphone and all of them have noise cancellation technology.
If there is one knock on the 6P it is that it is not waterproof. In light of the Samsung Galaxy S7 and S7 Edge being waterproof, it would have been good to have seen the 6P with this same technology. As one who snow skis, snowshoes and hikes depending on the season, having a waterproof phone is a big bonus. Even if there were a waterproof case from Lifeproof or Otterbox – of which there is not – it would help.
Form factor wise, the 6P is 6.27 x 3.06 x .29″ thin. In new money that translates to 159.3 x 77.8 x 7.3mm. It weighs in at 6.28oz or 178g. If you compare it to the Nexus 6, the 6P is roughly the same height but it is .21″ thinner in width. That makes a huge difference in holding this phone comfortably. It is a big phone but it doesn’t feel like a big phone. The phone is a unibody construction so it feels solid. You can get the back of the phone in four different colors: Black, bare aluminum, White (or as it is called by Google, Frost) and Gold. I opted for the Aluminum finish mostly because I’m tired of black phones but I have to say, it looks just awesome.
The front of the phone is dominated by the 5.7″ display although again, there is a bit of dead space at the top and bottom. Above the display is where you will find the front facing camera, proximity sensor and one of the front facing speakers. Below the display is another speaker and the dual microphones. These give the 6P exceptional voice quality when making calls – because, after all, sometimes we actually do have to make a call with our smartphones.
Flipping the 6P over you will find the camera in a glass covered band across the top of the device. Here is where the main camera is located along with the dual tone flash. The laser assisted focus sensors are also located in this band although you won’t really be able to see them unless you hold the phone in direct sunlight to look at the camera area. Just below the camera there is a small notch which is where the single rear facing microphone is located. Finally, in the center of the back, is the fingerprint sensor. During the setup of your 6P or afterward in the Security settings, you
can enable this sensor to read your fingerprint to unlock the device. My only previous experience with fingerprint sensors were from Apple with their TouchID system built into the iPhone 5S and later. It works… okay-ish. I found that with it I was constantly having to re-check my fingerprint to get my iPhone to unlock. That is not been the case at all with the sensor on the 6P. It has worked flawlessly and the sensor is smart enough to figure out my fingerprint from almost any angle of touch. It is also stupid fast. I mean seriously, seriously fast. There is virtually no delay from touch to the phone being unlocked. I have been truly impress with how it has performed and now that I’ve been using it, I can’t see myself going back to a device without such a sensor. It is a fast and efficient way to unlock your phone while you are on-the-go.
At the bottom of the 6P is another new feature to the Nexus lineup: USB Type-C. There are a lot of benefits to this new high throughput connector. First, it can charge your phone slightly faster than a MicroUSB as it can deliver far more power to the device. We don’t really see that on the Nexus 6P or 5X for that matter, as the power sent to the device via the charger that comes with the phones only push out about 15W. It is faster than Quick Charge 3.0 technology but not massively quicker. Second, Type-C is already being adopted not only on smartphones but on tablets and PCs as well. Apple has all-but switched to it on their Macbook lineup while Google has adopted it for their current lineup of phones and the Pixel and Pixel C. Third, you can do a lot more with Type C than you could ever do with Type B (MicroUSB). For one, you have enough data throughput for displays and stupid fast data transfers on hard disks. In fact, unless you are using a SSD, Type C will be able to take in data faster than the drive can keep up. Finally, from a usability perspective, it is a much better solution. The connector is reversible so you don’t have to fumble about to figure out which way to connect the cable to your phone. That doesn’t sound like a big deal but until you have it, you don’t realize how big of a deal it is to have on your phone.
As a Nexus 6 owner, switching to the 6P has been a great experience from a form factor perspective. This phone feels so much easier to hold yet you aren’t giving up a huge amount of screen size to make it happen. Plus, you get all the benefits of a year newer technology like USB Type-C, an improved processor and so forth.
Specifications are all well-and-good but how does the Nexus 6P actually perform. In a word, brilliantly. I performed a benchmark test with the app Geekbench 3 which, when compared to other
devices out there, performed exceptionally well. In the Single-Core test, the 6P scored 1076 which is slightly better than the Nexus 6 but falls short of the Samsung Galaxy S7. However, on the Multi-Core test, the 6P scored a 4046 which is still behind the Galaxy S7 but miles ahead of the Nexus 6 which only scored 3006. While we can get into the weeds on benchmark tests, my point is that whether you are gaming or simply doing email, the 6P is more than up to the task.
For any phone review I generally try to test the game play with it by playing Real Racing 3, my go-to racing simulator game. It is a graphically intense game and serves as a good test to see if the phone can keep up with the constant redrawing that happens in the app. The Nexus 6P did great. I had no stuttering or odd pixelization while playing the game while also not ending up holding a flaming hot phone in the process. I also tried out a few other games (Angry Birds 2, Alto’s Adventure) and all performed fantastically well on the 6P.
One of the key features of the Nexus 6 that I have loved is the display. It is sharp
and crisp and because of the high pixel-per-inch count, it is easy to look at for extended periods of time. My hope with the 6P would that it would be up to that same task even though it was a smaller screen by a smidgen. I’m glad to say that it not only was up to the task but actually was an improvement. I’ve found that the display on the phone is just as good as its predecessor and when it comes to color accuracy is actually a bit better in my opinion. I found that the Nexus 6 tended to be a bit on the warm color side while the 6P tends to be more color neutral, thus a bit more accurate. Color coolness or warmth is a bit of a personal preference, I agree, but looking at photos I’ve taken, I feel the photos are rendered more accurately from a color perspective. This is true of photos taken with the Nexus 6, 6P or my Sony digital camera.
I benchmarked the 6P display using the AnTuTu app where the phone scored 85025 on the 3D test. That put it just behind the Huawei Mate 8 (92746) and Meizu Pro 5 (85652) in the rankings. For comparison, the Nexus 6 ranked 11th at 71588 so it is a big step up from the previous flagship Nexus device.
When comparing the main camera of the Nexus 6P to that of the Nexus 6, the first thing that will strike you is that there is no improvement in megapixel count on the 6P. In fact, it actually went down in pixel count slightly. But don’t let that one marker fool you. The camera in the 6P is phenomenal in virtually every situation. The improvements in the camera come in the 1/2.3″ sensor that has 1.55µm pixel size. The µm, or Microns measurement is the key. The larger this number, the more light the pixel sees when you take a photo. Compare this to the 1.44µm that is in the Nexus 6. That may not sound like much but it makes a huge difference in color accuracy and lower light shots. The result is a superior camera.
The flash on the rear of the 6P is a dual-tone flash which has become somewhat of the standard for smartphones. The result is you don’t get the “bright” flash photos of the past but a more natural tone to your flash photography.
While the front facing camera doesn’t have the chops of the rear one, it still is an excellent camera. It is 8 MP which is great for selfies or for using video apps like Hangouts or Skype. This, again, is far superior to the Nexus 6 which had a 1.2 MP front shooter. It was passable but not great. The 6P’s front facing camera is great.
Android Marshmallow for Now…
As readers will know by now, the Nexus 6P comes with an unadulterated version of Android from Google. We can discuss and debate if the add on features from the Samsung and Cyanogen’s of the world are good or bad but if you want Android the way that Google intended it, get a Nexus device. Thing gets in your way and it works beautifully.
There are some other benefits too. First, Google’s monthly security updates for Android always come to Nexus devices first. That means that your device will always be up to date from a security perspective. Second, with the Nexus 6P, you will also be one of the first to have Android N when it releases later this year. In fact, you are even more future proof in that Android O will also be supported on the 6P. With a Nexus device you don’t have to wait nearly as long as others to get the latest security updates.
Performance wise, Marshmallow performs exceptionally well on the 6P. Given that Marshmallow was the shipping version of Android on the 6P, that shouldn’t come as a great surprise.
As with any smartphone these days, battery life is critically important. This is again an area where the Nexus 6P shines. The phone is equipped with a 3450 mAh battery which is about average for a device of this size. However, couple that battery with the battery saving features of Android Marshmallow and you get a package that can easily make it throughout the day. Throughout my normal day of email, web surfing, working on Evernote, working in Google Docs, a little big of gaming (Real Racing 3!) and YouTube, I usually have about 10% battery left by 7PM each night on days were the phone is off the charger around 8AM. That is more than enough for me and I suspect that for most users, that would be enough too.
The time it takes for you to charge the 6P is largely going to depend on how you charge it. If you use the provided USB Type-C to Type-C charger and cable, I can go from 10% to about 80% in roughly 15 minutes. Going all the way up to 100% will take me another hour so all in, an hour and a quarter and I’m fully recharged. If, however, you use a USB Type-A connector cable to Type-C, the charge times take significantly longer so bear that in mind.
I don’t get flustered by most phones and part of that is simply due to the fact that I’ve reviwed so many over the course of the last 18 years. But when it comes to the Nexus 6P, I’m completely enamored. It looks good, it feels good to hold, it performs exceptionally well and is up to the task of making it through the day from a battery perspective. I do not think I’ve found an Android phone that is as complete as this phone. I have no hesitation in recommending it if you are looking for a true flagship device to meet your needs.
There are a couple of different ways you can purchase the Nexus 6P. You can buy it outright from Google starting at $499 for the 32GB model. The 64GB model is $549 while the 128GB mode is $649. This is inline with other flagship devices and in fact is less expensive at the 64GB or 128GB level than other flagship devices.
If you are on Project Fi or are considering making a move to Project Fi, you can pay out that price over the course of 24 months or buy it out right at a lower cost. On Fi you can get the 32GB model for $449, the 64GB model for $499 and the 128GB model for $599. If you opt to go with the payment plan, there is no interest charged for doing it and you can pay the phone off early if you want to do so. If you are thinking about going down the Fi path, read my review and my six month update on the service for my thoughts.