We review the Google Nexus 6, a massive (in more than one way) smartphone collaboration between Google and Motorola.
The Google Nexus 6 has suffered a rather stuttery start to life, with unexplained delays to its launch and pre-order units selling out seemingly in seconds. Now that it’s finally hitting stores, can this Google-branded phablet stand up to huge competition from Android rivals such as the LG G3 and Sony Xperia Z3?
Design: My you’re a big one
Let’s start with this: the Google Nexus 6 is bloody massive. At six inches, it’s a serious chunk bigger than last year’s Nexus 5, not to mention the 5.5-inch LG G3 and even the Samsung Galaxy Note 4. This is serious phablet territory, so don’t apply if you enjoy using a phone with one hand.
That said, those geniuses at Motorola have somehow made the Nexus 6 quite comfortable to handle, with a slender body that’s nicely curved, just like the LG G3. It’s not ridiculously hefty either, at 184g. However, you’ll definitely want to use both hands when you’re browsing the web, typing out texts and so on, meaning the Nexus 6 isn’t best suited to anyone who enjoys multi-tasking.
Aside from that monstrous boost in size, the Nexus 6 isn’t worlds apart from the Nexus 5 when it comes to looks. The front is all gloss as expected, with narrow strips above and below the screen for the speakers. Flip it over and you’ll notice some of Motorola’s signature additions, such as the curved top and the centrally-located camera.
Sadly the finish isn’t quite as premium as the Nexus 5’s, at least in our opinion. The sizeable dual-LED ring flash, for instance, adds a plasticky quality to the overall look, while the soft-touch material attracts scuffs and grime like a Greggs attracts chavs. We’re guessing you won’t spend much time actually looking at the back end of your phone, but when you’re throwing this much cash on a device, it’s nice to have a seriously slick design to love and cherish.
We’re also a little gutted that the pleasing glowy notification light from the base of the Nexus 5 is gone, and instead the Nexus 6’s screen faintly glows for a few seconds to reveal any incoming emails, texts and so on. If you miss that, then you’ll have to double-tap the screen to have a glance and see if anything’s waiting for your attention.
As another minor niggle, we found we constantly hit the volume buttons by accident when fumbling for the power button, as they’re both very small and scrunched up together on the right edge of the device. Not exactly a deal breaker, but it does make using the phone that little bit more fiddly.
Interestingly, even though the Nexus 6 isn’t listed as water-resistant on Google’s official page and doesn’t hold an IP rating like Sony’s Xperia Z3 and the Samsung Galaxy S5, it can apparently take a serious dunking. We didn’t dare submerge our review sample as these things are rarer than yeti teeth, but it definitely has no trouble with rainstorms (cheers, British weather).
Screen and media: Solid Quads
With its supremely crisp 6-inch screen (or 5.96-inches if you want to be all pedantic about it), it’s clear that the Nexus 6 is cosying up to movie fans. It’s a 2560×1440 ‘Quad HD’ panel, the same as the brilliant LG G3, so images are incredibly crisp – if you reckon you can spot an individual pixel with your naked eye, you’re either a bird of prey or a liar.
Almost every other aspect of the Nexus 6’s massive panel is a winner too. On top brightness it’s easy to read, even if you’re being bombarded by strong glare. Viewing angles are as wide as you’d like and colour reproduction is perfectly natural, so photos and video look great. Our only real complaint is that whites aren’t as crisp and clean as we’d like, with a hint of yellow, but we reckon most users won’t even notice.
We were pretty impressed by the dual built-in speakers too, which pump out a wickedly powerful sound. They’re easily strong enough for listening to bassy tracks at your desk or enjoying a movie without headphones.
OS and features: A lick of the Lollipop
Android Lollipop of course comes pre-installed on the Nexus 6, so you get all of Google’s latest updates ahead of most other mobiles. We won’t dive into the great new features of Lollipop here, but check out our tips and tricks guide to see some of our favourite bits, including setting up multiple users and using your Bluetooth gear to unlock the phone.
We have to admit, we were a little disappointed that the Nexus 6 doesn’t have any stand-out features that really make the most of that enormous screen. There’s no creative tools like Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4, or nifty multi-tasking tools like on the LG G3. Still, Lollipop in its vanilla form is a bit of a treat and fun to use, so at least the Nexus offers a slick user experience.
Like the Nexus 5, this Google phone doesn’t pack expandable storage. That means you’re stuck with the 32 or 64GB of storage that’s built in. Thankfully that’s not much of an issue unless you’re hoping to carry a massive music or movie collection around.
Performance and battery life: Keeps going and going
You shouldn’t be seeing any stutters, pauses or other performance glitches on the Nexus 6 thanks to the mighty Snapdragon 805 processor packed away inside, backed up by 3GB of RAM.
We played a fair few of the latest Android games, which ran perfectly and looked amazing, with no lag or other issues. We also had no trouble streaming movies, helped considerably by the phone’s 4G LTE support.
However, we’re even more impressed by the Nexus 6’s battery life, which is just as strong as the LG G3’s. After a 24 hours of regular use (texts, emails, web browsing, apps and camera use), we still had at least a third of the battery left. If you’re restrained, you’ll manage to get a full two days of use between charges. If you’re the opposite of restrained, you can still expect over seven hours of video streaming before the battery dies – a perfectly respectable result for a phablet device.
The battery also supports Qi wireless charging, so you can buy yourself something like the QiStone+ wireless charger, which you then simply plonk the Nexus 6 down on. It’ll start charging almost instantly, removing the need to fiddle around with a USB cable every time.
Camera: Shoot me now
A 13-megapixel f/2.0 camera lens with optical image stabilisation takes pride of place in the centre of the rear plate and it’s a dependable snapper, operating well in standard daytime conditions. Shots take almost instantly and are packed with enough detail to make your photos look awesome on a big screen, like your telly.
We also really like the simple, clean Lollipop camera interface. Your settings are hidden away but easily accessible, as are the different camera modes (limited to lens blur, panorama and photo sphere), which can be accessed with a quick swipe of your finger.
We did notice that some of our close-up shots were a little fuzzy, however, especially those taken in artificial light. Low-light shots on the whole came out well, with very little graininess, and there’s a powerful dual LED ring flash surrounding the lens which does a great job lighting up even a pitch black room (although it takes a little while to activate).
You can also shoot 4k video, which after roughly twelve minutes of continuous shooting makes the Nexus 6 go nuclear like the Xperia phones. However, the recording simply stopped when the Nexus 6 got rather toasty, rather than the entire phone shutting down, which was nice. Otherwise, there’s always bog-standard 1080p if you don’t want to see every pore in your friends’ and family’s faces.
The 2-megapixel front-facing camera might not match the ridiculous selfie-takers on phones like the HTC Desire Eye (which rocks a mental 13-megapixel lens), but it still takes sharp shots that are more than good enough for Facebook.
The Nexus 6 is arguably more sizeable than it should be, with not enough big-screen features to justify the offset in convenience and usability. However, it’s still a fun-to-use and fully premium phone, packing the best version of Android yet, crisp visuals, a dependable camera and some impressive battery life.