Google Nexus 6P Review: Google unveiled two new phones alongside the launch of Android 6.0 Marshmallow, one of which is the 6P – a new premium phablet from Huawei.
The Nexus 6P is somewhat of a landmark device in Google’s history for a number of reasons. Firstly it’s Huawei’s debut entry into the Nexus program and the company has started off strong, with a handset that could easily be considered as the most premium Nexus device ever.
Whilst the considered rounding and sculpting ensures the 6P, which is a large device, fits comfortably in the hand, it’s the fact that the bodywork is almost entirely milled from aluminium that helps purvey a sense of luxury and quality never before seen from the Nexus family.
To finish off the phone’s high level of fit and finish, the 6P packs polished, diamond-cut chamfered edges, milled metal hardware keys with knurled finishes and Gorilla Glass over the camera arrangement.
The biggest point of contention with regards to the 6P’s form is in fact this arrangement, which protrudes noticeably from the phone’s top, but not everyone will find fault with the handset over this element of its design, we certainly don’t mind it.
As well as a large Nexus logo and the aforementioned camera module, the back also features a fingerprint sensor which proves to be just as reliable as the Nexus 5X’s and lets you wake the device from sleep whilst bypassing the lock screen.
The other distinctive feature on the 6P’s body, designed to highlight the phone’s ties to the new Marshmallow operating system, is a Type-C USB port at the phone’s base which boasts added convenience by being reversible and supports fast charging.
Whilst its launch partner the new Nexus 5X feels like the new device for the everyman, the skill set of the 6P pushes its strengths in multimedia and entertainment. One glance at the phone’s front and there’s little doubt that this handset is designed to offer up a great media experience on-the-go.
The 5.7-inch display is skirted by a thin bezel and front-facing stereo speakers that actually push out clear, crisp sound (for their size), whilst Huawei’s decision to use a WQHD (2560×1440) resolution panel and AMOLED technology mean it’s a visual delight, with great overall brightness, solid contrast and impeccably punchy colours.
The biggest downside, as with so many phablets is that it’s near on impossible to use one-handed beyond simple swiping and tapping gestures. Trying to type, pinch or reach the top half of the screen one-handed is precarious not only due to the phone’s sheer size, but the aluminium body’s low-grip finish.
Naturally Android 6.0 Marshmallow is the star of the show and we’ve already explored the biggest new additions here. There’s little visually to separate Marshmallow from last year’s Lollipop as both utilise the same slick Material Design language stock Android is now known for, but new features like Now On Tap stand out as handy new tools that show you more based on whatever content is on-screen.
The 6P packs a clean, clear, colourful interface with tools that make the most of the top-tier hardware. The rear fingerprint sensor can be used to not only unlock the 6P, but authenticate Android Pay transactions when the service launches in the UK and thanks to the new Android Sensor Hub the “OK, Google” voice search prompt now works on a system-wide basis, even with the screen off if you allow it.
Software improvements to power management also help keep the phone’s most used apps active, whilst dialling other operations back when the phone is left dormant on a table for a long enough period and the Doze feature promises to add up to 30 per cent greater battery longevity over last year’s Nexus 6.
Speaking of battery life, there’s a mammoth 3450mAh cell inside the Nexus 6P and thanks to that new Type-C USB connection, there’s support for fast charging that results in seven hours of use time from just ten minutes at a wall plug. In practice we were expecting a little more than the one and a half to two days of use per charge, but clearly that WQHD display is a big drain on power.
Beyond the battery there’s the latest 64-bit Snapdragon 810 (v2.1) octa-core processor from Qualcomm, paired to 3GB of DDR4 RAM, so general operation is legitimately blisteringly fast and only the most intensive 3D gaming will offer up any discernible slowdown (or heat build-up), suggesting that in day to day use this thing will run with a buttery smoothness during your standard 18 to 24-month contract.
As with the Nexus 5X and other big names in the flagship Android space like the Samsung Galaxy S6/S6 Edge/Edge+, the 6P does away with a removable battery or expandable storage, but such features have been absent on Nexus devices for a while now. Instead you can nab it in 32GB, 64GB and 128GB capacities, whilst 4G connectivity, NFC and the aforementioned fast charging are all part of the package no matter which skew takes your fancy.
The best part about both new Nexus handsets is that whichever one you pick you know you’re getting a solid camera. There’s a 12.3-megapixel Sony Exmor R sensor serving as the basis for the rear camera experience in both the 5X and the 6P.
The sensor features enlarged pixels that take in more light to counter poorly lit or dingy shooting conditions and in the right environment it can be very effective. You’ll see grain and noise creep in in particularly poorly lit situations, but on the flip side the camera can turn out some great low light photos if conditions are right.
What’s more, in more conventional shooting conditions the 6P makes for a very balanced, accurate camera phone that deals with challenging aspects of photography, like high-contrast environments well. To say the 6P’s camera is around the same level as the one found on the new iPhone 6s isn’t exactly a stretch.
The beefy internal hardware also means you can capture 4K and 120fps or 240fps slow motion video. Marshmallow’s camera application packs a number of the creative tools (like SmartBurst) previously found on Google Photos and selfie fans will appreciate the phone’s 8-megapixel front-facing camera, which packs a nice wide lens as well.
Read next: Google Nexus 6P camera review
Huawei’s made a compelling case for the first premium Nexus phone and although the 6P comes with a price tag to match, it’ll still serve as an enticing alternative to phablet lovers who want something other than Samsung’s Galaxy S6 Edge+, last year’s Note 4, and iPhone 6 Plus or 6s Plus and even Huawei’s own Mate S.
The 32GB version is available for £449, the 64GB model for £499 and the 128GB version for £579, which sounds like a lot based on the Nexus devices of old, but when you consider that the largest capacity 6P is only £40 more than a 16GB iPhone 6s, there’s still an unquestionable level of value in the 2015 Nexus lineup.
Along with its launch partner, the Nexus 5X, the Nexus 6P is available in four colours; Aluminium (silver), Graphite (black),Frost (white) and gold (market-specific special edition). It looks good, packs great hardware all-round and can deliver when pit against the market’s biggest rivals.