Google finally has a killer flagship - Nexus 6P

This is a special year for the Nexus fans, thanks to Google, Huawei and LG. For the first time since 2008 when Nexus program was started by Google, we have two new Nexus phones this year - Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X.

Nexus6P_Nexus5X

Nexus 6P by Huawei is the beast of the two while the Nexus 5X comes as an upgrade by LG to the most popular Nexus yet - Nexus 5. After having used Nexus 5 for last two years, I wanted to upgrade to Nexus 6P, where P stands for Premium. Up until Nexus 6P, all previous generations of Nexus - phones or tablets were packed in the plastic body. This one breaks the jinx and comes in full metal frame. An Android phone that finally gives iPhone a tough competition in terms to design, camera and innovation.

Specifications & Pricing

specs

Nexus 6P is priced higher than the Nexus 5X, thanks to the premium build. The memory storage on this starts with 32GB variant priced at Rs. 39,999 while the 64GB variant is Rs. 42,999. The largest one 128GB is not yet available in India. Interestingly, the phone was pre-launched by the third party store - Flipkart. The official Google store still mentions the device as "Coming Soon". The device is available in 3 colour choices - Aluminium (silver), Graphite (black), and Frost (white). The frost hasn't reached the Indian shores yet.

comparative image

The icing on the cake for users who pre-ordered via Flipkart, the package included a Chromecast (clearance of 1st generation model), a basic case for Nexus 6P and a Huawei build earphones.

flipkart package

The PROs

The first thing that catches the attention, full metal unibody frame of Nexus 6P. Huawei and Google have done a fantastic job with the design. The tapered edges make it easy to hold the phablet (display size 5.7 inch) and operate it single-handed most of the time. Nexus 6P shed the bulk compared to the last year's Nexus 6 by Motorola. The left side of the frame has the sim tray for the nano sim. On the right is the textured power button, which feels really clicky and the volume buttons, that have the tactile feedback during clicks.

back image

side image

The front of the phone packs a vibrant AMOLED display and dual speakers. The speakers have a great output and so the does the screen speaks the story with each colour popping out. The AMOLED display on Nexus 6P is coated with an anti-fingerprint material - the oleophobic coat. This saves the screen from getting the smudges from the fingers during use and it works, so no fingerprints during day to day use. This is one reason I've been delaying my decision to put on a tempered glass. As much as the glass would protect the display during an accidental drop, I'm afraid it might hide the actual beauty of the display too.

front image

The bottom section of the frame is taken over by the new future standard of improved charging point - USB Type C. The new port will soon be the industry standard in the coming years. Google made USB type C available first in the Pixel Chromebook (another device I wish to possess soon) and followed by Apple providing the same in the latest MacBook Pro series. As for the benefits, allows to be used for faster charging along with memory drives with type C port. That said, the Nexus 6P provides a fast charging feature. When using the included charger, 10 mins of charging can give you about 7 hours of backup. Practically testing, 10 mins on charger gave 12% of battery. The box included an additional USB A to Type C charging cable. This cable can be used along with regular USB wall chargers available with the current breed of smart devices.

bottom image

package

Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X also brings along a hardware enhancement, the fingerprint sensor. This is termed as Nexus Imprint. On another Android and the iPhone the fingerprint sensor is positioned on the front, while on the new Nexii these are located at the back. The location is same as the placement of the Moto's popular dimple. This position is exactly where the user's index finger is mostly placed when picking or pulling out the phone. The sensor took a while to get adapted for the first time fingerprint user. Android 6.0 (Marshmallow) during initial setup prompted to setup the fingerprint to unlock the device. The setup was quick and once completed, the phone unlocks almost instantly. This proves useful when pulling out the phone from the pocket. During usage, the fingerprint to unlock is super fast and turns on the display along with unlocking the phone.

fingerprint

Another highlight of the back is a black strip on the top part, known as the Visor. This on the first look is ugly and then gradually it makes the Nexus 6P stand out. The visor houses the best camera sensor from Sony, a flash, the laser autofocus and the NFC (this was a discovery).

visor image

The Camera

Nexus 6P review is incomplete without a special mention about the camera. In all the previous generations of Nexus, camera hardware was defeated by the other flagship devices. This year Google and Huawei paid special attention...and it shows. While Huawei took care of the hardware that goes in, Google ensured that Android 6.0 can keep up. Technically, it's a 12.3 MP (not something I care about in the camera) for the rear camera and 8MP for the selfie camera. It is backed up by a 1.5 microns sensor that allows for more light to enter than other sensors. This sensor makes the camera stands out in the low-light photography. The low-light photos come out less pixelated than before. However, with all the sensor goodness, there is a lack of optical image stabilisation. This is majorly missed when capturing videos. The new quick to launch feature (specific to the new Nexii devices) is activated by quick double pressing the power button from any screen or even when the display is off (thanks for taking away the twist to launch of the camera on last year's Nexus 6 by Motorola). Pressing the volume buttons in the camera mode allows to capturing the shot without touching the display.

camera view

Google updated the camera app on Android 6.0, which still lacks the manual controls and the RAW (the output of DSLR for getting most out of the photo using post processing software) format support. Android 6.0 does support the required APIs for RAW format, but the camera app lacks it. It is a good automatic shooter, and fast, even when shooting in HDR+ mode (which has gone faster than before). The HDR mode now has an automatic mode, which kicks in if there is a dynamic range (dark background & light foreground in the scene). The new camera supports the burst mode, allowing to capture 8 photos by keeping the button pressed. The camera app includes the Panorama and Lens Blur modes instead of the dozen mode available on competition android phones. Check out the low light photos here - Google Photos

Finally, Nexus 6P supports 4K video recording and slow-motion capture at 120 fps or 240 fps at a 720p resolution with a twist. The twist being, the option of selecting the duration to apply the slow-mo effect. Compared to OnePlus One that I've been using since June last year, where the slow-mo is applied to the whole clip. Nexus 6P records the video in normal mode and allows the user to select the time slot for the slow-mo effect. To picture the advantage, imagine capturing a racing event and having an option only apply the slow-mo effect at the winning moment (cinematic effect).

Android 6.0 (Marshmallow goodness)

Nexus 6P and Nexus 5X are the official hardware for the Android 6.0 - Marshmallow. Taking advantage of all the internal goodness, enhanced security and as well as the new camera features. Two features that are worth the mention are Doze mode and Startup password.

  • Doze mode for dope battery
    Android 6.0 is focused majorly on the battery performance compared of the previous version of androids. Google implemented something known as Doze mode which ensure that the device gets the best battery standby times. The mode kicks in when the phone has been left unattended for a while. Looking at the battery stats during this period literally shows a flat line. Practical usage shows consumptions of close to 2-3% when left overnight with all the sync enabled. This is similar to the results I've been experiencing on my Nexus 5 and OnePlus One running on Android 6.0 as well.

battery image

  • Startup password
    Google has up the security in this release for the new devices. When setting up the phone the setup process prompts to setup the startup password/pattern option. Once this is enabled, the phone prompts to enter the chosen password/pattern during the startup of the phone. Unless this password/pattern is provided, the phone cannot be used for calls, messages, notifications or even alarms. The option can be enabled or disabled at a later time from the Security section under Settings. This very much reminds me of the old time boot up password, I use to enable on my desktop, to ensure no one could access my computer.

startup password screenshot

The CONs

Nexus 6P is a great Android phone, it does have few shortcomings as well. These are both software and hardware based.

Software

  • There is lag in the camera UI when changing orientation from portrait to landscape and vice-a-versa
  • When the camera is activated from the display off mode via power button, there is no way to choose the slow-mo video
  • Under Settings>Security, the software only allows to register 5 fingerprints
    fingerprint limit

Hardware

  • The AMOLED display has a pinkish tint at low brightness
  • NFC is located in the visor, however when another NFC enabled phone is brought closer to the generic back of the phone (where NEXUS printed) the Nexus 6P display automatically turns off

Conclusion

Google's Nexus 6P is definitely the best Android device in terms of the looks, design, camera and software. The camera is capable of best low-light photography and gives iPhone a tough competition, the first for any Nexus phone. The fingerprint scanner is bloody fast in turning on the display and unlocking the device.
The device does carry few not so good experiences, most of which are software dependent and can be fixed with a patch update by Google. If you have been thinking about investing in Nexus 6P, go for it without any seconds thoughts. I'm sure you'd love it

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