Tech review: Google Nexus 6P is next-gen Android smartphone
Huawei-built gadget promises a better all-round experience than earlier Nexus models, with improved camera and much better battery life. As a development model it's a showcase for what other tech giants will bring to market soon.
The Nexus is a bit of a geek phone. It offers the purest Google experience, including latest Android version and updates; and because the device is made for development, it serves as a prototype for giant manufacturers like Samsung to take reference and improve upon in their upcoming flagship models. Previous editions of the Nexus series had been produced by HTC, Motorola, LG and Samsung.
But the Nexus line has never been celebrated for its camera (mediocre), battery life (poor) and user friendliness (lacking). Well, until now. The latest edition, Nexus 6P, is made by Huawei and promises to offer a more all-round experience.
Nexus devices have always been bold in design. From the trackball to curved glass, they’ve come in all shapes and sizes but have mostly remained handsome. The Huawei built Nexus 6P moves up a notch to the premier league.
The casing is made entirely of aeronautical-grade aluminium (alloy), right down to the volume rocker and power button making it sturdy and cool to touch. It has some beautifully chamfered curves.
Its dimensions are almost identical to the iPhone 6s Plus, measuring, 159.3mm x 77.8mm x 7.3mm, but has a slightly bigger 5.7-inch display with an impressive fingerprint-repellent oleophobic coating.
The symmetrical set of grilles (for the earpiece and microphone) double as front-facing stereo speakers, though the sound quality doesn’t quite match that of htc’s Boomsound, the volume can be cranked up without distortion and the overall performance is impressive.
On the back is a recessed circle, which can be easily reached by the index finger, where the Google fingerprint sensor, also known as Nexus Imprint, is located. All you have to do is brush it slightly and the phone unlocks.
The latest Android version , “Marshmallow”, isn’t a big departure from the previous version in looks, but it does have one standout feature called “Now on Tap”.
Leveraging on Google’s search capability, it’s now possible to tap and hold the Home button to activate its search engine. Say you are looking up a film, with Now on Tap, Google will pull all the relevant information related to the film: actors, director, critics and even apps. It’s fast, contextual, and an incredible source of additional information for whatever is on your screen.
The camera is another highlight. It’s not the best in the Android crowd but it comes very close.
Double tapping the Power button launches the camera. The 12-megapixel shooter can capture fine detail in close-up macros, and does fairly well at balancing contrasting sources of light. But what really steals the show is its aptitude for night photography. While images are not going to be devoid of noise, it comes so close it’s unbelievable.
There’s no OIS (optical image stabilisation) but the EIS (electronic version, no moving parts) does a good job and will give you blur-free photos as long as you’re not shaking the phone on purpose. It is a pleasant surprise for the Nexus series.
Google has also done much to improve the Nexus’ weakest point: battery life.
While its main processor, Snapdragon 810, is notorious for not having the best power to performance ratio – and it’s been known to run hot and even overheat – it appears Huawei has pulled off the perfect implementation. The Nexus 6P can still be power hungry but only while running the most taxing of applications (such as games), otherwise it stays cool.
Marshmallow now has a feature called Doze that does exactly what it says on the tin. Apps “go to sleep” after a while and stop draining the battery. Simple but genius.
With a 3450 mAh battery, I went through a day of medium usage very comfortably. I took 10 photos, streamed music over Bluetooth, watched an hour of video, and went on a typical web browsing and social media binge. The result was four hours of accumulated screen-on time with 20 per cent of battery left after a 16-hour day. It’s impressive.
There are minor niggles that could be deal breakers for some.
For example, the phone uses USB C which is not the typical micro USB cable that comes free with every box of cereal. You’ll be hard pressed to find somebody to lend you one for a quick charge within a 8km radius.
The Nexus 6P comes with encryption enabled (which protects the data in the phone from hacking) and it’s enforced the first time it boots up. But the downside to this boosted security feature is that it slows down certain storage intensive activities, such as installing apps.
Last, but possibly the most glaring of all, is how the only two pieces of glass on the phone – the screen display and one covering the camera hump – both scratch easily. Two days into my testing, I discover hairline scratches.
Otherwise though, this is a superb device and if not for these minor blemishes, I’d say this is 2015’s best smartphone. And that takes into consideration Apple’s offerings.
The Nexus 6P costs HK$4,688 (32GB), HK$4,988 (64GB), HK$5,688 (128GB).