Nexus 6 Review: A Bigass Phone

By Rich W Woods

I have been spending the last few weeks with the Nexus 6. Yes, it is a bigass phone. I decided to put my iPhone 6 and iPad Air 2 in a drawer for two weeks in favor of the Nexus 6 and the Nexus 9. While the Nexus 9 was a huge letdown, the Nexus 6 lived up to its name.

The big downside to the Nexus 6 is the price. The Nexus line of devices have typically been low priced. While most have typically been mid-range, the Nexus 5 was a true flagship that cost the low low price of $349. The Nexus 6 starts at $649; however, there is a lot of extra tech included in that price.

Nexus 6: Specs

Processor 2.7 GHz Snapdragon 805
Display 5.96″, 1440p, 493 ppi, AMOLED
Body 159.3x83x10.1 mm, 184 g
Camera 13 MP, 4128×3096, 2 MP Front
Aperture f/2
Video 4K UHD - 30 fps, Front 1080p - 30 fps
Storage 32/64 GB
Battery 3220 mAh
Price $649/$699

As I said, there’s a lot of tech for that high price. The good news is that all four of the major carriers have it, so if you only have $200 to spend on a phone, you can get it from AT&T, Verizon, Sprint, or T-Mobile. Of course it will be locked to the carrier which will significantly diminish the resell price.

Nexus 6: Benchmarks

Before I go any further, let’s take a look at benchmarks. I have never been a fan of benchmarks as they provide very little, if any, insight onto the day to day performance of the device. The only real thing that benchmarks provide is fuel for trolls that need to have the “my phone is better” wars or the Apple vs Android wars, which is not what we do here. Readers have been requesting benchmarks so I’m happy to comply.

As you can see, the Nexus 6 gets consistently high scores across the board and…whatever.

Nexus 6: Camera

The Nexus 6 uses the Sony IMX214 Exmor RS sensor, as does many smart phones with 13 MP sensors. It uses the Google Camera app, which includes features that other phones do not, even using the Google Camera app. In this case, I’m talking about HDR+. While other devices have an HDR option, the Nexus 6 has HDR+, which is a major difference. Here’s an example, compared with the OnePlus One, which also uses the Sony IMX214 Exmor RS sensor.

OnePlus One Nexus 6

As you can see from that sample, the Nexus 6 has a significant advantage with HDR+. Of course, the OnePlus One has different firmware. For more examples of the difference between HDR on the OnePlus One and HDR+ on the Nexus 6, check out the comparison. The only problem with HDR+ is that it takes a few seconds to take the picture.

The Nexus 6 uses a 13 MP sensor, which is more than enough for a smart phone camera. A 4K display is 8.3 MP, so the resolution of the photo is higher than the resolution of the display.

Unfortunately, Google has not implemented RAW into the Google Camera app, so a third party app is necessary for that. Many people believe that all devices running Lollipop will have this in the stock camera app. It is not true.

Please note that in order to enlarge the photos, simply click or tap them. To view the full size image, there is a link in the gallery.

HDR+ Default

As you can see, low light performance is much better with HDR+. Of course, it’s not easy to judge a smart phone camera on its own. To see how it holds up to some of its peers, check out some comparisons.

The front camera of the Nexus 6 is a standard 2 MP, which is exactly 1080p. It also records 1080p video at 30 fps.

The front facing camera is fine. It doesn’t handle bright light particularly well. There is a bit of a glare. It’s not bad, not great, if you take a lot of selfies, there are better options.

Nexus 6: Video

As I mentioned above, the Google Camera app has features on the Nexus 6 that are not available for other devices. In this case, I’m talking about 4K video. Other devices, or at least the ones I’ve used, only allow for video up to 1080p.

While the Nexus 6 allows for 4K, 1080p, and 720p video, they are all 30 frame per second. Personally, I was disappointed to discover this as I prefer to record video in 1080p at 60 fps, which is why I prefer the iPhone 6 or the Sony Xperia Z3.

Now, this might all be jibber jabber to you. Think of it this way. There is one way to judge the quality of the image: resolution. With video, there are two. Resolution is how sharp the picture is. 720p is 1 MP, 1080p is 2.1 MP, 1440p is 3.7 MP, and 4K UHD is 8.3 MP. The second is frame rate. Think of a video as a string of pictures being shown in succession. More pictures in a second results in a smoother video. I find 1080p at 60 frames per second to be the perfect combination between resolution and frame rate.

Please note that if you don’t have a monitor with a resolution higher than 1080p and you don’t expand the video to your full screen, you won’t be able to see the difference between 4K and 1080p. I hear many folks talking about how sharp a 4K video is when it’s embedded in a web page on their WXGA monitor.

4K UHD 30 fps

1080p 30 fps

720p 30 fps

Obviously, the Nexus 6 does a great job with video. For an example of what 1080p at 60 fps looks like, here’s the same video taken with the Sony Xperia Z3 Compact. I would show the iPhone 6 sample, but I really don’t need the Apple vs Android trolls coming out of the woodwork.

As you can see, 60 frames per second provides a much smoother video and I really wish that the Nexus 6 provided this. The Sony IMX214 Exmor RS sensor allows for it but for some reason, they left it off. With some luck, we will see it in a firmware update.

Nexus 6: Battery

The battery is the one drawback to the Nexus 6. It has a massive battery that gets very little battery life. This is mostly because of the high resolution display. As I mentioned above, 1080p is 2.1 MP and 1440p is 3.7 MP. Each pixel is like a light being on. 1440p is almost twice as many lights on as 1080p and it certainly affects the battery. Make no mistake. With moderate usage, the battery on the Nexus 6 will not last through a full day.

My problem with this is that it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference between 1080p and 1440p on a screen so small. Apple defines Retina as 326 ppi (pixels per inch). This means that a user with 20/20 vision won’t be able to see anything higher than that at an average viewing distance. I can’t tell the difference between the resolution of the iPhone 6 and the Nexus 6 and I bet you can’t either. The problem with resolutions constantly getting higher (for no reason) is that it means that batteries will constantly have to get more powerful, we won’t get better battery life, and phones will get thicker and heavier.

The good thing about it is that Google and Motorola provide the user with some tools for easier charging. For one thing, the Nexus 6 is wireless charging compatible, so it’s easy to come home, throw it on a wireless charging plate, and forget about it. Then, there’s Qualcomm’s fast charging technology, which generally brings the device from 0-100% in about an hour and 20 minutes.

Nexus 6: Display

While I noted the negative side to a 1440p above, make no mistake that this is a beautiful display; however, I feel like a 1080p display with better color accuracy would be better than a 1440p display.

The thing that makes the Nexus 6’s display fantastic is not the resolution but the type of display. It uses AMOLED technology, which produces more vibrant colors. It also allows for blacker blacks. The reason for this is because with AMOLED, certain pixels can actually be turned off, allowing for true black. You’ll notice that with LCD, black tends to look backlit. That’s because with LCD, all pixels must be on all the time.

Nexus 6: Body

On September 19 when the iPhone 6 and the iPhone 6 Plus was released, I bought the iPhone 6 Plus. A week later, I returned it because it felt too big and exchanged it for the iPhone 6.

I don’t get that feeling with the Nexus 6. The Nexus 6 not only has a larger display but a larger body than the iPhone 6 Plus; however, it has a curved back, which makes it fit in the user’s hand a bit easier. It certainly makes it more comfortable.

There is another thing I should note about the body of the Nexus 6. I have heard various complaints that it’s hard to use when it’s placed on a flat surface. I haven’t found this to be true. It balances pretty well. It reminds me of bendgate. One guy made a video where he bent an iPhone but he looked like he was going to pop a blood vessel. The only way you’re going to have a problem with the Nexus 6 on a flat surface is if you hit the screen really hard. It might rattle a little bit but really, how much do you use your phone on a flat surface?

Nexus 6: User Experience

The Nexus 6 is a very pleasant phone to use. The colors pop on the screen making the user just not want to look away. The camera is fantastic. It’s super fast.

Of course, it runs Android 5.0 Lollipop. In fact, it now runs Android 5.0.1, assuming you’re using the unlocked version. Lollipop works well on the Nexus 6. It’s not perfect yet. It’s important to realize that. I still feel like KitKat is more stable. Both the Nexus 6 and the Nexus 9 get terrible battery life. My Nexus 7 isn’t terrible but it’s still not as good as it was on KitKat.

The Nexus 6 runs stock Android, meaning that OEMs have not put a skin on it. For example, Samsung uses Touchwiz, which is why a Samsung ships with a ridiculous amount of stock apps. HTC uses Sense, which is why it has Blinked integrated into the operating system.

Since the Nexus 6 is stock, it doesn’t have any extra features. Most power users prefer this. Personally, I like a little extra feature or two. The Moto X has Moto and even though the Nexus 6 is made by Motorola, it doesn’t have Moto simply because it’s Nexus. The only apps that come preinstalled on a Nexus are Google apps, which is ok if you’re all in on Google services.

Nexus 6: Conclusion

The Nexus 6 is a niche product. It is designed for people that want a bigass phone. Perhaps if you can’t afford both a phone and a tablet, the Nexus 6 is for you. Perhaps if you want a bigass phone, the Nexus 6 is for you.

If you look at Samsung’s Galaxy Note line of phones, particularly the Galaxy Note 4, it has a 5.7″ display but it also comes with a WACOM stylus, adding a ton of functionality to the device. The Nexus 6 does not have such a stylus. It doesn’t even have the expandable storage that the Galaxy Note 4 has, something you may be interested in if you want to watch movies on your bigass phone.

Of course, it is a great phone. It is super fast, it has a beautiful display, a great camera, and it runs Lollipop. Just be aware of the poor battery performance and be aware of the form factor. Don’t just by it because it’s the next Nexus. Buy it because you want a phone that size.

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