Nexus 6P competes with the best and survives
EVERYTHING has changed with the 5.7-inch Huawei Nexus 6P, the larger and more powerful of the two Nexus phones Google released this year, the other being the 5.2-inch LG Nexus 5X.
Before the 6P, Google's Nexus phones were more of a showcase of the latest version of the Android operating system. But they were equipped with mid-tier specifications - just enough for some decent performance, but nothing in the same league as a flagship phone from the likes of Samsung or Apple.
Even so, the phones were usually more affordable than such high-end phones.
But the Huawei Nexus 6P phablet is different. Not surprisingly, pre-orders for the super-sized phone have been all snapped up. When the phone is in stock, customers here can choose from either the 64GB ($949) or 128GB ($1,049) versions of the phone in graphite (black) or aluminium (silver).
The 5.7-inch Amoled display of the Nexus 6P has a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, which translates to a pixel density of 515 pixels per inch (ppi). This puts it slightly behind phones with smaller displays like the Samsung Galaxy S6 (577ppi), but on a par with the Samsung Galaxy Note 5.
At 159.3mm long, 77.8mm wide and 7.3mm thick, the 6P can be used quite comfortably with just one hand.
Build quality also feels top-notch, and I'd put it in the same league as Samsung's latest Galaxy line of phones.
The smooth aluminium back of the phone is interrupted by a camera bump at the top. The camera is housed in a slightly raised section at the top and is covered entirely by Gorilla Glass 4, so it should at least be fairly resistant to major scratches.
The Nexus 6P's navigation buttons - including the home button - have been relocated to onscreen navigation elements.
A little depression on the back of the phone houses a fingerprint sensor, which turns out to be both easy and intuitive to access. The fingerprint reader read and registered my prints in a heartbeat. The Nexus 6P comes with a USB Type-C port for charging and data transfer, which means it has a reversible design, so there won't be any problems with plugging in a cable upside down.
But USB Type-C devices aren't that common yet, so if you forget your cable, you won't be able to borrow one from just anybody.
With Google's new Android 6.0, the Nexus 6P has a feature called Now on Tap that's supposed to intelligently capture whatever's on your screen and suggest relevant follow-up actions in the form of cards. While the feature does work, it wasn't exactly the smartest at honing in on the important phrases or facts that I wanted to find out more about. But to be fair, this didn't happen too often.
Android 6.0 also has new battery-saving features. The Doze feature puts your device to sleep and cuts off all network activity after it's been sitting still for some time. But some apps can bypass Doze if they have been set as "high priority" by developers.
Another feature, App Standby, puts unused apps to sleep. If you have an important app that cannot be silenced, you can manually disable the feature for it. Unfortunately, developers will also get a say in which apps will be affected by App Standby.
The Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 v2.1 processor the Nexus 6P uses is found in other flagship phones like the OnePlus 2 and Sony Xperia Z5. It also has 3GB of RAM.
In a benchmark test which gives an indication of a device's ability to deliver a speedy Web-browsing experience, the 6P, with Google's Chrome browser tested, didn't perform as well as gadgets with built-in browsers such as those from Samsung and Apple.
But it's better than the LG G4 and significantly better than the Motorola Nexus 6.
Still, for real-world use, browsing on Google Chrome on the Nexus 6P felt sufficiently zippy and loading times were fast enough for me.
For a test on a device's central processing unit, data transfer and graphics processing unit, the Nexus 6P was behind Samsung's latest Galaxy Note 5 and S6, but left the Nexus 6 in the dust, and performed slightly better than the LG G4 and Xiaomi Mi Note.
In a test on a phone's capabilities in handling graphics in a game, the Nexus 6P outstripped the Samsung phones. It was topped by only the Apple iPhone 6s.
For the first time, with the 6P, a Nexus phone has a camera that doesn't perform like a fish out of water compared with other flagships.
The 12.3MP shooter on the rear comes with laser autofocus and is significantly better than previous Nexus cameras.
In a controlled environment, the Nexus 6P does well enough. Colour reproduction appeared fairly accurate and I'd be hard-pressed to pick out any major flaws compared with similar shots taken by the other top-end phones.
I also liked the camera's ability to focus on close-up objects while naturally blurring out the background.
But it's slightly disappointing that the camera doesn't come with optical image stabilisation, which helps you take clearer shots, especially if your hands aren't steady.
When it comes to battery life, the sizeable 3,450mAh non-removable battery on the Nexus 6P looks like it should outperform the Galaxy Note 5's smaller 3,000mAh battery, but that isn't quite the case.
The Nexus 6P lasted 704min, or over 11.5 hours, in our battery test. That's about three hours behind the Galaxy Note 5. The 6P did better than phones with smaller batteries such as the Galaxy S6 and iPhone 6s, but it was barely on a par with the Nexus 6 which has a 3,220mAh battery.
The Nexus 6P's battery-life gap is likely due to its processor's inability to keep up with the efficiency of the chips in the Samsung phones.
The Nexus 6P still manages to hold its own against the best, and that in itself is actually a larger compliment than it seems. It may not have the best hardware but its stellar build quality, good camera and buttery-smooth stock Android experience make it deserving of a seat at the table of "premium" phones.
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