Last year’s Nexus 6 wasn’t hugely successful. It was Google’s first attempt, with the help of Motorola, at a phablet-class device, and although it had some excellent qualities, it just wasn’t as awesome as the Nexus 5 from the previous year. The massive 6-inch display made the handset a bit unwieldly and uncomfortable for the average user, and both the camera and battery life weren’t anything special.
Despite the disappointment, Google wasn’t simply going to give up on the idea of a great large-screened phone running stock Android. So for 2015’s successor, the company enlisted Huawei to build a new Nexus in a more manageable body, but with all the necessary high-end features that allow it to compete with the best phones on the market today.
The result is the Nexus 6P, and it’s one of the best Android smartphones you can purchase today. It comes with a large, beautiful 5.7-inch 1440p display, powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 810 SoC with 3 GB of RAM. The same camera from the Nexus 5X makes an appearance in the Nexus 6P, complete with its large pixels and 12.3-megapixel resolution, alongside an impressive front facing camera. There’s also a large battery and another awesome Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor to top out an impressive list of specifications.
The Nexus 6P also comes with the advantage of stock Android 6.0 Marshmallow, and the fastest updates of any Android device. Many custom skins aren’t as obnoxious as they were in the early days of Android, but there are undeniable advantages to getting a device running the cleanest, fastest and most secure version of Android you can get.
Like many of Huawei’s other high-end devices, the Nexus 6P comes with a beautiful metal unibody chassis, complemented by tough Gorilla Glass on the front. The choice of excellent materials gives the phone an attractive, premium look that feels great in your hand, which is in stark contrast to the plastic-body Nexus 5X from LG. It’s also a fairly unique design, even if the front isn’t anything special, which makes the Nexus 6P stand out from the crowd.
One thing that may sway people to the Nexus 5X over the Nexus 6P is the latter’s size. With a 5.7-inch display on the front and bezels that aren’t exactly compact, the Nexus 6P is a large device that takes some getting used to. The handset is reasonably ergonomic, though as the matte metal back panel is somewhat slippery, you’ll need to keep a firm grip on the handset during use. This can be a little tricky when the body is of this size, something that also affects one-handed operation in many cases.
However it only takes a week or so to get used to the dimensions of the Nexus 6P, after which you’ll come to enjoy the large screen and beautifully-constructed body. It’s not as large or unwieldly as the Nexus 6, though, thanks to a smaller screen and a slimmer, lighter build. Reducing the screen size to 5.7-inches was definitely the right choice, as it makes the Nexus 6P more suitable and usable for the majority of users.
The front of the Nexus 6P is the least exciting part of the smartphone. There’s a decent amount of bezel above and below the display that makes the handset quite tall, especially considering there are no hardware navigation buttons. However you do get dual front-facing speakers, which is great for consuming media and playing games on the large display. The quality of these speakers is average for a smartphone, and loudness is acceptable for most uses.
The back of the 6P is primarily constructed from a single slab of metal, but there are two sections covered with a different material that allow the internal antennas to breathe. One of these sections is along the bottom, below the large Nexus logo and Huawei branding, while the other is at the top.
The top section is the most controversial and interesting aspect of the Nexus 6P’s design. The black glass strip, which is raised in a slight hump and houses the camera assembly, doesn’t look particularly great in photos or in person. Thankfully the bump isn’t as noticeable as I thought it would be, but the black bar just doesn’t suit the rest of the design very well. I’d have rather seen the camera integrated into the metal unibody chassis, similar to the Nexus 5X.
While the bump isn’t the most attractive aspect of the 6P’s design, the fingerprint sensor on the back is in the ideal location for easy use. It’s placed pretty much exactly where my index finger falls when holding the device, allowing me to very easily unlock the handset using the sensor. Just like with the Nexus 5X, this sensor is extremely accurate and very responsive; it’s easily the best implementation of fingerprint security I’ve seen on an Android device.
The sides of the Nexus 6P are a relatively simple affair. On the top is a 3.5mm headphone jack, and on the bottom is the reversible USB-C charging and data port. On the right side is the power and volume buttons located reasonably close together, although I never found myself accidentally hitting the wrong one, and the tactile feedback from all three buttons is decent.
The only slot on the 6P is a single tray on the upper left side, which houses the nano-SIM. Unfortunately, there is no microSD card support in the Nexus 6P, though this isn’t too surprising considering the last Nexus to support the feature was the original Nexus One from 2010. However, you can get the Nexus 6P in 32, 64 and 128 GB variants, so the lack of expandable storage is less of an issue (though storage upgrades, particularly 128 GB, aren’t all that cheap).