/ android

Google Nexus 6 Review

It’s that time of year again, when Google releases a new Nexus device! This time, manufactured by Motorola, the Nexus 6 is fundamentally changing the game compared to previous Nexus devices. In the past, Nexus devices have always had the benefit of having near top-end specs, decent build quality, the latest pure stock android, and a low price to match.

Not this time. Now Google has made the Nexus 6 have truly top-end specs, high end build quality, still the latest pure stock android, but a higher pricetag to match the high end product that has come out of this. At $649 off-contract, does the Nexus 6 live up to its name and the Nexus brand? And how does it fare against its fierce competition like the Samsung Galaxy Note 4 and the iPhone 6 Plus?

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Design

I’m sure you’re wondering why the Nexus 6’s competition is the Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus. Well, the reason for that is because it’s a big phone. I mean REALLY big. The Nexus 6 features a massive 5.96 inch Super AMOLED display, making it bigger than the Note 4 and in physical size as tall but wider than the iPhone 6 Plus. Don’t be dismayed by its size though, as the way this phone was designed makes it more manageable than you might think.



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The Nexus 6 has a sloping back made of plastic, but feels good (maybe not Nexus 5 good, but still). The slopes curve onto the edges where you’re presented with an extremely thin and satisfyingly premium aluminum bezel. And this is the trick right here. The other two mentioned devices are flat on the back, but with the curves on this device, it feels more comfortable in the hands despite being bigger. It fits better to the contours of the hand and since the edges are so thin, any part of your fingers can grip it easily.

If you’ve ever seen a Motorola Moto X (2014), then you’ll recognize the design instantly because it’s basically a blown up version of it. The glass on the front has curved edges (also known as 2.5D glass) which allow your fingers to slide off the sides naturally. This is particularly useful because of how the new Android Lollipop interface is designed.


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Finally, it also has two front facing stereo speakers that are subtle but stick out a little. Some think of this as a downside because it can’t make the phone stay flat on a surface, but I see that as a good thing because the glass won’t touch a table, thereby preventing scratches. The same kind of thing has been taken into account for the camera. The rounded flash module that wraps around the camera is slightly protruding (nothing like the iPhone 6, but more just like a smooth round bump), notable to protect the glass camera lens (the opposite of what the iPhone does) which is really nice on Motorola’s part.

I find that this is easily one of the best designed phones of the year, because of it’s ergonomic nature. Aesthetically it’s really nice and definitely looks and feels premium, but i’d say the Note 4 and iPhone 6 Plus still look more premium.

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I’ll be honest. If you have tiny hands, you will not under any circumstances be able to use this phone with one hand, but some people with larger hands can (I can).

nexus-6-tear-down_1-686x380Hardware/Performance

Google held nothing back with the specs on this Nexus. It sports a quad-core Snapdragon 805 Processor with a clock speed of 2.7GHz, 3GB of RAM, a 13MP camera with OIS (Optical Image Stabilization), dual front facing speakers, Turbo Charging with an included 9V Turbo Charger, a 5.96 inch QHD (2560×1440) Super AMOLED display, 32GB or 64GB of Storage, Qi Wireless Charging, Bluetooth 4.1 LE, a massive 3220 mAh Battery, and even a level of water resistance (Splash resistant according to Motorola).

As a result you get nothing but pure, unadulterated, raw performance. Everything on this device just flies effortlessly. The new animations in Android Lollipop help this in a visual sense as all the transitions are smooth and everything feels like one flowing, consistent experience.

Benchmark scores these days are a little pointless since they don’t really demonstrate real-world performance, but suffice it to say that the Nexus 6 beats just about everything out there except on some occasions where sometimes the Note 4 or iPhone 6 Plus (web benchmarks) wins. I will also note that a significant portion of this performance loss (as if it’s losing right?) is due to the forced software encryption built into Android Lollipop. Benchmarks ran without the encryption show the Nexus 6 handily beating the competitors. More on this later.

This is also a good time to mention that I personally believe that we’re starting to hit a point where no matter which high end device you buy, you can rest assured that you’re going to have an excellent experience in the performance department. As a result, priorities in deciding which device to buy should lie elsewhere.

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](http://www.stefankamer.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/12/Android-5.0-Lollipop-lockscreen-homescreen.jpg)Software

Ah, software. The crown jewel of owning a Nexus device is the ability to have stock android, the way Google intended it. No skins layered on the system, no gimmicky features, no bloat, no nothing. The result of having stock android is having the smoothest android experience imaginable. This experience is only highly improved upon by the all new Android 5.0 Lollipop that first launched with the Nexus 6. m1oeovart3m1qhrwxib0

Android Lollipop brings with it countless improvements. So many that it is easily marked as the largest update to Android in its entire history so far.

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Some of the major changes include the new fluid animations that are absolutely everywhere you look in the system. There’s so many of them that I’ve had the device for 2 weeks now and still get surprised by new stuff I find. Lollipop also has a new notifications update. With the ability to see and deal with notifications on the lockscreen, notifications were already awesome on android, but are now infinitely better. The notification shade also has the quick settings in a single pane rather than two separate panes. Priority mode allows you to get a much more powerful version of the “Do Not Disturb” feature of iOS, Multiuser access allows you to have multiple accounts (all password protected) on a single device, App Pinning allows you to keep nosy friends from moving around in your phone when you let them use a specific app, and Chrome Tabs now act as separate apps in your Multitasking (now called Overview) menu (this is optional though).

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Lollipop is truly a sight to behold and a welcome change and direction for Android. As always, whenever one of these major updates comes to Android, the devices feel fresh, new, and rejuvenated. It’s more true than ever now with Android 5.0 Lollipop.

nexus-6-back-camera-1500x1000Camera

Nexus devices are historically known to have the camera as a severe achilles’ heel. So you’d expect the same here, right? Well, no longer, says Google. I can happily report that the camera of the Nexus 6 is fantastic. I’ll admit it right now though, it’s not as good as the cameras on the iPhone 6/6 Plus, Galaxy Note 4, and Sony Xperia Z3, but it is right up there with them. The 13 megapixel camera can shoot 4K video and take very sharp and detailed photos. Colors seem to be very realistic most of the time. It does struggle in low light conditions, and the special flash built into the device, while better than typical flashes is still only ok in terms of helping the situation. I’ve taken several shots with the camera and am not disappointed at all.

Untouched shot of Grand Central Station (Somewhat lowlight)  CLICK TO ENLARGE
Untouched shot of Grand Central Station (Somewhat lowlight)
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I’ll also mention though, that Android Lollipop brings the ability for the camera to take RAW files. This sets up the potential for higher quality images greatly, most importantly if you’re going to be editing those pictures in any kind of way. RAW files contain vastly more information about the image than a regular JPG, and as a result can make images much better exposed, and flexible for editing without ruining the shot. There are already apps in the Play Store starting to take advantage of this. Results are VERY positive.

Battery Life

Ok so this phone has a massive 3220 mAh battery, so it should have an awesome battery life right? Sort of. You’ll also remember that this phone has a massive screen pushing nearly 4 million pixels at any given time. Further, measuring battery life is a highly subjective concept. How I use the phone, may not reflect how you will use the phone. Suffice it to say that while the phone doesn’t have some kind of glorious battery life, I find myself never rushing or looking for a charger. Ever. I will leave my apartment in the morning around 10AM and get back home at about 11PM and still have about 10-15% battery life. In this time I’m usually having about 3-4 hours of Screen-On-Time. My usage includes web browsing, youtube videos, lots of music streaming, lots of RSS news reading, phone calls, lots of texting, and lots of Facebooking/Instagramming. That being said, I’ve heard of others getting vastly better battery life, and others still getting a little less desirable results. To remedy this in a massive way, Google/Motorola have included a 9V Turbo Charger with the phone. Basically, what this will do is take your phone from 5% to about 20-25% battery life in 15 minutes. That is estimated to give you an extra 5-6 hours of battery life. This feature is tremendously useful. Oh, there’s also a Battery Saver Mode where the system turns off animations (sadly making everything pretty choppy), and reduces power usage so you can get a couple of more hours out of your last 10%.

All in all, I’m quite satisfied with the battery life of the Nexus 6, and have no complaints.

Side Note on the Software Encryption

So, I mentioned earlier that performance was impacted by the forced Software Encryption that Google has added to Android Lollipop. Basically, this means that your device is encrypted and extremely safe from hackers and the government (provided that you have a lock or code on the phone). For some reason, the encryption on the phone is being done by software rather than hardware, which is having a significant impact on the performance and battery life of the device. Let me be clear though. When I say affecting performance and battery life, I’m not saying that they’re bad. They’re actually awesome even with the impact. What I’m saying is that the device can potentially go much higher and better without the encryption. This has been tested and proven to be true by the Android modding community. It’s an involved process to decrypt the system and reap the benefits, but if you’re a techy like me, you might want to look into it. I personally don’t want to sacrifice performance and battery life for security. Not yet at least.

nexus-6Verdict

All in all, the Nexus 6 is a fantastic device. Amazing performance, excellent camera, gorgeous display, awesome front-facing speakers, and Android Lollipop make this easily one of the best buys currently available. However, the decision between this device and the Galaxy Note 4 is tough. The Note 4 will give you better battery life, the S Pen, an even better display, and a better camera, but will give you Samsung’s Touchwiz and the experience of having a skinned and bloated device. Off contract, at $649, the Nexus 6 will give you almost everything the Note 4 has, and better software for less money. On Contract, is the same story but affects your pockets less. The decision really lies with whether you prefer having stock android, front facing speakers, and a bigger screen or the aforementioned features. You decide. I know I did. And the Nexus 6 is my new Daily Driver.

Let me know what you think about the Nexus 6 or Note 4 below 🙂