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Google Nexus 6 review: still the biggest, but is it the best?

Authored by: Loie Favre — 4 months ago

Ever since the Galaxy Nexus appeared on the scene, Nexus phones have been associated with exceptional value for money, and flagship quality. The Nexus 6 bucked that trend a bit, with a lofty price tag and a six-inch screen that was beautiful, but too big for many peoples' hands. Our initial skeptical feelings towards the Nexus 6 were eventually quite positive, as we gave it a four-star review when it was released. But several months on, and with fierce competition in the form of the Samsung Galaxy S6 and HTC One M9, does it still stand strong among flagship smartphones? Read our updated Google Nexus 6 review to find out.

Rating

Good

  • Huge screen (for big hands)
  • Stereo speakers
  • Quality camera
  • Great battery life

Bad

  • Huge screen (for small hands)
  • Problems with wireless Nexus charging dock
  • Relatively dark display, with slight pink hue at lowest brightness

Google Nexus 6 release date and price

The Nexus 6 price is higher than previous Nexus phones when they first came out. It is available to buy now in the US and UK at Amazon, the Play Store and Motorola, and other outlets. The 32 GB variant costs 649 USD, while the 64 GB version costs 699 USD (£499 and £549 in the UK, respectively). It's available in Cloud White and Midnight Blue colors. 

amazon buy big
US

Google Nexus 6 design and build quality

The Nexus 6 looks like an oversized Moto X (2014), which may leave some thinking that Motorola took a bit of a shortcut on the design. But let's not nitpick - the Moto X is a wonderfully-designed phone, and the Nexus 6 is well-crafted and feels great to hold. It has an elegant yet practical design thanks to the slightly rounded back.

Nexus 6 hands on ANDROIDPIT side
The back side in convex and gets thinner near the bottom, which makes it lie comfortably in the hand. / © ANDROIDPIT

Then there is the matter of the size. The Nexus 6 is so big that you could even hide a Galaxy Note 4 behind it. The phone is definitely not great for people with small hands, and even a relatively big-handed person like me had to get used to it. Top-of-the-phone tasks like pulling down the notifications bar and tapping the Google search bar will most likely require the use of a second hand. This should be clear to all those who are considering buying the Nexus 6, but I was pleasantly surprised at how quickly I acclimatized to its large size, which also has obvious usability advantages - typing, greater precision with navigation, bigger text etc.

nexus 6 vs nexus 5 comparison front02 ANDROIDPIT
In this picture, it's quite apparent how much bigger the Nexus 6 is compared to the Nexus 5. / © ANDROIDPIT

The raised stereo speakers unfortunately attract dust particles and dirt, and the display suffered from the same slight stickiness as the Nexus 5.  On the plus side, the Nexus 6 is more resistant to fingerprints than its predecessor, so at least the screen stays looking fresh even if it could feel a bit better.

Nexus 6 hands on ANDROIDPIT 4
The backside with the reputed font: the letters don't peel off either. / © ANDROIDPIT

Also, worrying rumors about the letters on the back of the Nexus 6 peeling off proved unfounded in our review. We gave them a good scratching and rubbing (no scalpels were involved), and the letters stayed visible and in place. So there's another malicious Nexus 6 rumor quashed.

Google Nexus 6 display

Google and Motorola planted a 6-inch AMOLED display with QHD (2,560 x 1,440) resolution on the Nexus 6, with a pixel density of 493 PPI. Individual pixels could only be distinguished with a magnifying glass and even then they are hard to make out. The text is razor sharp, colors vibrant yet not oversaturated.

The maximum brightness is slightly darker on the Nexus 6 than other smartphones. When placing the Nexus 5 next to the Nexus 6, with both displays at 100% brightness, the predecessor was clearly brighter. That said, I had no issues reading the screen in the bright outdoors nor in any other scenarios thanks to the well-functioning auto-brightness.

Pure whites on the screen have the slightest pink hue, though not enough to be a distraction to the casual observer. For a pricey flagship phone however, you don't expect such niggles - however minor - and in this regard the Nexus 6 falls just short of the flagship competition.

Nexus 6 hands on ANDROIDPIT 9
Sharp colors: the Nexus 6 has a nice, big display with only a few weaknesses. / © ANDROIDPIT

There was some talk of screen burn-in among certain users, but we didn't manage to reproduce this, so as far as we know these were just isolated incidents.

Google Nexus 6 special features

The Nexus 6 supports Qi wireless charging, if you buy a Qi charging dock seperately. This feature worked well with the Nexus 5, which was magnetically attached to its official charging dock and didn’t budge when the phone vibrated. Unfortunately, the curved back on the Nexus 6 means it has issues laying on flat surfaces, so when it received messages while lying on the dock, it would steadily rotate as it vibrated. This is also due to the fact that the magnetic docking function of the Nexus 5 is missing with the Nexus 6. 

Nexus 6 hands on ANDROIDPIT diagonal
The aluminium frame gives the Nexus 6 a classy look. / © ANDROIDPIT

The Nexus 6 comes with a Turbo Charger cable, which delivers on its promise to deliver a six-hour charge in just 15 minutes.

Google Nexus 6 software

The Nexus 6 comes with stock Android 5.0 Lollipop, and is first in line to receive the latest OS updates. Lollipop is the biggest update in the history of Android and brings with it many functional and visual changes.

androidpit nexus 6 homescreen app drawer
The Nexus 6 comes with Android 5.0 Lollipop out of the box, and the stock Android user interface. / © ANDROIDPIT

A new software feature which is for now exclusive to the Nexus 6, is called the Ambient Display, which displays important notifications in black-and-white as soon as you receive them or pick up your phone (similarly to Moto Display on the Moto X). The feature is extremely practical, because all you need to do is reach your hand towards the devices for the notifications to appear. It does, however, replace the trusty LED light on the front of your phone, which is a bit disappointing. The Nexus 6 does actually have an RGB LED light, but it's disabled unless you do a bit of software tweaking to the phone.

Google Nexus 6 performance

The Nexus 6 runs buttery smooth, which is to be expected with its powerful specs. Apps start quickly, animations are silky, and most games can be played without any jitters (which is exceptionally fun on a 6-inch screen). Having said that, the QHD resolution is much more demanding than 1080p and this was noticeable now and again, especially with very demanding games, which inevitably run less smoothly than on Full HD screens. This problem isn't unique to the Nexus 6 though, as other QHD devices like the LG G3, Galaxy Note 4, and even the Galaxy S6 suffer from the same symptoms.

google nexus 6 antutu benchmark
Nexus 6 in the AnTuTu Benchmark test. / © ANDROIDPIT

Google Nexus 6 audio

The stereo speakers on the Nexus 6 look and sound great. They're loud and crisp (as smartphone speakers go), but please don't get carried away using them on trains and buses - unless you're surrounded by audio enthusiasts, no one will appreciate their sound in the way that you do. When you start hitting parks in the summer with your friends though, then the Nexus 6 speakers will serve you well.

Reception and voice quality on the Nexus 6 get straight full marks. On the same network as the Nexus 5,  the Nexus 6 would sometimes get three bars of signal where its predecessor would only get one. Phone calls sounded crystal clear, with no background noise or other nasty interference getting in the way. With the incoming Android 5.1 update, Google has also promised to include HD audio calls, which should further boost phone call quality.

Google Nexus 6 camera

The 13MP camera in the Nexus 6 takes great pictures. Pictures taken in low light conditions have very little noise and the amount of detail is satisfactory. Sometimes the camera needed a little longer to focus, but otherwise there is very little to complain about. We didn't notice any advantages to the ring-shaped Dual LED flash on the phone, with flashed pictures not looking any better or worse than on other phones.

Nexus 6 hands on ANDROIDPIT camera closeup
The Nexus 6 camera with its dual LED ring. / © ANDROIDPIT

Take a look at our image gallery to see the results of our camera test.

Google Nexus 6 battery

Blasting away all worries that a massive 6-inch display would be a battery drain, the 3220 mAh battery on the Nexus 6  ensures that you'll have more than enough juice to get through the day. During my testing, I took countless pictures, watched videos, listened to music, and surfed the internet. After about 27 hours of use, the battery was down to 17% with the display having bee active for three hours. The Nexus 6 isn’t as long-lasting as the Sony Xperia Z3, but at least you won’t have to worry that the battery will be drained after just half a day's use.

androidpit nexus 6 battery
Nexus 6 battery consumption: you can manually adjust the screen time on. / © ANDROIDPIT

Google Nexus 6 technical specifications

    • Type:
    • Phablet
    • Model:
    • XT1103 / XT1100
    • Manufacturer:
    • Motorola
    • Dimensions:
    • 159.26 x 82.98 x 10.06 mm
    • Weight:
    • 184 g
    • Battery size:
    • 3220 mAh
    • Screen size:
    • 5.96 in
    • Display technology:
    • AMOLED
    • Screen:
    • 2560 x 1440 pixels (493 ppi)
    • Front camera:
    • 2 megapixels
    • Rear camera:
    • 13 megapixels
    • Flashlight:
    • Dual-LED
    • Android version:
    • 5.0 - Lollipop
    • User interface:
    • Stock Android
    • RAM:
    • 3 GB
    • Internal storage:
    • 32 GB
      64 GB
    • Removable storage:
    • Not available
    • Chipset:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
    • Number of cores:
    • 4
    • Max. clock speed:
    • 2.7 GHz
    • Connectivity:
    • HSPA, LTE, NFC, Bluetooth 4.1

Final verdict

Google and Motorola pushed the bar way up for future Nexus phones, with the Nexus 6 addressing past problems with the camera and battery. If you can deal with its formidable size and want to stay on the front-line of Android updates then the Nexus 6 is for you.

In terms of processing power, it's no longer a match for the likes of the HTC One M9 and Samsung Galaxy S6, but it can also be found for quite a bit cheaper now, and its phablet screen is unmatched for its combination of size and quality. The Nexus 6 is a unique and bold phone, and is still worth considering even in light of recent competition.

What do you think of our Nexus 6 review? Has it persuaded you to get a Nexus 6, or are you waiting to see what flagship phone Google has in store for us in 2015?

Updated 30/3/15 by Robert Zak, Translated from AndroidPIT Germany's Nico Heister.

Loie Favre found her way to her present passion for Android and smartphone technology after experiencing an epiphany when she held her Galaxy Note 2. From that point onwards, you can find her with her nose buried in countless Android apps and different smartphone models, and thanking her lucky stars that she gets to work at something she loves.

16 comments

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  • Bob Thibodeau 4 months ago Link to comment

    I use my phones for business, so few texts, lots of phone and data use. I have been blown away by the clarity of the HD audio on my N6 w/5.1. Also, as the article noted the data signal strength is better than my N5. I was wary of the size but now that I've used it for a couple of months I don't know why I hesitated. Give it a little time and apps will get creative about using the real estate. Each of the Google phones has been different and highlighted new concepts, most good, that were emulated by other manufacturers. N6 is not for everyone but I won't give mine up.

  • Antonio Solinas 4 months ago Link to comment

    I have been using Mobile phones 4years now, I am working class, 13 moved from N.Ireland UK. to Dublin city and with 7 of my family stayed while the other older members,married and still living in N.Ireland, as both parents are from large family's,15 kids in my Fathers side,&7 kids in mother's side!

  • Douglas Nguyen 4 months ago Link to comment

    I am amazed at how strong the wifi receptive signal on a Nexus 6 compares to other phones that I owned. I workout at a LA Fitnesss and across the double-lane highway is a Perkins restaurant that I can get free wifi signal from. None of my pevious models including Samsung S3, S4, and Nexus 5 has been able to pickup the signal until the Nexus 6. At home, I can get my wifi signal from my detached garage and previously I could never do that. I think this wifi receptive signal improvement alone is worth its weight in gold.

    I also love the phone voice quality of the Nexus 6. In a noisy environment, it has no problem filtering what's noise and what is real sound. Now with HD voice on 5.1, it's really icing on the cake. Amazing!!! Definitely worth the upgrade from the Nexus 5.

  • Scott Shrewsberry 4 months ago Link to comment

    Well, I have to admit that I'm a Samsung "phanboy", but I have really been intrigued by the Nexus 6. I do have a Note 4 and love it, however I would be lying if I said I didn't read about and watch a ton of reviews in regards to the Nexus 6. I think it looks great, plus it's running stock Android (of which I've always wanted to try). I don't really have anything to compare it to because I've never owned a Nexus phone, but this one has really peaked my interests.

  • Leonardo Alves 4 months ago Link to comment

    The worst Nexus

    (But that's a good Alien)

  • Richard Yarrell 4 months ago Link to comment

    When the Nexus 6 launched it was a sad battery draining fake wanna phablet BIG JUST FOR THE SAKE OF BEING BIG which served NO LEGITIMATE PURPOSE. Everyone knows MOTOROLA has no knowledge of anything phablet related and neither does GOOGLE. THIS phablet game was made prominent by SAMSUNG since August 2011 and ever since NOTHING HAS TOUCHED THE GALAXY NOTE PRODUCTS THEY ARE THE GOLD STANDARD.

  • Pam O. 8 months ago Link to comment

    Love, love, love this phone! I thought it was going to be too big but I still went forward. I'm with Verizon and this is our first Real Nexus. Well I was wrong, you do adjust to the size rather quickly and then everything else seems so tiny.

    I have 2 tylt qi chargers and I have not had one moment of trouble with wireless charging. It turns off completely when fully charged and the phone NEVER gets hot. I have noticed no burnout and since I never turn the brightness down low, I don't experience this pink color. If you think the brightness overall is low, try the G3...it's much worse. I had to use that phone on 100 brightness while I'm at 75 or 80 percent on the N6. The turbo charger is awesome when needed and I'm so glad they included it.

  • Drum_4_Him 8 months ago Link to comment

    I have had my 6 for a few days now and found that by default, the ambiant light detection is enabled. When i turned it off, the screen was able to get much brighter than before. Did you try this?

  • Hmm - like it is 8 months ago Link to comment

    What's up with all these rosey or flowery reviews of the Nexus 6? Is that in consideration for a gratis device from Google or Motorola?

    There's no mention or criticism on how Google effectively destroyed it's flagship Nexus line with terribly highly priced devices that only select few (namely early adopters and professional reviewers will actually own one).

    There's no mention in the article about the burn-in issues with the Nexus. There's no mention of the technical performance comparing the Nexus to other devices such as the Note 4 or iPhone 6+.

    The One Plus One camera is old technology first introduced back in late May 2014. That's 7 months ago!

    All in all, the vast majority of people who will stay with Android will either go for the Note 4 or Z3. The adventurists of course will wait for the One Plus Two and continue to be the Chinese manufacturer's lab rats with no support whatsoever from the manufacturer of One Plus One, unless you opt out paying shipping both ways to and from China when your device needs repair.

    I have to say that I am quite sickened with Google's mentality these days of throwing ideas, concepts against the wall like spaghetti and then seeing what sticks. They're lacking any real logic.

    This is truly Google's major shortfall.They think they know what's best and keep things within their own community without any one else's feedback. When was the last time you were able to reach Google on a support issue?

    Besides, it doesn't stop just there. look at their apps and how after every update something is either removed that users care about or things don't work right. Does Google even bother to listen to people? Nope. At least Apple does, although they may not do anything as a result, but at least the listen. And finally, let's not forget Android 5 and how poor the performance is with their older devices like Nexus 7 2012 and Nexus 7 2013.

    Many folks like me who have been devoted and loyal Android supporters for many years are finally moving away from Android, People like me have firmed up their position that Apple is in fact the way to go. Perhaps not the iPhone 6 (for me), maybe the iPhone 7 or 7S. Samsung will be hit first (they are already incurring financial losses), followed by Google. However, Google will simply move the money from one pot to another without even notifying their shareholders of the loss they're incurring by their stupid ideas. People thought Apple was shrouded in secrecy? Think again.

    • JDroid 8 months ago Link to comment

      All I heard was Blah, Blah, Blah...I am an Apple Fan Boy now.

    • Royce Edwards 7 months ago Link to comment

      I've owned a Nexus 7 2013 and was never disappointed by the performance. I ran Kitkat and did a firmware upgrade to lollipop , rather than waiting for the OTA to be available. Let's fact it, a clean install is always going to provide better performance, so I cannot say how the OTA would have affected me.

      I am very disappointed in Samsung. They simply have too many products and their flagship Galaxy S5 turned out to be little more than a refresh. I love the specs on the Nexus, but do see that they are having difficulty selling through carriers, which makes their premium price hard to swallow.

      The technology packed into the Nexus 6 will raise the bar for the next generation of Android manufacturers.

  • Strawn_04 8 months ago Link to comment

    Might want to add "XT1100" and "XT1103" into the "Model" field...

  • Paisan NYC 8 months ago Link to comment

    I think you should remove the link to Amazon and replace it with a link to the Motorola site or Google Play store link selling it. The Amazon link is resellers charging $200USD and up more than retail.