Nexus 6P review: Outstanding phone, even better value

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Gizmag reviews the higher-end of Google's two 2015 flagships, the Nexus 6P

Gizmag reviews the higher-end of Google's two 2015 flagships, the Nexus 6P (Credit: Will Shanklin/Gizmag) View gallery (16 images)

You may already know that the Nexus 6P is Google's 2015 flagship smartphone and Huawei's first high-profile handset to launch in the US. You can also add Best Smartphone of 2015 candidate to that list. Read on, as Gizmag reviews the awesome Nexus 6P.

The Nexus 6P has a brilliant, all-metal design, a big and beautiful display, great camera, impressive all-around battery life ... name something you'd want in a high-end smartphone, and chances are the Nexus 6P ticks that box.

One of the best things about the new Nexus is that it has a premium design that doesn't look anything like an iPhone – a balancing act that the Samsungs and HTCs of the world sometimes struggle with. Its most unique bits are a glass bar on the top end of the phone's backside and a back-facing fingerprint sensor below the bar:

The touch-based sensor is every bit as fast and reliable as the upgraded Touch ID on the latest iPhones, and we love the backside placement: it's right where your index finger will naturally rest when holding the phone.

Elsewhere it has a drool-worthy aluminum body that looks as beautiful as anything out there right now. Unlike Samsung, Apple and others, the Nexus isn't trying to break light and thin records, but it also doesn't feel unusually beefy (at least for a phone this big). This is a premium and substantial handset, through and through.

Flip it around you'll see one of the best displays you can find on any 2015 smartphone. The 5.7-inch, Quad HD AMOLED screen is made by Samsung and, with the same specs, could very well be the same panel found in the Galaxy Note 5 (that's a good thing). Even its mid-ranged brightness settings are very bright, white balance is terrific (it leans slightly towards yellows compared to the iPhone 6s, but still in very good shape) and that 518 PPI pixel density has content looking razor-sharp.

You need to split the Nexus 6P's battery life into two categories. Its active-use battery life is good: in our Wi-Fi video streaming benchmark it dropped 14 percent per hour. Tested at equal brightness (measured by a lux meter), that's just a hair behind the Note 5, Galaxy S6 edge+ and latest iPhones (13 percent per hour) and better than the Galaxy S6 (16 percent per hour).

The Nexus 6P's standby battery life, though, pushes it ahead of those phones. Android 6.0 Marshmallow has a new setting called Doze that cuts down on battery drain when you aren't using your device. When it's resting in my pocket, the Nexus 6P only drops (usually) 1 percent or (sometimes) 2 percent per hour. And that's with notifications coming in regularly and a smartwatch connected via Bluetooth.

Good active-use plus great inactive-use uptimes equals very good all-around battery life for the Nexus 6P.

When you do need to charge, the phone makes fumbling around trying to find the "right" way to insert a microUSB cable a thing of the past, as it joins the Nexus 5X and OnePlus 2 in using the new reversible USB Type C standard. And unlike the mid-ranged 5X, the 6P includes a short USB Type C to Type A cable in the box, to help smooth out the transition to the new standard.

The Nexus 6P's camera is among the best of the year. We took identical shots with it and the iPhone 6s, and the only area where the 6s won out was in extremely poorly-lit shots. The Nexus' shot didn't look any darker than the iPhone's (both captured plenty of light considering the horrible lighting), but it added some noticeable noise that we didn't see in the iPhone's shot.

Everywhere else, though, we'd pick the Nexus. Its flash shots look slightly better (less blown-out, more evenly lit with richer colors) and its medium-lit to well-lit indoor and outdoor samples captured more detail. As long as you're okay sticking with the flash in poorly-lit settings, then we'd pick it over the iPhone.

Here are a few samples (unedited, but downscaled to 1,400 pixels wide for the web).

First, outdoors under direct sunlight:

Indoors, under medium lighting:

Extremely poor lighting, with flash:

... and extremely poor lighting, no flash:

The Nexus has a camera quick-launch shortcut, where you double-tap the power button to jump straight to the camera (similar to what Samsung did with this year's flagships). It works as advertised, letting us jump from sleeping phone to captured shot in under 3 seconds.

The camera app did, however, occasionally freeze up on us for a few precious seconds when launching, keeping those impressive launch speeds from being quite as consistent as we'd like.

If you're looking for a new large-ish smartphone, we recommend taking a long and hard look at the Nexus 6P. You won't be able to do that in stores, as it's an online exclusive (from the Google Store and Huawei in the US), but if you take the chance and order blindly, we think you're unlikely to be disappointed.

Not only is the Nexus 6P a top Smartphone of the Year candidate, it's easily the best value of a 2015 flagship. When buying at full retail, its biggest rivals – the iPhone 6s Plus, Galaxy Note 5 and Galaxy S6 edge+ – each cost $200-300 extra. The Nexus 6P is the best $499 smartphone we've seen.

The oustanding Nexus 6P is available now, from the Google Store and Huawei's US store, starting at $499 for 32 GB storage.

Product page: Google

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