Motorola Nexus 6 (32GB) review: Is bigger better?

The first phablet to don the Nexus moniker rates among the best

Motorola Nexus 6
  • Motorola Nexus 6
  • Motorola Nexus 6
  • Motorola Nexus 6
  • Expert Rating

    4.25 / 5

Pros

  • Stock Android
  • Great specs
  • Large, vibrant screen coupled with front speakers
  • Ring flash improves night photography

Cons

  • Large - even for a phablet
  • The most expensive Nexus smartphone
  • Limited local availability

Would you buy this?

There’s a recipe to the Nexus stable: naked Android software, compelling hardware and a price that undercuts the market heavyweights so that folks like you and I emerge the real winners.

Recently a phablet was added to the range with the Motorola-manufactured Nexus 6. It marks many firsts by being the largest smartphone, the most powerful and the most expensive Nexus to date.

A Nexus for multimedia

The Nexus 6 is an exercise in pure function, where every component can be pushed to its technological limit. The prevailing take-away from this smartphone is that no compromises on price nor size have been made.

Note: The Nexus 6 reviewed by Good Gear Guide is on loan from Yatango Shopping, which is currently stocking the smartphone for $849.95.

The shape — a hand-me-down from the revered Motorola Moto X — uses the art of contours to improve the smartphone’s ergonomics, so that it is rests more comfortably in the hand. The efforts are wasted because the Nexus 6 is not a pleasant smartphone to grip on account of being far too wide and not nearly thick enough.

Dominating an otherwise inconspicuous front is a 6-inch AMOLED display. Odds are its 2560x1440 resolution packs more pixels than that in your 55-inch television. Every inch houses 493 pixels, which is enough to make individual pixels invisible.

An interesting duality characterises this screen. It is perfectly bright, sharp and coloured for the sake of multimedia. The 1440p resolution is not for show as the Nexus 6 is powerful enough to play UHD movies. We tested TimeScapes on the smartphone — a 9.7GB file — and it excelled in both performance and clarity.

Then there’s the screen’s dark side. Being manufactured by Motorola does not mean it comes with the Moto X’s stellar notification screen. Not that it is in needed here. Lollipop — the version of Android that premieres on the Nexus 6 — has its own rendition. Pick up an idle phone and without pressing anything the screen turns on, in black and white, to display the time and pending notifications. It is both informative and economical, though it is complementary to — and not a replacement of — the ubiquitous notification LED, which the Nexus 6 does without.

Nesting on either side of this stellar display are quality speakers. We never once needed to set the volume toggle to max. The front-firing speakers of the Nexus 6 are second only to the HTC One (M8) on account of lacking the crisp clarity afforded by the HTC’s amplifiers.

Rounding off the Nexus 6’s multimedia repertoire is a 13 megapixel camera. It will record videos in the emerging Ultra high definition standard and is characterised by the innovative flash arrangement introduced on its Moto X sibling.

The quality of photos and videos taken by Nexus smartphones continues to get better. The high resolution photos hit all the right marks and photos taken with this camera can be cropped clearly for use online.

Photo taken with the Motorola Nexus 6
Photo taken with the Motorola Nexus 6
Read more: Google Nexus 9 first impressions: Hands on with HTC's first tablet

A 100 per cent crop of the photo above - Photo taken with the Motorola Nexus 6
A 100 per cent crop of the photo above - Photo taken with the Motorola Nexus 6

Photo taken with the Motorola Nexus 6
Photo taken with the Motorola Nexus 6

Differentiating the cameras of the Moto X and the Nexus 6 is the software at work. The Nexus’ stock Lollipop interface is bare-bone simplistic and easy to use. Settings are presented as menu options and not as shooting modes. There are a few modes of interest, with the Photosphere mode and the Lens blur option proving particularly intriguing.

Serious hardware, Lollipop software

Working behind the scenes is top-tier hardware. The Snapdragon 805 quad-core CPU runs at 2.7GHz, is joined by an Adreno 420 GPU and 3GB of RAM. Storage is capped at either 32GB or 64GB as there is no slot for an external microSD.

The combination of the Nexus’ hardware, along with its high-resolution display and those loud speakers, is a grand one, particularly when it comes to gaming. It takes intensive titles in its stride and it performs well enough to negate the need for a handheld console.

Nexus smartphones run a stock version of Android and the Nexus 6 is the first smartphone to come with version 5.0 Lollipop. The greatest changes to Lollipop are cosmetic. It is brighter, more intuitive and simpler than before. The OS works better with wearables and Google’s long string of services.

1. Notifications on the home screen 2. The notification blind 3. Profiles and the application manager
1. Notifications on the home screen 2. The notification blind 3. Profiles and the application manager

1. The dialler 2. A new keyboard for Lollipop 3. Software updates
1. The dialler 2. A new keyboard for Lollipop 3. Software updates

One of the features introduced to Lollipop is a battery saving mode, though it does little to lengthen the battery life of the Nexus 6.

Built into the Nexus 6 is a non-removable 3220 milliamp-hour battery. The powerful hardware takes its toll on the smartphone’s battery life. We used the Nexus 6 as our primary smartphone over a week for tasks ranging from phone calls to gaming. There was some GPS, a great deal of emailing and social networking, and a deal more of music and video streaming to a Chromecast.

Good Gear Guide’s testing of the Nexus 6 resulted in the battery lasting 12 hours at its shortest and 22 hours at its longest, with the smartphone generally lasting around the 19-hour mark. These results are commendable considering the Nexus 6 combines leading hardware with a next-generation screen.

Final thought

Most people will be turned off the Nexus 6 because of its size. Ironically many will be drawn to it for the very same reason. It matches Samsung’s Galaxy Note 4 on most specs, but it does one better by offering the latest version of Google Android. A version that isn’t defaced by an overlay and one that will receive Android software updates first. Naked software, powerful hardware and one of the better bodies make the Nexus 6 one of the best phablets yet.

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Read more on these topics: Motorola, Lollipop, Google, Nexus 6, Android, 5.0
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