To Android users, the Nexus brand stands front and center. It stands for freedom from manufacturer crapware. Unlike other Android phones, Nexus are usually unlocked plus their boot loaders are easily unlocked so you can easily throw on a custom ROM.
They also receive Android updates the moment Google releases them, and not 6 months later if ever like other Android phones.
Most importantly, a Nexus phone meant you were getting a great phone at a great price.
Here's the latest Nexus from Google which this time around, is made by Motorola: The Nexus 6. Like previous Nexus (Nexuses? Nexii?), the 6 lacks manufacturer crapware, it has an easily unlocked boot loader and it receives timely updates. However, the Nexus 6 is $750 which makes it the most expensive Nexus ever. However, itís also the most speced out Nexus ever. Is it still a great deal?
The Nexus 6 comes in black (with a blue back) or white. Each colour is available with 32 or 64GB of storage. Donít forget, you get 6 months of unlimited music from Google Play if you order a Nexus 6 from Google before December 31st.
In Canada, the 32GB is available direct from Google Play for $749. As of 12/15, the Nexus 6 ships in ď3-4 weeksĒ. The 64GB is not yet available but will be $799 when it is.
Google Play in the US has it for $649.99/699.99 for the 32/64GB versions.
Rogers has the Nexus 6 32GB for $299.99 on contract or $749.99 off. Bell has it for $279.95/749.95 while TELUS has it for $280/780.
In the US, AT&T has the 32GB for $682.99 off contract, $22.77 x 30 months or $249.99 on contract. Note that the AT&T Nexus 6 is carrier locked.
Sprint has if for $249.99 on contract, $27 x 24 months, $249.99 on contract or $648 off contract.
What about the Samsung Galaxy Note 4?
Iíll be honest, Discussing the pros and cons of the Nexus 6 vs the Note 4 is pointless.
The Nexus 6 has one fatal flaw which makes it so I canít recommend it to anyone. The Nexus at maximum brightness is similar to the Note 4 or iPhone 6 Plus when their brightness sliders are only at 50%.
Hereís what funny, if the Nexus 6 was priced similarly to the Nexus 5 (around $400 unlocked), I would absolutely say you can overlook the brightness. But since the 6 has a no-compromises $700+ CAN price tag, itís a disgrace. Itís about as bright as a Samsung Galaxy S III or a Note II. While I still think theyíre nice phones, theyíre also 2 generations old and substantially cheaper.
If you can look past the brightness (and I donít suggest you do), the Nexus 6 compares well with the Note 4.
The 6ís screen doesnít turn blue like the Note 4 does off angle. Indoors, the 6 display is actually quite nice.
Performance on both is similar as is the battery life. While the 6 has a larger display, itís not as bright. This is good for battery life.
While the Nexus 6 will receive updates faster and more frequently than the Note 4, it remains to be seen what version of Android each device will be on when they stop receiving updates.
The Note 4 does have a few extras like a MicroSD and removable battery. Donít forget the S-Pen stylus, finger print reader along with the heart-rate and UV monitors. If you find those features useful, then theyíre a big plus.
With the exception of the AT&T version, the Nexus is sold by most places unlocked with no carrier or manufacturer crapware plus its speakers have much higher sound quality.
Even though the 6ís speakers sound better, theyíre not as loud if youíre using them to make a speakerphone call.
Both have optical image stabilization. Iíd say the Note 4ís camera is a bit better but the Nexusí isnít too bad. Both also have fast charging.
Between the 2, Iíd pick the Note 4 mostly because itís a more balanced device. Also from a branding perspective, Iíd be hesitant to drop so much money on a Nexus device.
What about the OnePlus One?
Youíre probably wondering why Iím comparing the Nexus 6 with with the OnePlus One when it only costs half as much.
After all, the OPO has a smaller, lower resolution display, an older processor, no image stabilization and inferior speakers.
While the OPO screen is smaller than the Nexus 6, itís brighter and thus more usable. Even though the resolution is lower than the 6, most people arenít going to notice the difference because the pixel density on the OPO is so high that the 6ís extra pixels donít make it appear any sharper because of diminishing returns.
As for the older processor, the Nexusí extra performance is wasted on the extra resolution which isnít really noticeable so both have similar performance.
One area where the OPO pulls ahead is in the battery department. While the OPOís display is 20% smaller, it actually comes with a larger battery. In fact, the OPO has stunning performance with many users getting 2 days of heavy usage out of it whereas the Nexus battery will make it through a long day but nothing more.
Like the Nexus, the OPO takes custom ROMs just fine, it comes with no carrier crapware, is unlocked and receives updates quickly.
The thing is, since the Nexus 6 costs twice as much as the OPO, the OPO has actually become a spiritual successor of sorts to the Nexus 5. If a Nexus device used to stand for a great deal, then the OnePlus One out NEXUSes the NEXUS 6 in this regard.
Iíll be honest, thereís no reason to buy a Nexus 6 unless you want the awesome front-facing speakers or you canít get your hands on a OnePlus One.
What about the Google Nexus 5?
If you already have a Nexus 5 and are thinking about upgrading to a Nexus 6 should you? Iíll be honest, the question you should actually be asking yourself is if you should upgrade to a OnePlus One.
In one word; ďYesĒ.
Aside from the fact that the screen works better in direct sunlight and the smaller screen makes the Nexus 5 easier to handle, everything about the Nexus 6 is an upgrade. Itís available with more storage, the camera is an upgrade, the speakers sound better, the screen looks nicer. But the thing is, the Nexus brand has become synonymous with a good deal for a solid phone. While the Nexus 6 is unquestionably a solid phone, itís also unquestionable not a good deal.
If you want a good deal on a solid phone get the OnePlus One.
6Ē 2560x1440 AMOLED display
2.7Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
32GB or 64GB of storage
13MP camera with optical image stabilization and dual LED ring flash
stereo front-facing speakers
Qi Wireless charging
159.3 x 83 x 3.8-10.1mm
If youíve used or seen the second gen Moto X then the Nexus 6 doesnít hold any surprises. It feels exactly like the X only itís bigger.
You get the same front with symmetrical forward facing speakers while the back has the same curves in 3 dimensions complete with slightly mismatched corner gaps.
The back is metal and very solid. Iíd say itís more solid than the HTC One.
My Nexus 6 is the black version which actually has blue painted back. The back really shows oil from your fingers and is difficult to clean. I think it makes the back look cheap.
Overall though, itís a very nice looking design, the corners are a bit too hard so the 6 isnít very comfortable to hold for long periods of time. Then again, the fact that the 6 is a two handed phone mitigates this a little since you donít need to grip it as tightly.
When you have it next to the Moto X, besides the Nexus logo on the back, there arenít a whole lot of differences. The grills over the speakers are smooth unlike the Xís which are machined.
I also noticed that the MicroUSB port on the 6 is upside-down like the Nexus 5 and some HTC phones.
The bezel at the bottom of the screen is very narrow so I was curious if they would make the 6 harder to use because I find that the palm of my hand sometimes accidentally touches the corner of the screen. While my palm does touch the bottom of the screen, the 6 is set up so that you have to tap the picture on the on-screen buttons to activate them. Just pressing the bottom right corner isnít enough.
It goes without saying that the Nexus 6 with its 6Ē display is a huge phone. I already mentioned that the 6 is a 2-handed device. Still, it has decent ergonomics so as long as you donít have to reach across the screen you can sometimes get away with using it with one hand.
If you want to carry the 6 in your pocket be aware that itís fairly tall, so it might stick out if you put it in the back pocket of your jeans or in a coat breast pocket. When I wear jeans it jabs into my hips when I sit down.
Nothing to see on the left side
Power, Volume buttons
Headphone jack, Nano SIM slot
In front is a 6Ē 2560x1440 AMOLED display. At first I thought it had nice colour because the stock Lollipop UI looked pretty natural. However, when Iím looking at pictures anything bright looks un-natural because itís oversaturated. Itís a really annoying display to look at.
While it has deep inky blacks like most AMOLED displays, the whites are a bit too restrained. The reason is because the screen isnít as bright as some other AMOLED equipped phones like the Note 4 or even itís relative, the Moto X.
Next to my iPhone 6 Plus, the Nexus 6 at max brightness is similar to the Note 4 or iPhone 6 Plus when their brightness sliders are at 50%.
I tried to capture this with my camera but it didn't really turn out.
I donít have a tool to measure screen brightness but when I compare the Nexus with some phones I have lying around, Iíd say the maximum brightness is similar to a Samsung Galaxy S III or a Galaxy Note.
Just to be clear, the Nexus 6 is bright enough to look fine indoors - you donít normally need a super bright display when youíre inside.
However, maximum screen brightness is especially important with AMOLED displays because from my experience, theyíre more susceptible to washing out when youíre outdoors.
The latest generation of SuperAMOLED displays from Samsung are insanely bright and while theyíre not outstanding in the direct sunlight, theyíre definitely usable.
I couldnít figure out how to capture this with a camera but the Nexus struggles outdoors. Itís worse than the Note 4 and the older Nexus 5 in this regard.
Maybe Motorola had to turn down the maximum brightness since the 6 only comes with a 3220mAh battery which is a bit small for a 6Ē display.
Off-angle, the Nexus doesnít turn blue when you move slightly off center like the Note 4 does.
When it comes to phones, especially flagships, the display is one of the most important pieces of the puzzle and unfortunately for the Nexus 6, its display comes up short.
The 13 megapixel rear-facing camera has optical image stabilization.
Colour is reasonably accurate and Google has resisted the temptation to oversaturate colours. Just to clarify, while pictures viewed on the display are oversaturated, when you stick them on your computer or another device they have fantastic colour.
Like the Moto X, the 6 has a ring flash. If you missed my Moto X review, I talked about how ring flashes are used to create rings in the eyes of your subject plus they help with close-up (Macro) photography since they help to light subjects more evenly.
The problem with the 6ís ring flash is that the LEDís are too small and bright. If youíre trying to make rings in someone eyes it wonít work because all youíll see are 2 bright LEDís.
As for Macros, since the LEDís are so bright all they do is blast out your subject.
While the ring flash is a cool feature, practically speaking itís just a gimmick. A dual LED, colour adjusting flash would be more useful.
In terms of sensitivity, itís maybe a generation or 2 behind market leaders like the Apple iPhone 6 Plus. That said, if a picture turns out too dark, the 6ís photos handle brightening very well.
Shot-to-shot and focusing times are a tad slow for a flagship.
The stabilized lens really makes a difference. When I hold the 6, sit down and bounce my leg, I can really see how much more stable the video is compared to when I try this with the Moto X which is a similar phone that doesnít have optical image stabilization.
I managed to shoot close to 14 minutes of 4K video before the 6 overheated and tossed in the towel. Thatís 4 more minutes than the X. The metal body really helps to cool the processor because it really heats up very evenly.
The microphone sounds fine. It doesnít pick up too much handling noise. My only complaint is that Iíd like to have it bias a little more to the subject.
Like all Nexus devices, the 6 is one of the first devices to run the latest version of Android 5.0 AKA Lollipop.
The biggest change is that Lollipop gets a completely new flat look. It takes some getting used to but personally, I donít mind it and Iím an old fart that normally doesnít like change. On one hand, until Lollipop, the Android UI hadnít been overhauled since Android 3.0, on the other hand, Google has been honing the UI since 3.0 to the point that many Android OEMís just use it instead of their own custom ones.
I will say that I donít really like the new menu icons. Not because theyíre ugly but because it feels like they ripped off a Sony Playstation controller. Itís important to look original.
Rather than give you a list of everything thatís changed, Iíll just mention what Iíve noticed. The default Android keyboard now has a new look. There are no lines between the keys in keeping with the flat look. Iím not sure I really like it personally. Even though there is less Ďstuffí on the keyboard, at times I felt lost without the dividers between each key.
When you pull the notification area down, you can now pull down a second time to reveal the phoneís switches. If youíre used to pulling down with 2 fingers to get to the switches, you can still do that too. One new switch which I donít remember seeing before is that there is now a flashlight feature (finally).
Unlike the old Android Holographic interface (3.0 and up) which is very dark, Lollipop is pretty bright with a lots of white. I think itís much friendlier looking.
You know those cards that Google now uses to organize information? Now those cards are available in the notification area and lock screen. You can tap the cards to open the app or you can press the corner to configure when they notify you.
When you switch tasks, the different apps you have running show up as cards along with Chromeís browser tabs.
The built-in easter egg when you view ďAbout PhoneĒ in the settings is now a Flappy Bird clone which is much harder than Flappy Bird.
I had to look this up but under the hood, Lollipop uses a new runtime called Android Runtime (ART) instead of Dalvik. Dalvik is a just-in-time compiler which sort of puts programs together just as youíre about to run them. ART puts the programs together when theyíre installed so that they run faster.
Under the hood is a 2.7Ghz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 processor. Performance is comparable to a 1080P, Snapdragon 801 Android flagship.
While the 805 is a more powerful SoC, itís graphics processor isnít powerful enough to offset the extra pixels in the display. As a result, gaming performance suffers a little bit.
Here's the AnTuTu score:
Practically speaking, the Nexus 6 is very fluid and smooth. Programs load quickly. The greatest comment is that you donít normally think about how fast or slow the 6 is when you use it because it has sufficient performance.
That said, when I put the Nexus 6 next to my Nexus 5, I found that the 5 was usually a hair faster. One of my favorite tests is to see how quickly a phone can launch the camera since I take a lot of pictures. The Nexus 5 launches the camera faster, has faster shot-to-shot speeds plus it launches the browser and brings up the settings menu faster.
The front-facing stereo speakers rock. Theyíre just as loud as the Note 4ís but you get 2 of them. In terms of sound quality, the Note 4 sounds like an AM radio next to the 6 because the 6 has much more range plus it just plain sounds better.
Like every other flagship Iíve tried recently the Nexus 6 headphone jack is powerful and sounds great.
While the 6 doesnít come with a Micro SD slot, you can spec it with either 32GB or 64GB of storage either of which should be enough for most users.
As a Phone:
Incoming sound quality is a bit disappointing. Everyone sounds like they have a cold. This is probably the result of over-aggressive noise reduction.
Maximum earpiece volume is a little on the quiet side. Iím not sure if this is due to the large front area preventing me from placing the earpiece closer to my ear.
The built-in speakerphone volume is average. I noticed that when you activate the speakerphone it actually takes a second or 2 before it starts working. Iím not sure if this is a bug or by design but itís really annoying.
I made a call on the Nexus 6 and Moto X and compared their RF performance in HSPA mode on Bell. I actually found that the X has superior RF performance.
The Nexus 6 supports a staggering number of LTE bands plus it supports LTE carrier aggregation. Hereís a partial list of support bands:
|2||AKA PCS used for LTE by Bell/TELUS|
|4||AKA AWS used for LTE by Rogers/Bell/TELUS|
|12||AKA 700Mhz mostly owned by Rogers in major markets|
|17||AKA 700Mhz mostly owned by Bell/TELUS in major markets|
In addition to all these bands, the Nexus 6 supports carrier aggregation. Carrier aggregation allows a phone to use 2 different LTE bands at the same time to increase speed.
Rogers is currently aggregating bands 2 and 17 with their LTE Advanced rollout. While Iím not sure of how extensive their band 17 rollout is and I have questions of how dense the coverage is, I have been pretty impressed with how large the coverage has grown in a short time.
The non-removable battery has a capacity of 3220mAh. While 3220mAh sounds big, the 6 also has a big power sucking AMOLED display and a very bright UI. While the Nexus should make it through the day for most users, youíll have to remember to plug it in at night.
If you play a lot of games or shoot a lot of video, youíll be happy that the Nexus supports fast charging.
If you need to charge quickly, the 6 supports a fast charging mode which is able to charge the battery at up to 14.4 watts. The fastest Ďregularí charging I have seen are devices which are able to handle 11 or 12 watts so the 6 is able to charge a full 20% faster. In case youíre wondering, the Note 4 can do even better by charging at 15 watts.
Check out the picture of the included fast charger, it's not a very power outlet friendly shape because there's a good chance it will block the adjacent plug. In case you're wondering, the Note 4's charger doesn't block other outlets.
It used to be that picking up a Nexus phone meant a few things. Think of these as my rules for a Nexus
- Unlocked - even if you got it from a carrier
- No carrier crapware - even if you got it from a carrier
- No resource sucking manufacturer crapware
- Receives updates whenever a new version of Android comes out
- Receives updates directly from Google without approval from your carrier
- Unlocked boot loader out of the box so you can flash whatever software you want
- Comes with the latest hardware
As Andrew mentioned, the AT&T version of the Nexus 6 is locked.
Fortunately, the Nexus 6 which I have here was supplied from Rogers and they didnít mess with it. The boot loader is unlockable, and while the Nexus does install Rogersí apps when you activate it with a Rogers SIM, you can remove them or just activate it without the SIM if you donít want to see them at all.
Most importantly, the 6 they sent me is unlocked so you can use it on any carrier you want.
So in this case, Rogers deserves a high five for leaving the 6 alone while AT&T deserves five across the eyes of making their version of the 6 suck.
Okay, itís time for me to put my flame suit on but one other Ďfeatureí of Nexus devices is that theyíve always had one hardware flaw. The original Nexus One had wonky menu buttons that didnít always respond. The Nexus S didnít have a memory card slot even though the Galaxy S it was based on had one. Ditto for the Galaxy Nexus. The Nexus 4 lacked LTE while the Nexus 5 only got a 5Ē display, a small battery and only a 8 megapixel camera.
While the Nexus 6 is the most Ďno compromisesí Nexus yet, itís been cursed with a dim screen and thus maintains the familyís flawed history.
Thereís one more Nexus rule I forgot to mention:
- Priced so itís a great deal
While having an affordable price wasnít always a Nexus hallmark, to me itís become the most important one. The Nexus really fails my final rule.
If you want a great phone for thatís a steal, the Nexus 6 is not the Android youíre looking for.
It's hard to figure out a rating for the Nexus 6. On one hand, it's a very solid phone, on the other hand it has a dim display and it's very expensive. At the Nexus 6 price point, a phone should have no serious weaknesses so with that in mind I can only give it 3.5 out of 5 Howies.
I'd give it 4 but I took off half a Howie due to the high price tag.
It's been out Nexused by the OnePlus One.
- Fast performance
- Should receive updates quickly
- Solid body
- Powerful speakers
- Dim screen
- Oversaturated screen
- Very expensive
- Too large for many people