Google Nexus 6P review: Still a super phone if a pricey Pixel isn’t for you


It turns out that the Google Nexus 6P was to be the last of the Nexus line. What wasn’t immediately obvious was that its replacement was going to be something so dramatically different.

While the Nexus 6P was a competitively priced £449 at launch, Google has since repositioned its phones to be at the luxury end of the market. The Pixel and Pixel XL handsets will set you back a minimum of £599, with the XL starts at £719. 

The new Pixel phones are, admittedly, very good, but the price now makes them a direct rival for the Apple iPhone 7 Plus and Samsung Galaxy S8 on every count. That’s a tougher battle: when Google phones were affordable and brilliant, it was an easy endorsement. Now, it’s endorsement with caveats. In a nutshell, the camera is outstanding, with optical image stabilisation added to what was already a superb camera in the Nexus brand. The handsets are smaller and neater. But are they £240 better? No.

That’s something of a moot point now: nowhere sells the Nexus 6P anymore, although if you’re willing to brave the second hand market, you’ll likely find yourself a bargain. In 2017, the Nexus 6P isn’t the best-in-class it was back in 2015, but it’s still a competent companion that won’t let you down.

Jonathan Bray’s original review continues below

Google Nexus 6P review: In full

Google released the Nexus 6 in 2014, it split public opinion; although the Motorola-designed handset was fast and good-looking, its sheer size put a sizeable proportion of potential customers off. The search giant took note scaled things back and, late in 2015, gave us the Nexus 6P.

The result is a Nexus flagship far more worthy of the name. It’s lighter and slimmer than the outgoing model, and this is thanks in the main to its smaller, more manageable 5.7in display. This  brings it in line with other flagships such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 Edge, Note 5 and iPhone 6s Plus, which are all around the same size or very slightly smaller.

In short, Google’s flagship smartphone is no longer as much of an outlier as it once was, and it can once again be considered alongside the biggest names in the smartphone business. That, in my book, is nothing but a good thing.

Google Nexus 6P: Design and performance

Along with the change in tack, size wise, comes a change in manufacturer, with Motorola making way for Chinese technology giant Huawei. Huawei has gone from strength to strength in recent times in terms of its design prowess, culminating in the excellent Huawei Watch and a clutch of excellent smartphones. That experience is immediately evident in the design of the Nexus 6P.

I love how the Nexus 6P looks. It’s the first a Nexus phone has had an all-metal chassis and it’s a truly handsome piece of hardware. The exposed chamfered edges catch the light attractively, and the flattened, yet softly curved rear, doesn’t rock annoyingly when you lay it flat on a table. The black strip at the rear of the phone, which I had my doubts about when I first saw the press shots, looks fine in the metal, adding an element of originality and character that’s so sorely lacking in many other smartphones.

More importantly, perhaps, it feels less clumsy in the hand and far less bulky in the pocket than the monstrous Nexus 6. It turns out that shaving 4.2mm off the width, 2.8mm from the thickness and 6g from the weight makes a huge difference to the overall feel.

Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a big phone, and is best stowed in a jacket rather than your jeans pocket (unless you enjoy being jabbed in the hip every time you bend over or take the stairs) – but in a world increasingly more accepting of large-screened smartphones, it strikes a fine compromise. 

It’s certainly a much nicer design than its awkward-looking stablemate – the Nexus 5X, and it doesn’t sacrifice on the practicalities, either. The screen has Gorilla Glass 4 to protect it from the twin scourges of keys in pockets and butter-fingered droppage, the two front-facing speakers deliver audio without getting muffled by your hands gripping the sides, and on the bottom edge you’ll find one of the new USB Type-C ports.

Type-C ports are going to become increasingly common in the coming months, and will be standard across all smartphones in a couple of years’ time. And there are very good reasons for that. Type-C ports are far more robust than their Micro-USB equivalents, and since the connection is reversible, the days of fumbling around trying to find the right way to plug in your charging cable without breaking the port or the cable will be a thing of the past.

USB Type-C is also more capable from a technical standpoint: it can carry data at a faster rate and much more power, promising faster charging, potentially. Courtesy of the magic of USB Type-C, it’s even possible to reverse the power flow and use your phone to charge other devices.

For now, though, you’ll be cursing Google’s choice every time you’re caught out without the right cable. I’m also baffled by the decision to only include a stubby USB-A to Type-C converter cable in the box, alongside a longer Type-C to Type-C cable. With so few Type-C-equipped laptops around right now, surely it would have been better to supply a USB Typ-C to USB A cable instead?

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