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Google Nexus 6 review – Killed after the Pixel takeover

Our Rating :
Price when reviewed : £499
inc VAT (32GB)

The Nexus 6's screen and battery life could have been better, but Google's Pixel is now top dog


Processor: Quad-core 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 , Screen Size: 6in, Screen resolution: 2,560×1,440, Rear camera: 13-megapixel, Storage: 32GB, Wireless data: 4G, Size: 159x83x10.1mm, Weight: 184g, Operating system: Android 5.0


Android 5.1

The Nexus 6 shipped with Android 5.0, although it now has an upgrade to Android 5.1, which is available as an OTA update. Most of the changes are slight tweaks over Android 5.1, but there are some important differences. First, many Nexus 6 owners complained that performance deteriorated over time, but the Android 5.1 update seems to fix that, restoring the phone to its prime.

There’s a sizeable change in how Android handles the processor, too. Rather than turning two processor cores off when they’re not needed, the CPU now runs as a permanent quad-core model. In our performance tests (see next section), the phone had a slight performance boost from Android 5.1.

Android 5.1 also introduces some neat interface tweaks. Now, when you use the pull-down Notifications menu, both the Wi-Fi and Bluetooth icons have drop-down arrows underneath them that you can tap to view other networks and paired Bluetooth devices.

There’s also the fancy new On-body unlock option, which uses the phone’s accelerometer to detect movement, keeping your phone unlocked and ready to use. The idea is that the phone knows it’s in a pocket and being carried around, so it doesn’t need the passcode. It works pretty well, although the phone locks if you sit still for two long.

Other than these tweaks, it’s business as usual for Android Lollipop. The operating system has a fancy new look and lots of lovely new animations, called Material Design, where everything is simpler and flatter than before. The homescreen works much the same as ever, which is still more flexible than the competitions in terms of placing things, widgets and folders. A new app switcher lets you cycle through a Rolodex of previous applications, and multiple Chrome tabs appear here, so it’s easier to get access to everything.

Notifications have been turned into Google-Now style cards, and you can see these on the lockscreen if you want, so you know what’s going on at all times. The Nexus 6 supports an ‘Ambient Screen’ mode where these lockscreen notifications appear (in black and white) whenever you pick up the phone or take it out of your pocket. There’s also a great new tool for backing up and restoring your handset. You can choose to restore all your apps and homescreens exactly as they were, letting you do a full reset whenever you like without having to reorganise everything afterwards.

There are numerous other tweaks, but it’s largely familiar stuff to look at. Beneath all that is a whole new codebase, with improvements to performance and battery life, plus support for 64-bit processors.

The big problem here is that Android Lollipop is just that and nothing more. On the Nexus 9 the new Gmail app has a tablet mode with a preview pane, but apparently the Nexus 6 isn’t big enough for that and there’s no setting to force it on. In fact, there are no phablet enhancements here, such as being able to run two apps side-by-side on the Note 4. Plain Android is great, but sometimes you want more.


The Nexus 6 uses the same Snapdragon 805 chipset as its main rival, the Note 4. It’s hard to compare the two directly though, as we’ve only seen the Note 4 running under Android 4.4 and only seen the Nexus 6 running Android 5.0. Even though this CPU isn’t a 64-bit model and Android Lollipop is 64-bit, the Nexus 6 is seriously fast.

Its 2.7GHz quad-core processor, with 3GB of RAM, whipped through our tests and Android ran smoothly with all its new fancy animations. Running on Android 5.0, the handset scored 1,377 in Browsermark and 1,346 in Basemark OS II. Upgrading to Android 5.1 we saw a slight boost, with 1,416 in Browsermark and 1,356 in Basemark OS II. This makes the handset extremely fast, although the Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge is quicker with a score of 2,721 in Browsermark and 1,845 in Basemark OS II.

Running the Basemark X 1.1 graphics benchmark, we saw an even bigger difference in performance. At medium detail, the Nexus 6 scored 30,237 running Android 5.0 and 31,537 running Android 5.1; switching to the High quality setting the scores were 13,547 and 15,777 respectively. This means that the Nexus 6 will happily run any current game quickly, and it’s scores aren’t far behind those the Galaxy S6 Edge, which scored 37,885 at Medium detail and 22,682 running at High detail.

Battery life

The Nexus 6’s 3,220mAh battery isn’t huge given its large screen size, the Note 4 has the same size battery in a handset that its noticeably smaller. In our battery rundown test, it managed to continuously play a video file for a respectable 12h and 41m with the screen set to 170cd/m2, so it should easily coast through a full day of usage. We re-ran the test using Android 5.1 and the phone lasted 12h 17m at the same brightness setting. The slightly lower score is most likely down to standard variation and the discrepancy isn’t enough to worry about. However, the Note 4, presumably with a more power-efficient display managed to last a huge 18h 55m in the same test, making it a far better bet for those who use their phones heavily all day.

^ As you can see it’s that big screen that’s the big draw on your power

Battery life may not be the best, but getting power into the Nexus 6 is a breeze. It comes with a 9V 1.6A turbo charger, which charged the handset at around 1% of battery per minute, with the battery being full in well under two hours. This is thanks to Qualcomm’s Quick Charge technology, which makes the Nexus 6 one of the fastest charging phones we’ve ever seen – although the Note 4 can pull a similar trick. The Nexus 6 does come with Qi wireless charging too, which is handy and not on the Note 4.

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ProcessorQuad-core 2.7GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 805
Screen size6in
Screen resolution2,560×1,440
Screen typeAMOLED
Front camera2-megapixel
Rear camera13-megapixel
FlashDual LED ring flash
Memory card slot (supplied)None
Wireless data4G
Operating systemAndroid 5.1
Battery size3,220mAh
Buying information
WarrantyOne year RTB
Price SIM-free (inc VAT)£499
Price on contract (inc VAT)£38.5
Prepay price (inc VAT)N/A
SIM-free supplier
Part codeXT1100

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