When consumers think of Google's Nexus devices, they think about the promise of receiving the latest updates for Android essentially as soon as they release. They also think about the value proposition that Nexus devices provide by giving good hardware at a price significantly lower than other smartphones. However, this was not always the case. The Nexus One, Nexus S, and Galaxy Nexus were all priced at the same level as other flagship smartphones. It was only with the launch of the Nexus 7 at $199 that we began to see a trend of inexpensive but still high quality devices coming from Google. That hasn't changed at all in the past few weeks. The Nexus 5 and Nexus 7 are both still available, and they still provide a very high quality experience, arguably better than some other smartphones that are both newer and more expensive. But Google's newest devices take aim directly at other flagship devices with both their specs and their prices. At $399 the Nexus 9 positions itself against Apple's iPad Mini 3, while the Nexus 6 at $649 goes up against essentially every other flagship smartphone.

On paper the Nexus 6 doesn't really bring much to the table that sets it high above the competition. This is a consequence of it launching so late into the year, with other companies having already released their new flagship devices. That being said, how a device looks on paper does not translate into how good it is in actual use. There are lots of cases of powerful phones that disappoint, and phones that are weak on paper that end up being surprisingly good. It's still helpful to know what hardware you're dealing with, so I've laid out the specifications of the Nexus 6 below, along with the Nexus 5 as a point of reference.

  Google Nexus 5 Google Nexus 6
SoC 2.26 GHz MSM8974 Snapdragon 800 2.7 GHz APQ8084 Snapdragon 805
Display 4.95” 1080p IPS LCD 5.96” 1440p Super AMOLED
Network 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE) 2G / 3G / 4G LTE (Qualcomm MDM9x25 UE Category 4 LTE)
Dimensions 137.84 x 69.17 x 8.59mm, 130g 159.26 x 82.98 x 10.06mm, 184g
Camera 8MP Rear Facing, 1/3.2" CMOS size (Sony IMX179), F/2.4.
13MP Rear Facing, 1/3.06" CMOS size (Sony IMX214), F/2.0.
Battery 2300 mAh (8.74Whr) 3220 mAh (12.236Whr)
OS Android 5.0 Lollipop Android 5.0 Lollipop
Connectivity 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.0, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC 802.11a/b/g/n/ac + BT 4.1, USB2.0, GPS/GNSS, NFC
SIM Size MicroSIM NanoSIM

The design of the Nexus 6 is interesting in how it differs from all other Nexus devices, including the Nexus 9. Although the Nexus 9 launched alongside the 6 and is manufactured by HTC, it retains the slightly slanted flat sides and back cover design from the Nexus 5 which is made by LG. The Nexus 6 is made by Motorola, and it follows the style of design that we've seen on their other devices. The back of the device is heavily curved, with a plastic cover that meets a contoured aluminum frame which slopes downward at the top to accommodate the 3.5mm headphone jack and SIM card tray. Both the plastic back and the aluminum sides feel good in the hand, but due to the sheer size of the device your hand tends to rest more on the back cover instead of arching over it, so it doesn't quite have the premium feel of metal devices like the HTC One (M8) and the iPhone 6. Anyone looking to upgrade from the Nexus 5 should also know that the back cover does not have a soft touch finish like the black Nexus 5, and instead has the slightly rougher eggshell feel of the white Nexus 5.

Like always, the back of the device displays the word Nexus in all lowercase characters, and the manufacturing partner's logo which in this case is the slightly indented Motorola logo that appears on all of their other smartphones. Above that is the 13MP camera which is surrounded by a plastic ring that houses the two LED camera flashes. Unlike previous Nexus devices, the camera on the Nexus 6 is aligned in the center rather than being put in one of the upper corners.

The volume rocker and power button on the Nexus 6 are both on the right side of the device, and are placed close to the center of that side so they can be easily used even with the phone being so large. The power button is also textured with a series of small lines so that it can be easily distinguished from the volume rocker. While I had no issues finding the power button, I often found myself pressing the wrong half of the volume rocker which is very slippery and made of a single piece of ceramic. In general I've always preferred having separate volume buttons and the Nexus 6 is no exception.

For some reason one of the parts I found myself really liking about the Nexus 6 is its nanoSIM tray and tray ejector tool. The tray has a much better design than other devices like the iPhone, HTC One, or Nexus 5 which are essentially just a metal frame that you place the SIM into with no mechanism to hold it in. The tray on the Nexus 6 has tiny notches that hold the SIM in place once it has been inserted, so that it doesn't shift or fall out. It's also fitted very well to the bezel of the device, with no misalignment or fitting issues which were both complaints about the SIM tray on early Nexus 5 units. The ejector is also small and fits well on a keychain which I appreciate, as I like to have one with me in case my primary phone's battery dies.

The front of the device is dominated by the large display, with minimal bezel on the top and bottom to include the stereo speakers and front facing camera. Compared to the Nexus 5, the Nexus 6 is thicker and taller, but the curved back and smaller top and bottom bezels help to alleviate that. The increase in width is the most noticeable change from the Nexus 5. The Nexus 6 is a massive smartphone, and its size makes it a firmly two handed device. Of course, that's the point of the device. Having a large display allows you to display more content on the screen and creates a more immersive experience when viewing videos and playing games. It's a larger device than the Nexus 5 because it's meant to offer a different experience. Compared to other phablets like the iPhone 6 Plus and Galaxy Note 4 the Nexus 6 is somewhat more difficult to hold, but not to the extent that I would say it poses an issue.

The comparison to the Nexus 5 is also interesting because Google is still selling the device, and so one could argue that the Nexus 6 is merely an addition to Google's lineup rather than a replacement. While this is a fair point to make, it doesn't address how users who prefer the smaller size of the Nexus 5 are also stuck with an ageing hardware platform. In the end there are always going to be tradeoffs to any device, and a buyer must consider how well a device fits the tasks they want to perform with it.

Battery Life and Charge Time
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  • tuxRoller - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    Google really screwed up this years nexus devices.
    They are what I always buy, so now I'm left in a bit of a lurch.
    Probably will wait for the 64bit transition next (snapdragon 810, or exynos 7, though I'd prefer to avoid img gpus).
  • hpglow - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    I'm a little taken back by the poor battery life compared to the note 4. The screen is a little larger but damn.
  • modulusshift - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    Hey, can we please get a storage benchmark on this? Ars claims it has big problems, is that a memory supplier issue? Thank you!
  • jaysns - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    Apparently there is a huge performance hit when switching on encryption on the Nexus 5 http://www.reddit.com/r/nexus6/comments/2m4jra/une...

    Can only hope this is a bug as this will pretty dramatically affect how the device performs.
  • 1032724311 - Wednesday, November 12, 2014 - link

    系统还是原来是原生系统 可终端设备已经不是原来的nexus的味道了
  • spikebike - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    So for twice the money (or so) of the nexus 5 we get a phone that loses many benchmarks (battery life, cpu, brightness, saturation) to the nexus 5. What's worse is that the nexus 5 was already trailing in battery life to begin with.

    Here's hoping google adopts some of the better phones into the GPE program.
  • Nevod - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    What seems to be most strange is the really poor battery life. Note 4 has just a bit smaller screen (10% difference only) yet more than 50% longer life. The cause isn't obvious, they both have AMOLED screens of same resolution, exactly same battery capacity and similar performance. The only differences are SoC (I get that it's the most important thing, but modern SoCs aren't that different in efficiency IIRC) and perhaps screen quality. When Galaxy Nexus came out, it had screen ahead of everyone else - but it was immature and extremely power hungry, paired with an already outdated SoC which GPU was overloaded with screen's resolution it had really poor battery life in browsing. Displays advanced and soon even screens with much smaller pitch were more efficient, processes shrank and GPUs consumed modest power on higher resolutions.

    Here, however, everything is nearly identical to Note 4. What is the cause of such a difference? Is the screen on N6 really is such a power hog (who's the supplier, anyway? Samsung, I suppose?). Though even the screen itself shouldn't be so problematic. Is the Exynos, and Mali in particular so much more efficient? Unlikely. I do think that this is caused by software, as seemingly it was with most Nexus phones - they were never really good at battery life. Even the Lollipop doesn't seem to help that.
  • darkich - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    Yeah,on top of all that, Lollipop is said to make HUGE power efficiency gains over KitKat.
    So this story is a major upset to some MYTHS.
    What happened with pure, clean Android (supposedly more efficient), and the bloated, messy Samsung ROM (supposedly less efficient)?
    If the myths are true, Note 4 with Lollipop should have ridiculously better efficiency than this, on basically equal hardware.
  • darkich - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    Oh and btw, the Samsung Note 4 ROM is vastly better than this.
    Besides offering the richest possible multitasking options, and all the S Pen extras, it actually makes one handed use easily possible.
    This aspect keeps on getting ignored in the reviews just because reviewers arent even thinking about using it.

    I ignored the one handed option too for months on my Note 3, but slowly it sank in, and now I see it as an essential piece of any proper phablet software.
  • Nevod - Thursday, November 13, 2014 - link

    I've re-read battery and display parts of Nexus 6 and Note 4 reviews and now I think I do get it. Looks like Nexus 6 indeed has a problematic screen, like the Galaxy Nexus had before - it has way too high power consumption and low max brightness. However, that by itself shouldn't cause too much of a problem in real use (unless you are typically browsing in direct sunlight).

    Battery life test is done at 200 nits, almost the max of 250 nits for Nexus 6. GNex at that brightness level had some serious power consumption from display alone, well over 1 watt, so screen's power consumption dominates the test done like that. IRL, you don't just load the page over and over, with modest CPU and GPU load, you actually scroll a lot, seriously loading GPU - you actually scroll way more than you do anything else, so RL web browsing life is dominated by GPU power consumption, as the screen is usually running at low brightness level and it's contribution to power consumption isn't that big.

    So, I suppose, while for sure Nexus 6 will have less battery life than Note 4 due to crappy screen tech, in real life, there shouldn't be too much of a difference, probably around 10%, 15% at most.

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