The biggest event on the Android-land calendar happens when Google launches their Nexus smartphones. This year's line-up consisted of two devices - the 6P (made by Huawei), and the 5x (from LG).
Both devices caused quite a stir when they launched. I finally got to spend some hands-on time with a 6P over the Christmas break. Here’s my first impressions.
Look and Feel
The 'P' in the Nexus moniker is short for 'Premium'. The 6P delivers this in spades. The 6P’s metal unibody design and sturdy build lends the 6P a solid feel. The 6P isn’t so weighty that you’ll hear the sound of tearing fabric when you put it in your pocket or purse.
It’s curved back and its tapered edges also make the 6P comfy to hold. This said, its roomy 5.7” screen means that you'll need both hands to operate it.
The rear of the 6P sports a laser etched Nexus logo and a rectangular camera bulge. It might just be me, but I reckon the 6P reminds me of Bender from Futurama. I named the review unit Bender.
Huawei have kept things premium by focussing on little details. The power button has a texture knurled into it. This lets your finger differentiate between it and the volume rocker. The chassis has no flex and everything aligns to millimetre level accuracy.
The Bender's rump sports a USB-C port. Remembering to pack a USB C cable when going on holiday is a pain but it provides fast charging when used with a compatible charger.
The 6P's front packs a pair of front-facing stereo speakers. They won’t blow your hair back, nor will they shake your house off its foundations, but they’re still plenty loud enough for notifications, as well as gaming.
The review unit I tested came in a Darth Vader-like Graphite (black). It can also be had in Aluminium (grey), or Frost (white). All told Bender is a good looking piece of gear.
Bells and Whistles
Bender's rear camera packs a 12.3MP sensor that proved adept at low light shooting. This isn’t too surprising given the excellent camera already in use with Huawei’s P8.
The 6P’s low light shooting skills are due to the rear camera sensor using 1.55-micron pixels. These are larger than those used on most smartphones, allowing better light capture.
The only real fly in the photographic ointment is the lack of optical image stabilisation.
Laser assisted focus also made for responsive shooting. The camera app also lacked a RAW mode shooting, and ultra-wide selfie modes for group shots. However, there are plenty of other camera apps on Google Play that’ll fill the gap.
Bender’s 5.7” quad HD AMOLED display impresses. It looked as crisp and vibrant as the IPS LCD displays used on other flagship devices. This is due to a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 at 518 PPI. All told it is a crisp display with an almost unnoticeable pixel structure.
Colour accuracy is also good and not over-saturated like other AMOLED displays. Grayscale notifications also pop when Bender gets picked up.
The rear mounted fingerprint sensor mightn’t be anything new, but registering dabs is seamless. It can take an eternity on other devices and the registration process can get convoluted. Bender avoids both pitfalls. Best of all, the fingerprint sensor is where my fingers tend to rest. This allows me to pick up and unlock Bender in one seamless action.
Under the hood, Bender uses the second version of the Snapdragon 810. The overheating and slow-down bugs appear to have been ironed out. In use it ran fast and cool. It also combines with Android Marshmallow as an energy efficient combo.
Bender’s 64-bit, 8 core CPU has 4 zippy 2GHz cores plus 4 slower yet more energy efficient 1.5GHz cores. Demanding tasks are handled by the 2 GHz cores. Less demanding chores get offloaded onto the 1.5 GHz cores.
When coupled with Marshmallows more energy efficient architecture, improvements to battery life are noticeable.
Bender’s energy efficient design also uses the Google branded Android Sensor Hub. It is a dedicated motion chip that tracks orientation and acceleration. It frees up the CPU so less power gets consumed with everyday use.
Bender's graphics are thanks to an Adreno 430 GPU and the 6P packs 3GB of RAM. When it comes to multitasking and heavy gaming, the 6P powered on with no visible slowdowns or lags. Huawei sells the 6P with internal storage options ranging from 32 to 128GB. Unfortunately microSD cards are not supported.
Bang for buck performance is an oft cited reason for getting a Nexus. Being first cab on the rank to get the latest Android update is an even better reason. Bender comes with the Marshmallow, Googles latest version of android.
It mightn’t look too different to Lollipop, but it packs Google Now on Tap. Searching for movie screening times, I did a long press on the home button and fired up Google Now on Tap. It bought up a host of related movie related links. For screening times and nearby restaurant menus, it proved a useful addition.
All this smartphone wizardry won't matter if its battery dies halfway through the morning. Luckily Bender’s 3,450mAh battery, takes full advantage of Android Marshmallow’s energy saving features.
Marshmallow’s Doze and App Standby modes put the phone into a low energy mode. This gets done using the built in Sensor Hub which detects when the phone is idle. When this happens, Marshmallow reduces network activity and Inactive apps get hibernated.
Adaptive brightness also reigns in display brightness, yet another potential battery hog. All these measures translated into a respectable 21 hours of standby time. With real world use I managed to wring out a shade under 10 hours of use.
The flipside of battery life is charging. Bender uses fast charging, which see a full charge taking just over an hour and a half. Wireless charging is not present, but this is mostly due to Bender’s alloy body.
On a specs and features basis, Bender is one of the top Android phones of the moment. Depending where you shop, $960 gets your very own 64 GB Bender. That's not too shabby considering its zippy CPU, AMOLED display and premium build.
Its lack of wireless charging and optical image stabilisation may be a deal breaker for some. They don’t however impact on the 6Ps otherwise excellent design and impressive usability.