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Nexus 6 review: Does bigger really mean better?

Can Google's new flagship phablet justify the £500 price tag?

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The formula for making a Nexus device used to be simple. Grab the latest and greatest bits (except for the camera), put them in a nice bland case and sell the resulting product as cheap as chips. The new Nexus 6 doesn’t really fit that mould. Yes, it has top end specs (although surprisingly the processor doesn’t support 64-bit, unlike that of the Nexus 9) but it’s all packed into a body that actually has had some sort of design applied to it – there’s no mistaking that this is a Motorola device, not least because of the huge Moto ‘dimple’ on the back. The phone isn’t cheap either. It’s not overpriced (coming in at around the same cost as other flagships), but the days of cut price Nexus’ are certainly behind us. Most surprising of all? The camera on the Nexus 6 isn’t bad!

The formula for making a Nexus device used to be simple. Grab the latest and greatest bits (except for the camera), put them in a nice bland case and sell the resulting product as cheap as chips. The new Nexus 6 doesn’t really fit that mould. Yes, it has top end specs (although surprisingly the processor doesn’t support 64-bit, unlike that of the Nexus 9 tablet) but it’s all packed into a body that actually has had some sort of design applied to it. More dramatic still, unlike previous Nexus iterations, the phone isn’t cheap either. Priced at £500 it costs cost around the as other flagships, but the days of cut price Nexus’ are certainly behind us. Most surprising of all? The camera on the Nexus 6 isn’t bad!

Something that may not be obvious in the press images, the Nexus 6 is big. Huge. Gargantuan. It’s noticeably bigger than the substantial OnePlus One and is even fractionally larger (and quite a bit thicker) than the iPhone 6 Plus. The reason for this size is of course the screen – the Nexus 6 is equipped with a 5.96” QHD 1440 x 2560 AMOLED panel. The bezels on the phone are impressively slim, so it really is all about that display. In our experience the sheer size of the phone is polarising – some people love using it, others just can’t imagine being able to cope with the changes such a big phone necessitates – it’s a squeeze in most pockets and you can forget about one-handed use.

If you can get used to the almost comical dimensions, then using the Nexus 6 is very rewarding. The screen is great (although the colour temperature is a little warm for our tastes) and with Android Lollipop on board, everything looks beautiful. A blistering 2.7GHz Snapdragon 805 processor with 3GB RAM ensures everything zips along nicely.

While the design changes in Lollipop add up to what is by far the best looking release of Android yet, when using the Nexus 6 there is a nagging feeling that more could have been done to make the most of the available real estate. This really is the problem that Google have had for a long time with tablets manifesting itself on larger phones.

A major under the hood change in Lollipop is the introduction of encryption by default. This means that the first time you boot the phone, the data partition is encrypted. This is good, because it means it’s virtually impossible for undesirable people to get at your data (even if those undesirable people are the government), but it’s bad because there is an encryption overhead in software which can – and does – impact performance. There is officially no way to avoid or reverse this encryption, although thankfully the modding community provides a solution. If you want ultimate performance (at the expense of a little security), it’s a worthwhile tweak.

Google are not fans of expandable storage, so it’s good to see that the entry level Nexus 6 has 32GB of memory with a 64GB model available for an extra £50. The Nexus 6 comes with support for 4K video recording to help you fill up all that space, courtesy of its 13 megapixel camera. The phone takes surprisingly good pictures in a variety of conditions using the slowly improving Google Camera app. It does still feel rather basic, however Lollipop introduces new APIs for camera access, so we should soon see apps providing more advanced camera controls. The 2 Megapixel front facing camera is also better than expected.

Size aside, what are the bad points of the Nexus 6? Aside from the aforementioned issue with encryption, the biggest disappointment is battery life. Other devices with batteries over 3,000mAh in size last far longer than the Nexus 6. The saving grace could be the support for wireless charging and fast charging.

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