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Nexus 6 deep-dive review: A supersized smartphone that shines

JR Raphael | Nov. 13, 2014
Been avoiding big phones? Google's Nexus 6 packs pure Android Lollipop software into a plus-sized package that's actually pleasant to use.

The new Nexus also ships with Motorola's Turbo Charger, which promises to boost battery life by as much as six hours with just 15 minutes of being plugged in. The phone supports wireless charging, too, so you can top it off with any Qi-compatible pad if you want.

As for storage, the Nexus 6 includes either 32GB or 64GB of internal space, depending on which model you buy. On my 32GB review unit, about 26GB of space was actually available for use out of the box. Like most Nexus devices, the Nexus 6 does not have an SD card slot for external storage expansion.

Call quality on the phone has been fine for me, though I have noticed one strange quirk: When I'm talking on the handset, the screen periodically flickers on -- despite the phone being held against my face. It seems to be a result of the width of the phone and the placement of the proximity sensor, which is toward the top-left corner of the device's front. Since I hold the phone up to my left ear to talk, the sensor often ends up falling behind my ear and thus not detecting the fact that it's actually against my face. It's more of a mild annoyance than any sort of deal-breaker, but it warrants a mention.

Data speeds, meanwhile, have been A-OK; the review unit I'm using is connected to T-Mobile's network, but the same model is capable of working on any major U.S. carrier (and I mean any -- the single unit evidently supports both GSM and CDMA).

An exceptional camera
For all of its Moto X similarities, the Nexus 6 is a whole new beast when it comes to the realm of imaging. Both phones have 13-megapixel shooters, but the Nexus uses a new Sony-made sensor and includes optical image stabilization.

The result is a camera that's easily among the best you can find on a smartphone today. On the whole, the Nexus 6's photos tend to be crisp and clear with vibrant and realistic colors. The Google Camera app's HDR+ mode also works remarkably well, delivering vivid images with strong contrast and fine detail. The phone even performs admirably in low-light conditions.

That being said, it's still a smartphone camera -- and it isn't perfect. Some shots I took, particularly in bright natural light, ended up looking overexposed in parts. But by and large, the Nexus 6 doesn't disappoint. For perspective, in a side-by-side shootout, I found it to be close in quality but a noticeable step ahead of the Galaxy Note 4 in most scenarios.

The Nexus is quick to snap pictures, too -- not the fastest I've seen, but perfectly speedy; I had no cause for complaint. It's pretty much neck-and-neck with the Note 4 in terms of capture time.

 

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