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Nexus 6 review: The best Nexus yet, if you can tolerate its gargantuan size

Jason Cross | Nov. 13, 2014
The biggest, most expensive, and best Nexus phone Google has ever produced. All it needs is decent camera software.

Oddly enough, the screen size and resolution makes Android default to a 5x5 grid of icons, instead of the typical 4x4. The extra real estate is nice, but most Android widgets top out at four icons wide, so they don't fit the screen nicely. Even Google's apps don't have widgets five icons wide.

The system-on-chip (SoC) is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 at 2.7GHz with 3GB of RAM. It's the fastest phone SoC available today, and it shows. Scrolling is smooth, multitasking is immediate, games run flawlessly. Give credit to the SoC for some of that performance, and the efficiency of Android Lollipop for the rest.

Of particular note is the broad wireless compatibility of this phone. It supports more GSM, CDMA, and LTE bands than nearly any phone I can recall. It will be available subsidized from all four major U.S. carriers (a first for a Nexus phone), and should work great overseas. 

Just a giant Moto X, only better (and worse)
The design of Google's giant Nexus is very clearly derived from the Moto X (as it is made in partnership with Motorola, now a Lenovo company). It has the same gently curved back that makes the phone feel thinner than it is, leading to tapered edges that improve grip. The front is a single piece of smooth Gorilla Glass 3 that is dominated by the display, with very small bezels surrounding it. The flat front glass is disturbed only by a pair of speakers above and below the display.

That's right, stereo speakers. Combined with the large display, they make a huge improvement in your video-watching and game-playing experience.

Google borrows more than just the shape of the Moto X. It cribbed a couple of that device's best features, too. Ambient Display is similar to Moto Display: When a new notification comes in, or you pick up the phone, it lights up just enough pixels to show the notifications and time. It works great with Android Lollipop's new lockscreen notifications, and won't kill your battery.

Thanks to a power-efficient DSP chip, the phone is always listening for "OK Google," even if it's sitting on your desk with the screen off and locked. The feature isn't enabled by default, but once turned on it worked flawlessly and didn't have much of a negative impact on battery life, either.

For all the similarities with Motorola's flagship phone, the Moto X still retains a few features for itself. While the Moto X has customizable backs and colors, the Nexus 6 only comes in midnight blue and white. The Moto X also has a greater array of voice commands, and gives you the ability to wave your hand over the phone to silence incoming calls. The camera hardware is better in the Nexus 6, but Motorola's camera app, while unimpressive, is still better than the lame Google Camera app you get here.

 

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