Introduction

Motorola may have already divorced Google, but the relationship still bears fruit and most recently we've seen the Nexus 6. The first Nexus phablet and the first Nexus by Motorola closely follows the Moto X (2014) design language and brings many of the same software features, though now they are a native part of the OS.

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Motorola Nexus 6 official images

The Nexus line is meant to lead the way to better smartphone design, but in this generation it plays a bit of a follower by jumping on the already speeding phablet bandwagon. Even so it's the introduction of Android 5.0 Lollipop and for the first time the vanilla OS has a few extra features against its skinned contemporaries.

Motorola Nexus 6 at a glance:

  • Dimensions: 159.3 x 83 x 10.1mm, 184g
  • Display: 5.96" AMOLED touchscreen, 1,440 x 2,560 resolution (493ppi); Gorilla Glass 3
  • Chipset: Snapdragon 805 chipset: quad-core Krait 450 @ 2.7GHz; Adreno 420 GPU; 3GB RAM
  • OS: Android 5.0 Lollipop
  • Camera: 13MP main camera with ring dual-LED flash; Optical Image stabilization
  • Video camera: 2160p@30fps video
  • Front camera: 2MP
  • Storage: 32GB/64GB built-in
  • Connectivity: LTE Cat. 6 (300Mbps), Wi-Fi a/b/g/n/ac, Bluetooth 4.1, A-GPS + GLONASS; microUSB 2.0 with SlimPort functionality
  • Battery: 3,220mAh, Motorola Turbo Charger
  • Misc: Front-facing stereo speakers, Qi wireless charging

The Motorola Nexus 6 is strictly a phablet - we know the definition has shifted over the years, but in the end a phablet is a device that's pocketable but best used with two hands.

And standing at a whopping 159.3mm tall and 83mm wide, the Nexus 6 is a challenge to use with one hand. Most of that size is due to the screen, bezels are minimal and the 5.96" screen is left to dominate the front. It's a tack-sharp AMOLED of QHD resolution (493ppi).

A Snapdragon 805 chipset is the best showground for Android 5.0 Lollipop and for future versions to come. After all, part of the Nexus charm is that you stay up to date with Android's latest design and features. And there are plenty of features to be had, borrowed from Motorola's own-branded family. The always-on voice commands, the Ambient display and Turbo Charging.

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Motorola Nexus 6 • next to the Moto X (2014) • next to the Galaxy Note 4

The Nexus 6 also has 13MP/2160p camera with ring flash but with added OIS to the envy of the Moto X (2014), which was the basis of the phablet's design. It also has front-facing stereo speakers, which were inexplicably left out of Motorola's flagship.

We're starting to get the feeling that Motorola and Google didn't make the Nexus more expensive, they just doubled the feature set (and with it the price).

Nexus 6 hands-on

An upscaled Moto X (2014) is a perfectly fitting description of the Nexus 6. Small changes in the exterior make it mostly a matter of perspective - when you get up close and see how big it is you'll know it's the Nexus 6 and not the Moto (2014).

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Size comparison: Nexus 6 vs. Moto X (2014)

We can hardly fault the Nexus 6 for being big, it's difficult to fit a 6" screen in less space. The thickness is less than ideal though. The 6" Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro and Huawei Ascend Mate7 are thinner (7.7mm and 7.9mm respectively vs. 10.1mm) and it still pack bigger batteries and aluminum unibodies.

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Nexus 6 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 4

The curved back (typical of Motorola's current design) does hide some of the thickness but 10.1mm is still more than we expected. We wouldn't complain on a $350 device, but upping the price tag also increased our expectations.

We've said before that we will happily live with a 10mm device if it had a huge battery but 3,220mAh doesn't sound like all that much. Especially when the thinner Vibe Z2 Pro and Mate7 have 4,000-4,100mAh batteries. Again, expectations are proportional to the price tag.

Anyway, the metal rim with a plastic back design was well received on the Moto X (2014) and it works well for the Nexus 6 as well. There won't be any Motomaker goodies like wood or leather backs, just matte plastic in Midnight Blue or Cloud White.

The material is nice and grippy, the curved back improves handling even further, the weight of 184g feels normal for this size. Even if you've used a phablet before the Nexus 6 still takes getting used to.

The screen is an AMOLED that measures 5.96" in diagonal. The new Material design UX in Lollipop features bright colors everywhere, unlike Holo, which typically used black backgrounds. We're only raising this up because Google has not included an AMOLED-friendly dark color scheme.

Anyway, the screen has QHD resolution, that's four times 720p or 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. Despite its size, the resolution keeps pixel density above a 5" 1080p screen that was the standard for flagships last year.

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

A tack-sharp 5.96" AMOLED screen with QHD resolution • front-facing stereo speakers

Around the screen are two loudspeaker grilles and both of them work, unlike the Moto X (2014) where one is just for decoration. This gives both Nexus 2014 devices front-facing speakers, which hopefully starts a trend among Android makers - HTC and Sony are there already.

It doesn't have an official IP rating but the Nexus 6 has basic water resistance to prevent damage from splashes.

One positive thing we can say about the thickness is that the camera doesn't stick out. We've seen much thinner OIS modules though, even on a mid-range Lumia 830. The camera is surrounded by a ring with an LED on each side for a ring-type flash, similar to the Moto X.

The new version of Android brings native RAW support, which will allow third-party apps to do their own image processing and experienced photographers a chance to take out the most of the sensor. The default Google camera app on the Nexus 6 features HDR+, for example, which Google claims is better than what we've seen so far.

This camera marks two firsts for the Nexus line - first dual-LED and first 2160p video. Today's visit is short, but we'll be sure to put the camera through its paces when we get the Nexus 6 for keeps. The phablet comes with 32GB or 64GB non-expandable storage, no more 16GB silliness.

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

The 13MP OIS camera • a mic at the bottom

Anyway, while we're on the back we're pleased to report that the controversial Motorola logo is now more subtle, it's slightly concave and no longer has a distinct circle around it. Behind the back is a 3,220mAh battery, which as we've already pointed out isn't the best that could have been done with so much internal volume.

Project Volta (part of Android 5.0) is supposed to cut down power usage, but we (and our tests) will see about that. Motorola has enabled Turbo Charge (essentially Qualcomm's Quick Charge) so a brief 15 minutes with a cable will net you about 6 hours of battery life.

The Nexus 6 also supports wireless charging for easier top ups (using the traditional Qi standard), while the microUSB 2.0 port also offers SlimPort and USB On-The-Go functionality for TV Out and USB accessories.

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Motorola Nexus 6, both color versions

Android 5.0 Lollipop

Motorola's contribution to the Nexus - and to Android 5.0 Lollipop in general - also includes Ambient notification mode. When a new notification arrives, the lockscreen will light up in a power-efficient (on AMOLED) black and white mode.

Notifications in the new version of Android are visible on the lockscreen. You can hide notifications from certain apps for privacy reasons (or just to mute an annoying app). You can mark other apps as "priority" and then use the built-in filter to hide unimportant events from the lockscreen. The wave-to-wake gesture from the Moto X (2014) is missing though.

Lollipop also supports always-on voice commands, implemented either with dedicated hardware or with the chipsets' own utilities. Qualcomm added such functionality as far back as Snapdragon 800.

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Android 5.0 Lollipop shows off the new Material design UX

It's not an 800 though, the Nexus 6 is powered by Qualcomm's latest Snapdragon 805 chipset, which brings the latest CPU and GPU design. We'll have to wait and see how it compares to the Tegra K1 in the Nexus 9 and the Apple A8 in the iPhone 6 Plus.

It's important to note that Qualcomm still doesn't have a high-end 64-bit chipset on the market and full 64-bit support is one of the biggest changes in Android 5.0.

First impressions

Google's move to higher price points for both the Nexus smartphone and tablet drew some criticism but Android's wide stance could never be covered by just one _phone_ and one tablet. Android One devices took stewardship of the entry-level, which leaves the Nexus line to focus on the high-end.

This sends a clear message to Apple - Android devices can compete on experience too, not just bang for the buck. Android vendors have been beating that drum for years now, but with the Nexus 6 this is the official party line.

Motorola Nexus 6

Motorola Nexus 6

It puts Android vendors themselves on notice - the price tag will prevent the Nexus from cannibalizing phablet sales, but it's a benchmark against which all other phablets will be measured.

Nexus 6 hands-on

An upscaled Moto X (2014) is a perfectly fitting description of the Nexus 6. Small changes in the exterior make it mostly a matter of perspective - when you get up close and see how big it is you'll know it's the Nexus 6 and not the Moto (2014).

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Size comparison: Nexus 6 vs. Moto X (2014)

We can hardly fault the Nexus 6 for being big, it's difficult to fit a 6" screen in less space. The thickness is less than ideal though. The 6" Lenovo Vibe Z2 Pro and Huawei Ascend Mate7 are thinner (7.7mm and 7.9mm respectively vs. 10.1mm) and it still pack bigger batteries and aluminum unibodies.

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Nexus 6 vs. Samsung Galaxy Note 4

The curved back (typical of Motorola's current design) does hide some of the thickness but 10.1mm is still more than we expected. We wouldn't complain on a $350 device, but upping the price tag also increased our expectations.

We've said before that we will happily live with a 10mm device if it had a huge battery but 3,220mAh doesn't sound like all that much. Especially when the thinner Vibe Z2 Pro and Mate7 have 4,000-4,100mAh batteries. Again, expectations are proportional to the price tag.

Anyway, the metal rim with a plastic back design was well received on the Moto X (2014) and it works well for the Nexus 6 as well. There won't be any Motomaker goodies like wood or leather backs, just matte plastic in Midnight Blue or Cloud White.

The material is nice and grippy, the curved back improves handling even further, the weight of 184g feels normal for this size. Even if you've used a phablet before the Nexus 6 still takes getting used to.

The screen is an AMOLED that measures 5.96" in diagonal. The new Material design UX in Lollipop features bright colors everywhere, unlike Holo, which typically used black backgrounds. We're only raising this up because Google has not included an AMOLED-friendly dark color scheme.

Anyway, the screen has QHD resolution, that's four times 720p or 2,560 x 1,440 pixels. Despite its size, the resolution keeps pixel density above a 5" 1080p screen that was the standard for flagships last year.

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

A tack-sharp 5.96" AMOLED screen with QHD resolution • front-facing stereo speakers

Around the screen are two loudspeaker grilles and both of them work, unlike the Moto X (2014) where one is just for decoration. This gives both Nexus 2014 devices front-facing speakers, which hopefully starts a trend among Android makers - HTC and Sony are there already.

It doesn't have an official IP rating but the Nexus 6 has basic water resistance to prevent damage from splashes.

One positive thing we can say about the thickness is that the camera doesn't stick out. We've seen much thinner OIS modules though, even on a mid-range Lumia 830. The camera is surrounded by a ring with an LED on each side for a ring-type flash, similar to the Moto X.

The new version of Android brings native RAW support, which will allow third-party apps to do their own image processing and experienced photographers a chance to take out the most of the sensor. The default Google camera app on the Nexus 6 features HDR+, for example, which Google claims is better than what we've seen so far.

This camera marks two firsts for the Nexus line - first dual-LED and first 2160p video. Today's visit is short, but we'll be sure to put the camera through its paces when we get the Nexus 6 for keeps. The phablet comes with 32GB or 64GB non-expandable storage, no more 16GB silliness.

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

The 13MP OIS camera • a mic at the bottom

Anyway, while we're on the back we're pleased to report that the controversial Motorola logo is now more subtle, it's slightly concave and no longer has a distinct circle around it. Behind the back is a 3,220mAh battery, which as we've already pointed out isn't the best that could have been done with so much internal volume.

Project Volta (part of Android 5.0) is supposed to cut down power usage, but we (and our tests) will see about that. Motorola has enabled Turbo Charge (essentially Qualcomm's Quick Charge) so a brief 15 minutes with a cable will net you about 6 hours of battery life.

The Nexus 6 also supports wireless charging for easier top ups (using the traditional Qi standard), while the microUSB 2.0 port also offers SlimPort and USB On-The-Go functionality for TV Out and USB accessories.

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on
Nexus 6 hands-on

Motorola Nexus 6, both color versions