Last year’s Nexus 6 is definitely a great phone. However, its size is way too big for most of the people and its high price is not helping the case at all. We knew that it was destined to be a niche product right after it was announced. Nexus 4 for 2012, Nexus 5 for 2013, Nexus 6 for 2014, so Nexus 7 for 2015? Well, you know that is not going to happen as Nexus 7 is the tablet from Google. This year, Google announced a pair of Nexus phones, namely the Nexus 6P and the Nexus 5X. Can the two Nexus devices avoid the fate of the Nexus 6? I think the answer is yes.

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Nexus 6P

This year’s Nexus 6P is made by Huawei and given that Huawei has been making good phones for some time, Google’s decision to choose the Chinese company as the partner for the Nexus project seems logical. Google mentioned that the ‘P’ represents premium and that holds true for the most part of the phone, at least on paper.

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Nexus 6P is the first Nexus phone to have a full metal body and I quite like the design, even though it is definitely not on the top of my list. While most Nexus phones were well-built, the choice of material on the Nexus 6P simply makes it the most premium feeling Nexus phone ever. In terms of colour options, the Nexus 6P comes with aluminium, frost and graphite.

nexus 6p pic1The black bar at the back rises slightly above the chassis. That is the part which contains the camera components and the plastic allows signals to go through. It is always tricky to design a metal phone since the material will block most of our signals. I think Huawei has done a good job here as the black bar allows the phone to have a cleaner look while staying futuristic. I would prefer it over the ugly antenna lines, like those found on the new iPhones.

Nexus 6P has a 5.7” AMOLED display, down from Nexus 6’s 6 inch display while keeping the same Quad HD resolution. The side bezels is quite thin too. While the Nexus 6P is still a phablet by any definition, the decrease in physical size will simply make the phone more wieldable, thus more easily accepted by more people. Early hands on from the Internet shows the display is not lacking of quality, so we know no corners have been cut here. The phone also has a pair of stereo speakers in front and combined this with the nice display, enjoying multimedia on this phone should be as fun as possible.

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The next big change is the camera. The Nexus 6P has a 12.3MP image sensor. The megapixels count will not look impressive by today’s standard, but the lower pixel number will bring the pixel size up to 1.55μm. Larger pixels allows light to be captured easier and faster. Combine that with the large f/2.0 aperture, low-light photography should be improved. You also can capture 4K videos and slow-mo videos up to 240fps. The front-facing camera received a resolution bump to 8MP.

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Google said that the large pixels will obsolete the need of optical image stabilization and I remained doubtful of their claim. The camera seems promising in theory, but we shall see how well it fares in the field. Nevertheless, Google’s desire to improve the camera can be easily seen. The powerful imaging hardware lays a good foundation. If the software image processing can catch up, I won’t be surprised if this year’s Nexus will surpass all its predecessors in photography.

The Nexus 6P is powered by Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 810 processor, which is definitely one of the speediest chips out there. I don’t think that overheating is really an issue for Qualcomm’s offering here. Most modern flagships will get warm if you play games or you run benchmark tests so there is nothing to be worried here. With fast processor, 3GB of RAM and stock Android, performance is the last thing I will worry about this phone. With 3,450 mAh battery, battery life should be fine too.

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What’s Nexus without the latest version of Android? The Nexus 6P will be one of the first two phones to showcase Android 6.0 Marshmallow. So you can expect all the new features like Google Now on Tap, Doze and Customized Apps Permission to be featured on the Nexus 6P, right out of the box. However, even the newest version of stock Android does not have any features to make full use of the big display, unlike Samsung’s TouchWiz which allows multiple apps running simultaneously. The new version of Android also supports two more hardware components, namely the USB type C port and fingerprint sensor. Naturally, both of these were included in the Nexus 6P.

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Google dubbed the fingerprint sensor on the new Nexus phones the “Nexus Imprint”. Google claimed that the fingerprint scanning will take less than 0.6 seconds, so you can turn on the screen, unlocking the apps and make payments instantly and effortlessly. The Nexus Imprint is located on the back of the phone. Your index finger will be able to reach it when you hold the phone.

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The USB Type C port below the phone will allow you to plug in the cable easily while you want to charge the phone or sync the data since the USB C cables can be inserted reversibly. Speaking of charging the phone, the Nexus 6P features fast charging. You will be able to get 7 hours with 10 minutes of charging. However, wireless charging is absent here and I guess people who are expecting a more premium charging solution here will be disappointed.

With premium design and respectable specifications, you would expect the Nexus 6P to cost you a fortune right? Well, that is not really true. While being much improved, the 32GB base model cost only $499, which is significantly lower than Nexus 6’s price tag of $649 during its launch. There will be 64GB and 128GB models available too with the price of $549 and $649 respectively.

The Nexus 5X

Coming back to the smaller brother, the Nexus 5X made by LG. From the first moment you see it, you would know that the Nexus 5X is the sequel to 2013’s Nexus 5, rather than the successor to last year’s Nexus 6. It has the similar soft touch plastic construction and by sporting a 5.2 inch display, the phone is much friendlier to our hands and pockets as compared to the larger Nexus.

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The Nexus 5X has a black front and its back comes in black, white or mint. I like the white back the most and I am not a big fan of the mint color. The whole design is simple, but it is very uninspiring. I can totally understand why people dislike it. Personally, I did not have any strong feeling for it, but if I have the choice, I would prefer to move the LED flash to the other side of the camera to keep things symmetrical.

nexus 5x imprintLike most of the smaller phones in the market, the specifications were watered down too. The Nexus Imprint fingerprint sensor, the rear camera with 1.55 μm pixel size, IR autofocus and USB Type C port are still here. The latest version of Android comes out of the box too, as expected from every Nexus device.

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The rest of the features are discounted on the Nexus 5X. We have a 1080p display, a 6-core Snapdragon 808 processor, 5MP front-facing camera, single front firing speaker and a smaller 2,700mAh battery. Fast charging made the cut, by 10 minutes of charge will give you “only” 3.8 hours of usage instead of seven hours. By no means are these specifications mediocre, but they do look pale in comparison to the Nexus 6P.

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The biggest concern I have for the Nexus 5X is the memory, including RAM and storage. The Nexus 5X has 2GB of RAM, which sounds totally fine at this moment. But when I consider that phones like the ASUS ZenFone 2 which is cheaper has twice the amount of RAM, I can’t help to feel a little unsatisfied. Furthermore, I would expect this phone to receive future versions of Android for at least two years. I can’t say for sure if the 2GB of RAM will be sufficient by that time.

For storage, the base model has only 16GB of space. With apps size growing, 4K video support and no external memory card supported, 16GB is definitely not enough. We criticized Apple for the 16GB iPhones for years and we would say exactly the same thing to Google. Just stop making 16GB phones if it cost you a few hundred US dollars (or thousands in Ringgit). The 16GB model is priced at $379 while the 32GB option will cost you $429. I would recommend anyone to spend the extra $50 so that you will not regret in the end.

Impression

I think Google, Huawei and LG have done a better job this year. While the fast software update remains as the largest attraction for all Nexus devices, this year’s Nexus phones did impress me in terms of hardware. The reduce in price also makes more sense. The Nexus 6P has checked almost every box for the exception of wireless charging, which is irrelevant for most people. Reducing the screen size will definitely help in getting the new Nexus 6P into more people’s hand.

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The Nexus 5X is not without its flaws and compromises, but it is really good enough for normal folks. Personally, I longed for a successor for a Nexus 5 as I wanted a normal sized phone rather than a phablet. So naturally I have high expectation to the Nexus 5X. While other compromises are tolerable for me, the choice to use less RAM and storage on the Nexus 5 make me uncomfortable. Since the 32GB models for Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P has a price difference of $70 only, I might consider getting the larger model in the end.

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So this is how I feel about the new Nexus phones. In my opinion the Nexus 6P is exactly what a Nexus phone should be and the Nexus 5X is also quite good, save for some parts. Last year’s Nexus 6 is a departure from what a Nexus phone should be, at least in my opinion, and this year’s Nexus phones are showing signs of getting back to the “right” track. They are far more appealing to the masses rather than being Google’s side project to please the geeks. Having more options also makes the line-up more attractive, although it could be a tough choice for me. But hey, I will not complain for having more choices.