Software UI

In terms of software the 6P is able to sport the latest Android 6.0 Marshmallow, courtesy of course of being a Nexus device. There’s not terribly much to say about the OS that hasn’t been said already by Brandon’s analysis in the review of the Nexus 5X. This is due to the fact that all Nexus devices come equipped with the same software experience, but also due to the fact that Android 6.0 offers very little front-facing changes.


I’ll openly admit that I’m not too much of a fan of the stock Android experience: Over the years Google’s stock Android has always been praised as the “pure” experience and how Android should be. I find this a bit unfortunate as I find there’s a lot of usability flaws in the stock. It’s the simple things that most other OEM skins add that I find the most lacking in stock Android, examples being the lack of an auto-brightness toggle in the quick settings or even having a brightness slider directly available in the notification shade itself which reduces the motions to get to the settings.

My biggest gripe however are the navigation buttons and Google’s lack of an option to reorder them. While I understand the design decision and logic behind having a back button on the left, it makes no sense in terms of usability for the majority of people that are right-handed. The back button is by far Android’s most used navigation button, so I found the Nexus 6P’s larger size to exacerbate the issue as I need to always change grip or stretch my thumb to able to reach it properly. Still having this huge ergonomics issue after this many years is basically inexcusable – the notion that it’s more intuitive to have it on the left is a poor rationale as “unintuitive” use-methods can be learned and taught, but my thumb stopped growing a long time ago and I imagine so did everybody else’s. Virtually all OEMs recognize this issue and either come by default with reversed navigation buttons or by at least offering the option to rearrange them. Here’s hoping that Google listens and adds this as a stock option for future Android releases, similarly how they did for many other past features that were pioneered by third-party vendors.

Ambient display is a great feature that takes advantage of the 6P's AMOLED screen. Every time you pick up the device it will show you a minimalistic greyed out view of your current notifications without having to press any buttons. The detection is a bit finicky and sometimes goes off too easily as I often saw ambient display trigger itself while the device was just laying steadily on my table, and also sometimes when you do want it to go off when you pick up the device it might decide not to. However when it does work it works well, and it also enables you to directly unlock the phone from there. I do wish the display period had been configurable as sometimes where you have a lot of notifications the screen will go back off before you can read all of them.

Other than some of the aforementioned annoyances, the stock Android experience is a good one. In terms of performance, there were some concerns that I’ll reiterate in the PCMark writing sub-test but otherwise the device is fluid as you’d expect it to be. I may be biased when saying this but I just don’t think stock Android is an “exciting” experience or a platform where we see lots of innovation. I’m aware that there are groups who vehemently adhere to Google’s design decisions, but for me personally it just doesn’t do it as it comes with too many daily usability regressions.

NAND Performance

In terms of NAND storage, the Nexus 6P uses a Samsung eMMC module. In fact, this is the same “BGND3R” variant as found in this year’s HTC One M9. For testing I also ran the NAND benchmarks on an unencrypted data partition to be able to analyze Android’s full disk encryption overhead that is now obligatory for all new devices shipping with 6.0 Marshmallow.

Internal NAND - Sequential Read Internal NAND - Sequential Write

As we can see the unencrypted numbers perform as expected and within range of the HTC One M9’s performance. The encrypted numbers which come as default with the device are the more concerning ones as we see a decrease in read performance of up to 84% and write performance decreases by 43%.

The Nexus 6P uses software decryption, accelerated by ARMv8 cryptography instructions. Google claims that this method is actually faster than using Qualcomm’s Snapdragon built-in SoC dedicated hardware crypto unit, which points out to a possible severe lack of performance and readiness on the part Qualcomm's SoC. We were curious to determine if this was solely an issue for Qualcomm and re-did some encrypted and unencrypted runs on the Note 5 and found that the overhead of encryption on that platform is very minimal, pointing out to that the degradation seems to be limited to Qualcomm's SoCs. It would be interesting to see if the Snapdragon 820 will be able to offer improvements in this regard.

In the end, the Nexus 6P’s out-of-the-box performance on the encrypted data partition seems very lackluster and it may affect application speed. One has to remember that it’s only the data partition that is encrypted, as we see no degradation on the internal or system partitions as they remain unencrypted.

WiFi Performance

The Nexus 6P comes naturally with 802.11ac WiFi in 2x2 MIMO configuration, all powered by Broadcomm's BCM4358 WiFi SoC. This is the same chipset found in other devices such as the Galaxy S6, so hopefully performance will be similar.

WiFi Performance - UDP

And indeed we see excellent WiFi performance from the 6P as we reach up to an average of 467Mbps, up there among one of the fastest WiFi implementations in today's smartphones.

Introduction & Design System & CPU Performance
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  • Djdjndjddjs - Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - link

    "not as smooth as everyone is saying are the main reasons." It is evident that you are making this up as the 6P is very smooth and the iPhone just doesn't meet its specs. The fact you say the iPhone is the best phone right now says you're full of it and are pretty uninformed on this subject. The iPhone was the best when it first came out but this is definitely no longer the case.
  • MykeM - Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - link

    If you haven't already I suggest reading these articles:

    Anandtech handed the iPhone 6s, the Editors's Choice Gold Award. The only other phone in the past 5 years to receive an award (the HTC One being the other phone). And to quote from the review:

    "I believe that the criteria for this award is such that a product is not only one of the best in its category and an extremely good product in a vacuum, but pushes the smartphone user experience forward in significant ways. The iPhone 6s isn't a perfect phone, but to receive the second highest award I don't believe it's necessary to make a "perfect" phone. There are areas that could be improved, but nothing that I believe is a significant detriment to the phone."

    You don't have to like Apple or iPhone but to say that it doesn't meet the specs of the Nexus 6P shows a clear misunderstanding of technology.
  • amdwilliam1985 - Thursday, December 17, 2015 - link

    Depends on your personal usage, I got a friend who recently switched from LG G2 to iPhone 6S(pink color of course, for those guys, it's the gold color ;), and her first comment was that iOS is "slow"/annoying. fast in terms of UI, but slow if you want to do anything, like calendar app doesn't support her attachments, customization. Fast camera and good quality pictures, but can't easily share them to others. Apple Music app is great, but she doesn't want to pay, so she needs a different solution after the 3 months free trial, she misses the "easy" folder management that Android offers. iTunes, please don't start on how great it is. Constantly updates from iOS 9.0 to iOS 9.1 to iOS 9.2 and god knows how many more mini versions in between, she's not a power user, to her, NOTHING changes, just annoying bugging update messages, lol. She traded prettiness for convenient, so far she's not sure if it's a good trade.
  • whiteiphoneproblems - Thursday, December 17, 2015 - link

    How is it difficult to "share photos with others" in iOS?
  • tuxRoller - Thursday, December 17, 2015 - link

    Do you test phones for a living?
  • Ethos Evoss - Sunday, December 20, 2015 - link

    u are just been purchased by apple or u trolling
  • johnnycanadian - Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - link

    Bloody hell. Is there EVER going to be an Android device that can even match the current Apple offering (never mind surpass it)? I'm growing more disenfranchised with iOS but the advantages of Android aren't enough to put up with sub-par hardware.
  • 5th element - Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - link

    Tegra x1 phone? Seriously I don't know though. Apple has the distinct advantage that it only has design a very small number of high performance premium SoCs and can ignore everything else. The other manufactures not so much and as there is strong competition between SoC suppliers products get released with problems in the rush to get a product to market.

    On the whole I agree with you though the other SoC manufacturers need to up their ante!
  • V900 - Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - link

    There used to be some real competition in the Android SOC space, but unfortunately, both Texas Instruments and ST Ericsson (both of whom made some great SOCs) threw in the towel. And now it looks like Nvidia is giving up too.

    A real shame. Back when OMAP and NovaThor were still around, Android CPUs were still roughly on par with Apples Ax chips.

    But now no one even comes close to Apple SOCs in terms of performance, and brand new phones Android phones perform worse than iPhones that are six months or a year old.

    The 820 doesn't look like it'll do anything to change that either.

    We prob need some real competition in the SOC space, to see a real competitor to Apples Ax CPUs.

    (And yes, I am aware of Mediatek/Allwinner et. al. But they make cheap SOCs to stuff in $80 tablets. Qualcomm has the premium/performance market mostly to itself.)
  • lilmoe - Wednesday, December 16, 2015 - link

    lol, you guys seriously need to lose your tin foils.

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