This post was published 2 years, 6 months ago. Due to the rapidly evolving world of technology, some material it contains may no longer be applicable.
Towards the end of last year, Google unveiled the Nexus 6 by Motorola alongside the Nexus 9 by HTC. I’ve owned both for a little while now, and personally I think they’re the best Android combination you can find.
Many were sceptical at first due to the higher price points (relative to prior Nexus devices), the large size of the N6 and 4:3 aspect ratio of the N9. However, I decided they were worth a shot anyway and I am glad I did. In my view, regardless of what you need to do with your phone or tablet, the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 are both fully-equipped for the task.
The Nexus 6 is a true monster in the Android world, both in the sense of its gigantic physical form and the sheer power that lies within. Before I go over about how it is to use, let’s just refresh our memories of the device specifications:
- 5.96 inch 1440 x 2560 Super AMOLED display with 493 ppi
- 3GB RAM
- 32/64GB internal storage
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 805 SoC
- Quad-core 2.7 GHz Krait 450 CPU
- Adreno 420 GPU
- 13MP rear camera with optical image stabilization, HDR+, dual LED flash and 2160p (4K) 30fps video
- 2MP front-facing camera
- Dual front-facing stereo speakers
- 3220mAh non-removable battery with QI & Quick Charge 2.0 technology
As you can see from the spec sheet above, the Nexus 6 is no slouch on paper. Fortunately, the top-end specs translate into real-world performance which is equally impressive.
Unlike most prior QHD phones, at no point in my time using it have I felt the Nexus 6 lag or slow down. Performance is both very fast and consistently smooth.
The screen, despite being enormous, is still usable with one hand – at least for me. The QHD resolution and vivid colours of the display make it perfect for viewing media, writing emails or articles on the go and surfing the web.
The speakers are also very good and give an enjoyable audio experience with sound that is both loud and clear. The audio is crisp and immersive, making films and games come to life and even out-loud music playback perfectly listenable. It’s not quite HTC BoomSound but outside of the HTC One series the Nexus 6 speakers are just about the best you’ll find on a phone.
These nice loud speakers also mean that it’s easy to hear your phone ring when somebody calls you. You probably want to avoid the embarrassing ringtones with this phone!
If you take a lot of photos then the 13MP sensor on the back of the Nexus 6 should not disappoint. While the default Google Camera app does not have many settings, it still takes great pictures on this device – especially with HDR+.
If you want complete control over your photos then the Nexus 6 supports the new Camera2 APIs which (through the use of third-party apps) will bring you full manual control of exposure, focus and white balance as well as support for RAW capture.
The video quality is also impressive, capturing 30fps video with optical image stabilization at resolutions up to 4k. If you’re an Instagram addict or a keen mobile photographer then this phone is perfect.
Battery life is also well above average, with 5 hours screen time being more than achievable and standby time of several days. The Nexus 6 has honestly never let me down once in this department.
If you do need to charge up in a hurry then the included Motorola Turbo Charger with Quick Charge 2.0 can fully charge the battery fully in just over an hour or by 25% in just 15 minutes. It also supports wireless charging which provides the option of simply dropping your phone down on a QI pad to top up the battery without any faff.
Build quality is also exceptional. My old Galaxy S4 creaked and flexed every time I picked it up but the Nexus 6 is a different story. It’s extremely sturdy and solid but without being overly heavy. Motorola have really done an excellent job at building this thing. It’s a cliché, but the Nexus 6 feels like a very premium device.
The size is also incredibly easy to get used to. The Nexus 6 was quite the size jump from my Galaxy S4, but it only took me a few days to get used to. In fact if I pick up the S4 now it feels incredibly small, tiny even. It isn’t that noticeable in the pocket either, although I can just about get a 2012 Nexus 7 in my pocket so I could well be a special case.
When I need even more screen real estate than my Nexus 6 provides, the Nexus 9 is my tablet of choice. As before, I’ll start by running over the specs:
- 8.9 inch IPS 1536 x 2048 display with 281 ppi
- WiFi or LTE
- Nvidia TegraK1 SoC
- Dual-core 2.3 GHz Denver CPU
- Kepler DX1 GPU
- 2GB RAM
- 16/32GB storage
- 8MP rear camera with LED flash and 1080p 30fps video capture
- 1.6MP front-facing camera
- Dual front-facing speakers
- 6700 mAh non-removable battery
The Nexus 9 provides an excellent experience for a variety of tasks. The screen is extremely bright and clear and displays most media very well. It’s perfect for reading in Play Books or Kindle thanks to its very sharp display and thin and lightweight form factor. I’ve never been a fan of reading books on a tablet but that has changed since getting the Nexus 9. It really is perfect for books.
If you watch a lot of video with services like Netflix or YouTube then you will no doubt enjoy them on this tablet thanks mostly to its very sharp display, although the 4:3 aspect ratio does mean you’ll have noticeable letterboxing or cropping to when viewing most video content (which is mainly 16:9).
If you’re a someone who likes to play games on your tablet then you should find that the Tegra K1 is more than powerful enough to satisfy your needs. Games like N.O.V.A 3 or Knights Of The Old Republic play effortlessly, even maximum settings. Even in graphic intensive scenes, it is silky smooth without dropping frames. In fact the Nexus 9 plays KOTOR at a higher graphics setting than my laptop so calling it good is an understatement.
I know I said the speakers on the Nexus 6 are good, but the ones on the Nexus 9 blow them away. They’re HTC BoomSound speakers and so if you’re familiar with the One series then you’ll know what I’m talking about. They have great bass, depth and volume. It is fantastic for games and films sound great. Listening to music on the Nexus 9 is a treat too, with speakers loud enough be heard in the next room. If any of my neighbours are reading this then I do apologise for listening to Fall Out Boy and Taylor Swift so much. Though I should stress that my being sorry doesn’t mean I’ll stop!
The camera on the Nexus 9 is adequate, but nothing to write home about. It’s unlikely you’ll use the camera much on a tablet though so that isn’t a big deal for most people. I use it to take the occasional snap of my Nexus 6 but otherwise it remains unused. The front camera is alright for the occasional video calling but you wouldn’t want to take many selfies with it. I don’t take selfies at all so that doesn’t bother me much.
Battery life is also very good with the device getting around 8-10 hours of screen time depending on usage. Standby time is exceptional especially on the Android M preview. Doze has led to around 3-5 days of on-off usage which is a lot better than the 2-3 it gives on Lollipop but even that is fairly respectable.
If you’re looking for a new phone and tablet combo right now, I’d suggest that the Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 are probably your best bet. The 6 is the perfect balance of on-the-go productivity and entertainment, whilst the 9 is great for media consumption, gaming and reading.
In my opinion they are the current Android power couple, with no task too much for them to handle. I can honestly say that they are two of the best purchases I’ve ever made and I haven’t regretted purchasing either of them for a second. Every morning when I pick them up I smile because I am convinced that I have the best Android devices for my needs.