Google’s Nexus 7 – great in size, but is there any substance?

nexus-7frontArriving in time for Christmas to round off its smartphone range alongside the Nexus 5, Google’s Nexus 6 fills that all important “phablet” niche with a device that’s as big on features as it is on size. If you’ve found a way to carry a big-screen handheld around with your comfortably, you’ll have this on your radar already, and given Google’s history we’re not exactly expecting them to drop the ball. Is it enough to trump the competition though?

First up, the specs. There’s a 6” display of course at a resolution of 1440×2560 and a whopping 493 ppi. It runs on a 2.6GHz quad-core Snapdragon 805 processor with 3GB of RAM and 32GB of internal storage but there’s no microSD for upping the capacity. On the front is a (relatively meagre by selfie standards) 2MP front camera with 13MP round the back and of course it sports Google’s newest OS, Android Lollipop.

The response so far has been pretty positive, though Forbes’ intriguingly titled “Nexus 6 Review Long Term: A Big, Brilliant Mistake” does have some issues with the design. The main ones, perhaps unsurprisingly, are with the size – it claims the comfort threshold has now been crossed and “Motorola may have done a great job with the bezels, but the Nexus 6 is still too big.” It’s all-round big as well – height, width and depth contribute to the fact that it’s difficult to actually wrap your hand around to operate it comfortably. Another problem here is weight distribution – it’s uneven and top-heavy apparently, which further increases the risk factor of one-handed use.  There are some positives though, including the fact that the thin bezels make it little bigger than the 5.5” iPhone 6 Plus and Note 4, and that it feels very solidly built thanks to a metal band around the edges.

So the first hurdle you need to jump is comfortable operation, and if you can overcome it there are some nice treats in store.  Engadget looks at some core hardware including the display, which it says is about on-par with the Note 4 for clarity and offers an auto-brightness setting that comes in very handy when trying to read in the dark and some nice touches such as the ambient display mode:

“When you pick up the device off of a flat surface or whenever a new notification arrives, the display shows your notifications in a very dim white glow. This is a nice feature that lets you see what just showed up without having to activate the entire lockscreen each time the phone buzzes or beeps, which hopefully helps conserve battery life and makes it less distracting and more convenient for the user.”

When it comes to the camera Engadget was presently surprised when taking into account Motorola’s less than stellar history in this area. In fact it points out that “Google did a better job with the imaging experience overall, compared to the Nexus 5 “ and is impressed by an auto-mode that does an excellent job at “point and shoot”, though isn’t as capable at night without using the dual-LED to brighten shots.

To get a better idea of how the Nexus 6 performs and what you can do with it we’ll turn to TechRadar, who is typically detailed in its analysis. It hails the device as Google’s standard bearer for others to follow, and loaded with Lollipop this should be the most effective way to showcase the OS – stock Android avoids all of the often unwanted third-party overlays, plus of course you get updates before anyone else.

Some important features are welcomed, such as Lockscreen notifications for email alerts, text messages etc., Priority Mode t silences the device indefinitely or for set intervals, whitelisting lets key contacts through and there’s more intuitive access to key functions. One particularly appealing feature is the Turbo Charger that’ll juice up the phone for 6 hours of battery life in just 15 minutes, and can also be connected to a Nexus Wireless Charger or any Qi inductive charger.

TechRadar concludes by saying that “Nexus 6 proves that Google’s Nexus program is not only far from dead, it’s alive and kicking with a powerful 6-inch phablet” but stops short of claiming that it’s a better all-round device than the Note 4, which still seems to be the one to beat.

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The Nexus 6 is available now in midnight blue and white for £499 SIM-free, with contract deals for a free handset at around £35 per month also doing the rounds.