Google Nexus 6 Review

Camera Performance And Photo Quality

Noisy low-light pictures are a problem for the OnePlus One, which uses the same image sensor and f/2.0 aperture as the Nexus 6. Will the addition of OIS improve the Nexus 6's low-light performance?

All images were taken using the Auto mode unless noted. Also, you can view the full-sized image for each photo by clicking the text links below the images that are within a slideshow album.

Outdoors

Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: outdoor daylight], [iPhone 6 Plus: outdoor daylight], [LG G3: outdoor daylight], [Galaxy S5: outdoor daylight], [Nexus 6: flower stand], [iPhone 6 Plus: flower stand], [LG G3: flower stand], [Galaxy S5: flower stand]

In the first series of images, both the LG G3 and Galaxy S5 hold the shutter open a little longer and produce images that are slightly overexposed. The Nexus 6 does better with its exposure, but the color balance is too cool. The reddish paver bricks on the ground and the green leaves look washed out and the concrete is too gray, not reflecting any hint of yellow from the afternoon sun. All three higher-megapixel sensors deliver better detail than the iPhone 6 Plus, which is easily seen by examining the buildings in the background.

The Nexus 6 does a nice job handling the partly shaded flower stand; both exposure and white balance are set well. In fact, it's the only phone that doesn't overexpose the white roses on the back-left side, clearly displaying the $12 price sign, which gets lost in a white glow in the other images.

Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: outdoor night Yoda], [iPhone 6 Plus: outdoor night Yoda], [LG G3: outdoor night Yoda], [Galaxy S5: outdoor night Yoda], [Nexus 6: outdoor night building], [iPhone 6 Plus: outdoor night building], [LG G3: outdoor night building], [Galaxy S5: outdoor night building]

I found this homage to Yoda on my last trip to Coruscant. Compared to the iPhone 6 Plus, the Nexus 6 shows significantly more noise and the same shift to cooler colors as before. It's missing the yellow tint on the streetlights and yellow writing on the heart. Greens are also undersaturated, although the iPhone seems to emphasize green a bit too much.

The G3 and Galaxy S5 both have long exposure modes that auto engage in low-light conditions, and neither report Exif data in this mode. Both phones produce much brighter images, but are susceptible to motion blur. This is apparent in the G3 image, where we see ghosted pedestrians and blurry leaves. The S5's long exposure mode performs much better, arguably producing the best image of the group.

The iPhone 6 Plus effectively leverages its OIS by leaving the shutter open three times longer than the Nexus 6, allowing it to keep ISO, and thus noise, low. With a faster shutter speed, the Nexus 6 needs to drive ISO to almost 1200 to achieve about the same light sensitivity. These shutter speed and ISO values are what I would expect from a camera that does not have OIS. It's almost like the Nexus 6 is not using OIS at all here.

In the second set of low-light pictures, the Nexus 6 does well with exposure and has excellent color. The iPhone, in contrast, is too yellow, while the G3 is overexposed. Again we see the Galaxy S5's long exposure mode outperform the G3, producing a nicely lit building with only a little too much glow from light sources.

Once again we see the iPhone hold its shutter open three times longer than the Nexus 6 and with a significantly lower ISO too. OIS seems to be MIA on the Nexus 6.

HDR

Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: HDR off], [Nexus 6: HDR on], [LG G3: HDR off], [LG G3: HDR on], [Galaxy S5: HDR off], [Galaxy S5: HDR on]

HDR mode on the Galaxy S5 is extremely impressive, basically eliminating the heavy shadows without overexposing the much lighter overcast sky. The Nexus 6's HDR mode is not nearly as effective. It does reduce shadowing, but the image still looks rather dark and dreary, similar to the G3.

Indoors

Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: indoor bright], [iPhone 6 Plus: indoor bright], [LG G3: indoor bright], [Galaxy S5: indoor bright]

In this well-lit indoor shot, the Nexus 6 image has a slight purple tint. There's little noise, but the image is a bit blurry overall. It's difficult to tell if this is due to the noise reduction algorithm or if it's just a little out of focus. Both the G3 and S5 have noticeably more noise than the Nexus 6. We've noticed that the S5 struggles with noise in lower-light shots that are not dark enough to engage its long exposure mode.

Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: indoor dark], [iPhone 6 Plus: indoor dark], [LG G3: indoor dark], [Galaxy S5: indoor dark]

The Nexus 6 does not handle this dimly lit hallway well. It produces the darkest image of the group and its colors again appear too cool. This scene is dark enough that both the G3 and S5 engage their long exposure modes, which produce much brighter images.

Again we see the iPhone hold its shutter open three times longer than the Nexus 6 and achieve a much lower ISO setting. This results in less noise creeping into the iPhone image. I took several other low-light images (some of which can be seen below) and they all followed this trend. Either OIS is completely disabled on the Nexus 6, or the camera software has not been tuned to use it.

Additional Sample Images

Full Size Images: [Nexus 6: construction], [Nexus 6: flowers], [Nexus 6: building], [Nexus 6: toys], [Nexus 6: building at night], [Nexus 6: stairs]

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  • idisarmu
    Nobody cares about the nexus 6 anymore... It's been months since it came out.
  • Jonathan G
    Why wasn't the S6 used in this comparison?
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    Why wasn't the S6 used in this comparison?


    Primarily because of the difference in screen size. If someone is considering a 6-inch phone, they probably are not interested in 5-inch phones. Thus, we compared it to other devices with a 5.5-inch or larger screen (and the Nexus 5 just because it was the previous generation).

    - Matt H.
  • Desertlax
    I think there is a typo about price, the nexus 6 is listed as 649 and 699 on the play store, not "starting at $750".
  • Tanquen
    I don’t know if Google lowered the price or when but it’s been $649 for the last week or so that I’ve been thinking of buying it. So I don’t get the repeated complaint that the price is $750 and too high. ???
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    I think there is a typo about price, the nexus 6 is listed as 649 and 699 on the play store, not "starting at $750".


    Thanks for pointing this out. The article has been updated to reflect the current pricing.

    - Matt H.
  • Stryfex
    Did I hit my head and go back in time by like 6 months? Why is toms hardware posting reviews of the Nexus 6?
  • rtfizzel
    The Nexus 6 camera does have OIS. At least it is listed as a feature by Google and many other reviews.
    https://www.google.com/nexus/6/
  • rtfizzel
    My bad, misread. Apologies.
    Quote:
    The Nexus 6 camera does have OIS. At least it is listed as a feature by Google and many other reviews. https://www.google.com/nexus/6/
  • Chillyblue
    I have owned my N6 since it came out. Unlike others, I ordered it on release date, and got it five days later.

    By now long discussions about his big it is are redundant and moot. Those who purchase the phone known that, and like the screen real estate. Size is a preference they choose. If someone wants a smaller screen, they have unlimited options. To be honest, one become quite accustomed to the size rather quickly.Enough about size. Oh, it fits perfectly into my Levi Strauss jeans back pocket.

    This phone since upgrading to 5.1 is a lightening fast. I run stock rooted with Franco Kernel. Antutu benchmark is 55,000 and Gerebench is 1200 single core, and 3600 multiple. I've run both encrypted and unencrypted... and frankly I csntvdetect any difference other than a faster boot time.

    The build quality is excellent, the screen accurate and detailed, the camera gets the job donecwith clarity and definition....if you use a different third party camera app the results get better.

    I've owned a HTC M8, and a Samsung note 3. Touch Wiz sucks, and bulild quality was toy like. HTC M8 offered excellent build quality and sense is far less intrusive then touch wiz.

    Personally, pure Android, a bigger screen, faster updates, excellent build quality all make this phone a winner.
  • Park Sung-Yong
    why didn't you test the device with 5.1? 5.1 resolved lots of battery and memory issues
  • JOSHSKORN
    I would've sold my Note 4 and purchased this just to get a rootable phone, BUT no Micro SD is a deal breaker for me. Actually, it doesn't just break it, it kills it.
  • Chillyblue
    1963443 said:
    why didn't you test the device with 5.1? 5.1 resolved lots of battery and memory issues


    298920 said:
    I would've sold my Note 4 and purchased this just to get a rootable phone, BUT no Micro SD is a deal breaker for me. Actually, it doesn't just break it, it kills it.
  • Chillyblue
    Removable SD cards and replaceable batteries are dated dinosaurs technology. 64gb of storage and the cloud is enough storage.

    Incidently, your phone can be rooted, so I have no idea what you're talking about in terms of that being any sort of difference maker.

    The N6 of course has an unlocked sim card and can be used on any carrier off contract.
  • julianbautista87
    Quote:
    Removable SD cards and replaceable batteries are dated dinosaurs technology. 64gb of storage and the cloud is enough storage. Incidently, your phone can be rooted, so I have no idea what you're talking about in terms of that being any sort of difference maker. The N6 of course has an unlocked sim card and can be used on any carrier off contract.


    paying Apple 100 dollars every time your battery dies is "high tech", I guess.
  • Chillyblue
    324216 said:
    Quote:
    Removable SD cards and replaceable batteries are dated dinosaurs technology. 64gb of storage and the cloud is enough storage. Incidently, your phone can be rooted, so I have no idea what you're talking about in terms of that being any sort of difference maker. The N6 of course has an unlocked sim card and can be used on any carrier off contract.
    paying Apple 100 dollars every time your battery dies is "high tech", I guess.
  • Chillyblue
    The trick is to of course avoid Apple, which is also dated technology with slower processors, lower resolution screens, no customization and high prices. I have a backup HTC M7 which was my daily driver for three years, and the original battery is as good as the day I got it.
  • LordConrad
    I believe that most AMOLED screens, being Pentile displays, should have their stated resolution reduced by 33% as each pixel consists of only two sub-pixels instead of the usual three.
  • MobileEditor
    Quote:
    why didn't you test the device with 5.1? 5.1 resolved lots of battery and memory issues


    We had already completed the review by the time the 5.1 update was available (there was a gap between completion and posting). Since the 5.1 update is supposed to specifically address FDE performance, I did rerun AndEBench and updated the review to include the performance delta relative to 5.0. I also reran Geekbench and did not see any significant change in performance. The 5.1 update also had no effect on photo quality or display performance.

    I'm retesting the Nexus 6 on 5.1 now and hope to post a performance comparison soon.

    - Matt H.
  • bogda
    Quote:
    Removable SD cards and replaceable batteries are dated dinosaurs technology. 64gb of storage and the cloud is enough storage.

    It is not about it being dinosaur technology, it is about business model of charging an arm and a leg for any upgrade. "Modern users" consider changing wallpaper on their phone ultimate customization decent user should do. Anything else is too complicated..
    So why don't you leave it as an option for us dinosaurs. You modern users can have your iPhones, S6s and M9s.
    BTW fastest 32GB MicroSDs is around 20$ online.
  • badvok66
    Without a time machine I guess it would be impossible to answer this question but; Has AMOLED improved significantly so that the lifetime of a phone like this will be greater than 12 - 18 months?
    For comparison purposes I had an old Galaxy S2 which had a fairly early model AMOLED display that faded to < 10% original brightness in 48 months and was thus only usable in a darkened environment (was kept as backup but since virtually unusable when actually needed it has now been dumped).
  • terrober14
    So my 6.44" screen on my Sony Xperia Z Ultra doesn't get compared here simply because it isn't in the list of newest devices?
  • dthx
    Quote:
    Quote:
    Removable SD cards and replaceable batteries are dated dinosaurs technology. 64gb of storage and the cloud is enough storage.
    It is not about it being dinosaur technology, it is about business model of charging an arm and a leg for any upgrade. "Modern users" consider changing wallpaper on their phone ultimate customization decent user should do. Anything else is too complicated.. So why don't you leave it as an option for us dinosaurs. You modern users can have your iPhones, S6s and M9s. BTW fastest 32GB MicroSDs is around 20$ online.

    I understand what you say, but I think that the main reason of not proposing MicroSD slot on the devices has much more to do with device manufacturers trying to reduce the return rates than vendors trying to sell you cloud storage.
    A good part of the reliability or speed issues of former android devices were related to defective or slow crappy MicroSD cards that the users put in their devices. Users (not me, not you, but the man of the street) were also struggling to find correct ways to transfer their data to or from the SD card, which offsets the benefit of having that option.
  • neconnn
    Still moto droid turbo is better than reviewed phones.