LONDON -- Google has taken the wraps off its 2015 Nexus devices, and this year, for the first time, it has launched two smartphones at the same time. While the LG Nexus 5X is aimed more at the budget end of the market, the Huawei-made Nexus 6P is certainly aimed at the top end, where it will go head-to-head with the likes of the iPhone 6S Plus, the Galaxy Note 5 and the company’s own Mate S, which launched this month.

The big question is, can Huawei make a mainstream smartphone that will be able to show off the best of Android 6.0 to the masses?

Nexus 6P: Design

The Nexus 6P is the first of Google’s Nexus smartphones to feature a metallic frame, which has two effects. It makes the handset much more appealing to those looking for a premium experience, but it also means it will be judged in terms of design and construction quality next to the iPhone 6S Plus and Samsung Galaxy S6 edge+.

On that front I'm not sure it entirely matches up. Though the metallic frame is nice, the rear is covered in a matte plastic finish, diminishing the initial impression. Huawei's Mate S, which it launched this month, is a much more impressive piece of hardware.

Huawei Nexus 6P Hands-On The fingerprint sensor allows you unlock the phone without having to activate the screen first. Photo: David Gilbert

The phone feels a little bit slippery in your hand, and while Huawei was smart to keep the footprint of the Nexus 6P down given its large 5.7-inch screen, it is still just a bit too big. The screen is framed by a pair of front-facing speakers similar to those on the HTC One range of smartphones, but in the crowded room at Google's headquarters in London, I couldn't really tell just how powerful they are.

The only model I was able to inspect was the white one, which is probably the last color I would choose, with the silver and black models looking more appealing -- on paper at least -- while the gold version is going on sale only in Japan initially.

Nexus 6P: Screen

The Nexus 6P has a 5.7-inch screen, which is slightly smaller than the 6-inch screen on Motorola’s original Nexus 6 but retains the pixel density of 2,560 x 1,440, giving it a slightly increased pixel density of 515 pixels per inch (ppi), which is right at the top end of today’s smartphones.

Huawei Nexus 6P Screen The screen on the Nexus 6P features a resolution of 2,560 x 1,440 pixels, making it really sharp. Photo: David Gilbert

The screen technology in use here is Amoled, meaning that colors are vibrant and almost oversaturated, popping a little bit too much. Overall, though, the screen is seriously impressive, and I think it will stand up to comparison with anything else on the market. 

Nexus 6P: Camera

Just like pretty much all Nexus smartphones to date, the Nexus 6 was not particularly impressive in terms of camera performance, and this is one area Google wants to get right if the Nexus 6P is to challenge the likes of the iPhone 6S and Galaxy S6.

The rear camera on the Nexus 6P features a 12.3-megapixel sensor, but each of those pixels is bigger than normal, which Google and Huawei claim helps low-light performance along with the bright f/2.0 aperture lens. Brief testing in the bright lights of Google’s headquarters showed that it was able to deal with the harsh lighting relatively well, though I felt there was more noise than I would expect from either Apple's or Samsung's flagship devices. Again, full testing will be needed to decide on the merits or otherwise of the camera on the Nexus 6P.

Huawei Nexus 6P Design The Huawei Nexus 6P is the first Nexus device to feature a metallic frame. Photo: David Gilbert

The front-facing camera has an 8-megapixel sensor, and a quick selfie suggested that this will be a cut above most front-facing smartphone cameras. There is also support for 4K video recording, a dual LED flash and laser autofocus, but no optical image stabilization. 

Nexus 6P: Performance, Hardware And Battery

In my brief testing of the new smartphones, the Snapdragon 810 chip from Qualcomm performed flawlessly, though it is only through most in-depth testing that we will see if Google, Huawei and Qualcomm have overcome the overheating issues that hampered earlier versions of this chip.

Paired with the 810 chipset is a decent 3 gigabytes of RAM, and the phone will come in 32GB, 64GB or 128GB options with no option to upgrade this via microSD.

Other notable hardware features include the inclusion of a fingerprint sensor on the rear, which in my tests worked flawlessly and, unlike Apple's Touch ID, doesn't require you to activate the screen first for it to work. 

Huawei Nexus 6P USB-C With USB-C and quick charge on the Nexus 6P, a 10-minute charge will get you seven hours of use, according to Google. Photo: David Gilbert

In terms of battery life, thanks to its 3,450mAh battery, which also features quick-charge technology, Google promises that the Nexus 6P will charge twice as fast as the iPhone 6S Plus. This is due to the inclusion of a USB-C connector for charging and data transfer, and the new Doze mode in the latest version of Android.

Nexus 6P: Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)

As one of two reference models for Android Marshmallow, Nexus 6P not surprisingly will have the latest version of Android installed. Visually I found it hard to tell the difference between Android 5.0 and Android 6.0, but there are some interesting improvements under the hood.

As well as natively supporting fingerprint sensors to boost security, Android 6.0 also gives you more granular controls over what permissions each app you install has access to. It also brings an update to Google Now called Now on Tap, which brings up a contextual menu for apps you are using, giving direct links to related content and apps.

Nexus 6P: Price And Release Date

The Nexus 6P is available to preorder now through the Google Store in the U.S., U.K., Canada, Ireland and Japan. The 32GB version will cost $499, while the 64GB version will set you back $549 and the 128GB version, $649. The phone will be sold online only and, initially at least, won’t be offered through carrier stores in the U.S. Google is also looking to entice customers by throwing in a 90-day free subscription to Google Play Music with all new Nexus 6P devices as well as a $50 Google Play credit with every purchase.

Nexus 6P: First Impressions

Huawei Nexus 6P Hands On - Camera The Huawei Nexus 6P is available in white, silver, black and gold, though the gold version will initially only be available in Japan. Photo: David Gilbert

The Nexus 6P is a big deal for Huawei, as it marks its best chance of breaking into the U.S. market. To do this, it needs to get design and form right as much as performance and hardware, and I'm not sure it has. Don't get me wrong -- the Nexus 6P is still a really slick piece of hardware, but on first impressions, I don't think it can really match up to the iPhone 6S Plus or Galaxy S6 edge+, though at $499 it costs considerably less than those two phones.

Huawei Nexus 6P Key Features:

  • 5.7-inch screen (2,540 x 1,440)
  • Android 6.0 (Marshmallow)
  • Snapdragon 810 chip with 3GB RAM
  • 7.3mm/178g
  • 12.3MP rear camera
  • Price: From $499