Huawei Nexus 6P review: Stepping it up
Last year, a dramatic change came to Google’s Nexus offering. The upper-mid range phone that was the Nexus 5 was replaced by a premium and much more expensive model made by Motorola. Skip time ahead about a year to this fall and we are offered a true premium package with a significantly lower price tag. The Nexus 6P is beautifully designed by Huawei to please both power users and average users alike.
Since I've read that the Nexus 6P only "fast charge" protocol was 5V/3A over dual USB-C connectors, I was curious to find out. And since I don't have any fancy equipment right now, this is using only software 🙂
– Using the provided charger and USB-C – USB-C cable: Takes about 3A as expected
– Using a Samsung 5V/2A charger, which uses the same signaling as Quickcharge 1.0, and the provided USB-A USB-C cable (which is ridiculously short): Takes about 2A, close to the maximum for this charger and definitely more than 1A which is the max for USB power without signaling.
So it stays reasonably compatible with most equipment dating from the pre-QuickCharge 2.0 era.
Either way, I'm not a fan of the solution Google adopted for the Nexus 5X and 6P charging. The USB-C cables provided are annoyingly short. Since they have to carry 3A they're thick and inflexible. Choosing a 50% higher current instead of higher voltages is inefficient: it requires thicker, more expensive, shorter cables.
And eventually, only 15W to charge a 3450 mAh battery is just not fast. USB-C might be a the future standard but as it is on this year's nexus, it is not a very particularly convincing solution compared to Qualcomm QuickCharge 2.0 or 3.0
After trying on the Nexus 6P with HDR+ always on yesterday, I wanted to evaluate HDR+ Auto in typical situations where you want multiple exposures to recover shadows or highlights.
As you can see from the samples shared here the result is clear: HDR+ Auto simply doesn't work. In all my attempts today, HDR+ Auto was unable to identify scenes with dynamic range challenges and in need for some tone mapping. I remember that yesterday HDR+ Auto turned HDR+ On at least once but I was unable to reproduce that today in real world scenarios.
– The 6P camera exposure system can easily underexposue a central subject. It is common that you need to aid the exposure system by tapping on your subject (hopefully your subject won't be of dark color)
– HDR+ sometimes increases contrast and reduces the final dynamic range instead of extending it, giving the opposite result to what's desired. It does so unpredictably.
My tip would be to activate HDR+ as forced On since HDR+ Auto doesn't activate it in the obvious conditions requiring it on, unless you need to shoot several images quickly. Then since the automatic exposure can't be trusted outdoor, you it is recommended to tap on subjects to expose for them, while the preview will often seem overexposed, HDR+ should usually re-expose the final image rendered and recover highlights in the process.
HDR+ in general needs work to avoid being counter productive randomly, and HDR+ Auto is useless as it is now.
I'm surprised it wasn't highlighted in every review that the Nexus 6P sunlight legibility is poor, for 4 main reasons:
– The automatic brightness at its default settings doesn't adjust to ambient lighting conditions enough. You have to slam the auto brightness offset slider manually to the maximum so it reaches the maximum brightness allowed. It is either a defect of the light sensor of my unit or a bug that may need to be filed.
– The amount of internal reflections in the panel is high in today's standards, in no way comparable to an LPTS LCD of the two years old Nexus 5 and its polarized lens generation.
– The maximum brightness allowed by the AMOLED panel driver (measured at 366 cd/m² on my unit) is below average nowadays. Most mid-range smartphones reach higher brightness levels.
– The gamma curve is nearing a 2.4 average at higher brightness levels (it is rarely constant on AMOLEDs) It makes every color but white itself darker than it should, which only reduces legibility further in challenging environmental conditions.
Bugs, limited hardware characteristics and inadequate calibration together make up one of the poorest sunlight legibility in today's smartphones on the Nexus 6P.
Concretely, it means that if you're used to walk out, exchange message, read articles, you will struggle doing so on the Nexus 6P despite the larger screen.
Some of the shortcomings could be addressed to improve the situation.
I walked around in Chambéry with two cameras, so that happened. The 6P HDR+ works better in low light to extend dynamic range, and it's also performing great to extend the dynamic range in order to preserve skys.
While the 6P camera preforms rather poorly in great lighting due to suboptimal automatic settings and below average color rendition, it becomes an excellent performer in low-light. The new HDR+ computational photography algorithms working with the large 1/2.3" sensor equipped with f/2.0 aperture lens is a worthy alternative to OIS in stills .. at least compared to the Nexus 5, which you can see is still capable of perfectly usable shots in most situations.
The 6P camera is an absolute killer for selfies however. HDR+ on this one makes wonder to expose the face and everything else in the worst conditions. The focus distance is close enough to keep your face sharp and get some background blur. Even in low light, the amount of detail preserved is high: enough to show your skin texture, which is fine in some case, unflattering in others (in good lighting) where the sharpening will highlight skin imperfections instead.
I made this album because it also demonstrates that if color profiling accuracy is crucial for great outdoor shots: our eyes and brain are highly trained to recognize subtle color tones found in nature it is not as much if at all in artificial lighting. That's part of why the Nexus 6P camera can be an excellent performer in these situation despite it essentially sucks in sunny outdoor natural conditions.
Notes: – As you can notice, the field of view of the Nexus 6P is larger than the Nexus 5. It's pretty convenient for architecture and landscape, less suited to shoot people. – Both Nexus 6P and 5 bokeh circles are not very good. – I had to delete roughly 1/3 of out of focus shots from the Nexus 6P. It misses is just a bit quite often in low light, leaving you with a good looking but a bit blurry picture. Make sure to review and shoot again. – Unless specified, the exposure is in full auto (and sometimes not what I would choose manually) – The Nexus 6P is lacking exposure compensation entirely, while it is available even on HDR+ on the Nexus 5.
Oh and it was also the opportunity to take some pics of my city before leaving for Stockholm 🙂
I just received a +Huawei Nexus 6P, ordered during Amazon.fr flash sale: 499€ instead of 649€
Screen – My unit's display exhibit a color shift that's visible enough to be an annoyance with your face right in front: the center and top/bottom do not look the same color tone. More pink in the center, more green off-center. It's a problem since the display is so large, also both your eyes don't see the same colors since they receive light from the panel at different angles. When holding the device in hand, you can't keep perfectly in front so the colors vary with angle. It is most apparent with bright UIs, which is the norm nowadays with Material Design.
– White point is a lot greener than it should, as seen often with this technology. It doesn't seem Google/Samsung used an adequate color matching function for AMOLED. (It's the mathematical model uses to transform spectral light data to perceived color, so you can make two colors look the same on different screen technologies)
– Color over-saturation is more pronounced than previous AMOLED I own/owned. Every color tone becomes so intense it feels nauseous like I ate too much candy.
– sRGB mode that can be activated from Developper settings looks nothing like a sRGB calibrated display. I see why it didn't make it to display settings: it is extremely poor. I don't imagine anyone being satisfied with it. Colors look abnormally pale and desaturated, more than they should. The end result is simply awful.
– Grayscale calibration is not bad on my unit, there's no obvious shift and it scales reasonably well through the brightness scale.
– Black clipping at 3, with rgb (3, 3, 3) being bright enough compared to the extremely deep black so that it introduces artifacts in dark videos.
– There is sharpening. It's slight but present, introducing halos around text fonts. Entirely unnecessary with a pixel density that high.
Performance Highest Android performance I've used so far. It is the first time I observe apps like Maps not drop frames. Google Play Store still drop frames on basic scrolling operations as it loads network assets however, but less than on other devices.
Speakers They can get very loud and keep distortion in check. However I expected a lot better in terms of frequency response. They still sound tiny: there's no bass, high frequencies are lacking. At least they're not unpleasant to listen to and offer reasonable clarity. They could use some EQ tuning.
Camera – HDR+, even more this time should not be named "HDR" As you can see in the quick samples attached, the HDR+ image reduces the dynamic range from the normal shot. It makes poor processing decision in sunny outdoor conditions.
– Automatic white balance and color profile invent colors that do not exist in reality. Typically, yellow/brown tones that should be white or almost gray instead.
Good surprises – Netflix app gets the 1080p stream. The video is decoded on a hardware DRM-enabled surface. (How to check quickly: enable "Invert Colors", the Netflix video content will become all white since the OpenGL compositor can't access the video surface)
– How it wakes up when you pick it up, like Android Wear watch react with movement is a very pleasant addition.
Conclusion I'm not keeping this unit. I learned my lessons with keeping AMOLED devices with sub-par panels before. A couple hours in I don't know yet if I should ask a replacement from Amazon.fr hoping for a better display (but might get the same or worse) – if it's even possible. I've seen worse AMOLEDs, this one might be good enough for someone not too demanding. It is not good enough to me tho, I know very well what a good AMOLED, unaffected by color shifting is. Or return for refund, or sell it (I could even make a profit, but it's not the point)
The only thing is that it would be a good development platform for my color correction driver since it really needs better color calibration. But I'm not yet at the stage where I need more development devices right now.
It's really an underwhelming experience to receive a brand new premium device and.. yeah no. AMOLED quality control is ruining the show again. Google boasted about the quality of this panel in their AMA, including on its color calibration. Yeah, in their dreams.
+Sam Pullen demonstrates in this video the main limitation with Google's current computational photography approach.
Reported by most reviewers as "lag" or "bugs" of the #Nexus 5X and 6P camera app since this is the mode activated by default, it has a simple explanation: The amount of time to process multi-exposures shot as one HDR+ picture joined with the limited amount of RAM allowed as buffer makes it unsuitable for consecutive pictures shooting.
Here's the process which occurs with any Android smartphone since the past few years:
– you launch the camera app – the viewfinder preview starts the ISP to capture full resolution readouts from the sensor at 30 FPS, renders them at near display resolution, adjusting in real-time automatic exposure and white balance – you press the shutter button – the camera ISP hardware takes one of the full resolution sensor readout, renders it in full resolution, compresses the output automatically using the hardware JPEG encoder, offers the compressed file as a buffer to the camera app, camera app saves it as a file on disk. – the previous sequence of operations, using almost no CPU at all can be repeated at 4 times per second or more.
Instead, here's the process with HDR+:
– until you press the shutter button: identical. – the camera ISP hardware takes multiple (up to 9*) consecutive readouts, some with positive and negative exposure compensation, from the sensor at 30 FPS, renders them and offers them as uncompressed buffers in RAM to the camera application. – the camera application takes all these images as input and feeds them to a super-resolution algorithm, which also tunes the local contrast and color balance, compressing or extending the dynamic range locally depending on the analyzed image content. – the HDR+ algorithm takes a few hundred milliseconds to several seconds to render a processed image – once the HDR+ algorithm is finished, it offers the result as buffer to the hardware JPEG encoder, which returns a buffer to the camera app then saved as a file. – during the HDR+ processing in background, you can press the shutter button again to trigger the capture, but only as long as there is enough available memory to store those multiple exposures as uncompressed image buffers in RAM.
As you can see from this list of operations, the two modes function rather different.
– Standard mode doesn't rely on the CPU to do much beside synchronizing the preview between the camera and the display hardware, then saving the final result as a file on disk.
– HDR+ relies extensively on the RAM and CPU to build (hopefully) better images from many captures.
As a result, both the RAM and CPU are bottlenecks limiting the consecutive shooting capability.
Now you may ask: why isn't HDR a problem on other phones?
There are several explanations:
– Google chose a target that's unsuitable for the Nexus 5X consecutive image shooting. It means too many images in buffer given the amount of RAM and computational capability available, too complex processing.
– Google HDR+ implementation is not optimized enough.
– Samsung flagships since the Galaxy S5 process their HDR rendering hardware-accelerated instead of relying on the CPU. Their implementation is efficient: enough to process the preview in HDR at 30 FPS, compressing the dynamic range more and better than Google's HDR+, it doesn't slow down shooting either. Samsung HDR rendering is even available to third party applications in their Camera SDK while Google's HDR+ is entirely proprietary.
How can Google improve the situation?
– Reducing the amount of captures directed to HDR+ dynamically depending on the load to avoid stopping and making the photographer miss shots
– Reverting to 100% hardware accelerated standard shooting when at least two HDR+ images are processing in background instead of preventing the user to shoot. A standard image is better than no image at all. As demonstrated by +Sam Pullen, the current situation generates user frustration.
– Use more hardware acceleration (OpenGL shaders, Renderscript) and less CPU to improve the HDR+ algorithm speed to catch up with the competition, improving the power efficiency and avoid slowing down even more during consecutive shooting due to CPU thermal throttling.
* 9 frames for HDR+ was mentioned in a Google blog post last year, it could have changed on latest camera app.
Android M on Nexus S – Dmitry Grinberg
How to build Android Marshmallow on Nexus S. The story… Nexus S (crespo) got its last update in Oct 2012. It was Android 4.1.2 Jelly Bean. Android M (marshmallow) just came out recently. I decided to port M to crespo for fun, and as a demo taht old hardware can in fact run new versions of …
Following up on his first video where +JerryRigEverything bends a +Nexus 6P, I'm doing the same after qualifying the first one as likely non-representative it was done on a phone which glass was already shattered.
I can't see any particular flaw in the method of this one, and it's done with an educational approach. This phone very much has a point of vulnerability where demonstrated.
What I don't know is that if like the iPhone 6 and 6 Plus the phone can bend in regular use, little by little and stay bent, or this one is more about its "bend-breaking" ability.
It's too bad that after the iPhone 6 generation experience, manufactures still release products with a mechanical weak point such as this one. It shows that +Huawei likely didn't make their own stress test process to take into consideration the new elements, something that other manufacturers appear to have done in comparison.
At least, as observed previously, the phone bends/break above the battery and unlike the iPhone 6 it doesn't make it a safety hazard in this case
It is expected than picks of Mohs Hardness Scale of 7 and above scratched with some pressure will leave from marks to deep dents into a Gorilla Glass screen.
As soon as +JerryRigEverything does that, he compromises the structure of the complete glass by going through the coating and attacking what makes up the material's compression stress.
This is why it is not surprising to see it shatter. It doesn't mean that the glass is particularly fragile. Any similar glass construction will behave about the same once the damage goes past the coating.
I don't get the point of the lighter burn test. Maybe because I don't smoke?
The bend test however isn't looking too great. At least it seems to bend above the battery so that one should be reasonably safe. Edit: I agree the bend test might not be representative however due to the prior shattering of the display, then unable to participate to the structural rigidity.