When you see or hear the word Google, hardware isn’t the first thing that comes to mind. But they do release devices. While their Nexus launch event, held last week in San Francisco, was a snoozefest, there is plenty to be excited about.
Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P
The much loved Nexus 5, released in 2013, finally gets a refresh. Like its predecessor the 5.2-inch Nexus 5X makes a great case as being one of the best all around phones.
Starting at $379, it is competitively priced with a decent spec sheet and its polycarbonate shell is light and comfortable to grip. Can it draw the same level of interest and attention that the Nexus 5 did? We’ll have to wait and see.
Google pulled in Huawei to make the this year’s premium Nexus device. It helps Huawei position itself as a premium phone maker and they did a splendid job on the 6P.
The 5.7-inch 6P is made of aluminum. It is the first Nexus phone with a full-unibody construction. It also has, at least on paper, an impressive camera, 12.3 megapixels, but that’s not the number Google wants you to focus on. The company is touting the 6P’s 1.55 micron pixel size – larger than most phones on the market today.
Bigger pixels mean the ability to shoot with little to no light. We’re excited to see more sample photos to see if this is really the case.
The high-end Nexus 6P, which starts at $499, also has a host of other camera features including slow-mo capture, and a new smart burst mode. But I’m not feeling that whole band of black at the back of the device hosting the camera. Sure, it helps differentiate it from most other phones today but aesthetically, I wish Huawei went in another direction.
Both phones come with the new reversible USB Type-C for faster charging and will run the latest version of Android – Marshmallow.
The fingerprint scanners for both the 5X and 6P are located at the back right underneath the main camera. I had the chance to test a phone with a similar fingerprint scanner placement and I found it felt natural if you unlock the device while holding it up. But if you want to unlock the phone while its back is lying on the table, you might have to resort to using a lock code.
Google did well to address two needs with their 2015 Nexus phones – a value-for-money Nexus that most fans craved for after the pricey Nexus 6 and Nexus 9 of 2014, and the best of pure Android on a premium smartphone.
Chromecast and Chromecast Audio
Google tweaked the look of its media streaming device and made two of them – one for your TV, another for your speakers. Both are priced $35.
Instead of a stick, the redesigned Chromecast is now clearly more circular with a bendable HDMI arm that’s supposed to make it easy to hide the device behind your TV. It also has additional WiFi antennas for better range and support for modern wifi standards.
It comes in three colors: black, lemon yellow, and bright red.
Chromecast Audio, as its name suggests, focuses on music. With support for RCA, 3.5 mm, and optical inputs, Chromecast Audio should be able to take any speaker you have lying around and make it ‘smarter’.
Along with it comes the announcement that Chromecast now supports leading music streaming service Spotify. Now more than ever, it’s easier to blast your favorite playlists whether you want to rock out, dance, or, if the mood is right, ask someone to ‘Marvin Gaye And Get It On.’
In yet another crack at mobile productivity, Google announces the Pixel C (C stands for convertible).
It’s a 10.2-inch slate that pairs magnetically with a keyboard and it looks really promising. At the demo, Google showed off how the tablet seamlessly attaches to the keyboard without nasty ports and docks. You also don’t need to charge the keyboard as it is already charging the moment you stick it to the tablet.
It appeared the Pixel C will automatically come with the keyboard. Unfortunately that is not the case. The Pixel C tablet will retail for $499 and if you want the keyboard too, it’ll burn another $149 hole in your pocket.
That aside, the tablet, which runs Android Marshmallow, looks absolutely gorgeous and does appear like a step forward to actual productivity when you’re on the go.