Apple iPhone 6 Plus review: a fine smartphone but too big for some people

PC Advisor via RSS Thursday, 12 February, 2015


Price: �619 (16GB); �699 (64GB); �789 (128GB)
Rating: 8

In September 2014, Apple launched two entirely new smartphones. We’ve taken a look at the iPhone 6 separately, but here's our review of the iPhone 6 Plus which has been fully updated after four months of daily use. (See also: the best smartphones you can buy in 2015.)

iPhone 6 Plus review: Design and size - living with a 5.5in phablet

Compared to the angled and almost industrial design of the iPhone 4 and 5, the iPhone 6 Plus makes something of a return to the original iPhone with curved sides. The screen gently curves at the edges to meet the sides and, even though it’s not much thinner than the iPhone 5, it feels it because it’s so much larger (it measures 78x158x7.1mm).

iPhone 6 Plus vs iPhone 5S vs iPhone 4

And it really is a lot larger. Just look at the footprint compared to the iPhone 5S and 4S above. It's bigger than quite a few Android phones which have 5.5in screens: not wider, but taller. And this explains why Apple had no choice but to move the power button to the side. Whether you hold it right- or left-handed the power button now falls under your finger or thumb. The only problem is that the button is directly opposite the volume buttons, so it's very easy to accidentally press both. Usually, this means turning the phone off when you meant to increase the volume or take a photo using the volume button.

Like everything, though, you quickly get used to the size of the 6 Plus, and the bigger screen really makes a positive difference when browsing websites and using any apps which have small controls which are fiddly to use.

However, it's not perfect if you're used to using your iPhone one-handed. The first issue is that the bigger screen combines with the thick bottom bezel to make it very tricky to reach even half of the display with your thumb. Double-tapping the home button to activate the Reachability feature isn't the greatest solution as it's still hard to tap anything on the opposite side with your thumb. Unless you have giant hands, that is.

The second issue is weight and - more specifically - balance. When holding the 6 Plus in one hand at the bottom so you can reach the home button the phone wants to tip out of your grasp. The solution is to use two hands, just like a tablet. We've got used to this limitation, and the benefits generally outweigh the drawbacks, but it's important to try out a 6 Plus before buying if you're unsure whether it's too big or not.

iPhone 6 Plus camera sticks out

A minor point to note is that the camera protrudes from the rear of the iPhone 6 Plus and if you’re the type who refuses to “ruin” the design by using a case, bear in mind that it won’t sit perfectly level when you put it down on a hard surface - in fact, it rocks between two of the corners which is pretty annoying, especially if you like using your phone when it's lying down flat. (Most cases are solve the problem because the camera either sits flush or slightly recessed. Apple's cases are both thicker than the protrusion.)

iPhone 6 Plus review: UK price

The cheapest iPhone 6 Plus is the 16GB base model which costs £619 SIM-free. There are also the 64GB and 128GB models, which cost £699 and £789 respectively. There’s a choice of three colours in each capacity, with our favourite being Space Grey. The silver version has a white bezel around the screen, as does the gold option.

Let's be straight here. 16GB on a modern smartphone is a tiny storage capacity when you can't add to it via a microSD card. Apple has canned the 32GB option, and even that was poky. Remember that you won't actually get 16GB of usable storage – more like 12GB, and that won't hold many apps, especially if you load it with music and take a lot of photos or videos.

So try to afford the 64GB iPhone if you can – you'll thank yourself later, we promise.

See: Where to buy iPhone 6 and iPhone 6 Plus in the UK.

iPhone 6 Plus gold

Of course, you don’t have to buy your iPhone SIM-Free. However, on contract you will still have to pay an up-front charge as well as the monthly payment, which will work out more expensive overall. Check out where to buy the iPhone 6 Plus, where we lay out all the best deals.

iPhone 6 Plus review: display and headline specs

You probably don’t need us to list specifications for you, but here are the highlights anyway. The iPhone 6 Plus has a 5.5in screen with a full HD resolution of 1920x1080. It's the sharpest screen on any Apple device to date at fractionally over 400 pixels per inch.

It’s also the brightest screen on any iPhone and has the highest contrast ratio, higher even than the iPhone 6. Apple claims 1,400:1, and the firm never quotes figures it can’t back up. It looks great from any angle, regardless of whether you're browsing for apps on the home screens or reviewing photos and video you just took.

It’s by no means the biggest smartphone or phablet screen, nor is it the sharpest. So-called Quad-HD or QHD screens used by phones including LG’s G3 have four times the resolution of a 1280x720-pixel screen. Since the G3 also has a 5.5in screen, its higher resolution gives it a much higher pixel density of 538ppi, and it really does look fantastic. Here are the two phones side by side:

iPhone 6 Plus vs LG G3

The Galaxy Note 4 is Samsung’s 5.7in phablet and has the same resolution – 2560x1440 pixels – but obviously a slightly lower density of 515ppi. For most people, of course, this is a complete non-issue, and they will be over the moon with the iPhone 6 Plus’ screen.

Another rival is the Nexus 6, which to all intents and purposes has a 6in quad-HD screen yet is only fractionally larger than than iPhone 6 Plus. You can read our Nexus 6 review here.

There are other new features stuffed inside the 6 Plus, too. NFC has finally made an appearance but it won’t be any use until Apple Pay comes to the UK (which it still hasn't). Hopefully Apple will open up the chip to developers so iPhone 6 Plus owners can use it for more than just buying goods and services. Read: iPhone 6 NFC chip is restricted to ApplePay.

There’s also faster Wi-Fi (now 802.11ac) and a barometer which is used by the new M8 motion coprocessor to gauge elevation changes and – as many activity trackers do – record when you’ve walked up a flight of stairs. This data can then be read in the Health app which is new in iOS 8.

iPhone 6 Plus review: performance

Performance is excellent, just as you'd expect from one of the most expensive smartphones ever made. The on-paper specifications aren’t all that exciting: Geekbench reports the A8 CPU running at 1.39GHz (roughly 200MHz faster than the iPhone 6), but the iPhone 6 Plus showed it was clearly the fastest iPhone yet with a multi-score average of 2917.

To put this in context, the Samsung Galaxy S5 managed 2869, the iPhone 5s 2556 and the LG G3 2233. The Nexus 6 is quicker - in this synthetic benchmark - with 3304, and the Note 4 isn't far behind with 3272.

In GFXbench 3, the iPhone 6 Plus managed 41.1fps in the older T-Rex test, and 18.7fps in the demanding Manhattan test. Despite having a faster-clocked GPU than the iPhone 6, having to drive the extra pixels takes its toll, and these frame rates are a little lower than the iPhone 6, which scored 49.1fps and 26fps respectively.

In SunSpider 1.0.2 we saw a speedy result of 369ms, making the 6 Plus one of the quickest smartphones we've seen in the web browsing test.

GeekBench 3

GFXBench T-Rex

GFXBench Manhattan

SunSpider

Nexus 6

3304

27fps

12fps

791ms

Galaxy Note 4

3272

27fps

11fps

1367ms

LG G3

2233

20fps

7fps

977ms

iPhone 6 Plus

2917

41fps

19fps

369ms

Of course, it doesn’t make sense to buy any product based on benchmark results, let alone a couple of synthetic tests. What matters is real-world performance and battery life.

As you'd expect, the iPhone 6 Plus feels extremely fast in general use. There's no hint of lag or judder throughout iOS 8, nor a delay when launching most apps. One of the areas where you really notice the extra speed - especially if upgrading from an iPhone 5, 5c or 4s - is how quickly the 6 Plus is able to stitch together panoramas (which are now saved in a much higher resolution than before) and compress videos for emailing.

iPhone 6 Plus design

iPhone 6 Plus review: performance

Battery life is certainly a step up from any previous iPhone. In normal use, which in our case is a mix of web browsing, phone calls, watching videos, playing games, taking and editing photos and sharing them on Facebook, we're able to go almost two full days between charges.

Obviously your mileage will vary: battery life is highly dependent on what you're using a smartphone to do. Streaming video over 4G at maximum screen brightness will quickly deplete the battery, whereas checking and sending emails at a medium brightness won't.

Even when really hammering the phone by playing games, watching videos over 4G and lots of mobile web browsing it will still easily last a day.

iPhone 6 Plus review: cameras

The 6 Plus has the best rear camera of any...

read more...

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