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Google unveils new Nexus phones, Chromecast devices and Pixel C tablet

Google Inc. showed off two new Nexus smartphones running the latest Android mobile operating system, Marshmallow, and the next generation of its Chromecast streaming device – including an audio device – at its annual autumn event in San Francisco on Tuesday. The grand event kicked off with an appearance from Sundar Pichai – his first presentation since he was named chief executive officer of Google. The Internet giant updated its Nexus line with two extremely sleek, yet very different, Android smartphones, ahead of the holiday shopping season and on the heels of Apple’s announcement earlier this month of the new iPhones, the monster iPad and Apple TV. One of the biggest surprises to come out of the event was an all-new Android-powered tablet, the Pixel C.

Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P

The new Nexus smartphones – Nexus 5X and Nexus 6P – are the first devices to be sold with the new Android operating system ‘Marshmallow’. Both the devices feature significant upgrades on the old models, and come packed with all kind of hardware you’d expect on a flagship Android smartphone – a fingerprint sensor, USB Type-C rapid charging, strong batteries and a brilliant camera. The most noticeable feature is undoubtedly the new fingerprint sensor. Both the devices come with identical Nexus Imprint sensors located on the rear side of the phone underneath the camera. It was lightning fast on both the devices.

The metal-build Nexus 6P is the “most premium” of Nexus phones the company has had to date, said Google. The 5.7-inch display is only slightly smaller than its 5.9-inch predecessor, the Nexus 6, but it feels much better in the hand, and with all the metallic finish, it feels more like a premium flagship than any other Nexus device. The Huawei-built Nexus 6P boasts a 1440p display, an 8-core 2.0GHz Snapdragon 810 processor, 3GB of RAM and a 12MP rear camera with laser auto focus. The 8MP front shooter is really good as well. The AMOLED screen looks great, very sharp and seems to render colors nicely. Google almost eliminated the bezel so the device is slimmer than the Nexus 6. The overall thickness has also been noticeably reduced. Google spent a lot of time praising the Nexus 6P’s camera, which apparently emphasizes low-light performance. It also supports 4K video as well as a slow motion video mode.

Compared to the Nexus 6P, the smaller LG-made Nexus 5X clearly doesn’t quite feel as premium – the polycarbonate body feels solid but definitely not premium. The plastic housing is a lot like the backing on Nexus 8 tablet. The Nexus 5X aims to recapture the spirit of the original LG Nexus 5 from 2013. The best thing about the device is it feels very light, given that it has a 2700mAh battery. The 5.2-inch HD 1920 x 1080 display is crisp though it looks flat next to the 6P’s WQHD 2560 x 1080 display. The camera on the 5X is also excellent, though it lacks 4K vide support and the burst mode of the 6P. The 5MP front-facing camera is also good with an extremely fast shutter.

Pixel C

Moving into the Pixel C – the ‘C’ stands for convertible – it’s an Android-powered hybrid. However, don’t let the name confuse you, the Pixel C will run on Android, not Chrome OS. Unlike the Nexus line, where Google works in partnership with other hardware partners to design and manufacture smartphones, the Pixel line was designed and built exclusively in-house without any hardware partners. The new Pixel takes the Chromebook form factor that Google used in the original Chromebook in 2013. Instead as a 10.2-inch tablet, it has a lot more in common with the Surface and iPad Air 2. Its aluminum housing removes any of the usual branding or logos you’d find on other tablets. The tablet weighs a little over a pound, but the optional keyboard accessory brings it to just less than two pounds. Under the hood, the device packs an Nvidia Tegra X1 quad-core processor and 3GB of RAM, which Google claims makes it powerful enough to handle work and entertainment.

Chromecast, Chromecast Audio

Google heated up the competition in the streaming device with the latest version of its video streaming device Chromecast – a tiny, little button-style gadget, but the most exciting thing about it is that it supports mush faster internet connection standards and higher-quality video. And secondly, there’s a ‘Chromecast Audio’ that connects to speakers to stream music from partner services, from the company’s own Google Play Music to partners like Pandora and Spotify. Like the first Chromecast, the new Chromecast for video plugs into the back of a TV set via an HDMI port, and it mirrors, or casts, content from the Chromecast mobile app to TV screens. There are three different antennas in the device now for optimized Wi-Fi streaming, whereas the first Chromecast only had one.

Google said Tuesday it has sold more than 20 million Chromecast dongles globally since the device first launched in 2013. That’s not an insignificant number, but in the context of a billion active Android devices, it’s just a number. Google is certainly hoping the new Chromecast devices will push the number up.