OnePlus 6 Review

Introduction

I am aware that I am rather late with this review. The internet is already rife with OnePlus 6T rumours and leaks, including one from OnePlus itself. Unfortunately, I tend not to be to review the T series of OnePlus flagships because its launch coincides with my overseas university term. Nevertheless, I do like to request for review units of the non-T series of OnePlus devices when I am back in Singapore, if not to aid in the purchase decisions of our readers, then to keep myself updated on the progress of OnePlus’ latest foray into the smartphone market.

This review falls under the latter category.

TL;DR

The OnePlus 6 is the most refined smartphone from the company to date. They’ve managed to place a much larger screen into a body roughly the same size as the two-year-old OnePlus 3, while updating the internals to 2018’s greatest. Rather expectedly (albeit disappointingly), OnePlus has ditched its distinct metal unibody design, and instead opted to update its latest phone with aesthetics that you would come to expect from any other smartphone in 2018: a glass back and notch. The generic look of such an aesthetic, and the steadily creeping prices of OnePlus’ flagships (a 43% rise from the £329 OP3 to the £469 OP6), is bringing OnePlus precariously close to the boundary between “flagship” and “flagship killer”. And while the OnePlus 6 has yet to cross this line, it certainly is straddling it. Only time will tell if the rise of “flagship killer killers” like the S$449 Pocophone F1 will uproot OnePlus’ position as the go-to budget phone for Android enthusiasts. But for now, the OnePlus 6 is an excellent flagship phone with excellent software and software support, at a marginally lower price than the competition, and that is certainly enough to get a recommendation from me.

Technical Specifications

  • 155.7 x 75.4 x 7.8 mm
  • 177g
  • Dual nano SIM
  • 6.28” 19:9 1080p Optic AMOLED
  • Corning Gorilla Glass 5
  • OxygenOS with Android 8.1 (Oreo), upgradeable to Android 9.0 (Pie)
  • Qualcomm SDM845 Snapdragon 845 Octa-core (4×2.8 GHz Kryo 385 Gold & 4×1.7 GHz Kryo 385 Silver)
  • Adreno 630 GPU
  • 6/64, 8/128 or 8/256GB, non-expandable
  • Rear cameras
  • Front camera
    • 16 MP, f/2.0, 25mm, 1/3″, 1.0µm, 1080p
  • Bluetooth 5.0, aptX HD, NFC
  • USB-C with 20W DASH Charge
  • 3300mAh battery

Design and Build

As mentioned in the TL;DR section, OnePlus has adopted the generic look of 2018, ditching the metal build of the OP5T for a glass back and notched display, but chose not to adopt the wireless charging that glass allows. That being said, the design is very well-implemented and has a clean, symmetrical look. Unlike certain flagships, the fingerprint sensor is perfectly-located. The camera bump has also been greatly reduced compared to its predecessor.

The unit that I got is the 6/64GB mirror black version, which is the only colour option that you can get in this configuration. In photos, the mirror black looks similar to Apple’s jet black iPhones, but in person it is actually rather different due to its highly reflective nature. It is quite literally a black mirror. Naturally, such a surface is a fingerprint magnet. If you want a less fingerprint-y back you’ll have to upgrade your storage option so as to get either the midnight black or silk white version, or cover your phone in a case or skin.

Other than the fingerprints, the glass design comes with its usual trade-offs: fragility and weight. The 6 is 177g compared to the 162g 5T, which is certainly noticeable in your hands. Fortunately, it isn’t heavy to the point of being uncomfortable, unlike the Galaxy Note9 which I recently reviewed.

Looking around the device, the headphone jack is still here at the bottom (apparently the final one on a OnePlus device), while the SIM and alert slider have swapped places such that the alert slider is now on the right, above the power button. This is a welcome change as the slider is now more accessible with your thumb, allowing for one-handed adjustments.

Overall the OnePlus 6 is a solidly built device, and feels great in the hand, being roughly the same dimensions as even the two-year-old OnePlus 3 while packing a much larger screen.

Display

A 6.28” 1080p 19:9 notched Optic AMOLED display occupies much of the front of the phone (83.8% screen-to-body ratio). As far as notches go, it is definitely one of the better ones, being smaller than the ones found on the iPhone X, or the LG G7+ ThinQ which I’ve recently reviewed. The notch houses a small earpiece, front camera, proximity and ambient light sensors, and a notification LED. Another notable thing is the relatively small chin of the phone. While not as small as the one on the iPhone X, it is certainly one of the smaller ones I’ve seen on Android.

The display itself is wonderful. The AMOLED panel gives vibrant colours and deep blacks, and gets sufficiently bright outdoors. More importantly, for me at least, colours are accurate to the sRGB and DCI-P3 colour spaces, and can be toggled in the display settings. In fact, the OnePlus 6 is listed as one of YouTube’s signature devices due to its meeting of YouTube’s requirements. Those spoilt by 1440p screens may be left wanting, but for majority of people, this display will certainly not disappoint.

Performance

The OnePlus 6 packs the latest Snapdragon 845 from Qualcomm, along with 6/64GB, 8/128GB and 8/256GB storage options. The unit that I am reviewing is the 6/64GB one. Performance during my review period is expectedly fast and smooth for a phone whose slogan is “The Speed You Need”. Having previously owned a OnePlus 3 myself, I can say that unlike some other phones that get bogged down by ageing software and hardware after a year or two, OnePlus devices generally remain fast even after years of use (MKBHD himself even switched from a Pixel 2 XL to a OnePlus 6 because of the increasingly laggy performance of the former).

I have no concerns whatsoever with the OnePlus 6’s performance, both now and in the future.

Software

OnePlus’ software has always been excellent. Oxygen OS is clean and very similar to stock Android, but with added functionality where it counts. Some of my personal favourites include:

  • Customisable secondary actions for virtual back, home and recents buttons. I have long press of the home button to open the notification centre and long press of the recent button to engage split screen. You can also assign actions to a double press of each of these buttons
  • Gestures
    • Gestures when screen is off
      • Music control (play, pause, skip track)
      • Turning on the flashlight
      • Double tap to wake
      • Flip to mute incoming calls
    • Gestures on the homescreen
      • Swipe down for notifications
      • Three finger swipe for screenshots
      • Option to enable a gesture-based navigation system instead of the traditional back, home, recents buttons
  • Miscellaneous features
    • Scrolling screenshots
    • Dual apps
    • Dark and light theming with accent colours, with more extensive theming enabled with Andromeda X Substratum and Ozone plugin
    • Automatically resuming media playback when headphones are connected

Perhaps more important than software is the software support that the company provides. From the OnePlus 3 onwards, OnePlus has had excellent software support for all of its phones. The company had promised up to Android Oreo for the OnePlus 3, and indeed the OnePlus 3 was one of the first devices to get Oreo, one and a half years after the device’s release. The company had no obligation to provide any more OS updates to the now 2-year-old OnePlus 3, but went one step further and announced that it would be upgrading the OnePlus 3 to Android 9.0 Pie. This means that the OnePlus 3 would remain on the latest Android OS, 3 years after its release, and would have gone through 4 – FOUR – major versions of Android at the end of its life cycle. This is nothing short of unprecedented from an Android OEM (that isn’t Google itself). And given the strong software foundation that OnePlus has provided for their phones since the 3, the developer community on XDA is bound to see that these phones will continue to be supported through several more iterations of Android even after official support has ended.

Furthermore, for enthusiast users, OnePlus even offers Open Beta channels for all of its devices, allowing you to get the latest features and Android security patches as soon as they are available. From personal experience, I’ve found that the Open Beta software on my OnePlus 3 is more than stable enough for daily-driver material. The more than 2-year-old OnePlus 3 is currently on the July 2018 security patch, and even though this isn’t the latest patch available, it is definitely still more up-to-date than majority of the phones put out in the last 2 years by other manufacturers.

Do note that the OnePlus 6 Open Beta will give you Android 9.0 Pie, but as of now Google Pay will not work on this build. Do take note of listed missing features and ensure that you know what you’re doing before flashing Open Beta builds.

For me personally, the software is a major selling point of OnePlus devices.

Camera

  • 16 MP, f/1.7, 25mm, 1/2.6″, 1.22µm, OIS, PDAF
  • 20 MP (16 MP effective), f/1.7, 25mm, 1/2.8″, 1.0µm, PDAF

The dual rear camera setup of the OP6 doesn’t come with the advantage of having two different focal lengths for added flexibility. Instead, OnePlus opted for a primary 16MP shooter with OIS and a secondary 20MP shooter for depth sensing in portrait mode and for better night photography by grouping 4 pixels in software to behave as a single large pixel, giving a 5MP image.

I am very satisfied with the image quality, certainly more so than that of the LG G7+ which I recently reviewed. There isn’t any oil-painting effect or oversharpening, and HDR does an excellent job of recovering details from the shadows. Colours look natural yet vibrant, and focusing is fast and accurate thanks to phase-detection autofocus (PDAF).

In low-light conditions, images are rather noisy and a little over-sharpened. HDR kicks in but struggles to balance shadows and highlights from light sources. Detail however, is preserved rather well. While less than ideal, images are still more than acceptable for mobile or social media sharing.

Battery Life

Battery life has been excellent despite the mediocre 3300mAh battery. I’d say that it’s up to par with the 4000mAh Note9. I’m able to consistently get around 5 hours of screen on time on most days, with web browsing, video streaming, and audio streaming over bluetooth. I am never worried about running out of battery before the end of the day, even with rather heavy usage.

Even if the phone does run out of battery, DASH charging provides ridiculously quick charging speeds at 20W, giving you about 60% charge in half an hour. This is another feature that I’ve come to greatly appreciate from OnePlus devices. Compared to the measly 5W chargers that Apple is bundling with its new iPhones or the outdated QuickCharge 2.0 used on the Note9, DASH charging is a godsend.

Conclusion

After spending a couple of weeks with the OnePlus 6, it seems that my only major gripe with the phone is its price. Starting at S$868/£469 (~S$760 with a 10% student discount on oneplus.com/uk), OnePlus is not the affordable brand that it was before. That being said, the OnePlus 6 is still much cheaper than the competition while providing a superior software experience, and more importantly, superior software support.

You can get the OnePlus 6 officially from Lazada at S$868 for the 6/64GB version, S$988 for 8/128GB, and S$1088 for 8/256GB. As usual, using shopback during your purchase will net you some additional cashback savings.

If you’re considering the OnePlus 6, you’ve probably heard of the Xiaomi Pocophone F1, a device that costs S$449 for 6/64GB (expandable) storage and the same S845 processor. It’s even got some things that the OnePlus 6 lacks, like a water-cooling system, stereo speakers, secure Face ID-like cameras on the front, and a larger 4000mAh battery. However, it lacks NFC, lacks the premium glass build and feel of the OnePlus 6, is bulkier, has a poorer set of cameras, an LCD screen instead of AMOLED, and Xiaomi’s MIUI skin on top. It does come with 18W fast charging though, with the charger bundled in the box (unlike Apple).

The existence of the Pocophone F1 makes for an awkward situation. OnePlus’ key marketing strategy has been its notion of a “flagship killer” (albeit admittedly less so in recent years), but now the Pocophone shows up at almost literally half the price of the OnePlus 6 while offering many of the same features. The Pocophone is doing to OnePlus what the OnePlus One did to the likes of HTC, LG and Sony 4 years ago.

Can I recommend the OnePlus 6 over the Pocophone? Honestly I am unsure myself. I’ve handled a Pocophone, but have not used one as a daily driver. If price wasn’t a factor, I’d get the OnePlus hands down. But considering the price, it boils down to me asking myself the question: “Is the inclusion of NFC, a better build, software and camera worth the ~$300 premium?”

For now, I think the answer is yes. But we’ll have to wait for the 6T to see if OnePlus’ hike in prices will continue to be matched with a proportionate rise in value.

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