OnePlus 6 hands-on review: The best OnePlus ever


The OnePlus 6’s launch tagline – “The Speed You Need” – got me worried the first time I heard it. It sounded almost apologetic – as if OnePlus wasn’t going to give us “All the Speed Available”, but only what it deemed was strictly necessary. Luckily, that hasn’t proven to be the case because inside the OnePlus 6 is, indeed, the fastest chip on the market: the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845.

READ NEXT: OnePlus 6 release date, price and specs

In this respect, the OnePlus 6 treads a similar path to OnePlus handsets of times gone by, squeezing in as much high-end hardware as possible while keeping the price down to a reasonable level. Back in 2014 that meant a phone costing £250 (which seems ridiculously cheap now, doesn’t it?) but with the caveat that it didn’t feel quite as well made as the established incumbents.

Today, it means a phone that’s fully capable of mixing it at the top of the smartphone market, both in terms of specification and design, but also one that’s, perhaps, not quite the insane bargain that some of its predecessors were.

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OnePlus 6: Specifications, price and release date

6.28in, 19:9, 2,280 x 1,080 (402ppi) AMOLED display
Octa-core 2.65GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor
6/8GB of RAM
64/128/256GB of UFS 2.1 storage
“Everyday water resistance”
16MP f1.7 with OIS and 20MP f/1.7 rear cameras
16MP f/2 front camera
£469 (Mirror Black, 6GB RAM, 64GB storage)
£519 (Mirror Black, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage)
£519 (Midnight Black, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage)
£569 (Midnight Black, 8GB RAM, 256GB storage)
£519 (Silk White, 8GB RAM, 128GB storage)
£500 from O2 on pay as you go
£20 up front on a £40/mth, 4GB data contract (O2)
Release date: 22nd of May

OnePlus 6: Design

The good news is that the price hasn’t risen as much as I’d feared this year, with prices starting at £469; a mere £19 more than the OnePlus 5T. In even better news, the phone itself has improved a lot.

The first thing you might notice, were you to hold OnePlus 6 next to the 5T, is that the screen is bigger. It’s grown from 6in to a huge 6.3in, leading to a slight growth in thickness (0.4mm) and weight (14g), though the phone has shrunk marginally in height and width, softening the impact.

That’s pretty impressive but this is still a big phone and, while you can hold it in one hand reasonably comfortably thanks to the screen’s 19:9 aspect ratio, it remains a bit too tall for my liking.

The second difference, and one perhaps more noticeable than the size change, is that OnePlus has joined the metal-and-glass design brigade, sandwiching the front and the rear of the phone in glitzy Gorilla Glass 5.

It’s available in three different colours: “silk” white, a matte “midnight” black and a glossy “mirror” black, of which the silk white is the most attractive to my eyes. Here, the glass has a smooth, frosted finish and a coloured layer beneath that’s been impregnated with real powdered pearl dust. It gives the OnePlus 6 a milky, mother-of-pearl appearance that I haven’t seen before on a phone.

Note, though, that this is a limited edition, only available in the pricier 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage configuration. The Mirror Black OnePlus 6 comes in 6GB/64GB and 8GB/128GB configurations, while the Midnight Black comes in 8GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB versions.

Elsewhere, the phone’s dual camera has been repositioned to the middle, where it sits, exclamation mark-like, above the newly square-shaped fingerprint reader. And, on the front, visible from the moment you turn on the phone, is that notorious notch.

OnePlus’ founder Carl Pei told us in the build-up to the launch of the OnePlus 6 that we should “embrace the notch” and I’m minded to agree with him. Once you get used to using a phone with a notch you stop noticing it’s there; if this is the one thing that stops you from buying a OnePlus 6 you need to take a serious look at your priorities.

For what it’s worth, the notch on the OnePlus 6 is smaller than the one on the iPhone X, allowing more notifications and status icons to be squeezed in alongside it at the top edge to its left and right. Plus, you can also “hide” the notch by enabling an option in the Display settings, although all this does is apply a black strip along the top of the screen. Notification icons are still shown either side of the notch in this mode so, to my mind, it doesn’t make a huge amount of difference.

It has a notch. Get used to it.

The final differences in design and features range between the significant and subtle and not all of them are positive. Yet again, there’s no IP rating for the OnePlus 6, which means it’s not officially dust- or water-resistant. OnePlus is, however, this year saying that the phone is “water resistant for everyday use”. What this says to me is that it should shrug off a rain shower – but good luck getting it fixed under warranty if it gets wet and actually stops working.

Elsewhere, the three-position “alert slider” switch, which is used to put the phone into vibrate and silent modes, has been moved from the left edge to the right. More usefully, it’s accompanied by a software tag that shows you what mode you’ve selected as you move it up and down.

Otherwise, the physical layout remains largely the same as the OnePlus 5T, including the 3.5mm headphone jack, the USB Type-C socket on the bottom edge and the single speaker grille. As before, there’s dual SIM capability but no microSD expansion or wireless charging, though OnePlus has improved the phone’s download speed capability, upping it from the 600Mbits/sec maximum of the 5T to 1Gbits/sec in this phone.

OnePlus 6: Display, performance and battery life

Aside from the contentious notch, the display should be very similar to the previous generation OnePlus 5T. The OnePlus 6 sticks with 1080p for the resolution (2,280 x 1,080) which is perfectly adequate unless you’re actively looking for a phone to use for VR. It’s still an AMOLED panel, too, so black is dark and inky and colours are rich and vibrant. To my eyes, it looks very similar to the OnePlus 5T’s screen but I’ll confirm numbers when I post my full review next week.

Performance shouldn’t be particularly surprising, either. It has an octa-core Snapdragon 845 on board – the fastest available – and all phones we’ve tested so far with this specification have benchmarked to within a few percentage points of each other. The OnePlus 6 should be no different, whether you buy a model with 6GB or 8GB of RAM.

And, while there may very well be a difference in battery life I’m not going to be able to tell you anything concrete about that until we’ve put the OnePlus 6 through our regular video rundown test and used the phone for a week or so. Again, though, I’d be very surprised if it were significantly different from the OnePlus 5T, given the battery has exactly the same capacity of 3,300mAh.

OnePlus 6: Camera

What should change for the better is the photographs you can capture with the OnePlus 6 over the OnePlus 5T. And that’s because, although the specifications look similar on paper, the main 16-megapixel camera module has been swapped out for one with a 19% bigger surface area and with optical image stabilisation (OIS).

Both of these improvements should contribute to significantly better photos in low light. At least that’s the theory. Again, I’ll bring you more when I’m able to.

As for features, however, I’m afraid the OnePlus 6 is going to disappoint you this year. There’s still no zoom capability – the second camera is there only to add depth data for the phone’s blurred background portrait mode – and, although there is a slow-motion mode, it can’t match the 960fps modes offered by handsets like the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Sony Xperia XZ2.

All you get is the ability to capture 480fps clips at 720p or 240fps at 1080p. Video recording is a tad more impressive in that you can capture 4K at 60fps with OIS enabled (although not EIS).

The specifications for the camera are the least interesting bit, mostly, because they look identical to the 5T. The OnePlus 6 gets 16- and 20-megapixel f/1.7 cameras on the rear with a dual-LED flash to assist in low light, and a 16-megapixel f/2 camera at the front, which uses exactly the same Sony IMX371 sensor as the 5T.

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OnePlus 6: Software

As usual, the OnePlus 6 runs the latest version of Android and, on launch, this means Android 8.1 Oreo. OnePlus’ launcher software, OxygenOS, is layered on top of this, which changes some aspects of the way the OS works, but doesn’t come with any unnecessary apps pre-installed.

New features for the OnePlus 6 include app prioritisation, a new set of navigation gestures, that graphical tag for the alert slider, and a new Gaming Mode. The latter has a number of different optimisations aimed at those more serious about their mobile gaming. Some of these are aimed at improving performance and reducing distractions, while another limits frame rate and resolution in order to save battery life (though this only works on titles developed with the Unity engine at the current time).

Finally, if you’re the sort to get bored quickly, the OnePlus 6 is on the list of compatible phones for the Android P beta, so you can be first on the list to try out Google’s new mobile OS as well.

OnePlus 6: Early verdict

The OnePlus 6 looks to be an improvement over the OnePlus 5T in most ways. It’s a better-looking device and squeezes a larger display into a chassis that’s basically the same size as its predecessor, it will almost certainly be a faster phone and I’m expecting the camera to be a better performer, too.

There are disappointments. I’m a little surprised OnePlus hasn’t added fully certified water resistance, it would be nice to have an optical zoom on the second camera and I’m still baffled at the continuing lack of microSD card expansion.

But none of those are dealbreakers for me, especially since the price of the OnePlus has risen a mere £19 over the 5T, which is nothing in the overall scheme of things. I had been expecting a bump of £50 or more.

That means you’re getting a Snapdragon 845 phone costing £300 less than the smaller Samsung Galaxy S9, £400 less than the Galaxy S9 Plus and more than £300 less than the Huawei P20 Pro. On that count, the OnePlus 6 looks to be yet another triumph for the firm. I can’t imagine this verdict is going to change when I write my full review.

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