- Attractive design
- Good quality Super AMOLED display
- Notch is handled well
- Class-leading performance
- Best phone for gaming
- No wireless charging despite glass back
- No USB 3.0 in Type-C port
- Speaker is meh
How often do you see 1,600 fans of a smartphone brand braving the sweltering Mumbai heat and waiting patiently to register themselves for a launch event after paying 1000 bucks for the ticket? Not too often, I suppose.
Well, that’s OnePlus for you. It is possibly the only Android brand – apart from Xiaomi – that generates Apple levels of hysteria. The brand’s latest smartphone – the OnePlus 6 – is a step in a new direction; one that includes a more premium glass sandwich design and a display with a notch.
Stay with me find out if the OnePlus 6 is worth all the hype, and more importantly – worth your money.
OnePlus 6 Design: no OnePlus phone has ever looked this good
The OnePlus 6 is a stunning smartphone. There are no two ways about it. You just have to see it once to believe it. This is because, for the first time, OnePlus has used glass to make the phone – moving from its long time favourite Aluminium. I know that a lot of ingenious folks would like to call the OnePlus 6 a copy of the iPhone X (from the front) and the Samsung Galaxy S9 (from the rear). Be that as it may, I still appreciate the level of craftsmanship that has gone into making a product like this. And, at least the OnePlus 6 doesn’t feel like a cheap clone and has a personality of its own.
The review unit sent to Mr. Phone was the one with the Mirror Black finish. But, the Silk White and the Midnight Black colours are the real MVPs. Especially, the Silk White variant with Rose Gold accents is the sexiest White phone I’ve seen till date. What stands out about these two variants is the fact that somehow OnePlus has managed to create a matte finish. And unless you look very closely, you won’t be able to tell it is actually glass. In fact, the first time I saw the Midnight Black variant I actually thought it was made of metal. Looks can surely be deceiving.
The glass sandwich design has been reinforced by a metal railing. Also, to maintain the glass finish across the design, OnePlus has also polished the metal railing to create a glass effect overall. As a result — across the length, breadth, width, and girth of the OnePlus 6 — you get an illusion of holding one slab of glass. Furthermore, the glass on the back and the front is protected by Corning Glass 5, which should save it from scratches. And, it does indeed. Word of advice, either replace the pre-applied screen guard with a better alternative or just don’t use one.
Now there are two inherent problems of using glass to make phones:
- It is a smudge magnet. The OnePlus 6’s Mirror Black variant is particularly bad in this case.
- It causes the phone to slip easily and the OnePlus 6 is no different.
The best and only solution at the moment is to use a case with the phone. Thankfully, OnePlus bundles a regulation transparent Silicon case in the box with the phone. Also, the OnePlus original cases are damn cool, especially the new Nylon finish one. Before I forget, let me tell you that the OnePlus 6 is water resistant and can withstand a slight rainfall too. Only thing, the water resistance is not an IP-certified feature. I am presuming it is so because OnePlus wants to save the cost involved in certification.
As for the cameras, the dual camera module on the rear has been moved to the top center, and it is now placed in a vertical orientation. There is a slight camera bump but now I am so used to it that it doesn’t really bother me. Don’t think it will matter to you either.
Below the cameras you can find the dual-LED flash module. And below that sits the newly redesigned fingerprint scanner, which is now oval in shape. Does this affect the experience of using the scanner? Nope. Although it doesn’t really matter, primarily because OnePlus’ face unlocking protocol is extremely efficient. It is by far the fastest face unlock you can find on any smartphone. Period. To be entirely honest, I’m not really sure how secure it is.
Interestingly, OnePlus has moved the alerts slider to the right now. This has been done to accommodate a slight change to the arrangement of the PCB inside of the phone. What this means is that long time OnePlus users might need to retrain their muscle memory but it’s hardly an inconvenience as far as new users are concerned. Also, OnePlus has taken feedback from its core community and removed the DND mode from the slider. Now you get three options: Ring, Vibrate, and Silent. However, I’d really like the option to customise this slider to my preferences. That kind of freedom for users would be unparalleled.
The power button sits below the alerts slider on the right, and the volume rocker is on the left. Both these buttons are extremely tactile and very well-built. Now, the SIM card tray – which accepts two Nano SIM cards – can be found above the volume rocker. On the bottom edge you can find the USB Type-C port at the bottom flanked on either sides by the 3.5mm jack (can’t thank OnePlus enough) and the speaker. Now the problem is that OnePlus uses the USB 2.0 standard inside the Type-C, which means that theoretically you will get slower speeds than USB 3.0 or 3.1. Nerds like me will find this to be an issue but most people won’t care. I mean the speeds are fine and the actual reason for OnePlus to not include USB 3.0 standard in the Type-C port is because Dash Charge 2.0 wouldn’t have been possible otherwise.
One major missed opportunity in OnePlus’ glass-bodied smartphone is the lack of wireless charging. OnePlus claims that since wireless charging is not as fast as Dash Charge, it doesn’t make sense to include it. My money is on wireless charging being introduced in the OnePlus 6T. Only time will tell.
All said and done, I have to tell you this: the OnePlus 6 is a massive phone and using it with one hand is going to be a pain and a half. That apart, in my opinion, OnePlus has outdone itself with the design of the OnePlus 6.
OnePlus 6 Display: vibrant colours in your face
A large 6.28-inch Super AMOLED 19:9 display that looks super impressive from the get go. There’s a notch at the top and a small chin at the bottom that enables a nearly bezel-less display. For those wondering, the chin at the bottom is not really an irritant because once you start using the phone it soon becomes a part of your peripheral vision.
And as you might know already, the notch can be switched off. But that’s not it, OnePlus – like Huawei – decides to switch off the notch entirely in the landscape mode while watching videos. It’s the best solution…for now at least. Moreover, the near pitch black reproduction means that the notch is masked very well. But, the curvature at the edges of the notch is not the same level as the curvature of the chin at the bottom. Which is definitely a minor annoyance for someone who appreciates good symmetry. For those wondering, the notch includes the earpiece, the front facing camera, and the LED notification light.
As far as the display quality is concerned, this Super AMOLED panel is extremely well-calibrated. You can choose to change the colour calibration to the RGB or DCI-P3 colour gamut, from the settings. So that’s definitely an advantage. I have no problem with the viewing angles either but the brightness levels could’ve ideally been better, in all honesty. Therefore, viewing the screen under direct sunlight is not a great experience. Also, the auto brightness is overtly aggressive. It has a bad tendency to reduce the brightness at every given opportunity. I am guessing OnePlus is doing this to save battery life, but that’s just a wild guess.
Oh and before I forget, I really don’t have a problem with the 2280x1080p resolution of the display. It is crisp enough. And, VR is still in its nascency so a QHD resolution display is still not a must have feature for me.
Overall, this is one of the best displays you can find on an Android smartphone.
OnePlus 6 Software: the same solid Oxygen OS experience
Here’s the thing, stock Android is great and all but I like subtle customisations that can add value. In fact, I really think OnePlus’ Oxygen OS is a thoughtfully laid out piece of OS that deserves all the love it gets. Before I even start talking about my favourite features, I love the fact that OnePlus has optimised the animations to almost nil. It makes the phone so fast that even the Pixel feels slow in comparison sometimes. Nope, I am not kidding.
As usual, let’s break down what I like and don’t like about Oxygen OS. Let’s start off with the good stuff. Note that not all the features are necessarily new, so it can also exist in the OnePlus 5 and the 5T.
- The navigation gestures are very well tuned. Once you get the hang of it, it is difficult to go back to onscreen buttons.
- The Reading Mode is a class act. I read a lot on my Kindle but ever since I figured out I could use the Reading Mode, I gave up on my Kindle. It changes the colour temperature of the display to a warmer tone making it easier on the eyes. Moreover, you can individually pick and choose apps to automatically switch to the Reading Mode when you use it.
- Gaming Mode is also a pretty cool feature to have. It let’s you have a distraction free gaming experience. I find it useful because many of my PUBG sessions have been interrupted because someone made a phone call.
- You can view apps in split screen and there is universal search in the app drawer. Not entirely unique features but good to have for sure.
- There are other gestures too. For example, you can flip the phone over to mute the call. Yeah, Google is not the first to introduce it in Android P. It has existed in customised forks of Android since time immemorial. See, brand skins do Android offer some really cool features and stock Android follows suit.
- Tweaking the colour scheme of the Theme never gets old.
- There’s no bloatware.
Moving on to the bad points of Oxygen OS:
- I cannot think of a single point. Seriously.
OnePlus 6 Camera: pretty good but still not flagship-grade
As far as the cameras are concerned, the setup is primarily the same with slight improvements. The OnePlus 6 has the same 16MP+20MP dual camera setup on the rear. However, the primary 16MP camera uses a Sony IMX519 sensor with has a pixel size of 1.22um, which is obviously bigger than last year. What does this mean for photography? Well ideally, better details. Moreover, the lens attached to the primary camera is optically stabilised now.
OnePlus has also upped the ante as far as recording video is concerned. You can now record 4K 60fps video with electronic image stabilisation (EIS). You can also shoot 480fps slow motion video at 720p quality. On the front you, get the same 16MP front facing camera but now with the ability to shoot portrait, which incidentally was not available at the time of publishing this review. The camera app is very well laid out and you won’t have a problem navigating through the different menus. For fans of manual controls, the app also provides a neat Pro mode with support for shooting in RAW.
Note: All images have been resized for the web.
Before I even begin analysing our camera samples, let’s address the elephant in the room: what is the purpose of the secondary camera? Here’s the thing, this time OnePlus is not using the secondary camera for hybrid zoom or to enhance pictures in low light under 10 lux. When I asked Szymon Kopec, OnePlus India’s Product Manager, he told me OnePlus is using the secondary camera for capturing depth in the portrait mode and for faster autofocusing capabilities. In all honesty, you don’t need a massive 20MP IMX376 sensor for capturing depth. You can achieve that with even a 2MP camera. And if the Google Pixel 2 is any example, you don’t even need two cameras on the rear for good bokeh. But, that won’t look good on OnePlus’ marketing material no? And about faster autofocus, well…I didn’t find any perceptible difference in speed. And therefor, the presence of a secondary camera to actually improve photography is questionable at best.
Anyway, moving on to the actual picture quality, the OnePlus 6 can capture a great amount of details and a decent dynamic range too. However, don’t expect flagship-grade images like you can capture from a Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy S9, or an iPhone X. OnePlus had to cut corners somewhere, right? Regardless, the camera finds a good middle ground.
For example, I like the fact that the noise reduction algorithm doesn’t smudge the details. But the tradeoff is that there is a decent amount of noise even in regular shots. Even the Pixel 2’s algorithm works this way and therefore this is a tradeoff I can live with. Moreover, the colour accuracy is pretty decent with the software’s tendency to accentuate the blues and the greens. But you cannot avoid the warm colour cast in daylight images. And surprisingly, the low light shots also holds up well. I managed to capture some good shots in less than ideal lighting conditions. Thanks to the presence of auto-HDR, more often than not the camera captures great dynamic range in low light. In fact, I’d suggest keeping the HDR mode on at all times because Snapdragon 845 is a really capable processor.
The camera can also capture 4K 60fps video, like I mentioned before, and I think you will like the final output. What I don’t understand is that when capturing videos, the camera tends to crank up the saturation which was unnecessary in my opinion. Regardless, the stabilisation of the video is pretty good and so is the audio recording quality. Also the details are mostly intact across the moving picture too, so that’s assuring. You can shoot 480fps slow motion video for a duration of 1 minute. But note that the details are slightly smudged unless you shoot in extremely good light.
As far as the quality of the 16MP camera is concerned, you can still capture great selfies. But note this, the camera cannot capture wide-angle video. In fact the field of view is so narrow, that I had to struggle to get my face in the entire frame. But the sound quality is insanely good, so good that it puts the iPhone X and the Pixel 2 to shame.
All in all, the cameras on the OnePlus 6 are good no doubt but they are not a major step up from the OnePlus 5T or even the OnePlus 5 for that matter.
OnePlus 6 Performance: supersonic speed
Coming to the bit that makes any OnePlus flagship a desirable device – the raw power at your disposal. The OnePlus 6 continues the legacy of being one of the fastest phones on the planet. Trust me, you cannot go wrong with 6/8 gigs of RAM and Snapdragon 845, which comes with Adreno 630 GPU. Couple that with 64GB/128GB/256GB of UFS 2.1 internal flash storage, you are looking at a phone that has no match at the moment.
And, the performance of the phone completely lives up to those specs. I mean, it just screams through everything you throw at it. Everything. From games to multitasking, the OnePlus 6 can sometimes shock you with its pace of performing tasks. Like I said, phones like the Pixel 2 and the iPhone X feel slow in comparison. Furthermore, the OnePlus 6 keeps apps in memory for as long as you want it to. Gone are the days of aggressive memory management. The other thing is the phone never heats up, even if you are playing games when charging your phone using Dash Charge. That’s some next level optimisation.
Also, gaming on the phone is a whole lot of fun. On one occasion, I got so engrossed in a game of PUBG that I forgot I was in a meeting. Didn’t end well for me, obviously. Don’t trust me, check the AnTuTu score and the Geekbench score.
Now as far as audio performance is concerned; through the 3.5mm port you get a fairly good sound output. The phone could drive my 1More Triple driver with ease it is definitely not audiophile-grade. You can get better sound from a Mi A1 or any LG flagship. During my testing I noticed one weird thing, Bluetooth connection on the phone kept dropping when I was testing the Beyerdynamic Aventho Wireless and the Bose SoundSport Free. In fact, the Aventho Wireless supports aptX HD format and I was keen on testing out the sound quality but the BT 5.0 connection on the OnePlus 6 had different plans. In fact, this could be an Android-wide issue and not specifically a problem on the OnePlus 6. Anyway, I won’t treat it as major concern because a simple software update can fix it. However, the single speaker at the bottom is a concern for me. It doesn’t get too loud and sounds muddy too. A few fellow reviewers claim it could have something to do with the coating used for water resistance.
As far as the earpiece quality is concerned, calls are crystal clear. Also, I was surprised that I didn’t face a single call drop even in bad network areas. Coming to the performance of the 3300mAh, I am slightly disappointed. I got an average screen on time of around 4 hours and 30 minutes, which is not bad but not great either. If you are a heavy user like I am, you are bound to drain your battery within. But why fear when Dash Charge is here. You can charge from 0 to 100 in around 1 hour and 30 minutes, which is frankly unbeaten till now. A good friend and a long time OnePlus fan told me that his power bank is in the drawer gathering dust, ever since he started using Dash Charge.
Should you buy the OnePlus 6?
If you are looking to buy a new Android phone in 2018, and don’t want to compromise on power – the OnePlus 6 is the best bet for you. It doesn’t hurt that the 8GB RAM/128GB storage variant costs only Rs 39,999 (the 6GB RAM with 64GB storage variant is Rs 34,999). I say only because trust right now – in the flagship smartphone space – you won’t find such a good value proposition. You can buy Oneplus 6 and get ₹2,000 off on SBI Card
The newly-launched Honor 10 is a kickass alternative too. Especially, because I think that phone is a head turner and so does my colleague Sreehari. His review is incoming soon. Phones like the Nokia 8, Mi Mix 2, and the Samsung Galaxy S8 are decent alternatives too but they are already a year old and therefore, not future proof. And if you want the only the best of the best, the OnePlus 6 comes out on top for me.
I am going to call it: the no-brainer phone.
Watch our full video review of the OnePlus 6 here: