OnePlus 6T review: aggressively marching towards the future

Rating: 8.5/10

Yay:

  • Improved battery life
  • More comfortable, ergonomic design
  • In-display fingerprint scanner feels futuristic
  • Great AMOLED display with a tiny notch
  • Still blazing fast

Nay:

  • No headphone jack
  • Cameras performance hasn’t been improved
  • No wireless charging or IP certification

Introduction

Goodbye, headphone jack. We love you but your future is bleak on smartphones.

Yes, let that sink in. The headphone jack is not coming back. The newly-launched OnePlus 6T omits it in favour of a bigger battery and an in-display fingerprint scanner.

But does that mean you shouldn’t buy the phone? Well, that’s what I am going to find out in my full review of the OnePlus 6T: the phone that continues to be faster than the Flash on crack but takes a few design liberties that might be irritating for loyal OnePlus fans. 

OnePlus 6T design: further refined but not without missteps

Let’s address the elephant in the room, the OnePlus 6T doesn’t have a headphone jack. The reason for this is the bigger battery inside the phone. Furthermore, the bigger battery means that the phone is perceptibly fatter and thicker now. While the OnePlus 6 was fairly slim at 7.8mm, the OnePlus 6T is 8.2mm thick. That’s not it, the OnePlus 6T (185g) is 8 grams heavier than the OnePlus 6 (177g). And, you know what? That is not necessarily a bad thing. Why? Because – despite the added girth the OnePlus 6T – it is easier to hold and use. 

The reason for this is that the OnePlus 6T now has a taller display aspect ratio of 19.5:9 compared to the 19:9 aspect ratio of the OnePlus 6. This means that the OnePlus 6T is not as wide as the OnePlus 6. Moreover, the OnePlus 6T has a far more pronounced curve on the rear compared to the flatter back on the OnePlus 6. This adds to the good ergonomics of the phone as the phone nestles inside your palm like a baby.

On the flip side, the problems with using glass for construction is that the Mirror Black variant (our review unit) attracts smudges and, in due time, scratches as well. I’d suggest using a case or a skin with the phone. OnePlus bundles one in the box, so that’s good. By the way, the OnePlus 6T also comes in a Midnight Black variant. 

At the bottom, apart from the missing jack, you get a USB Type-C port flanked on either side by grilles. The grille on the left houses the speaker and the one on the right is there for symmetry. The button placement is the same as the one on the OnePlus 6 and it continues to be super tactile. Lest I forget, the SIM card tray on the left edge accepts two nano-SIM cards. 

All in all, the OnePlus 6T is a further refinement of the glass sandwich design. There are not many phones in this price range that can boast of such exquisite engineering. It looks good, feels good, but some design omissions are glaring.

 The missing headphone jack is going to be a part of many debates soon. I am sure our comments section is going to be lit too. Also, let’s not forget that the OnePlus 6T still has no IP certification or wireless charging. So, that’s definitely a bummer.

OnePlus 6T display and in-display fingerprint reader: the future is here but the future is broken

The OnePlus 6T now comes with a larger 6.41-inch display and a taller aspect ratio of 19.5:9 and a resolution of 2340×1080 pixels. But the biggest change is the notch has been cut down to the size of a small waterdrop. It is super non-intrusive. This makes watching videos and playing games so much fun. I am sure you will love it. And in case you are like my colleague Sreehari who absolutely hates the notch, you can also switch it off. But, switching off the notch reveals that the cutout on the top is not symmetrical. It is slightly more curved compared to the OnePlus 6, so that’s good. 

The other new inclusion to the OnePlus 6T is the new in-display fingerprint sensor. It is fairly fast and convenient but it is really not very accurate. There were many times when the scanner would fail to register my fingerprint. Apparently, OnePlus had a working prototype of the OnePlus 5T with an in-display scanner. I am glad they didn’t go with it because even now the technology is not ready for prime time. I’d take a physical scanner any day, which is not very surprising because in my time with the 6T I was constantly feeling for one on the rear. Anyway, there is also the super fast face scanner for you guys to use. 

Rants aside, the Optic-AMOLED display itself continues to be among the best in this price range. It offers adequately deep blacks and crisp, bright colours. That’s not it, you can calibrate the colour science of the screen according to your preference. For example, you could pick the DCI-P3 colour space if you are a fan of the wider colour gamut like me. There is a slight colour shift that you will notice especially on a white page but it is characteristic of AMOLED panels. Not really a big issue as such. 

The AMOLED display also includes a lift to wake feature for ambient notifications. OnePlus says this is the reason why the notification LED has been dropped. The LED notification light never mattered to me much, but I know this could be worriesome for a few folks. 

One of the latest additions to the front display panel is Corning’s Gorilla Glass 6. This makes the OnePlus 6T one of the very few phones that come with the latest version of Corning’s very popular glass protection technology. I believe it is more resistant to breaking, scratching…maybe not so much.

OnePlus 6T software: still friggin great

If there is one company that has been consistent with software updates, it has to be OnePlus. The OnePlus 6T runs on Oxygen OS 9.0.3 on top of Android 9, which is the latest version of Android. And there is no doubt in my mind, that Oxygen OS is my most favourite Android skin yet. It is just so fluid and smooth that I am always in awe of the optimisation. The story doesn’t end there, you also get so many minor tweaks and customisation options. 

For example, you can change the colour accents in the theme. Or, there is a hidden space for apps that you don’t want others to access. It is all pretty handy and useful. But what you need to look at closely are the new gesture animations. They have been improved to be more fluid…just like the iPhone X. Now, when you pull up from the bottom and hold an app, it moves freely in the space as an overlay. It doesn’t feel very staccato or rigid anymore. 

 

That said, it sucks that the vibration engine is not as good as the iPhone X. Why? Because, when you pull and hold an app, the entire bottom portion of the phone vibrates. On a phone with a good haptic feedback like the Pixel 3 and the iPhone X, you get a precision response that makes the phone give you a tactile feedback at the point of contact. You must feel it, to understand the difference. 

 

The Gaming mode has also been upgraded now. You can now choose to get notifications as only white text, which makes it even more non-intrusive. And, it continues to do the same great things to improve the gaming performance like limit network access for other apps, kill other apps in the background, and more. 

OnePlus 6T camera: no improvements 

The camera specs on the OnePlus 6T are practically unchanged from the OnePlus 6. It is not necessarily a bad thing, but it is a case of missed opportunities. No, not because the specs are same, but because the OnePlus 6T’s camera algorithm is completely unchanged. Compare that to the Mi MIX 3 and you will see that, despite using the same camera module as the Mi MIX 2S and the Mi 8, it offers better picture quality. Xiaomi has essentially improved the software processing by leaps and bounds that the Mi MIX 3 is currently in the third rank in DxOMark ranking. 

I am not saying that the OnePlus 6T takes bad pictures. I am merely highlighting the point that OnePlus should have done something to reduce the sharpening issues and soft details in the selfie camera. Just take a look at the camera samples in comparison with the OnePlus 6. There is virtually no difference in the colour temperature or the dynamic range or the sensor details…or anything at all. Heck, if you want better processing to get the new Google camera API installed on the OnePlus 6T. 

OnePlus 6T

OnePlus 6

Well, let’s take a look at the new Nightscape mode, which by the way is coming to the OnePlus 6 too. The Nighscape mode is disappointing actually. All it does is reduce the noise, accentuate the flaws with its aggressive algorithm, and change the colour temperature. The only good thing about the night mode is that it improves the dynamic range. 

OnePlus 6T regular

OnePlus 6T Night Scape

Moving on to the improvements to the portrait mode. OnePlus makes claims that it has worked with acclaimed portrait photographer, Kevin Abosch, to refine the algorithm. Honestly, I merely see a warm tone and nothing more. 

OnePlus 6T

OnePlus 6

All in all, I am slightly disappointed that OnePlus hasn’t improved on the cameras of the OnePlus 6. 

OnePlus 6T regular

OnePlus 6T night scape

The phone can still take some stunning pictures in the right conditions but it is not really innovating on the camera front.

OnePlus 6T performance: fast and furious

I will be playing the broken record when I say that the OnePlus 6T is the fastest Android phone I’ve used to date. It flies through everything all thanks to the Snapdragon 845 SoC. And now, you get the OnePlus 6T in three variants: 6GB/128GB, 8GB/128GB, and 8GB/256GB. 

I got an AnTuTu score of 2,96,873, which is similar to what the OnePlus 6 achieves. I also managed to log a Gamebench fps stability of 96 percent with PUBG, which is on par for flagship phones. Also, the phone had no trouble in maintaining 40fps in HDR or 60fps in Smooth settings. And, the best part is the phone doesn’t heat up while playing either. You really cannot go wrong with the OnePlus 6T if you are looking for a performance monster. 

One new addition to the OnePlus 6T is the Smart Boost feature that exists in the OnePlus Laboratory setting. Smart Boost, essentially, offloads frequently-used big apps to the RAM making it faster to open them. For now, PUBG and Fortnite are supported. I tried opening PUBG on both the phones at the same time and voila Smart Boost legit boosts the speed of opening apps. Don’t know how much that speed difference is going to matter to folks but it works. Also, Smart Boost can easily be ported to the OnePlus 6 as well. 

I had no problem with 4G network stability on an Airtel connection in Gurgaon. It never broke the connection at all. However, the earpiece quality has gone down. The sound quality in calls at my end wasn’t too great. Maybe it has something to do with the speaker being moved to a slim slit at the top. The OnePlus 6 has a better earpiece, honestly. 

OnePlus 6T multimedia: great, no complaints

Coming to the multimedia prowess of the OnePlus 6T, with the headphone jack gone you get a dongle inside the box. I found the audio quality to be good enough for a phone that uses the SD845’s inbuilt DAC. I also tried out the new Type-C Bullets earphones. Unlike the wonderful sound signature of the original Bullets V2 earphones, the Type-C variant has a bloated low end and sounds average at best. I am not a fan of the sound signature. Just FYI, these earphones don’t come in the box. 

The OnePlus 6T, with support for high-resolution Bluetooth audio codecs like LDAC, definitely serves the purpose and more for wireless audio. I tried a review unit of the Sony MDR-1000X M3 and they sounded so good! Also, the mono speaker at the bottom continues to be as loud as the OnePlus 6 and doesn’t distort at high volumes either. 

Like I mentioned before, watching videos on the OnePlus 6T’s bright and colourful display is a lot of fun, thanks in small part to the tiny notch. For those wondering, the phone does come with Widevine L1 support. While I still think the FHD+ resolution of the screen is good enough, moving to QHD now won’t hurt the brand. In fact, adding HDR support is vital for a phone like the OnePlus 6T in my opinion. Overall though, my multimedia experience with the OnePlus 6T was great.

OnePlus 6T battery: very impressive 

The OnePlus 6T has a bigger 3700mAh battery now. I am happy to report that it immediately translates to a better battery life. I easily got a screen-on-time SoT of anywhere between 6hrs 30 mins and 7hrs on regular usage, which includes a lot of calls, WhatsApp messages, a little bit of gaming, some music, and more. The phone will easily last you a day, maybe more if you are frugal with your usage. 

I am sure you are thinking, if the OnePlus 6T has a bigger battery does it take longer to charge it using Dash Charge? You know what, no! I actually managed to charge the battery from 0 to 100 in exactly 1 hour and 30 minutes. In fact, the phone trickle charges from 90 to 100 in the last 25 minutes, which means that it charges from 0 to 90 in around 65 minutes. That is truly impressive. So, not only do you get great battery performance, but you also get one of the fastest charging phones around. Kudos to OnePlus’ engineers for this feat.

Should you buy the OnePlus 6T?

The OnePlus 6T is a minor refresh over the OnePlus 6. The differences are not tempting enough to make an upgrade. OnePlus could’ve very well launched the OnePlus 6T as the Pro variant of the OnePlus 6 in May and the world would’ve been at peace. 

Yes, you get a better battery life with the OnePlus 6T. And, the in-display fingerprint scanner is futuristic. Not to forget, the notch is tiny. But, the half-yearly update this year is definitely underwhelming in terms of overall upgrades. 

Don’t get me wrong, I still liked the OnePlus 6T and I will easily recommend the phone to a lot of potential buyers, but the ‘oomph’ factor is missing. 

Let’s take a look at the alternatives and see where the OnePlus 6T stands. 

Also read: OnePlus 6 review: upholds its legacy of being the fastest phone on the planet

OnePlus 6

If you have a OnePlus 6, there is absolutely no need for you to make the switch. In fact, there are legit reasons why the OnePlus 6 is still better than the OnePlus 6T. The existing headphone jack being one. So, if you can’t forego the jack, the OnePlus 6 still holds up well. Oh, and it is a more cost-effective option too. 

Vivo Nex

The Vivo Nex is quite honestly an underrated, yet great phone. I like the large display and the fact that it has no notch. It offers a great screen estate that you will love watching movies on it. Not to forget, the Nex also offers an audiophile-grade sound quality. But, the Nex is undone by its software. You can go for the Nex if you don’t care about the software much and want a great multimedia performance instead. 

Also read: Vivo Nex review: deserves a standing ovation just for killing the notch

Vivo Nex 15

LG G7+ ThinQ

I legit love this phone. Except for the bad battery performance, the G7+ ThinQ is by far one of the most underrated phones to launch this year. And for its asking price of Rs 39,990, you can’t find a better deal. Heck, you get a 2K HDR10-ready display on the phone and IP certification. What more could you ask for? But, the OnePlus 6T is better with software updates and software implementation in general, I am sure this is a major advantage for many folks.

Also read: LG G7+ ThinQ: 5 reasons why it is better than the OnePlus 6 and Poco F1

Poco F1

Let’s compare with the Poco F1 for fun. It is not as premium as the OnePlus 6T, and doesn’t come with all the bells and whistles either. But, you get a Snapdragon 845 SoC with 6GB of RAM for just Rs 20,999. That’s undercutting the OnePlus 6T by a lot. If you want to save up some serious moolah, the Poco F1 is perfect for you. 

Also read: Poco F1 by Xiaomi review: don’t think it, just buy it

Poco F1 17

This year’s ’T’ upgrade is not the outright best OnePlus phone in 2018. There has to be something substantial for a half-yearly upgrade to be exciting right? The best example is last year’s OnePlus 5T – it was a marked improvement over the OnePlus 5. 

I believe that the OnePlus 6T is the best OnePlus phone yet, but it is also very unexciting. 

Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?