OnePlus 6 review: The best ever OnePlus phone is off to a flyer
OnePlus 6 treads a similar path to previous OnePlus handsets, squeezing in high-end hardware while keeping the price down.
By Alan Martin
15 Jun 2018
OnePlus has been rewarded for its brilliant new handset: the OnePlus 6 is officially the fastest-selling handset that the Chinese firm has ever produced. After 22 days, one million OnePlus 6 units have been sold, and as you can see from the graph below, it’s on a brilliant-looking trajectory compared to both its predecessors: the 5 and 5T.
That’s extra impressive, considering that in the UK it’s only available on contract via O2 as you can see on our OnePlus 6 deals page. Alternatively, you can buy the OnePlus 6 direct from OnePlus, or via O2. OnePlus is also offering a trade-in scheme. And if you’re still undecided, read on for Jon’s OnePlus 6 review below. Spoiler: it’s brilliant.
Original review continues below
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.
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.
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: 22 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 is the standard issue phone and comes in 6GB/64GB and 8GB/128GB configurations, while the Midnight Black comes in 8GB/128GB and 8GB/256GB versions.
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
Aside from the contentious notch, the display is 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.
Users can choose between a number of different screen “calibrations”: default, sRGB, DCI-P3 and Adaptive. In testing, both the sRGB and DCI-P3 profiles deliver pretty good gamut coverage of 97.1% and 94.3% respectively. That means the screen is easy on the eye, no matter the content or the colour profile you choose.
Strict colour accuracy isn’t the best particularly in dark green, light blue colours, where the screen renders colours a little darker than it should, but overall it’s not disastrous and movies, photos and games all look excellent.
The one area where the OnePlus 6 doesn’t quite come up to scratch is peak brightness. This only reaches 415cd/m2, which means on a super-sunny day, you might struggle to read your messages without shielding the screen with your hand or seeking a bit of shade. In most circumstances, though, you’ll find the OnePlus’ screen more than adequate, especially as it’s so darned big.
OnePlus 6: Performance and battery life
Performance shouldn’t be particularly surprising, either. It has an octa-core Snapdragon 845 on board – the fastest available – is backed up by either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and it’s a touch quicker than the OnePlus 5T. In fact, as far as benchmark scores go, it’s exactly as expected, gaining similar results to the only other Snapdragon 845 phone we’ve tested thus far – the Sony Xperia XZ2 (the numbers you see below are for the version with 8GB of RAM):
It’s a similar story for 3D graphics performance with scores in the onscreen GFXBench test that are, essentially, capped by the refresh rate of the display itself (60Hz, means the onscreen score is never going to rise above 60fps). Even in the offscreen test, which is not limited by the display, you can see the OnePlus 6 is not meaningfully faster or slower than any of its near rivals. Only the Apple iPhone X breaks the mould but, remember, that is a phone that’s more than double the price of the OnePlus 6.
Battery life does take a hit this time but the OnePlus 6’s stamina is still absolutely fine, achieving a strong 17hrs 18mins in our video rundown test (for fairness, we run this a standard screen brightness of 170cd/m2 and put the phones into flight mode). Given that the phone has, in theory, a more efficient processor and the same size battery as the OnePlus 5T (3,300mAh), I can only surmise that it’s the new notched display that’s causing this slight decrease.
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 optical image stabilisation (OIS).
Both of these improvements should contribute to significantly better photos in low light and that is exactly what transpires. The difference between the OnePlus 6 and the OnePlus 5T is night and day, with the 6 producing cleaner, more detailed and less muddy shots than its predecessor. In our low light test, the OnePlus 6’s best photos were among the best we’ve seen, capturing subtle details I’ve only seen phones such as the Google Pixel 2 and Huawei P20 capture before.
OnePlus 6 (left) vs OnePlus 5T (right)
In daylight the good news continues. There is, again, a crisper feel to photographs, they’re more colourful than the 5T’s and HDR works a lot better as well, with much less of a tendency to blur out moving objects like trees and other foliage.
OnePlus 6 (left) vs OnePlus 5T (right)
It isn’t quite the best camera out there. It lacks the clean precision of the iPhone X, Pixel 2 and Huawei P20’s cameras and there’s still no zoom capability, so it isn’t as flexible, either. The second camera is there only to add depth data for the phone’s blurred background portrait mode, which works well, but isn’t noticeably better than the competition’s equivalent modes.
And although there is a slow-motion mode, 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.
Straight video recording is a more impressive, though, in that you can capture 4K at 60fps with OIS enabled. Again, it can’t quite match the iPhone X’s footage for silky smoothness – there’s the odd hitch here and there – but this is, so far, the smoothest, least shaky 4K video footage I’ve seen from any Android phone.
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.
But with cameras it’s the small things that make the big differences and that’s what OnePlus has focused on here. The OnePlus 6 now has a camera that, as a package, rivals the best in the business. The fact that the phone is so much cheaper than its rivals is simply the icing on the cake.
OnePlus 6: Software
The improvements to the phone as a whole are so dramatic and positive that OnePlus’ software updates merit a mere footnote in this review but mention them I must.
Principal among these is that it runs the latest version of Google’s mobile OS – Android 8.1 Oreo – and that OxygenOS isn’t particularly heavy handed with the tweaks. It does change some aspects of the way the OS works but it doesn’t come with many unnecessary apps pre-installed.
There are some new features, too, including app prioritisation, a new set of navigation gestures, that graphical tag for the alert slider I mentioned at the top of the review, and a new Gaming Mode. The latter is the most intriguing of the new features and includes a number of different optimisations targeted at those more serious about their mobile gaming.
Some improve performance and reducing distractions while others limit 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).
OnePlus 6: Verdict
The OnePlus 6 is a triumph and 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. It’s faster phone and has a camera that’s to be a better performer, too.
There some tiny disappointments. I’m a little surprised OnePlus hasn’t added fully certified water resistance, although it is nice to know some water resistance is in place. 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 deal breakers for me, especially given that the price of the OnePlus has risen a mere £19 over the 5T. In the current climate such a modest price rise is nothing short of miraculous.
In short, the OnePlus 6 represents the biggest bargain in the smartphone world. Just think about it for a moment. You’re getting a Snapdragon 845 phone that costs £300 less than the smaller Samsung Galaxy S9 and a camera that’s very nearly as good. A phone that’s £400 less than the Galaxy S9 Plus, £300 less than the Huawei P20 Pro and less than half the price of an iPhone X and, on pretty much every count, it’s a phone that’s superior to its predecessor. What are you waiting for? Go out and buy one.
OnePlus 6 specifications
Processor Octa-core 2.8GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Screen size 6.28in
Screen resolution 2,280 x 1,080
Screen type AMOLED
Front camera 16-megapixel
Rear camera 16-megapixel, 20-megapixel
Flash Dual LED
Storage (free) 128GB
Memory card slot (supplied) N/A
Wireless data 4G, dual-SIM
Dimensions 75.4 x 7.8 x 156mm (WDH)