OnePlus 6 review: Top-quality design, features and performance at a great price

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  • Editors' rating
    9.1 Spectacular
  • $529.00

Pros

  • Large 19:9 aspect-ratio screen
  • Up to 256GB of internal storage
  • Good battery life
  • Dual SIM
  • 3.5mm headset jack
  • Excellent value for money

Cons

  • No IP rating
  • No MicroSD slot for storage expansion

OnePlus has earned many glowing reviews for its handsets, and in doing so has set itself very high standards. Last autumn's OnePlus 5T and the OnePlus 5 that launched at about this time last year were both winners for me. The Chinese company has risen to the challenge again with the OnePlus 6 which, with flagship handset prices soaring this year, is a very competitive smartphone: prices start at £469 with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage ($529 in the US, $599 in Australia).

There are several variants of the OnePlus 6. The white shell wasn't available at launch, but that appeared earlier this month, and so the various options are:

RAMStorageColourPrice (UK / US)
6GB64GBmirror black£469 / $529
8GB128GBsilk white£519 / $579
8GB128GBmirror black£519 / $579
8GB128GBmidnight black£519 / $579
8GB256GBmidnight black£569 / $629

These prices aren't as low as OnePlus has targeted in the past, but it's worth noting that the 128GB version is just £20 more than the 128GB OnePlus 5T's launch price. That's quite an achievement, given the specification changes.

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As well as matte 'midnight' black, the 6.28-inch OnePlus 6 is available in reflective 'mirror' black and 'silk' white. It runs Qualcomm's Snapdragon 845 chipset and comes with 6GB or 8GB of RAM and up to 256GB of internal storage.

Images: OnePlus

Whichever option you choose, the handset has Gorilla Glass 5 front and back this time around, but you don't have to go for the shiny, reflective look that's so popular at the moment: 'mirror black' has the reflective look, but 'midnight black' has a matte finish, while 'silk white' -- which I haven't yet seen in the flesh -- seems to have a more pearlised finish to it.

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The textured three-way alert slider has moved to the right side on the OnePlus 6.

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

If you go for the entry-level OnePlus 6 model, you'll have to settle for (reflective) mirror black, while the maximum-storage variant only comes in (matte) midnight black.

Elsewhere on the hardware design front a couple of things have changed. The much-loved alert slider has switched sides, moving from the left to the right. It still has three positions, allowing you to easily put the handset into vibrate, ring or silent mode; a small screen bubble pops up when the slider is moved, showing which mode the handset is in.

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OnePlus once again steers clear of an IP rating -- a notable absence when this handset is compared with top-tier competition. However, OnePlus does provide a water-resistant layer between the screen and battery cover, waterproof materials in the headphone jack and fingerprint scanner, and silicon loops sealing the buttons. All this, says the company, equips the handset to survive a 'drop in the sink' or a 'spilled glass of water'.

OnePlus continues to support a 3.5mm headset jack, although that hasn't stopped it launching its own wireless earphones -- the £69.99/$69 OnePlus Bullets. The headset jack is on the bottom of the chassis, next to the USB-C charging/connection port and the single speaker grille. This layout is unchanged from the 5T model.

The OnePlus 6 is thicker (7.75mm vs 7.3mm), heavier (177g vs 162g) and slightly wider (75.4mm vs 75mm) than the OnePlus 5T, while also being a touch shorter (155.7mm vs 156.1mm). Despite this chassis shrinkage, the new handset packs a bigger screen -- 6.28 inches versus 6 inches.

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The OnePlus 6 has a 6.28-inch 1,080-by-2,280 screen (19:9 aspect ratio).

Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

OnePlus managed to squeeze a taller screen into a slightly shorter chassis by reducing the bottom bezel and by extending the screen into the roofspace and using the area to the left and right of the front camera to add height. The result is a 19:9 aspect ratio. Those who don't like the extra screen area around what's now widely known as the 'notch' can square off the display via a software setting.

If this sounds like the phone might be a bit unwieldy, well, smaller hands might find it so, but the big screen is a real boon when it comes to reading content in particular, and the phone's overall size is not out of keeping these days.

The screen is still a bright and punchy AMOLED with the same 402ppi pixel density as the OnePlus 5T. The 6.28-inch screen has 1,080 by 2,280 pixels compared to its predecessor's 1,080 by 2,160, the extra vertical pixels catering for the notch and the reduced bottom bezel.

OnePlus offers a number of automatic screen calibrations as well as a reading mode that dials down blue light for easier-on-the-eye reading. This can be set to kick in whenever particular apps are launched, and there's a night mode that basically softens all the colours.

Performance is superb. With an octa-core Snapdragon 845 and 8GB of RAM in my review unit, it's no surprise that the average of three Geekbench 4 scores was 9,043 for the multi-core CPU test -- right at the top of the current roll of honour. In everyday experience, responses to screen taps and sweeps felt instantaneous, and both face and fingerprint login were fast and accurate.

The fingerprint scanner on back of the handset is a small lozenge that looks a little undersized, but it worked perfectly for me. It's sensibly placed beneath the camera lenses, perfect for use with the index finger.

SEE: How we learned to talk to computers, and how they learned to answer back (cover story PDF)

The OnePlus 6 supports two SIMs, but doesn't offer an option of using the second SIM slot for MicroSD storage. However, that shouldn't be a serious issue unless you choose the lowest 64GB storage capacity.

My review sample had 128GB of storage, of which 113.76GB was free for me to use as required. If you need yet more storage, there's the top-end 256GB version -- that's more than some business laptops have, and a real advance for OnePlus.

The operating system is Google's latest Android 8.1 Oreo, with OnePlus's Oxygen OS adding features -- but not too many of them. It's a neat overlay, far less 'in your face' than many, and its offers are easy to ignore if they're not required.

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Left: screen calibration options. Right: Gaming mode settings.

Images: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

Gamers might want to try out the new Gaming mode, which is designed to optimise speed and reduce latency. It's possible to tweak settings in this mode, and -- taking a cue from Reading mode -- you can have it kick in automatically when specific apps are launched. Hence the strapline for this handset: 'the speed you need'. Naturally, if you don't need Gaming mode, it's easily ignored.

The dual camera setup comprises 16MP and 20MP sensors, both with f/1.7 lenses. That's the same basic arrangement as on the OnePlus 5T, but the addition of optical image stabilisation (OIS) to the existing EIS really helps with image clarity. The second camera is used to good effect for bokeh (blurred background) images, and as with the 5T it's a simple matter of tapping the portrait option on the main camera screen to switch into using it. The 16MP front camera shoots 1080p video at 30fps, as on the 5T.

I have no complaints about the sharp, vibrant pictures taken by the OnePlus 6; the slow-motion video capability -- 720p at 480fps or 1080p at 240fps -- will also appeal to some.

The 3,300mAh battery in the OnePlus 6 has a lot to cope with -- a 6.28-inch 19:9 aspect ratio screen and the Snapdragon 845 chipset. Still, I found that I could get a day's usage from it with no problem, and fast-charging support made it easy to give a boost as required.

Conclusions

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Image: Sandra Vogel/ZDNet

For all the plaudits it garnered, the OnePlus 5T wasn't quite a hands-down winner. It didn't launch with the latest Android OS, for example, which isn't the case here, as the OnePlus 6 has the very latest Android version on board. However, it still lacks MicroSD storage expansion and an IP rating, with the latter likely to be missed most.

But considering what you get for the price, the OnePlus 6 is a bargain. At the time of writing, for example, the Huawei P20 Pro costs £669, Sony's Xperia XZ2 £699, and the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus £718. Every prospective buyer needs to weigh up the pros and cons, of course, but for my money the OnePlus 6 is the smartphone of the moment.

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Specifications

Cellular
Operating System Android 8.1 Oreo

Where To Buy

Price
$529.00

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Where To Buy

OnePlus 6 (64 GB, mirror black)

Part Number: CNETOnePlus 6
Price
$529.00