Editor's note, Oct. 29: The OnePlus 6's midyear upgrade, the 6T, has been officially announced. Here's our One Plus 6T review. Our review of the OnePlus 6, originally published on May 30, follows.
For seven generations of phones, OnePlus pursued the ideal of delivering the latest technology at an affordable price. When the first OnePlus phone launched in 2014 our reviewer wrote, "Given its blistering performance, the OnePlus One is a phenomenal deal for a high-end smartphone." The phone's $299 price helped OnePlus gain a loyal fan base the way a hit record helps a rising indie band.
Four years later, the company has the OnePlus 6 which sits in the middle of the upgrade spectrum between "just a yearly evolution" and "major overhaul." The new phone costs nearly double what the OnePlus One did and $30 more than last November's OnePlus 5T.
But are the OnePlus 6's improved cameras, faster processor, increase in RAM and new slick-looking glass-covered body worth the price? Absolutely. It's still hundreds less than other flagship handsets such as the Google Pixel 2 XL and the Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus. And it stands toe-to-toe with these pricier phones when it comes to speed, battery life and photo quality. The OnePlus 6 is not perfect though. You won't find true water resistance, expandable storage or wireless charging, but the OnePlus 6 is a terrific phone for everyday use.
OnePlus 6 models and prices
|OnePlus 6||64GB||6GB||$529, £469 (AU$700 converted)|
|OnePlus 6||128GB||8GB||$579, £517 (AU$770 converted)|
|OnePlus 6||256GB||8GB||$629, £569 (AU$835 converted)|
Editors' note: We tested the 128GB version of the OnePlus 6.
OnePlus 6 has a sturdy glass back
If the OnePlus 5T had a chic industrial raw denim vibe, then the OnePlus 6 with its mirrored-finish glass back and bow-tie notch has the dapper aura of a tailored tuxedo.
OnePlus abandoned the aluminum back of its previous phones in favor of Corning Gorilla Glass 5, which is also used for the display. This is the same chemically hardened cover glass that's used on pricier phones like Samsung's Galaxy S9. Despite the material changes, I'm happy the phone retains the slight palm-curved shape of earlier generations.
The OnePlus 6 comes in two black colors: Glossy mirror black and matte midnight black. Each has subtle -- and I mean subtle -- accents. OnePlus boasts that the mirror black, for example, has a drop shadow of an S under the OnePlus logo.
There is a third color scheme, silk white with rose gold trim, which will be available as a limited edition starting June 5.
The glass-encased phone looks and feels premium. From the back, it's easy to mistake the OnePlus 6 for a Galaxy S9 Plus. Both have vertically stacked, center-aligned dual-rear cameras with a fingerprint reader below. The phones are nearly identical in size, with the OnePlus 6 being a touch thinner and lighter. And yes, the OnePlus 6 keeps its headphone jack, just like the Galaxy S9, LG G7 and iPhone SE.
OnePlus also keeps its physical alert slider with three settings. In last year's OnePlus 5T, it lived on the left side. Now it's moved to the right and toggles between ring, vibrate and silent -- it used to be ring, do not disturb and silent.
Yet with all the physical improvements, the OnePlus 6 misses in a few significant ways. The new body is not IP certified as water-resistant -- it's splash-proof. And like the Pixel 2 and 2 XL, it doesn't have expandable storage.
Despite its new glass rear, the OnePlus 6 lacks wireless charging. It does have what OnePlus calls Dash Charge, which brought the phone's battery from 0 to 50 percent in 28 minutes, and took 70 minutes to charge it completely. I should note that Dash Charge is proprietary and doesn't work with regular USB-C cables.
Yep, that's a notch on your OnePlus 6
For better or worse, the OnePlus 6 has a notch on its 6.28-inch OLED display. This leaves a petite space around the front-facing camera, earpiece, sensors and LED notification light. I'm not bothered by the notch. It is what it is. And this new design trend doesn't seem to be going away anytime soon.
The display has a 19:9 aspect ratio, but a 2,280x1,080-pixel resolution -- lower than other flagships like the Galaxy S9 Plus. In everyday use, the screen looked sharp, detailed and bright. Watching videos and scrolling through Instagram was a delight. Colors look vibrant without being oversaturated.
Portrait mode and dual-rear cameras
The OnePlus 6 has dual rear cameras: A 16-megapixel main camera and a 20-megapixel secondary camera. In general, photos look really good. They're sharp, and have a nice amount of contrast and saturation.
Like most phone cameras these days, the OnePlus 6 uses AI to adjust the clarity of photos. In practice, "smart capture" as OnePlus calls it, works well. Out of the 100 plus photos I took, I only had a handful where the results looked off. Smart capture optimization works entirely in the background, but I wish there was a way to dismiss it from time to time, as you can on the Huawei P20 and P20 Pro.
But here's where things get interesting. The OnePlus 6's second camera isn't for optical zoom, a wider angle of view or for capturing monochrome images. The second camera is there exclusively for portrait mode photos, which look amazing. The background blur, aka bokeh, on portraits looks creamy and smooth. I really like the focus fall-off -- the transition from in-focus to out-of-focus areas.
The OnePlus 6 creates the most realistic looking depth-of-field portraits I've taken on any phone. Just make sure to turn off the beauty filter.
Portrait mode also works great on objects, food and cats, too. Sadly, I didn't get to try it on any dogs.
The OnePlus 6's main camera has a new sensor that's 19 percent larger than last year's OnePlus 5T. The bigger sensor combined with optical image stabilization (OIS) is a solid recipe for capturing good nighttime and low-light photos. And the OnePlus 6 does just that. It balances image noise without too much noise reduction, which on some phones can give low-light photos a painterly quality. Check out the photo taken inside a bar below.
Phones like the Galaxy S9 Plus and Huawei P20 Pro set the bar for taking pictures in dark environments. And while the OnePlus 6 doesn't reach their level for low-light snaps, it is definitely on the same level as the iPhone X.
The front-facing camera is serviceable. Selfie photos look OK. OnePlus promises it will add a selfie portrait mode in a future software update. Video from the front-facing camera is severely cropped -- I felt like Inspector Gadget stretching my arms to get my entire head in the frame.
The camera app's user interface deserves a mention. It's refreshingly simple to use and removes the need to jump into a camera settings menu.
Take a look at the gallery below for more images I took with the OnePlus 6.
4K video and slow motion
Video from the OnePlus 6 has punchy contrast and looks filmic. The OnePlus 6 has electronic image stabilization (EIS) to smooth out some of the shakes caused by your hands and walking.
Like the iPhone X and the Galaxy S9 Plus, the OnePlus 6 has slow motion at 240 frames per second at 1080p. This is huge! Videos look dramatic and pretty sharp.
Check out a slow-motion video I posted to Twitter below.
OnePlus 6 packs a Snapdragon 845 processor
I'm shocked by how fast this phone is. It's one of the fastest phones we've tested, thanks in large part to the Snapdragon 845 chipset that lives inside.
The phone handled games like Need For Speed: No Limits, Riptide GP2, Marvel Spider-Man Unlimited and PUBG Mobile without any sign of lag or needing to switch to a lower resolution. Everyday tasks like typing messages, opening the camera and scrolling through Twitter or Instagram were peppy.
Speaking of video games, there's also a nifty gaming mode that blocks notifications and limits other apps' use of internet connection when enabled.
Battery life was good, too. During our battery drain test for continuous video playback on airplane mode, the OnePlus 6 lasted an average of 15 hours, 36 minutes. That's longer than the Pixel 2 XL and iPhone X, which lasted 13 hours, 50 minutes and 11 hours, 27 minutes, respectively. But that's an hour and 38 minutes less than the One Plus 5T, which lasted on average 17 hours, 14 minutes, just short of the Galaxy S9 Plus's 16 hour, 55 minute average.
In my time with it, the phone survived the day like a champ. In fact, I took a weekend trip and forgot my charger at home and the OnePlus 6 made it through the entire weekend on a single charge.
It has iPhone X gestures… kind of
Like all Android phones, the OnePlus 6 has a familiar navigation bar with the home, back and recent app buttons. This can be turned off in favor of gestures. If you've used these on a OnePlus 5T, you're already ahead of the game.
You swipe up to go to the home screen. Swipe up and hold to go to recent apps. And swipe up on the bottom left or right edge of the screen to go back.
Similar to the iPhone X, it took a few frustrating days to get a hang of these gestures, but they're second nature to me now.
OnePlus 6 specs vs. Galaxy S9 Plus, Pixel 2 XL, iPhone X and LG G7
|OnePlus 6||Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus||Google Pixel 2 XL||iPhone X||LG G7 ThinQ|
|Display size, resolution||6.28-inch; 2,280x1,080 pixels||6.2-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels||6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels||5.8-inch; 2,436x1,125 pixels||6.1-inch; 3,120 x 1,440 pixels|
|Pixel density||402ppi||529ppi||538 ppi||458 ppi||563ppi|
|Dimensions (Inches)||6.13x2.97x0.31 in||6.22x2.91x0.33 in||6.2x3.0x0.30 in||5.7x2.79x0.30 in||6x2.8x0.31 in|
|Dimensions (Millimeters)||155.7x75.4x7.75 mm||158.1x73.8x8.5 mm||157.9x76.7x7.9 mm||143.6x70.9x7.7 mm||153.2x71.9x7.9 mm|
|Weight (Ounces, Grams)||6.2 oz; 177 g||6.66 oz; 189 g||6.17 oz; 175 g||6.14 oz; 174 g||5.7 oz, 162 g|
|Mobile software||Android 8.1 Oreo||Android 8.0 Oreo||Android 8.0 Oreo||iOS 11||Android 8.0 Oreo|
|Camera||16-megapixel, 20-megapixel||Dual 12-megapixel||12-megapixel||Dual 12-megapixel||Dual 16-megapixel|
|Processor||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835||Apple A11 Bionic||Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845|
|Storage||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||64GB, 128GB, 256GB||64GB, 128GB||64GB, 256GB||64GB|
|Expandable storage||None||400GB||None||None||Up to 2TB|
|Special features||Dash Charging, dual-SIM, super slow mo||Dual-aperture camera, water-resistant (IP68); super slo-mo video; wireless charging; iris scanning||Squeezeable sides||Water resistant (IP67), wireless charging, TrueDepth front-facing (Face ID)||Water resistant (IP68), wireless charging, DTS:X 3D Surround, Quad DAC|
|Price off-contract (USD)||$529 (64GB), $579 (128GB), $629 (256GB)||Varies: $840-$930 (64GB)||$849 (64GB), $949 (128GB)||$999 (64GB), $1,149 (256GB)||TBA|
|Price (GBP)||£469 (64GB), £519 (128GB), £569 (256GB)||£869||£799 (64GB), £899 (128GB)||£999 (64GB), £1,149 (256GB)||TBA|
|Price (AUD)||Converted: AU$700 (64GB), AU$770 (128GB), AU$835 (256GB)||AU$1,349 (64GB), AU$1,499 (256GB)||AU$1,399 (64GB), AU$1,549 (128GB)||AU$1,579 (64GB), AU$1,829 (256GB)||TBA|