OnePlus 6 review: Top-notch speed and performance for hundreds less

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.

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Here is a picture I took early in the morning. I like the punchiness of the colors and the detail in the building.

Patrick Holland/CNET

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.

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OnePlus 6 portrait mode photos look incredibly natural.

Patrick Holland/CNET

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.

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The OnePlus 6 renders low-light photos similar to the iPhone X. It strikes a good balance at reducing noise without being too painterly.

Patrick Holland/CNET

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 LimitsRiptide GP2Marvel 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.

Geekbench v.4.0 single-core

OnePlus 6
2,454
Galaxy S9 Plus
2,444
Pixel 2 XL
1,911
OnePlus 5T
1,978

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 multi-core

OnePlus 6
9,068
Galaxy S9 Plus
8,416
Pixel 2 XL
6,393
OnePlus 5T
6,612

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

OnePlus 6
62,952
Galaxy S9 Plus
58,999
Pixel 2 XL
38,999
OnePlus 5T
41,402

Note:

Longer bars indicate better performance

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
Front-facing camera 16-megapixel 8-megapixel 8-megapixel 7-megapixel 8-megapixel
Video capture 4K 4K 4K 4K 4K
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
RAM 6GB, 8GB 6GB 4GB 3GB 4GB
Expandable storage None 400GB None None Up to 2TB
Battery 3,300mAh 3,500mAh 3,520mAh - 3,000mAh
Fingerprint sensor Back Back Back None Back
Connector USB-C USB-C USB-C Lightning USB-C
Headphone jack Yes Yes No No Yes
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