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

Yet another unmissable deal from Android's indie star.

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Patrick Holland
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Patrick Holland

Senior Editor

Patrick Holland has an eye for photography and a passion for everything mobile. He is a colorful raconteur who will guide you through the ever-changing and fast-paced world of phones. He also is one of the hosts of CNET's I'm So Obsessed podcast.

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7 min read

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.

oneplus-6-8365
8.5

OnePlus 6

The Good

The OnePlus 6 is blazing fast, shoots amazing portrait mode photos, has a polished refined design and costs much less than other flagship phones.

The Bad

It lacks waterproofing, wireless charging and has a shorter battery life than the OnePlus 5T. In the US, the phone doesn't work on CDMA carriers like Verizon and Sprint.

The Bottom Line

The OnePlus 6 is an excellent phone and gives you many of the features of more costly flagship phones.

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: Bigger screen, glossy look and an optional notch

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OnePlus 6 models and prices

Phone StorageRAMPrice
OnePlus 6 64GB6GB$529, £469 (AU$700 converted)
OnePlus 6 128GB8GB$579, £517 (AU$770 converted)
OnePlus 6 256GB8GB$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.

oneplus-6-8365

The gloss black model.

Josh Miller/CNET

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.

oneplus-6-8524

The OnePlus 6 has a glass backside made from Gorilla Glass 5.

Josh Miller/CNET

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.

But most annoying of all, it doesn't work on CDMA carriers in the US like Verizon and Sprint. That's a pretty big miss.

The 10 best phones that still have a headphone jack

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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.

oneplus-6-8474

Yep, that's a notch.

Josh Miller/CNET

If you're not a fan, you can add black bars to the sides via settings for a more familiar look. Other notched-screen wonders like the Huawei P20P20 Pro and LG G7 have a similar software feature.

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.

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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.

img-20180516-134433-bokeh

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.

Proof the OnePlus 6 takes good photos

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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 2,454Galaxy S9 Plus 2,444Pixel 2 XL 1,911OnePlus 5T 1,978
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

Geekbench v.4.0 multi-core

OnePlus 6 9,068Galaxy S9 Plus 8,416Pixel 2 XL 6,393OnePlus 5T 6,612
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited

OnePlus 6 62,952Galaxy S9 Plus 58,999Pixel 2 XL 38,999OnePlus 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 6Samsung Galaxy S9 PlusGoogle Pixel 2 XLiPhone XLG G7 ThinQ
Display size, resolution 6.28-inch; 2,280x1,080 pixels6.2-inch; 2,960x1,440 pixels6-inch; 2,880x1,440 pixels5.8-inch; 2,436x1,125 pixels6.1-inch; 3,120 x 1,440 pixels
Pixel density 402ppi529ppi538 ppi458 ppi563ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.13x2.97x0.31 in6.22x2.91x0.33 in6.2x3.0x0.30 in5.7x2.79x0.30 in6x2.8x0.31 in
Dimensions (Millimeters) 155.7x75.4x7.75 mm158.1x73.8x8.5 mm157.9x76.7x7.9 mm143.6x70.9x7.7 mm153.2x71.9x7.9 mm
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 6.2 oz; 177 g6.66 oz; 189 g6.17 oz; 175 g6.14 oz; 174 g5.7 oz, 162 g
Mobile software Android 8.1 OreoAndroid 8.0 OreoAndroid 8.0 OreoiOS 11Android 8.0 Oreo
Camera 16-megapixel, 20-megapixelDual 12-megapixel12-megapixelDual 12-megapixelDual 16-megapixel
Front-facing camera 16-megapixel8-megapixel8-megapixel7-megapixel8-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K4K4K4K
Processor Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845, or Octa-core Samsung Exynos 9810Octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835Apple A11 BionicOcta-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
Storage 64GB, 128GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB, 256GB64GB, 128GB64GB, 256GB64GB
RAM 6GB, 8GB6GB4GB3GB4GB
Expandable storage None400GBNoneNoneUp to 2TB
Battery 3,300mAh3,500mAh3,520mAh-3,000mAh
Fingerprint sensor BackBackBackNoneBack
Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-CLightningUSB-C
Headphone jack YesYesNoNoYes
Special features Dash Charging, dual-SIM, super slow moDual-aperture camera, water-resistant (IP68); super slo-mo video; wireless charging; iris scanningSqueezeable sidesWater 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
oneplus-6-8365
8.5

OnePlus 6

Score Breakdown

Design 8Features 8Performance 9Camera 8Battery 8
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