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

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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.

8.5 Overall
  • Design 8.0
  • Features 8.0
  • Performance 9.0
  • Camera 8.0
  • Battery 8.0

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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

Phone Storage RAM Price
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.

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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.

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.

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