OnePlus 6 review: powerhouse unit a match for top phones on speed, battery life and price –iPhone and Samsung beware
For half the price of an iPhone X, you can get a super fast and sleek handset that has excellent battery life. But don’t try taking photos at night or charging it wirelessly
Most major smartphone companies today – besides a few like Apple – release two flagships a year, split between the first and second half of the year. The OnePlus 6 is the last of the first batch and, as usual, it’s an absolute powerhouse.
Design and hardware
Describing the OnePlus 6’s look and feel seems a lot like déjà vu. It’s not just because other brands, such as LG and Huawei, have already pumped out flagships this year with glass backs, railings, and the iPhone X-inspired notch. But the OnePlus 6 feels familiar because it looks and feels just like recent releases by Oppo and Vivo.
That’s because all three brands are owned by the same parent company, BBK Electronics. While the trio operate independently and have different approaches to marketing and software design, they do share the same production line and component parts, which explains the recycled design of the OnePlus 6.
It does have some subtle cosmetic differences to the Vivo X21 or Oppo R15, though, such as the camera module alignment and the shape of fingerprint reader.
Considering that Oppo and Vivo phones are mostly invisible outside China and Southeast Asia, while OnePlus’ biggest audiences are Americans and Europeans, it’s not likely the similarities in design will be an issue with consumers in the West.
The OnePlus 6 has a premium feel. The 6.3-inch OLED panel is vast and fills up almost the entire face of the phone, with the bottom chin bezel slimmer than rival Android devices from Samsung, LG and Google (the iPhone X’s virtually non-existent chin still has it beat, however).
There’s a slider button on the phone’s upper right hand side that allows the user to quickly switch between normal and silent modes. This has been a staple of iPhone for years, but OnePlus is probably still the only Android phone maker to offer this switch .
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Ever since OnePlus’ debut device in 2014, the company has crammed the best possible Android power into its releases: the Snapdragon 845 plus 8GB RAM combo is unmatched in this operating system right now by anyone other than Xiaomi (Mi Mix 2s and Mi 8). Even Samsung’s top phone, the Galaxy S9+, pairs the 845 with just 6GB of RAM. With great speed and stability, that’s good news for mobile online gamers in particular.
Software and features
Other than the price (the 6 starts from HK$3,998), the software is the other aspect of OnePlus phones that has won over Android enthusiasts in the West in ways Huawei has not. OxygenOS is the cleanest Android skin of them all. I actually like it even better than stock Android because it is just as minimal aesthetically, but has additional customisation features.
For example, all the navigation buttons can be assigned short-cut actions when pressed down for a few moments or double tapped; you can change the colour scheme of the settings page and notification shade; and you can launch apps directly from a locked phone by drawing a letter from the alphabet.
Every action is noticeably faster than on a Samsung or Huawei device. This is partly because OnePlus purposely tweaked the animation speeds to make its software appear faster, but it’s also because, with 8GB of RAM, the phone just has an abundance of memory.
Performance and battery life
If there’s been one problem with OnePlus phones in the past, it’s that the camera’s performance couldn’t match the iPhone and Samsung Galaxy line of that year. This is, of course, grossly unfair to OnePlus, considering its phones cost about half of what Apple and Samsung charge. But it’s testament to OnePlus that its mid-tier-priced phones are consistently compared with the top dogs.
This year OnePlus has made strides in improving its camera performance, and the one on the 6 closes the gap between with the cameras on the top flagship phones this year. Still, it isn’t quite at the same level of Samsung, Apple or Huawei.
In general, the 6’s main 16-megapixel Sony IMX519 sensor can capture vibrant, detailed images, thanks to its increased pixel size and f/1.7 aperture. The secondary 20-megapixel camera, which on last year’s 5T was a telephoto lens, is now purely for depth-sensing.
I think this trade-off is a good idea, since telephoto lens are mostly gimmicky. The 6 may not be able to do 2X lossless zoom any more, but it can produce realistic bokeh portraits.
The camera app is also among one of the best designed: all the relevant buttons and settings options are at the bottom of the viewfinder for easy one-hand use.
When taking photos in low light situations, users will be able to tell the difference between a OnePlus 6 image and one snapped by a more expensive phone, most notably the Huawei P20 Pro and Samsung Galaxy S9. The 6 just doesn’t do as good a job pulling details out of shaded areas, and there’s just a tad more grain in the overall image at night.
The 6’s video capability, on the other hand, is excellent. The 6 can record silky smooth videos in 1080p at 30fps or 60fps, and it can even shoot at 4k 60fps, which the Huawei P20 Pro or LG G7 can’t do.
The handset performs well in all other performance measurements, too: its OLED panel doesn’t suffer from colour shift; battery life is almost enough to go a full day; the battery charging tech is the fastest in the business (a 10 minute charge added 23 per cent of juice); and the phone just feels fast and zippy.
The only thing below par about the 6 is the performance of its speaker. The single bottom-firing grille pumps out putrid, flat sound. There is a headphone jack and Bluetooth 5.0 for wired or wireless audio equipment, though.
Other minor things that may bother users who are jumping over from more expensive Samsung or Apple phones: the 6 doesn’t offer wireless charging; nor is there an official waterproof rating (though tests have shown it can survive being dipped into water briefly); and the haptic engine (which controls vibrations and keyboard feedback) is weak.
As a tech reviewer I often get asked by friends and family which phone they should buy. My answer for the past three years has almost always been the latest OnePlus device, despite opting personally for something from Huawei, LG or Samsung through the years.
I’m not trying to give dishonest advice; it’s just that I’m that hard core phone nerd who wants the absolute best phone possible no matter the price – and I take a lot of photos at night. For most normal consumers who just need a phone as a communication/web surfing device, the OnePlus 6’s price is a good example of the law of diminishing returns.
Sure, the Samsung Galaxy S9 is a slightly better package, but do you really want to pay thousands of Hong Kong dollars more?
Samsung Galaxy S9+ full review: best camera for lowlight photos, great battery life and no front notch make handset a winner
Dimension: 155.7mm X 75.4mm X 7.8mm
Display: 6.3-inch 1080 x 2280 OLED panel
Battery: 3,300 mAh
OS version reviewed: OxygenOS 5.1.5 over Android 8.1
Processor: Snapdragon 845
Cameras: 16-megapixel f/1.7 sensor with a 20-megapixel f/1.7 sensor; 16-megapixel front-facing camera
Memory: 6/8GB of RAM; 64/128/256 ROM
Colours: matte black, mirror black, white
Price: HK$3,998 (6GB RAM, 64GB ROM); HK$4,498 (8GB RAM, 128GB ROM); HK$4,998
(8GB RAM, 256GB ROM)