The OnePlus 6: An Extraordinary Value-Oriented Smartphone

Highs

  • Excellent OLED display
  • Quality glass+metal chasis
  • Super-fast charging
  • Very good camera
  • Excellent value

Lows

  • No IP-Rating for water-resistance
  • Lack of wireless charging
  • No microSD storage

Rating and Price

  • Rating: 8.9/10
  • Price: ~$529

Since its inception in 2014, with the $299 OnePlus X, OnePlus aims at delivering the best features at a great price, and the OnePlus 6 fits perfectly in the strategy at an impressively high level. At $530 (6GB/64GB) or even $580 (8GB/64GB), the OnePlus 6 plays in the Premium Smartphone category, however, due to its powerful performance and a significant number of high-quality features, the phone feels more like a high-end device.

OnePlus successfully addressed the weaknesses of its predecessor, the OnePlus 5T, released in November 2017. The camera got important improvements, such as the addition of Optical Image Stabilization (OIS), better low-light photo performance, and the revamped industrial design provides a new shiny mirrored-glass body, to fit in the current trend of the high-end device market.

The OnePlus 6 was released in May 2018 and was initially built for the Premium market. At publishing time, the OnePlus 6 was priced at $529 USD (6GB RAM/64GB version – 8GB/64GB is $580 – 8GB/128GB is $630).

Usually, we consider cost as the primary criteria, but we made an exception for the OnePlus 6 because, in many aspects, the device is on par with more pricey and high-end flagship phones recently released.

We lined-up a good number of cellphones which will be used to assess how the OnePlus OnePlus 6 fits in its immediate smartphone landscape: Samsung Galaxy S9 (~$715), Google Pixel 2 XL (~$820), Apple iPhone X (~$1185), LG G7 ThinQ (~$649), Huawei P20 Pro ($715) and the OnePlus 5T (~525 USD).

OnePlus 6 key specifications
Display6.28” AMOLED Display (2280×1080)
Camera16MP Camera, f/1.7 aperture, 28mm focal-length, 4K/60FPS
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 845 platform 6-8 GB RAM, 128, 256, 64 GB of Storage
Battery3300 mAh battery capacity
OSAndroid 8.0

What’s New? (compared to the OnePlus 5T)

  • New shiny and slick body, like world-class flagships … (now Gorilla Glass 5 Samsung S9 vs. aluminum back of the OnePlus 5T)
  • A new shape for the fingerprint sensor and addition of chamfered edges
  • Changed the Alerts Slider from left to right
  • Better display-to-body ratio at 83.8% (vs.79.6%)
  • Faster processor (Snapdragon 845 vs. 835)
  • Still no IP-rating for water resistance and no wireless charging (a trade-off for the price probably – priority are battery, display, camera, looks)
  • Improved camera: now has OIS, a larger sensor, f/1.7 aperture, better ISP with Snapdragon 845

Industrial Design (very good)

  • Stylish new mirrored-finish glass design, upgrade from the aluminum back cover of the OnePlus 5T
  • Compact body for a large display (6.28” – 83.8% display to body ratio)
  • OnePlus Alert slider switched to the right side
  • Not IP-Rated water resistance

OnePlus went for Gorilla Glass 5 on the front and back, departing from the sleek aluminum look of the predecessor: the OnePlus 5T. Following the trend of the most potent high-end phones on the market such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 or the iPhone X that both use a glass-sandwich design.

The only downside to using this kind of design is the potential for cracks during drops on hard surfaces, but the market has spoken, and users are more than willing to take their chances, or just use a case.

Dimensions, weight, and comfort

With a width of 75.4 mm (2.97 inches) and a thickness of 7.8 mm (0.31 inches), the smartphone feels comfortable in hand; the slightly curved body makes it comfortable to hold. We use U.S M-size gloves for male hand-size reference, so this will vary from person to person.

The device weighs 177 grams (6.24 oz), and we would consider that weight to be slightly heavier than average. However, since it delivers a massive display, at 6.28”, the additional grams are entirely justified.

This industrial design packs excellent performance in relation to its size. From another angle, the amount of battery capacity the user gets is very good for a phone of this size. The screen display-to-body ratio of 83.8% is also excellent in absolute terms, in our comparison batch, only the Samsung Galaxy S9 does better by a hair at 84.1% .

Durability

As we said previously, a thin glass surface (usually on top of a metal layer) can look superb and is often used on premium devices. Looking at how the smartphone was designed, we estimate that the risk of cracking during a landing on a hard surface to be very probable. You can refer to our detailed article about how phones could be designed to avoid breakage upon drops: How the LG V20 Was Designed To Survive Drops.

OnePlus says that the OnePlus 6 is “water resistant”, and it’s true that there are some water-blocking features inside to protect the connectors. However, we don’t know how good this protection is as the phone is did not pass the usual certifications: it does not have an IP rating for water and dust protection, unlike the Samsung Galaxy S9 (IP68), the Google Pixel 2 XL (IP67) )and the iPhone X (IP67).

In our comparison batch, the LG G7 is the only one to have received both IP68 and a U.S Military MIL-STD 810G certification, You can check the link on the left to learn more, but this standard is a series of test used to check that military gears can endure some rough treatments. Most phones don’t have this certification, but some do if you’re trying to increase the chances of survival.

Display (very good)

  • Large 6.28” AMOLED display, 19:9 ratio
  • Great display-to-body ratio at 83.8%
  • Very bright at 802 nits
  • Great image quality (deep black and bright colors)

We found the OnePlus 6 display to be very good, with excellent brightness and vivid colors. That holds true even during outdoor use, and pretty much all situations we tested it in. With a sharpness of 402 PPI, this display is neat, but not quite the top option you can get as high-end phones from Samsung or LG can climb up to ~550+ PPI, and the difference can be seen when looking at HD photos or 4K videos. Whether or not you need a higher PPI depends on your use case.

"VERY GOOD, WITH EXCELLENT BRIGHTNESS AND VIVID COLORS"

Display technical analysis

The OnePlus 6 display uses an AMOLED panel. OLED is an entirely different display technology (than LCD) that has been widely available to handsets mainly thanks to Samsung. The fundamental difference between OLED and LCD displays is how light is emitted. With LCD, there is a small number of white light emitters (1-2 for handsets, 2-100 for TVs) and black pixels are possible by “blocking” the white light with a filter. Unfortunately, using a filter leads to “light bleeding” and “black color” that is actually dark-gray.

With OLED, every pixel emits its own light. This also means that creating a black pixel just means leaving it OFF. As a result, black color is perfectly black, and other colors are more straightforward to control without using complex filters and color control technologies such as Quantum Dots and Nano Dots. You can read our complete LCD vs. OLED article which goes deeper into the details.

The display brightness of 802 NITs is fantastic. In general, more intense light is preferred to see the screen content on a sunny day (or bright environment). Higher brightness leads directly to better image quality in very common situations. In that area, only the LG G7 with its impressive 1007 NITs beats it, and the iPhone XS Max is comparable to the G7. Both the Samsung Galaxy S9 and the Pixel 2 XL deliver lower brightness, respectively 690 and 610 NITs (our measurements).

Standard resolution and excellent display-to-body ratio (83.8%)

The resolution of 2280×1080 would be considered to be “high” in absolute terms and compared to the competition it would be common. The OnePlus 6 delivers the lowest pixel density of our comparison batch, at 402 PPI (the same as the OnePlus 5T, for a larger display).

The Samsung Galaxy S9 delivers the highest pixel density at 568 PPI with the LG G7 right behind at 563 PPI – both phones feature higher resolution than the latest OnePlus flagship, 2960×1440, and 3120×1440, respectively. The Pixel 2 XL is a little less dense at 537 PPI while the iPhone is clearly behind in the “most expensive” group, at 463 PPI.

When it comes to the display-to-body ratio, the OnePlus 6 is almost the best in class with at 83.8%, just second to the Samsung Galaxy S9 (84.1%).

With a color gamut close to 100% of the sRGB spectrum, the display is very capable and can hold its own in the premium and high-end space. Although many displays are technically better, we are getting into territories where users would have a more difficult time to pinpoint the differences.

OnePlus 6 Camera

Like other cameras in its class, the OnePlus 6 performs very well in broad daylight, taking advantage of its 16 MP sensor to deliver sharp and well balanced photos in easy conditions. The extra megapixels are great for nature scenes where foliage can look better thanks to the additional detail.

Here’s a gallery that compares the same scene, shot by leading mobile cameras of the moment (Captions at the bottom of the screen):

The image quality is pretty similar, even when we zoom in, the details are quite sharp and none is overly processed, with subtle differences. The Samsung Galaxy S9 deliver less definition just due to lower resolution but that does mean the quality is less, on the contrary.

The HDR photography capabilities of the OnePlus 6 are quite good, although not exceptional, with handsets like the Galaxy S9 Plus or the Huawei P20 Pro producing photos with better, more natural, rendering of the tree to the right.

Low light photo outdoors and in-lab(~5 NITs)

Now compare the OnePlus 6 against well-kown mobile cameras (captions at the bottom of the screen):

In low-light, thew OnePlus 6 performs very well, and on the surface, it is able to go head to head with heavy hitters such as the Galaxy S9+ or the Huawei P20 Pro. We found it to have slightly better white balance than the P20 Pro because it could capture the slight yellow tint of the street lamps where P20 Pro turns it to white light.

The Galaxy S9+ has slightly better colors and less noise as well. In low-light photography, our tests show that the S9+ and Note 9 remain the best low-light “classic” cameras. New handsets use a lot of processing to show things that your eyes wouldn’t even see. For example, the Huawei P20 Pro reveals the shape of the tree behind the building to the right. It is a feat that should not be underestimated, but whether or not you like that style is your decision.

Here is a comparison between leading mobile cameras of a very difficult night-time city skyline shot (caption at the bottom):

Bokeh / Portrait Photo

OnePlus 6, in Portrait Mode

In Portrait / Bokeh photography, the OnePlus 6 uses a 28 mm focal length instead of a ~50 mm one found in other phones. There’s nothing wrong with it, but some people find that 50 mm (2X zoom) is a more ideal setting to capture portraits, even with large cameras.

The blur is nice, although not very strong, and the character’s edges are clean. There’s no obvious blur where it shouldn’t happen, and the tip of the toy’s gun is actually clean. It is a detail that many phones blur out.

Photo quality conclusion

All of the above shows that the OnePlus 6 camera is able to compete effectively at the highest level. More expensive smartphone might etch a small victory in the various aspects we tested, but the price of the OnePlus 6 makes all the difference and proves that budget-conscious users don’t have to leave too much on the table.

"THE ONEPLUS 6 CAMERA IS ABLE TO COMPETE EFFECTIVELY AT THE HIGHEST LEVEL"

Camera Hardware Analysis

In the OnePlus 6, the camera aperture of f/1.7 is very decent and the sensor size of ~20.5 mm² would be considered large (for a smartphone), but many listed competitors have larger sensors (~25 to 40 mm²), so this size is not exceptional on the market.

The 16 Megapixel resolution should not be used as a general proxy of photo quality, but in very bright light scenes, it could be a useful metric for photographic detail and sharpness. For example, on a sunny day, a nature photo with a higher megapixel count could show finer details. Between 12 MP, 16 MP and 21 MP differences in small details can be quite noticeable, if printed or viewed on a large and/or high-PPI display.

In dim lighting situations, the high Megapixel count (>12) does not sway the outcome. Also, the physical size of each sensor pixel is essential. With higher megapixel counts, sensing pixels (sensels) may have to be smaller. Each obtains less light information, and in low-light scenes, it is better for the overall image quality to sense more light with fewer (but bigger) sensels than the opposite.

Optical Image Stabilization but no EIS

The availability of an Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) module on the primary camera increases the odds of capturing sharp images in daylight, and brighter images at night.

OIS helps to improve image clarity and higher low-light performance by offsetting minute hand-shaking motion. OIS makes it practical to leave the shutter open longer to capture more light (more extended exposure). Optical and digital stabilization are completely different, with digital stabilization suitable to improve video recording smoothness

EIS (Electronic Image Stabilization) is not available on this handset. Because of this, the video recordings may be shakier than competitors that have this feature. EIS works by reducing the video’s field of view and using the extra borders to compensate for any shaking (to a point).

Phase detection autofocus

The auto-focus of the OnePlus 6 camera is based on Phase Detection technology. Phase-detection AF that was initially built into discrete AF sensor chips in the DSLR days. Then it got integrated into the camera primary sensor. It works by having specialized AF pixels sensors that would tell if specific points in the image were in-focus.

This method is very advanced, and the AF capabilities work well in most cases. AF performance is somewhat proportional to the number of hardware AF sensels. Typically this number can go from dozens to hundreds of Phase-Detection AF points. Phase detection AF is an excellent system, which is only inferior to Dual-Pixel AF.

System performance

Equipped with the powerful Snapdragon 845 and 6GB to 8GB of RAM, the OnePlus is a phone that has been praised by many reviewers for being, and staying, fast. There’s no sureproof way to confirm that it stays fast because everyone has a different setting, but technically speaking, having more RAM helps in that regards as performance often hit a wall when you have too many processes loaded. It happens when you install a lot of apps.

Benchmarks alone should NOT lead to a smartphone purchase decision. To learn more, read our Are Benchmarks Important? Article. Gaming performance benchmarks (3DMark, GFXBench) apply only to intensive applications using 3D graphics. CPU Benchmarks (Geekbench) are a loose indicator for general purpose computing performance.

Wireless Broadband Performance

The OnePlus 6 has a CAT18 (1200 Mbps ⇣ / 211 Mbps ⇡ ) LTE modem. This level of performance is excellent in its category and also excellent in general. Nearly all Snapdragon 845 phone can reach LTE CAT 18. Last year’s LG V30 had a CAT 16 connection, which incidentally is the same than the new iPhone XS, at 1000 Mbps ⇣ / 105 Mbps ⇡

This level of broadband performance is pretty much the best you can get today, if you are lucky enough to be connected to the most recent networks.

Performance and value

Since the OnePlus 6 is a value-oriented phone, it’s really interesting to look at performance through the prism of “price”. Not surprisingly, this handset has a lot to offer for budget-conscious buyers who don’t want to compromise on gaming, VR or AR. The data speaks for itself:

We were a bit surprised to see the Galaxy S9 up there, but as the price erodes over time, high-end handsets also become more and more competitive.

Battery

The battery capacity of OnePlus 6 is 3300 mAh, which is very good in general, and very good in its own price category. In our comparison batch, only the Pixel 2 XL, and the Huawei P20 pro features higher capacity at 3520 mAH and 4000 mAH, respectively. The most recent Note 9, the latest large-display flagship from Samsung, also has a 4000 mAH battery, but costs significantly more.

Battery life is one of the most sought-after features of a handset. A key metric is, of course, the battery capacity — especially within the same ecosystem (Android, iOS or other). Battery life can be affected by a lot of factors, but the main ones are the main processor aka SoC, display and wireless radios (LTE broadband, WiFi, the cell towers location and more). It is impossible to precisely pinpoint through benchmarks how much energy drain YOUR unique needs will induce. However, two things are without a doubt always good:

  • A higher battery capacity
  • Faster charging

It is generally not possible to predict realistic battery life by running synthetic tests. Factors such as display brightness, (LTE/WiFi) radio usage and distance to access points will change too much. Also, the number of apps on-board and their activity is unpredictable. Battery capacity is the best battery-life indicator for YOUR usage.

Charging speed: amazing

With a charge speed of 62 mAh/mn, the OnePlus 6 charge speed is extremely fast in absolute terms and is equaled by few, except for its predecessor, the OnePlus 5T, which features the same Dash Charging technology. Basically, in 30 minutes, you get 56% charge! By comparison, the Samsung Galaxy S9 will be charged at 37% in the same timeframe, which means it delivers only 37 mAh/mn (measured with the charger from the box).

"THE ONEPLUS 6 CHARGE SPEED IS EXTREMELY FAST"

This product does not have a detachable battery, which is standard for smartphones nowadays. Closed batteries cannot be taken out or easily repaired, but they do allow for smaller designs and slightly bigger battery size within the same product volume.

Since this smartphone has a very large display, keep in mind that larger displays tend to require more power due to the greater surface area to light up. It depends on the brightness levels displays are being viewed at, but the potential for higher energy is there, so greater battery capacity is preferable.

This handset has a relatively common screen resolution. Although this may be less competitive from an image quality perspective, having fewer pixels to handle is a good thing for battery life.

Conclusion

By carefully crafting the OnePlus 6 configuration, OnePlus is able to carve an excellent core experience for the end user. With benchmark numbers higher than high-profile smartphones, the performance of this Android handset is beyond reproach.

This speed, paired with an elegant industrial design and the high-quality display, gives a “high-end feel” sold for a Premium price ($530), which is precisely the stated goal of the company to start with.

"THE ONEPLUS 6 OFFERS AN EXTRAORDINARY VALUE"

Obviously, there are some trade-offs that users must make in the form of not having the absolute best display or the latest and most expensive industrial design processes. However, this is a step that many users are happy to make to save a few hundred dollars.

The OnePlus 6 is a handset with an extraordinary value to the user, and it’s not a surprise why there is an active, almost religious, user community around this brand and product.

Learn more about more expensive competitors by reading the following reviews:

Overall product rating: 8.9/10

Filed in Cellphones >Reviews. Read more about Android, OnePlus, OnePlus 6 and Smartphone Reviews.

6.28"
  • 2280x1080
  • AMOLED
  • 402 PPI
16 MP
  • f/1.7 Aperture
  • OIS
3300 mAh
  • Non-Removable
  • No Wireless Charg.
8-6GB RAM
  • Snapdragon 845
Price
~$529 - Amazon
Weight
177 g
Launched in
2018-05-01
Storage (GB)
  • 128
  • 256
  • 64
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