OnePlus 6 hands-on: the affordable flagship returns
Four years, that time certainly doesn't seem all too long ago when you think about it. For Chinese smartphone manufacturer, OnePlus, it undoubtedly feels substantially longer when you think about the amount of flagship smartphones the company has produced during the company's history. It was just back in 2014 when we all feasted our eyes on the so-called flagship killer, the OnePlus One, which was only the start of a storied history.
And now, the company that continues to follow its strategy of never settling, is about to unleash its latest flagship model – the OnePlus 6. During the last year alone, we've seen many trends come to fruition that many companies adopted, but OnePlus is notable for not following one particular one. And that, folks, was its decision to deliver a promising, high-end smartphone without being attached with an exorbitant price point. With all eyes on the OnePlus 6, the timing is just right for the company, who has seen what the competition has brought to the table, and they intend to capitalize on that.
The biggest surprise about the OnePlus 6 that we didn't realize initially is that it no longer leverages the signature all-metal construction we've seen in the series, but it's been replaced by an all-glass one instead featuring Gorilla Glass 5. Honestly, the silk white and midnight black variants of the OnePlus 6 can be mistaken for donning an all-metal design, mainly because the surfaces don't appear glossy at all – unlike the mirror black version, which as its name implies, does exude a mirrored finish. On one hand, we're a bit bummed by the decision to move to an all-glass construction, but we're even more impressed OnePlus is able to emulate the look of its signature metal designs with an all-glass one here.
While the general footprint of the phone follows the OnePlus 5T before it, much like its all-screen appearance on the front and subtle sloping edges around the back, there's more of a symmetrical look with the OnePlus 6 – evident in how the camera is now centered on the back of the phone. Unlike some other phones employing glass designs, the OnePlus 6 doesn't feel as fragile for some reason. Maybe because of the serious weight behind it? Who knows, but it feels incredibly well-built. Between the three color options that will be made available, we're particularly fond of the midnight black, especially how its rear back panel shimmers in this "S" shaped pattern when light hits it at different angles.
You could argue that the design has followed through with the trends we've been accustomed to seeing recently, like its minimal bezel appearance with its display, but we're stoked to see that they've managed to retain the headphone jack. And yes, the new glass construction imbues the phone with some water-resistant qualities.
The AMOLED panel features elegantly rounded corners.
Before we get into the nitty-gritty regarding the notch with its display, let's talk about the specs first. With the OnePlus 6, it's accompanied with a 6.28-inch 1080 x 2280 Full Optic OLED display – one that's very pleasing to the eyes with its vibrant colors and wide viewing angles. Sure, it doesn't have match the QHD+ resolutions we find in other flagships, but in all fairness, the OnePlus 6's display is more than detailed when looking at it from a normal distance. In terms of its brightness output, it seems a bit dimmer under direct sunlight during our testing, but it could be just that they're pre-production models.
Going back to the notch below the earpiece, its width is narrower than what's found with the iPhone X – and very similar in width to the recent LG G7 ThinQ. Initially, we're told that there won't be an option to mask the notch when it's released, but a future update will allow users to do it eventually. By now, this notch has become a pervasive aesthetic amongst the flagship range, so we're not terribly annoyed to find it here. Strangely enough, though, the display actually features a 19:9 screen aspect ratio, which is slightly off from the 21:9 we've been seeing.
Besides stock Android, there are a few custom experiences that are praised by critics and consumers. Lucky for OnePlus, its OxygenOS has been largely favorable, as it doesn't try to overwhelm the traditional experience with unnecessary or redundant stuff. And with the most up-to-date iteration running here on the OnePlus 6, we can safely say that it continues with the same tasteful strategy. It's running Android 8.0 Oreo, and for the most part, anyone familiar with the skin will be acquainted with what's here.
There are now new gestures in play that replace the function of the usual Android menu buttons, such as swiping up from the bottom of the display to get back to the home screen, holding the aforementioned swipe up gesture to access the recent apps menu, and swiping up from either the bottom left or right to perform a back function. It's definitely a change that requires just a little bit of practice, but it allows the interface to use more of the display.
Oxygen OS is one of the more responsive Android skins out there, second to only stock. Therefore, it's no surprise that the OnePlus 6 exhibits tight responses with all basic functions, such as navigating around the interface. The processing prowess is attributed to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 SoC it's leveraging. Naturally, the RAM and storage capacities will differ, but it offers the following combinations – 6GB/64GB, 8GB/128GB, and 8GB/256GB. Even with the base option, it's more than generous than what you'd find in other Android smartphones. However, it still lacks expansion via microSD.
We've previously seen OnePlus leverage a dual-camera system with the OnePlus 5T in the fall, bringing the bokeh effect to portrait shots, but we're getting refinements here with the OnePlus 6. In particular, it's sporting a 16MP f/1.7 main camera and a secondary 20MP one, which now features OIS and a 19% larger sensor to let in more light under dim situations. You could say that the OnePlus 5T struggled in low light areas, so we're hopeful that it's been remedied here. Beyond that, it' doesn't necessarily break any new grounds, especially when we have other phones with variable apertures and triple camera systems. Nevertheless, if it can deliver sharp looking photos, including its low light performance, it may stand a chance.
With the front-facing, they've added the ability to capture portrait shots, which is achieved with the aid of "AI." Since it's able to distinguish a face from the background, you can apply the usual bokeh effect, or other effects to enhance the composition. Naturally, the camera experience is supplemented with a Pro mode for those users that require more control. Over on the video side, they've added image stabilization with 4K capture and a new slow-motion mode that captures footage in HD quality.
The battery capacity remains the same as its predecessor, so that's a 3,300 mAh cell, which should hopefully deliver longer results considering the optimizations with the software and newer Snapdragon 845 processor. Now that they've ditched the all-metal construction, one would be led to believe that wireless charging would finally be available, but that's not the case here. It's been left out, probably to help with maintaining the phone's targeted cost, but OnePlus is more confident in how its Dash Charge technology is superior enough to get users enough of a charge to last them close to the entire day with only a half-hour of charging the phone.
The OnePlus lineage
Bold new steps were taken here with the OnePlus 6, evident in its entirely brand-new all-glass design, which does nicely to almost emulate the metal look and feel with a couple of the color options. Even better, it continues to be a flagship killer of sorts, not only for the fact that it's pack to the brim with all of the latest cutting-edge hardware out there, like a dual-camera system, the Snapdragon 845, and a polarizing nearly bezel-less display, but it continues to undercut the competition with its price.
The OnePlus 6 carries a starting price of $529 with the base model of the mirror black version. That's an increase of $30 over the OnePlus 5T. Nitpickers might see this slight increase as an alarming move, given how it's been increasing in price – moving farther away from the $299 cost of the original model. Despite that, when we consider what it's competing in the space right now, one that's occupied by flagships easily in the $700+ range, the $529 cost of the OnePlus 6 is still a substantial amount of savings.
If it can really deliver solid results primarily with its camera, this redesigned smartphone may very offer the most bang for the buck we've seen so far this year! Pre-orders for the OnePlus 6 will be available shortly, with an anticipated general availability date of June 5th attached to it. Those interested may want to snag pre-orders, just because there may be some wait involved before its stock levels are replenished.