“The speed you need”. The focus group that combined those four words to create the OnePlus 6's vague, unfocused tagline haven't done the Chinese firm’s eighth smartphone justice. Suggesting that the OnePlus 6 only offers the processing power that’s necessary, and no more, well, that's underselling it somewhat. Let me explain.
In reality, this is OnePlus’ beefiest smartphone to date. As the first OnePlus phone to be powered by Qualcomm’s latest (and fastest) Snapdragon 845 processor – the same chipset found inside the Samsung Galaxy S9 and Sony Xperia XZ2 – the OnePlus 6 reprises a familiar role. Once more, this is a mid-range phone with flagship DNA at its core. This time around, however, there have been a few changes.
OnePlus 6 review: What you need to know
The OnePlus 6 is the firm’s latest flagship-killing smartphone. Equipped with Qualcomm’s octa-core 2.8GHz Snapdragon 845 processor – rather than the 2.4GHz Snapdragon 835 we’ve seen previously – and a choice of either 6- or 8GB of RAM and three different storage configurations, this phone seeks to join the ranks of other smartphone giants.
The 19:9 screen, which remains a 2,280 x 1,080 resolution unit, is slightly larger at 6.3in across the diagonal, with a familiar iPhone X-style notch at the top. A dual 16- and 20-megapixel camera arrangement is on the rear, and the phone runs Android 8.1 Oreo from the get-go.
OnePlus 6 review: Price and competition
The OnePlus 6 launches in the UK for £469. This makes it the cheapest Snapdragon 845-equipped phone in the shops: Sony’s Xperia XZ2 costs £700 , Samsung’s Galaxy S9 Plus is £869 and the Huawei P20 Pro – our current smartphone favourite – is yours for £800 .
OnePlus 6 review: Design
So, what’s new with the OnePlus 6? Is this a phone you’d want to upgrade to from your six-month-old OnePlus 5T? Well, the first thing you’ll notice, especially if you place both phones next to each other, is that the 6’s screen has grown from 6in to 6.3in, which has necessitated a slight increase in the phone’s size. This might not sound like a drastic difference, but when you factor in the phone’s increased thickness and weight you’re looking at a smartphone that isn’t as pocketable as last year’s model.
The 6 also joins the ranks of all-metal-and-glass smartphones, with the front and back of the phone sandwiched between a layer of Gorilla Glass 5. This provides added protection from drops, but the OnePlus 6 isn’t IP-rated for dust- or water-resistance. Instead, OnePlus says that the phone is “water-resistant for everyday use”, so you can expect protection from light splashes of rain, but not much else.
Elsewhere, the OnePlus 6’s layout largely remains the same. There’s a volume rocker and dual-SIM slot on the left side of the phone with a three-position “alert-slider” and power button on the right. On the bottom you’ll find the USB-C port with Dash Charge support, a 3.5mm headphone jack (hooray!) and the solitary speaker grille.
There are three different colours of OnePlus 6 to choose from: matte “midnight” black, reflective “mirror” black – which you can see from my images in this review – and a special “silk” white model, with pearl powder underneath the rear glass panel that shimmers when the phone catches the light.
OnePlus 6 review: Display
As for the display, we’re looking at a massive 6.3in 2,280 x 1,080 resolution AMOLED screen, with a 19:9 aspect ratio. It fills most of the front of the phone, as you’d expect, and there’s even an iPhone X-like notch at the top, although it isn’t as wide as Apple’s equivalent.
Because this is an AMOLED panel, contrast ratios and colour reproduction are practically perfect. The screen covers 100% of the sRGB colour gamut space on the “Default” display mode according to our display colorimeter, with an average Delta E of 1.91, which means you can expect excellent-looking colours across the entire palette.
Peak brightness, on the other hand, isn’t quite as impressive, reaching only 411cd/m2 even with auto-brightness enabled. In really bright conditions it’ll be very tricky to read what’s on screen without shading the phone with your hand.
OnePlus 6 review: Performance and battery life
The OnePlus 6’s performance didn’t come as a surprise, either. Equipped with the same processor as the Sony Xperia XZ2 – Qualcomm’s latest Snapdragon 845 – the OnePlus 6 is just as fast, reaching a speedy score of 2,422 in the Geekbench 4 single-core test, and 8,783 in multi-core. This, without question, is a phone that’s perfectly poised to sit at the top of the class.
And it’s a similar story with GPU performance. Running GFX Bench’s on-screen and off-screen Car Chase test, the OnePlus 6 achieved average frame rates of 32fps and 35fps at native resolution.
The OnePlus 6 also has the same 3,300mAh battery as last year’s OnePlus 5T. While I didn’t expect overall battery life to take a massive hit, even with the increased screen size, it’s obvious that the 6’s stamina isn’t quite as good as last year’s. The phone lasted 17hrs and 18mins in our video rundown test – a good two hours less than the OnePlus 5T – but you can still expect the OnePlus 6 to last at least a day and a half on a single charge.
OnePlus 6 review: Camera
Where I also expected a change, was in the OnePlus 6’s photo capabilities. You might not believe me looking at the headline specs – both dual-cameras look pretty much identical – but the main f.1.7, 16-megapixel camera has a 19% larger sensor than last year’s phone. What this means is that the sensor is capable of capturing more light, which should make for better low-light pictures – especially with optical image stabilisation (OIS) engaged.
Stills quality is noticeably better this year, and it’s clear that the OnePlus 6 is far more capable at capturing images in a wide-range of environments. The camera picks up more of the finer details than ever, especially as the light dims, and there’s little evidence of visual noise no matter the lighting conditions. Simply put, the OnePlus 6’s camera is among the best in the business.
^ OnePlus 6 on the left, compared with the OnePlus 5T on the right ^
However, where the OnePlus 6 is slightly lagging behind its smartphone photography rivals is in its secondary camera. There are no fancy telephoto lenses or monochrome sensors here. No, this secondary camera simply adds depth to the phone’s blurred background bokeh-like photo mode. That’s all, and there’s no 960fps slo-mo video mode like with Sony’s Xperia XZ2, either. You can, however, capture up to 4K resolution video at 60fps with OIS enabled, so that's nice.
OnePlus 6 review: Software
The OnePlus 6 runs Google’s latest version of its mobile operating system on launch – Android 8.1 Oreo – with OnePlus’ own OxygenOS launcher layered over the top. This isn’t a stock Android experience like the most recent Nokia phones or Google’s own Pixel 2, so there are a few subtle differences to be aware of.
The first is OnePlus’ new Gaming Mode, which adds a bunch of different gaming optimisations, such as performance improvements and framerate restrictions, and allows you to block notifications when playing specific games. There’s a new addition to the three-switch alert slider, too, which displays which alert setting – either ring, vibrate or silent – you have selected on-screen.
OnePlus 6 review: Verdict
The OnePlus 6 offers significant improvements over last year’s OnePlus 5T. While several of those aren't glaringly obvious, the decision to add a Snapdragon 845 processor to a phone that costs a good £300 less than its similarly-equipped competition is a seriously smart move.
Throw in a handful of camera upgrades, a refreshing new design and Android 8.1 Oreo straight out the box, and the OnePlus 6 begins to paint a familiarly appealing picture. This is a smartphone that’s just as meaty as its rivals, with a not-so-outrageous price tag attached. That was always going to work in the OnePlus 6’s favour, wasn’t it?