OnePlus 6 review, one month in: Still a flagship killer?

OnePlus has never shied away from taking on the giants of the mobile industry dating all the way back to the original OnePlus One device, which offered killer hardware and specs at a fraction of the price of your typical flagship smartphone. That philosophy has changed a bit over the years (and we’ve certainly complained about it) but at the end of the day the company is still trying to offer a top-shelf product without a top-shelf price or expensive locked-in contract.

It’s been a little over a month since the OnePlus 6 debuted, so now’s our time to dig in and see if this thing’s still worth checking out after the dust has settled and we have some new phones on the horizon.

Design

OnePlus has grown into their own design language, helping their phones stick out in a pretty crowded atmosphere. But perhaps the most controversial decision OnePlus made this time around is the display notch. Yep, the notch introduced by Essential and popularized by Apple has made its way to even the boldest manufacturers like OnePlus, for better or worse, offering maximum usable screen space while pushing extra information (like your status bar) onto the very top of the phone next to the front-facing cameras.

Personally, I don’t mind these notches. You can argue aesthetics all day long, and both sides are valid, but functionally the notch gives you more screen real estate without sacrificing anything. Unless you hate the way it looks, obviously. Again, totally valid, but I’m taking the functional opinion here.

But okay, enough about the notch. There’s still other things to talk about with the OnePlus 6, like that slick new glass back that attracts fingerprints like nobody’s business, and the fantastic overall design. I do hate how hard it is to keep the phone clean, especially in the midnight black variant, but man it just looks so good and feels great in hand.

You’re still getting the tall aspect ratio that’s becoming more and more popular which makes the phone slightly easier to use with one hand, although the OP6’s large screen still makes that a tough sell. Light browsing is doable without using a second hand, but reaching the status bar is tricky.

The left side of the phone houses the volume buttons, while the right side is where you’ll find OnePlus’s always-welcome notification slider and power button. There’s nothing up top but a microphone and the standard array of USB-C charging port, headphone jack, and speaker on the bottom.

If you’re worried about fingerprints though, seriously, check out the white or brand new red version of the OnePlus 6.

Hardware

 OnePlus 6
AnnouncedMay 16, 2018
Display6.28-inch AMOLED Display, 2280 x 1080 (FHD+), 19:9 aspect ratio, Gorilla Glass 5
ProcessorQualcomm Snapdragon 845 octa-core. Adreno 630 GPU
RAM6GB/8GB
Storage64GB/128GB/256GB
Rear Camera16MP (Sony IMX519) Primary sensor, 1.22-micron pixels, F/1.7, OIS, EIS,
20MP secondary sensor,1-micron pixels, F/1.7
Front Camera16MP (Sony IMX371), 1-micron pixels, F/2.0
Battery3,300mAh (non-removable)
ChargingUSB Type C, Dash Charge
SoftwareAndroid 8.1 Oreo
OxygenOS 5.1.4
Connectivity802.11ac WiFi, 2x2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0, aptX HD, NFC, GPS, GLONASS, GALILEO
NetworkFDD-LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/30/32/66/71
TDD-LTE Band 34/38/39/40/41
TD-SCDMA Band 34/39
HSPA Band 1/2/4/5/8/9/19
CDMA Band BC0/BC1
Ingress protectionSplash-resistant
Measurements155.7 x 75.4 x 7.75mm
Weight177 grams
ColorsMidnight Black, Mirror Black, Silk White

Performance

OnePlus loves to brag about the performance of their devices and the absolute best-in-class hardware that they cram in everything, and for good reason. Falsified benchmarks aside, the OnePlus 6, like its predecessors, performs extremely well. You can get the device configured with up to 8GB of RAM, and paired with a Snapdragon 845 CPU, you’re going to feel it fly. OnePlus tries not to let software get in the way of the hardware, either, creating an experience that’s consistently snappy whether you’re just navigating the UI, gaming, or switching between apps.

Once again, though, the screen is one of the corners that OnePlus cuts to hit a certain price point. You’re only getting a 1080p display on the biggest OnePlus screen ever, stretching that full HD resolution across a 6.3-inch display. Is it bad? No, honestly, not at all. Would you notice an improvement on things like text sharpness and gaming fidelity with a better screen? Yep, most likely.

It’s also a drawback for virtual reality, in case you’re into that. I wouldn’t let the resolution turn you away from the phone, but man it’s getting harder and harder to see this every year when every other OEM is making better and crisper screens without sacrificing performance or battery life.

I’m gonna complain about the speakers, though. For this price point and anything labeled as a flagship killer, the OnePlus 6 speakers suck. The speakers have sucked for the last few iterations of OnePlus devices, and next year’s OnePlus 7 speakers will also probably suck. Fix your speakers, OnePlus.

Battery

The OnePlus 6 sticks with a 3300mAh battery, the same as what we’ve seen for the past few years. And, once again, the battery life holds up about as well as the older phones. It’s not bad, but it’s somewhere between good and great. Something a little better would be a welcome addition, but we’re getting a bigger screen and more processor efficiency, so it’s almost a plus that the battery life isn’t shorter. Almost.

However! OnePlus offers Dash Charging super fast charging to help juice your device up to 60% in 30 minutes. So even if your phone is struggling mid-day you can get plenty of extra charge in no time at all, alleviating some of the concern.

Wireless charging is still absent though, which is odd considering the shift to a glass-backed design. Oh well, maybe next year.

Software

OnePlus generally does a pretty good job of not adding too much fluff to their own spin on Android, called OxygenOS, and that trend continues with the OnePlus 6. There are some additions, and OnePlus claims there are hundreds of tweaks to the software under the hood, but overall stock Android fans will be pretty happy here.

There’s no noticeable “skin” or any theming that you’ll find on the phone, outside of a few different app icons. OnePlus uses their own weather app, for example, but it’s pretty lightweight and fits in well with Google’s design language. The navigation keys are boring and normal (no Pixel-y animations, unfortunately) and your stock apps like the calendar and calculator are indistinguishable from AOSP flavors.

But the additions OnePlus does make are often very cool and easy to take advantage of, like the Shelf feature in the home launcher. When you swipe all the way to the leftmost screen you’ll find a list of widgets and information, kind of like Google’s feed but more customizable and without the recommendation algorithms. You can put any of your device’s widgets here, like calendars, search boxes, or music controls, but OnePlus offers their own toolbox shortcut bar, a widget for your membership cards, recent apps, a data usage dashboard, and a quick memo bar. And if you just absolutely hate the Shelf for any reason, you can turn all of it off in settings.

OnePlus commits to several fixes for next OnePlus 6 update

If you’re into customization, the launcher supports icon packs, notification dots, and configurable grids for different size layouts. You can tweak damn near everything else about the phone too, like which status bar icons will appear (great way to hide persistent icons like Bluetooth), change the order of the navigation keys for Samsung converts, and even toggle the notch on and off. There’s literally too much to list here, but trust me, if you need to tinker you’re going to have plenty to play with.

OnePlus has a mostly decent track record with updates, too, at least when they’re not compromised with potentially malicious software.

Camera

If there’s one thing OnePlus loves to brag about whether or not they deserve it, it’s the camera. Ever since the shift to a dual-camera system the company has talked up how great their camera compares to other major players, and that arrogance/confidence is still here.

So how’s it hold up?

Well, it’s still not quite Galaxy S9/iPhone X level. OnePlus phones can always compete with the top tier phones to an extent, but you’re not getting an $800 smartphone camera for $500.

However, this is easily the best camera OnePlus has ever had, and it really shines in a lot of areas. Outdoor performance is stellar, capturing a ton of detail and bright, crisp colors.

The portrait mode has also drastically improved most of the time. You can get some really good looking shots out of it without accidentally blurring the wrong stuff.

Low light performance is also much improved, keeping detail without making for a soft picture.

For the price you pay, you’re seriously getting a great camera. It has telephoto zoom, the mostly reliable portrait mode, and good performance in almost every situation. It’s not the best on the market, but OnePlus still manages to hit above their weight class.

Closing

OnePlus stepped in and revolutionized the smartphone game by offering some serious hardware at a price that would make you scratch your head. It didn’t kill the flagship, obviously, but fast forward a few years and we’ve seen a massive wave of excellent phones at all kinds of price points, not just in the $600+ range.

But another thing that we keep noticing is that OnePlus isn’t quite as aggressive in the “budget-friendly” part of their flagship killing. The OnePlus 6 starts at $529 for the base 64GB model, which is still a stellar phone with great specs, but it’s closer than ever to the being the same price as other flagship phones. The 256GB model will run $629, which is right at the standard $649 price of flagship phones of yesteryear.

I get it, we have to deal with inflation and the rising cost of everything else, and raising the price allows OnePlus to craft a better phone without having to fight a $300 price constraint. That’s especially true here, as the OnePlus 6 is far and away the best phone they’ve ever made, and there’s no argument against that.

But we’ve watched the cornerstone of OnePlus erode over the past few years, and I think at this point it’s safe to say that aggressive pricing mentality is completely gone from the company’s DNA. These phones are still excellent value for what you get, but at this point I feel like even Samsung could probably hit the same price target if they dropped the high resolution display and significant R&D costs that manifest in new software features.

I can wholeheartedly recommend the OnePlus 6 as a great phone that’s worth your money, but at this point you should at least take a look at some of its contemporaries before you place the order.

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About the Author: Jared Peters

Born in southern Alabama, Jared spends his working time selling phones and his spare time writing about them. The Android enthusiasm started with the original Motorola Droid, but the tech enthusiasm currently covers just about everything. He likes PC gaming, Lenovo's Moto Z line, and a good productivity app.


  • pda96

    It still is THE phone that every other Android phone is measured by. There’s nothing out there that can beat this phone when you take its price into consideration.

  • ZBlade

    When you are looking at phone performance, nothing beats the OnePlus in value for money and I don’t think there has ever been a phone that has taken that crown since OnePlus first started. Its only when you start looking at features you and functions that you might want to start considering other phones. I think in every single phone review I have read, the gist is there isn’t a phone that suits everyone.