“The OnePlus 6 is the first smartphone in the country to ship with a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor”
Chinese smartphone giant OnePlus is among the rare breed of manufacturers which still delivers flagship-grade specs at wallet-friendly price points. Ever since the launch of the OnePlus 5 (review), which was a really solid smartphone, we’ve been waiting for the next big thing to come out of the company’s stables. The OnePlus 5T (review), which too is a fantastic device and has been my daily driver for the last six months, was merely an iterative upgrade over the 5.
Well, the company has just launched the OnePlus 6 (first impressions) in India, which is the first smartphone in the country to ship with the beastly Snapdragon 845 chip. Coupled with OnePlus’ near-stock OS, I can confirm that the OnePlus 6 is the fastest smartphone you can get your hands on, for now at least. But, is there more to this OnePlus flagship than its performance, or is it merely an adrenaline rush? Well, that’s what I’m here to find out in my review of the flagship.
Design and display: classing it up by glassing it up
It’s been a while since OnePlus experimented with the design of its smartphones – two years, to be precise. Ever since the company launched the OnePlus 3 (review), which quite honestly feels like ages ago, the brand has stuck to the same design philosophy and has constructed its smartphones from a single slab of metal. Well, all that changes with the OnePlus 6, which is only the second smartphone from the company (after the OnePlus X) to make use of a glass-back design. This is cause for both, good as well as bad news.
The good news here is that the OnePlus 6 is the most premium-looking smartphone to come out of the company’s stables. There are no two ways about it – the smartphone is gorgeous and the brand has left no stone unturned to dress the smartphone up to the nines. The back curves beautifully and seamlessly into the display panel, the black finish on the smartphone looks black instead of greyish and the device rivals the likes of the Apple iPhone X (review) and the Samsung Galaxy S9+ (review) in terms of in-hand feel. I’ve never said this about a OnePlus smartphone before, but I’d be surprised if the OnePlus 6 doesn’t turn heads every time you take it out of your pockets.
Before I got my hands on the OnePlus 6, I used to treat my OnePlus 5T like a work horse, carelessly dropping it on the pavement, carrying it without a case and snapping it away from its charger aggressively. I can’t do that with the new flagship however. While the glass body of the OnePlus 6 works in favour of the smartphone’s aesthetics, it also makes the device more fragile and therefore, you’ll have to be wary of how you use the device. My other complaint with the design is the same as any other glass-back smartphone – the Mirror black model of the OnePlus 6 is a fingerprint magnet and it’s impossible to keep the device smudge-free. No such issues with the Midnight Black and the Silk White models though – both feature matte finishes and don’t get smudged so easily.
Now, I can live with wrapping my phone in a case, but what I don’t understand is OnePlus’ decision to snub important features like water-proofing and wireless charging from the smartphone. Without at least one of these features onboard, there seems to be an unnecessary gap between the OnePlus 6 and other premium flagships.
With its latest flagship, OnePlus has taken the notch display route. This is something I feel strongly against, but that’s a personal opinion. It’s clear that notch displays on smartphones are here to stay, and love it or hate it, we’re going to see lots more smartphones with display notches coming our way.
Thankfully, the OnePlus 6 allows users to disable the notch from the settings. Moreover, since the smartphone ships with an AMOLED panel, the blacks on either side of the notch are really dark, making the colour of the virtual bezel identical to the bottom chin of the smartphone. The handset doesn’t disappoint in terms of the quality of the display either and the 6.28-inch FHD+ panel has excellent viewing angles and it gets really bright too, allowing you to comfortably use it under direct sunlight.
The OnePlus 6 gives you two options to unlock it biometrically – you can either use the fingerprint sensor present at the back or rely on facial recognition. During my testing, both the methods worked flawlessly and I have no complaints from OnePlus in this department.
Camera: still has ways to go
The OnePlus 6 ships with a dual-camera setup at the back comprising a pair of 16MP and 20MP sensors. On the front, the handset gets a 16MP selfie shooter. Now, going by the specs alone, you’d be right to think that the company is using the same camera setup as the OnePlus 5T on its latest flagship. That’s partly true since the 20MP assisting shooter at the back and the 16MP selfie shooter on the OnePlus 6 make use of identical sensors as the ones found on its predecessor.
However, the brand is using a newer Sony IMX 519 sensor to power the primary 16MP camera this time around. Moreover, the shooter now also comes with support for both OIS as well as EIS, which was previously lacking on the OnePlus 5T. On the software side of things, the cameras on the OnePlus 6 can now record 4K videos at 60fps and slow-mo videos at 480fps. Unfortunately, the latter is capped at 720p resolution so you might feel that the footage is a bit grainy at times. Other than that, the company is now utilising Advanced HDR which as per OnePlus ‘brings out shadows and enhances lighting in your photo’. Lastly, the brand has promised that a software-based bokeh mode for the front-facing camera will be available for the OnePlus 6 shortly after its launch. However, as it stands, my review unit is yet to receive the update.
So, is the improved sensor on the OnePlus 6 any good? I do feel that the smartphone is a bit aggressive when it comes to HDR sampling. To understand what I mean by that, let me give you a quick crash course on how HDR works. In layman terms, a picture clicked in HDR mode will have improved contrast levels. Now, contrast is defined as the separation between the darkest and brightest areas. Therefore, the camera on the OnePlus 6 is increasing the shadows and brightening the highlights to make the image pop.
However, at times, the shadows become a bit too overpowering in the image and therefore, you’ll lose out on details in certain situations. I noticed a similar trend while clicking selfies too and as you can see from the sample images I’ve posted, the shrubs in the background look unnaturally green and the shadows aren’t how they should be either. With that said, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a better camera phone for the price of the OnePlus 6. While the images are inferior to what you might get with say a Samsung Galaxy S9+, bear in mind that you’re paying substantially less for the OnePlus 6 too.
Moreover, other than the camera’s inability to properly utilise the HDR mode, the OnePlus 6 is a solid shooter and captures some really good-looking images. The selfie-camera on the smartphone, though unchanged, clicks awesome selfies and it’ll only get better with the upcoming software update. Lowlight performance is a bit of a hit and a miss and depending on how much light is available to you, you’ll end up with a serviceable picture at best.
Software: No more, no less
OnePlus offers a near-stock version of Android with its smartphones, which is free from clutter and bloat. The software has a few nifty tweaks of its own too, but they don’t take up a huge chunk of the device’s resources or impede with its performance. OnePlus calls its platform Oxygen OS and the company’s latest flagship runs Oxygen OS v5.3 on top of Android Oreo.
In terms of features, there aren’t many to go around since Oxygen OS is more utilitarian than decorative. That said, you do get the option to theme your OnePlus 6 slightly, along with features like a reading mode and the ability to navigate the UI by means of gestures. The gestures work in a similar fashion to the ones found on Apple’s iPhone X – a short swipe up from the left takes you back, a long swipe up from the middle acts as the home button and swiping up and holding for a second brings up the multitasking tray. The learning curve isn’t that steep and you can easily memorise and get comfortable with the gestures after using the smartphone for a day. Other features we’ve seen previously on OxygenOS are there too – including Reading mode, three-finger screenshot, App Locker, screen-off gestures and expanded screenshot.
Performance: Fast and Furious
As I mentioned previously, the OnePlus 6 is the first smartphone in the country to feature the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor. My review unit shipped with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, but you can get the device in a 6GB/64GB option too. The company has also unveiled a special Marvel Avengers edition of the smartphone, which features 8GB of RAM and a whopping 256GB of storage. Since the handset doesn’t let users expand the storage, I’d recommend you give some thought to which model you want to buy as you’ll be stuck with what you get out-of-the-box.
As far as the performance is concerned, the OnePlus 6 is blazingly fast. If smartphones were superheroes, then the OnePlus 6 would undoubtedly be the Flash from Justice League (get it?). As I mentioned previously, I’ve been using the OnePlus 5T as my daily driver for the past six months and to date, the handset hasn’t let me down. I was unsure if the OnePlus 6 would offer any perceivable difference in performance as compared to its predecessor, but it manages to outpace the 5T. Apps opened in the blink of an eye, multitasking was more fluid and the smartphone just felt a tad bit more responsive. I’ve always been a fan of OnePlus for offering blazingly fast performance but I feel that the company has outdone itself with the OnePlus 6.
Now, I know what you must be wondering – any smartphone with a Snapdragon 845 or equivalent chip will perform the same. Well, having used the Samsung Galaxy S9+ for over a week, I can confirm that that’s not the case since powerful hardware is just one part of the equation. You’ll also need optimised software which doesn’t eat up a smartphone’s resources – and OnePlus’s Oxygen OS is just that.
OnePlus did not increase the battery capacity on its latest flagship, which still measures in at 3,300mAh. However, I was satisfied with the smartphone’s battery life which saw me through the end of some long days at the office. On the off chance you’re running low on charge, you can just plug in the smartphone and get a respectable amount of juice back in a few minutes, thanks to the company’s proprietary Dash Charge technology. On the flip side, the technology only works if you’re using the bundled cable and the charger, else your OnePlus 6 will charge slowly.
You can get the OnePlus 6 in three different models – a 6GB/64GB variant which will set you back Rs 34,999, an 8GB/128GB variant which costs Rs 39,999 and the Marvel Avengers special edition model which comes with 8GB RAM and 256GB of storage and costs Rs 44,999. Now, let me be clear – if you already own the OnePlus 5T, then there’s not much here to entice you to upgrade.
But if I were to buy a smartphone under Rs 40,000 right now, I would pick the 6GB RAM variant of the OnePlus 6 in a heartbeat. The OnePlus 6 is an excellent buy at Rs 34,999, as it comes with the fastest Snapdragon processor, the latest Android software, a good-looking design and excellent battery life. The cameras aren’t extraordinary and you’ll get a mini heart attack every time you drop the smartphone. But for the price, OnePlus has yet again delivered a product which makes for superb value for money.
Editor’s rating: 4 / 5
- Incredible performance
- Great battery life
- Good quality display
- Cameras not on par with other premium flagships
- No IP rating or wireless charging