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OnePlus 6 Review: Killing in the Name of Flagships

If there’s a smartphone company that needs no introduction, it’s OnePlus. A company that had no right to be as big as they are today, they shot to smartphone stardom with one monicker: flagship killer. Their goal was simple; to make a smartphone that doesn’t bust the bank, while showing the big boys how it’s done. Not only did OnePlus prove that it doesn’t have to cost nearly as much to own a smartphone, but it also proved that if you put your mind to something that people are all in for, the sky is the absolute limit. The OnePlus 6 is another indication of this.

OnePlus 6 Review
+ FOR
  • Exceptional Display
  • Beautiful Design
  • Minimalistic Software
  • Admirable Camera
- AGAINST
  • Battery Life Is Abysmal

Buy from OnePlus (£519)

As times have changed, and flagships are coming in at astronomical prices such as the iPhone Xs Max at £1250, OnePlus had to shift their priorities to different areas they weren’t so strong at in the past, which was design. As much as OnePlus made products that performed like it had a Porsche engine inside, the outside was the car equivalent to a Ford Fiesta. In the days of the Samsung Galaxy S4, HTC’s One Series and LG’s G line, a design of a smartphone wasn’t a top priority for many companies back when smartphones were in their infancy. Time traveling to the present day, smartphones look how they perform; supercar caliber through and through. Is this why prices are hiking up to another level? Maybe, but these products aren’t made out of 24-karat gold.

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Now the smartphone world has plateaued somewhat, with design catching up to performance, this is where OnePlus swooped in to undercut the competition once again. The OnePlus 6 was announced earlier this year, matching what many companies have no perfected: Stunning design and look. The best part? It costs just half of what Samsung and Apple are asking for their flagships. Now that the Flagship Killer is upon its sixth kill, can the company reach the serial killer level with the best all-around device on the market? Let’s find out.

Design

As somebody that absolutely adores Apple smartphones, the one thing that always draws me back to them time and time again is the Cupertino companies design standards. When they release a smartphone every year, the design is one thing that’s a top priority, even back in the days when a design wasn’t exactly on top of the list for most other device manufacturers. Every corner is polished within an inch of its life, chamfered beautifully, and the Apple logo shines back at you with volition.
With the OnePlus 6, it’s relatively new territory for them in one department: one-upping the competition in the design department, especially Apple & Samsung.

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Once I unboxed the OnePlus 6, I instantly fell in love. The curved, ergonomic glass design throughout the build is something only Apple could dream of someday. The thin, beautifully crafted casing carved out of the smoothest glass possible creates a metaphorical magnetised experience that keeps the phone in the hand constantly out of sheer beauty. Embracing the notch in a fashion that strays away from Apple’s method, OnePlus went down the route of minimalism. The display vanishes along with the sides of the polished aluminium sides, with a slight bezel that is minuscule along the bottom.

A word that Apple seemed to have forgotten over the past few years is ‘headphone jack,’ which OnePlus thankfully included in their latest flagship. Another thing they also kept from previous models is the silent switch which has a slight improvement over previous years, with a knurled finish to distinguish it from the rest of the buttons. If I were to criticise it slightly, I’d say that it is a little tough to switch the settings; there have been a few times during my use of the device that I tried switching notifications to ‘vibrate,’ which is the middle setting out of three, but I accidentally switched it to ‘silent’ instead.

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Along the bottom edgings of the device, there’s a USB Type-C port with a singular speaker just to the left. On the topic of Type-C, Dash Charging is included this year, which is a feature I came to adore over the 2 weeks I had with the OP6. Having the safety of knowing that as soon as you plug your device in, it’ll be halfway charged in 10 minutes is something I admittedly got used to and wanted in my iPhone X. OnePlus sure do know how to lead the way in the charging department.

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On the left, there’s a volume rocker which is just as tough as the silent switch but has an imposing clickiness to it.

Moving along to the back and you’ll notice something gleaming at you: The OnePlus logo. Something Apple were boldly proud of with the design of the iPhone X last year and continued within the Xs. The OnePlus logo shines like a star on a winter’s night, making its presence known that you’re using a OnePlus phone, and oh my does it want you to know it. Another word that isn’t known in the Apple vocabulary is ‘fingerprint sensor,’ which OnePlus thankfully included in the OP6 just below the camera sensor in the middle. For the camera, there are 2 sensors: A normal sensor and a telephoto lens for portrait goodness.

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From the beautifully curved glass of the Gorilla Glass to the sweet feeling of confidence when you first rip the plastic off your brand new device, the OnePlus 6 is by far the best-looking smartphone that I’ve ever had the pleasure of feeling. Perfectly executed, and looks like the Porsche of smartphones.

Display

If there’s one thing OnePlus take a lot of pride in when it comes to busting down the doors of the flagship world, it’s their displays. Although never going on record to admit it, I always go on the assumption that myself and OnePlus are on the same wavelength when it comes to displays and its execution because at the end of the day, it’s not just designed that makes a smartphone great; the display can sometimes make or break a smartphone in my opinion.

I always use this example to prove that exact point, and that’s the LG G3. Brilliant in design execution, but the display was very much an afterthought that made the experience a lot more cheapened for a flagship experience it was made out to be in the marketing.

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The OP6 has a 6.28 inch AMOLED display with a 402 PPI density. For those unaware, PPI stands for ‘Pixels Per Inch,’ meaning the more ppl you have, the more clarity and density the display has. In terms of resolution, OnePlus went for the safe option in the name of battery life and stuck with the standard 1080p setting (1080 x 2280). I don’t exactly blame OnePlus for not embracing the ushered in, an up-and-coming new standard of 2k, or even 4k, because at the end of the day the only major differences you would notice in day-to-day usage would be crisper text and slightly better image production. On the flip side of that coin, battery life takes a major hit dependant on what type of display is used, pairing that with a lot more pixels to push, almost doubling the PPI.

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Getting down to brass tacks, there’s only one word to trust describe the display of the OP6, and that’s enthralling. There’s no denying that I’m an AMOLED fanboy; after following the technology progress and improve over the years with efforts from Samsung, I’ve been in awe of how much improvement has been made in a relatively short time. Gone are the days of teething problems, murky whites, ghosting issues, and over saturated colours. We have finally arrived at the peak AMOLED I knew it could be back in the early Samsung days.

The OP6 proves this in spades, with beautifully crafted colour reproduction, IPS-like whites, and, of course, pure darks that only the aforementioned IPS could ever dream of. Although the display portion of the phone is donated to by Samsung, the calibration is all done in-house by OnePlus and it has a plethora of options if you weren’t a fan of saturation. Out of the box, the default calibration of the screen has those sultry, sweet, eye-popping colours that we all come to know and love from an AMOLED panel, but if you were more of a fan of the tepid, not as intense ride that OnePlus prepared out of the box, there’s both a sRGB and DCI-P3 option.

sRGB takes an IPS approach with true to natural colours, and a warmer colour temperature, whereas DCI-P3 is more of the same but on the colder side.

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If I were to make a recommendation for people buying this phone: Change the software theme to dark. This is where the true plus points of AMOLED shine brightest, excelling in the pure black department throughout the whole software, accentuating the colours in a new, more exciting way.

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In terms of brightness, using the OP6 outside in sunny conditions with auto-brightness switched on, the phone performs as admirably as it can do for an AMOLED panel of this caliber. It’s still perfectly viewable in sunny conditions, with a little squinting needed if you need to read something. In any other condition, the auto brightness overcompensates for the lack of light by providing a floodlight of brightness to sometimes burn your retinas off.
After a week of using this phone with auto-brightness, I switched it off and changed the brightness based off of what my situations were. Thanks to Android, you can change the brightness from the notification panel in no more than 2 swipes.

Performance

One area OnePlus never ceases to amaze people at is in the performance department. When you are known for being a prominent ‘flagship killer’ in a market filled with simply excellent smartphones, performance is one place you can’t go half-assed at. With the OP6, the same is very much presented from the beginning. Sporting Snapdragon’s latest 845 chip, it would be hard to not notice how speedy this phone is from the get-go. Just the simplicity and suaveness of switching from one app to the other instantaneously makes the experience not only enjoyable, but the most complete I’ve ever seen in an Android device in recent memory.

As much as benchmarks mean nothing but having a massive ego, here’s a few screenshots showing what the OP6 is capable of. As expected, the results are up there with the best devices out there on the market for almost triple the price of the OP6 asking price.

The main thing I enjoyed about the OnePlus 6, and why it changed my mind on Android in recent times is the fact that everything felt so…right. iPhone users will understand what I’m talking about when I say ‘it just works’, without putting much explanation behind it. You don’t have to necessarily do anything to have the best experience possible, because Apple creates the experience that’s best for everyone. I can’t help but think that OnePlus wanted to aim for the fruit-based product in this device, and it shows in just the sheer excellence of the performance. OnePlus made an experience everyone would love with no need to configure it in a way that makes you pull your hair out. It’s simple, intuitive, and responds to any action you throw at it in milliseconds. Even the scrolling experience, which is something I always had a gripe within past Android devices is just as smooth, if not smoother than Apple devices. Not only is that a deathly blow to Apple’s mantra of being different, but it also makes them the same as one company in particular: OnePlus.

Camera

The OnePlus 6 has 2 camera sensors, one is a telephoto lens to take care of the portrait side of things, and the other is a normal 12MP sensor to take care of the rest. After using this camera consistently for the last 2 weeks, leaving my iPhone X in the drawer, I can’t say I miss my iPhone’s camera in the slightest. The pictures the OP6 produces is on par with what Apple has been perfecting for many years now. OnePlus aren’t usually on the top of the praise list when it comes to cameras, with many of their previous phones lacking in this department, but the OP6 means business in pretty much every department this time around.

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Pictures produced are sharp, not too over saturated, and the colour reproduction is life-like to such a degree that you feel like you’re in the moment you took the photo each time you look at it. In normal lighting conditions, with bits of sunlight, the OP6 really comes into its own. It produces the richest, full of life colour that any smartphone camera has come close to producing in the past. The software itself is very much Apple-inspired, and I don’t find that a negative thing for OnePlus. There’s no denying Apple’s camera software is one of the most user-friendly out there with not too many options too confusing the average consumer, and the OnePlus camera software does exactly the same thing. Everything is laid out simply, and almost in a poetic manner.

The only time the OnePlus actually struggled, much like many smartphones, is in the lowest of light conditions. It tries to overcompensate in the sharpness department that produces a ‘ghosting’ effect, which is great if it’s Halloween; not so much any other time of the year. Not only that, but the amount of noise after the post-processing makes for a very bad experience.

All in all, the OnePlus 6 camera makes up for previous years failures by creating one of the best Android camera experiences I’ve come to use over the past few years.

Software

Note: the review unit I received had the Android P preview installed

After my review of the Huawei Mate 20 lite, it left a sour taste in my mouth in terms of its software experience. You had to jump through so many hoops to get the best experience you can possibly get.

Luckily, for the dominant flagship killer of the OnePlus 6, it comes with stock Android Oreo out of the box, with Android P already in a preview for this device. With my version of the OnePlus 6, Android P was installed from the very beginning, and I must say that Android P(ie) is the most polished version of the operating system to date. It feels so full-featured, simple, and minimalistic to such a degree that I didn’t feel the need to go back to my iPhone even after fully testing this device.

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It’s not all stock Android, though, as OnePlus also added their own shine to the already perfected pastry of Android with more customisation options. If you didn’t like the overbearing whites of the software design, you can simply turn it to dark mode to make all the stock applications throughout the OS black to work better with the OLED display. If you didn’t like the notch, no problem – just go to the settings menu and switch it off so it’s hidden.

Usually, when I set up an Android device for the first time, I change the launcher within 10 minutes of doing so. But, for the first time, the default OnePlus launcher is one feature of the software I loved the most about the whole experience. More specifically I loved the ‘Shelf’ feature OnePlus introduced a couple of years ago, and it only seems to be improving. Having the freedom of just swiping right on your home screen to see the widgets you need in one place, much like what Apple has in iOS 11 onwards, but done a little better as you can also write memos as you go along.

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Another stand-out feature of OnePlus’ version of Android is the gaming mode feature, which turns off notifications imposing on you while you play Bloons TD 6 (other games are available). Also, if apps aren’t updated for OnePlus’ edge-to-edge display, you can simply force it in the gaming menu in the settings menu.

Battery Life

Last, but not least in this review and it’s probably one thing that the OnePlus 6 fell flat on for me. As a heavy user on a day to day basis, I expect the battery to at least last me up until I get home from work so I can Dash Charge to my heart’s content. But, alas, the OP6 doesn’t seem to cut the mustard in that regard. After about 4-5 hours of screen-on time throughout my usual day, the OnePlus would be in the dangerous territory of switching itself off with 2% or so battery before I got home. On some days, it would quite literally switch off before I could reach a charger.

If you’re a user with moderate usage in an average day, with close to 3 hours or so screen-on time, you could easily get through the day and night without having to worry about it.

Unfortunately, for me, battery life isn’t going to keep me going with my current usage patterns.

Wrap-Up

Did OnePlus manage to keep the moniker of ‘Flagship Killer’ true to its name in the world of £1000 flagships with exceptional looks and super-speed performance? I’d say they proved that and then some. If you put the OP6 up against the likes of the Samsung Galaxy Note 9, the OnePlus 6 beats it in almost every department with the exception of battery life.

OnePlus managed to create a masterpiece for half the price of every flagship smartphone out there, yet again proving that money isn’t everything if you want the smartphone of your dreams, because it’s already arrived in the form of the OnePlus 6.

About Kurt Colbeck

Cynical, bitter, and speaks his mind. And those are my good points! I like to ramble and I love technology, so this is why I'm here.

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