Review: OnePlus 6 brings simplicity, quality to the fore again

  • Bettering the 5T model by adding more features, power, camera
  • Audio quality short, no water proofing, but overall a winner again

 

Review: OnePlus 6 brings simplicity, quality to the fore again

 

IT WAS only six months ago that I had the joy of reviewing the fine OnePlus 5T made by the same company which owns Oppo Electronics Corp. OnePlus has the distinction of introducing two flagship smartphones each calendar year; the first usually around mid-year, while the other, about the close of the year.

The OnePlus 6 is the 2018 successor to the OnePlus 5T, which came out in late 2017. It has all the feature upgrades you would expect from the next iteration of a top-notch smartphone. Launched in May 2018, fans of the device have been waiting patiently over the past few months, and it finally arrived at our shores sometime in July.

Priced today at about RM2,699, depending on which memory and storage configuration you choose, the OnePlus 6 is available in four colours, and depending where you buy it from – midnight black, mirror black, silk white and amber red.

Some online shops have different colours, memory and storage options but do beware, some models are meant for the China market and may not be covered by local warranty.

Design and build

The first impression I got of the OnePlus 6 was that it has embraced what many flagship smartphones have done in the past year – a glass-wrapped body akin to other flagships from Samsung to Xiaomi, Oppo et al.

Personally, I’ve never much cared for a glass-wrapped smartphone. Give me the aluminium feel of the OnePlus 5T any day of the week and I will opt for that compared to an all-glass feel. The reason is simple; glass-wrapped smartphones are fingerprint magnets and there is always the threat of the glass shattering should it fall. Yes, aluminium would dent too, but I’d prefer dented metal to cracked glass. But I guess as the trend goes, I’m fighting a losing battle – but alas, I digress.

The OnePlus 6 is equipped with the usual top specs of a flagship model. It sports a Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Octa-core chipset and an Adreno 630 GPU. The display is an optic 6.3-inch AMOLED screen, wrapped by Corning Gorilla Glass 5, while the resolution is 1080 x 2280 pixels at 19:9 aspect ratio.

Memory-wise, you have a choice of either 128/ 256 GB, 8 GB RAM / 64 GB, 6 GB RAM which is paired with OnePlus’ proprietary Oxygen OS 5.1.11. There is no memory card slot extension but it does support dual SIM.

 

Review: OnePlus 6 brings simplicity, quality to the fore again

 

The back cameras are powered by two lenses; a 16 MP, f/1.7 focal length and has optical image stabilisation (OIS) and phase detection autofocus (PDAF) and a 1.22µm sensor; the second, a 20 MP f/1.7, 25mm, PDAF lens. It supports video at [email protected]/60fps, [email protected]/60/240fps, [email protected] and has auto HDR.

From a specifications point of view, it ranks up there with the best flagships in town but that’s the thing I like about the OnePlus philosophy – seemingly quiet. While other brands do make quite a big splash about their specs, this company doesn’t make too much of it.

If you’re a numbers person, benchmark tools Geekbench 4.0 clocks the single-core score at 2,482 and multi-core at 9,153; compute score came in at 14,254. Whilst the scores aren’t top for all things tested, it nonetheless is up there with the other top flagships.

The OnePlus 6 feels solid to hold despite the fingerprints it attracts. Although the phone is a massive 6.3-inch, the feel is only something like a 5.7-inch feel, thanks to the 19:9 aspect ratio.

Speaking about the display, I suppose the most polarising thing about this is the notch display, which so many people either hate or don’t mind. Personally, it takes some getting used to but you could always turn off the notch by going to the settings.

 

Review: OnePlus 6 brings simplicity, quality to the fore again

 

Over on the right is the on/off button and a slider to turn on vibration/silent mode. On the left you have the volume rocker button and the SIM tray. At the back you’ll find the fingerprint sensor, which is now oval rather than circular like in the OnePlus 5T. The cameras aren’t flush with the body but that’s a minor issue to me.

Charging is via OnePlus’ proprietary Dash charge, while there is still the faithful 3.5mm headphone jack in existence. The OnePlus 6 weighs in at 177g, not the lightest but it isn’t heavy either.

The one thing OnePlus has been coy about is the IP rating, or the lack thereof. At the launch, executives did not say if the device is IP-rated but still claimed that the phone is protected against minor water splashes, but this doesn’t inspire confidence as there isn’t a formal standard to assure users of its capabilities. So don’t go dunking your OnePlus 6 in the pool.

Next page: All about simplicity and minimalism

 

 

Performance and features

 

Review: OnePlus 6 brings simplicity, quality to the fore again

 

One of the best things about the OnePlus 6 that struck me is the quality of the display. Being AMOLED, which I’m definitely partial too, the blacks are just that – blacks compared to the IPS LCD screen of the Huawei Mate 9 I’m currently using.

Whether it’s just toying around with the camera, watching videos via Netflix or YouTube, the contrast is just great. Colours on the OnePlus 6 were also pretty vibrant and I found the colour balance great – not too over-saturated but at the same time, it mimics real life.

 

Review: OnePlus 6 brings simplicity, quality to the fore again

 

If there’s one thing about the OnePlus 6 that irked me it’s the audio quality and the fact that it doesn’t have dual speakers, like in the Huawei Mate 9, where the earpiece speaker is fired up when used in landscape mode. Audio quality was thin and there wasn’t bass watching shows on YouTube or Netflix. Not having a second stereo speaker was also a bummer.

The highlight of the OnePlus 6 was the battery performance. Although it has the same size as the OnePlus 5T at 3,300mAH, which had a pretty good lifespan, it’s even better now. I rarely have to charge the device before it reaches single digit percentages in the 18 hours or so of daily use. This comprised a range of things you would normally do with a smartphone, including surfing, texting, picture-taking, streaming, emails, offline music and connection to my smartwatch.

In terms of screen-on-time, the OnePlus 6 came in at about six to seven hours – depending on what you do with it, which is respectable. Watching a two-hour movie on Netflix depletes about 16%-18% of battery life, which is not bad at all.

In any case when your battery juice is down, OnePlus’ proprietary Dash charge is excellent and will give it a boost of between 50% and 60% in 30 minutes or so.

Software-wise, the OnePlus 6 sports the latest Oxygen OS which the company is known for. The version is currently at 5.1.11, and that’s one thing good about OnePlus. Because it’s so close to the stock Android feel, the updates come very quickly from the manufacturer. When I first received the device for review, it was at a lower version but in the two weeks or so I’ve had it, a new software push happened.

The OnePlus 6 is also ‘future proofed,’ as it will most likely get support for the next Android 9 (Android Pie) upgrade. Fans of the OnePlus’ Oxygen OS have always shouted about its simplicity, quickness, and great updates, and the OnePlus 6 is no different. I found everything about the software a joy to use and everything extremely fast to get to. Being paired with the Snapdragon 845 and 6GB of RAM also helps.

The one new feature worth mentioning from the Oxygen 5.1.11 update is that you have the option of doing away with the dated navigation keys at the bottom of the screen – you know the ‘O’ for home; left pointed triangle for back and the square for the options button. You can still stick to this if you’d like, but now you have gestures as an option.

The new navigation is pretty intuitive to use. Just swipe up from the middle of the screen to go home; swipe up and hold to see recent apps; and swipe up from either the left or right side to go back. With these three actions, you get extra real estate at the bottom of the screen.

Apart from this, there isn’t much to say about the software. OnePlus does give you some extra features which stock Android doesn’t have, such as custom gestures and themes. The OnePlus 6 also comes with support for Google Assistant and can support other launchers such as Nova Launcher.

Camera and video

This is where the OnePlus 6 has made some marked gains. While it doesn’t seem very different from the OnePlus 5T specs, you would think that there aren’t many improvements. However, the bump up of the sensor size from 1.12µm to 1.22µm made a difference in getting the light spectrum in low-light environments. Aiding the quest to get you to a better camera is OIS, which the OnePlus 5T did not have.

 

Review: OnePlus 6 brings simplicity, quality to the fore again

 

Picture quality was a clear improvement from its predecessor, which is to be expected. Yes, under really dim lit conditions, there is still quite a fair bit of noise picked up but if you’re not over analysing it, low-lit pictures do look good.

Needless to say, the outdoor, brightly-lit shots were great. The colour, IMHO, weren’t too saturated and the vibrancy of the colours as well as its balance was just right. Portrait modes too are good.

 

Review: OnePlus 6 brings simplicity, quality to the fore again

 

One review has argued that the reigning king of smartphone pics today is Huawei’s P20 Pro, featuring its three-camera set up. Whilst that may very well be true, I would dare say that the OnePlus 6 isn’t that far behind.

Also bear in mind the price differential between the latter and the former smartphone. To me, it’s more than decent and OnePlus deserves kudos for that. Perhaps it’ll launch a better thing further when the OnePlus 6T comes out later this year.

The camera app is easy and very quick to use, and certainly less complicated than what you would find in a Huawei Mate 10, for example. I like the fact that the camera doesn’t have bloated AI or other cumbersome features to use, and this goes straight to the heart of the OnePlus philosophy – simplicity and minimalistic.

 

Review: OnePlus 6 brings simplicity, quality to the fore again

 

You have your usual flash, HDR, portrait, panorama options, as well as zoom, and to activate the pro mode just requires you to swipe up.

Serious videographers will be disappointed though, as there isn’t any support for slow motion capture in the OnePlus 6. It however does capture in 480fps but that isn’t quite the super slow motion you’ll find in the Samsung Galaxy S9 or Sony Xperia XZ2, but bear in mind those latter two devices are more expensive than the OnePlus 6.

I found the video capture is best for outdoors rather than indoors, as in low light situations, it can pick up quite a bit of noise thus resulting in poorer quality shots.

Conclusion

So how can you top an already good smartphone in the form of the OnePlus 5T? Well, give it more horsepower in the form of the Snapdragon 845, more memory, storage, great screen, slicker OS and a better camera – and you’ll get the OnePlus 6.

To me, OnePlus has stuck to its tried-and-tested formula: Produce a great flagship smartphone using the latest and best spare parts and keep incrementally improving it bit-by-bit, while not letting the price run away by much.

Sometimes, less fanfare is better, and this is how the OnePlus 6 comes across.

 

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