Wednesday, May 16, 2018

OnePlus 6 Hands-On: Redefined Speed and a Premium Design that Reflects 2018’s Smartphone Trends

The OnePlus 6 has just been announced, sporting a new look and the beefy set of specifications we've come to expect from OnePlus. Last year's OnePlus 5T is a tough act to follow, but the company seeks to entice customers by doubling down on its core user experience tenets while polishing their approach to design, bringing it up to modern trends and standards. The device's product page has already gone live, which you can check out here.

This new device brings all the familiar perks such as the alert slider, Dash Charge and the convenient OxygenOS features we've come to either love or ignore. Beneath the hood, the new camera hardware aims to redeem the company's failed first attempt at an ultra-competitive dual camera setup. Moreover, OnePlus claims that the latest silicon this device packs, coupled with their software enhancements, will provide "the speed you need", promising a continued (or even accentuated) focus on performance. And of course, the user experience is contained within a new all-glass design with an even taller display, and the often-dreaded but increasingly-common notch.

We've had some time with the device and while we aren't able to provide a detailed analysis of each of its core functions just yet, we have a few things to say about its new design and the overall package. If you want a detailed refresher of the phone's specifications, either click the toggle below this paragraph, check out our announcement post, or continue reading for our hands-on summary below, which has just about everything a quick overview should have.

OnePlus 6 Specifications

Category Specification Category Specification
Dimensions & Weight 155.7 x 75.4 x 7.75mm

6.2 oz/177g

RAM 6GB/8GB LPDDR4X
Design & Colors All-Glass (Corning Gorilla Glass 5)

Midnight Black, Mirror Black, Silk White

Storage 64GB/128GB/256GB UFS 2.1 Dual-Lane
Display 6.28-inch 2280 x 1080 (19:9) AMOLED display. Supports sRGB and DCI-P3. 84% screen-to-body ratio. Battery 3,300 mAh (non-removable)
Camera (Image) Front: Sony IMX 371 (16MP, f/2.0, 1.0μm) with EIS.

Rear (Primary): Sony IMX 519 (16MP, f/1.7, 1.22μm) with OIS and EIS.

Rear (Secondary): Sony IMX 376K (20MP, f/1.7, 1.0μm).

Dual LED Flash

Charging Dash Charge (5V 4A)
Camera (Video) Front: 1080p@30, 720p@30

Rear: 4k@30/60, 1080p@30/60, 720p@30

Rear (slow motion): 1080p@240, 720p@480

Ports USB 2.0 Type-C

3.5mm headphone jack

Dual nano-SIM slot

Software Android 8.1 Oreo-based OxygenOS 5 with early access to the Android P beta Audio Bottom-facing speaker. Audio tuned by Dirac HD Sound. Dirac Power Sound.
System-on-chip Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 CPU (4x 2.8GHz Kryo 385 + 4x 1.8GHz Kryo 385) with Adreno 630 GPU Multimedia Codec Support Audio Playback: MP3, AAC, AAC+, WMA, AMR-NB, AMR-WB, WAV, FLAC, APE, OGG, MID, M4A, IMY

Audio Recording: WAV, AAC, AMR

Video Playback: MKV, MOV, MP4, H.265(HEVC), AVI, WMV, TS, 3GP, FLV, WEBM

Video Recording: MP4

Image Viewing: JPEG, PNG, BMP, GIF

Image Output: JPEG


OnePlus 6 Connectivity and LTE Band Information

Category Specification
Connectivity Wi-Fi: 2×2 MIMO, 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4GHz/5GHz

Bluetooth: Bluetooth 5.0, with Qualcomm aptX & aptX HD support

NFC: Yes

Positioning: GPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo

LTE Features Supports 4xCA, 64QAM, 256QAM & 4x4MIMO.

Supports up to DL CAT16 (1Gbps)/UL CAT13 (150Mbps) depending on carrier.

LTE Bands – NA/EU FDD 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

UMTS(WCDMA): Band 1/2/4/5/8/9/19

CDMA: BC0/BC1

GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz

LTE Bands – CN/IN FDD LTE: Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/19/20/25/26/28/29/66

TDD LTE: Band 34/38/39/40/41

TD-SCDMA: Band 34/39

UMTS(WCDMA): Band 1/2/4/5/8/9/19

CDMA: BC0/BC1

GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz


New Design & Mirror Glass Back

Last year's OnePlus 5 came out at a bit of an awkward period, sporting relatively large top and bottom bezels (and bigger bezels than its predecessor) at a time where OEMs began rapidly adopting minimal bezels, tall displays and… notches. The OnePlus 5's design thus carried vestiges which the company corrected in its 5T revision, which introduced a taller 18:9 display with minimally rounded corners flanked by reduced bezels. Besides the change up front, both devices looked largely the same, with the exception of the fingerprint scanner being moved to the back for the 5T, to accommodate the larger display. The design and display change summed up to most of what the late-2017 release had over the regular OnePlus 5, and the OnePlus 6 somewhat mirrors that schema by also focusing most of its improvements in both of these areas.

The mirror black OnePlus 6 features a glass sandwich design, with an aluminum frame surrounding the chassis, and Corning Gorilla Glass 5 at the front and back (sadly, no wireless charging). While OnePlus styled the back of this variant to look like ceramic, as seen in their own OnePlus X and as well as newer competing phones like the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2, it's actually treated glass that nonetheless looks the part. The company states that there are over 40 steps involved in the treatment of the glass, with different procedures employed for each color variant. Ceramic would also have made the phone heavier, OnePlus claims, and we suspect it also might've proven to be a more brittle material than the industry-standard Gorilla Glass employed here. Underneath the glass, this variant has a thin layer of film to achieve the reflectivity its name implies, which helps the design highlight its curves through shadows and lights caught in the glass.

So what does the result look and feel like? This particular variant lives up to its name indeed, being quite reflective while remaining very dark no matter what it's mirroring (even the blue sky). Unfortunately, this makes it hard to photograph, but the samples provided should nonetheless give you a good idea of what to expect. It goes without saying that it's also a massive fingerprint magnet, and the pictures in this article show the device in a rare, clean state.  In hand, the soft curvature aligns perfectly with the palm making for a comfortable if slippery grip, and while earlier OnePlus devices have felt a bit sharp on the sides, this one features lightly rounder sides while maintaining the signature "hard line" as it converges with the gently curved glass. On the back, we also find a less-reflective fingerprint scanner, and the dual camera setup adorned with a shiny black trim. Its build feels solid with clicky buttons that don't feel the slightest bit loose.  Finally, the OnePlus logo is engraved under the glass, as well as the tagline "designed by OnePlus" — a hint that the company is prouder than ever of its smartphone design.

I can't quite explain how reflective the Mirror Black variant can get, however — it's unlike other black glass devices, as those are more akin to the more-matte Midnight Black variant of the OnePlus 6. Something I've noticed is that while most shiny glass backs tend to diffuse the reflected image, the Mirror Black OnePlus 6 mostly renders it sharply and with more detail. In the end, it's similar to the Lava Red OnePlus 5T in that it's not very easy for live photos to capture it accurately, but multiple references and samples on the internet, as well as the official renders, should give you a clear idea about what to expect. At the same time, while it's an impressive looking design in and of itself, we must also keep in mind that competitors like Huawei with its Huawei P20 twilight variant and Samsung with its hyper-reflective Orchid Grey models have pulled off similar "mirror" or otherwise interesting aesthetics in the past and present.


Notch, Display & Other design Details

On this note the design of the OnePlus 6, while a well-realized instantiation of current smartphone trends, isn't wholly revolutionary. One can detect borrowed inspiration in some of its design features, especially as glass phones with notches become increasingly common. And while we are on the subject of the notch, it does do what it sets out to do by minimizing the bezels and making the top corners of the device look quite impressive. This is especially true after the OnePlus 5T's simulated rounded corners felt more like a half-measure to adopt current trends as fast as possible, and not a thoughtful design decision. The notch itself is narrower than on the iPhone X, and slightly taller than the height of a traditional 5.5 inch phone's navigation bar at a standard DPI of 560 (1440p); its height also makes the top and bottom bezels "unbalanced" when simulating a black top bezel via software (the OnePlus 6 will include this feature). We'll discuss the notch and how it interacts with the software in our in-depth software overview, but for now, we can tell you to expect a similar "notch" experience to that of other notched Android phones.

While I don't love nor hate the notch, it's instrumental in achieving the goal every 2018 device wants to meet — maximize screen area. To this end, the OnePlus 6 features an even taller display than its predecessor at a 19:9 ratio for its 6.28 inch display as opposed to 18:9 (or 2:1) for the 5T's 6.01 inch panel (for reference this ratio is closer to the iPhone X's very tall 19.5:9 screen). They also slightly decreased the height of the bottom bezel though overall dimensions for both devices are quite similar, with the OnePlus 6 being 0.4mm shorter and wider, and 0.35mm thicker. The device is also 15 grams heavier, though it's hardly felt in the hand. In the end, you do end up with a taller, bigger FHD+ display, that gains more screen area not quite proportionally to the extra height The result is a device front that looks spectacularly minimal, currently only rivaled by devices like the Xiaomi Mi MIX 2 and the Essential Phone.

The display itself is moderately bright, colorful and likely just as good if not better than the 5T's screen. With those general statements out-of-the-way, I'll leave the in-depth analysis to XDA's Dylan Raga, who'll soon be able to give you a meticulous account of what's good and what's new. Display purists should also enjoy the multiple display modes, which are expectedly inherited from previous releases, and include sRGB, DCI-P3, OnePlus default calibration and Adaptive Mode. All other display-related features obviously return as well, including Night Mode (blue light filter) and Reading Mode.


Performance & Camera Improvements

The other two main attractions of this new device, and two points OnePlus is especially focusing on with this release, are camera and software performance. Starting with the latter, the company has fully embraced their phones' reputation for speedy UIs and the new flagship's marketing motto is now "the speed you need". The OnePlus 6 thus features the latest in terms of internal hardware, as expected, sporting the octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 clocked at 2.8GHz, a system-on-chip we reviewed favorably earlier this year. Not only does that mean that we can expect around a 30% uplift in CPU and GPU performance (though early benchmarking shows slightly higher results than that), it also means that when coupled with the move to an EAS kernel governor, one gets impressive fluidity and responsiveness. On top of that, the device features UFS 2.1 two-lane flash storage for top read and write speeds (as far as Android is concerned), and 6GB or 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM depending on which configuration you opt for. We still believe most users would stand to gain little to no benefit from the extra 2GB of RAM, especially given OnePlus has never truly committed to making the most out of their copious amounts of RAM, though the 6GB variant does only come with 64GB of storage.

In day-to-day performance, the OnePlus 6 is expected to perform phenomenally, and while the scope of this hands-on is rather limited and there's much we can't say yet, it has fulfilled my expectations. The top-of-the-line internal hardware means nothing but software decisions could weigh down the experience in regards to competitors, but OxygenOS is rather restrained in its approach to theming and features. What's more, while the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T were very fast, they were never particularly smooth. Indeed, the 5/5T didn't fare as well as we expected in our in-depth performance comparisons, and other users have voiced their dissatisfaction with the less-than-stellar smoothness of such powerful devices. The OnePlus 6, however, is a new opportunity for the company to offer a thoroughly fluid experience, and we will be showcasing our findings soon. And of course, the latest hardware also means it should perform extremely well in demanding mobile games such as PUBG. That's about as much as we can say, for now, so stay tuned for our complete performance analysis, which will be going over benchmarks, quantified real-world app opening speed and fluidity, and gaming performance.

Expect a rather modest and honestly much-needed bump in camera performance

The other big changes come in the camera department, with the OnePlus 6 also offering a dual-camera setup like its predecessors, but with significantly improved hardware. The rear primary camera sensor is now the 16MP Sony IMX 519, which was first introduced as a sensor for OPPO devices (and is featured in the OPPO R15). One of the key advantages of this sensor is a 100% increase in frame rate capture, which allows the OnePlus 6 to record 1080p video at up to 240 frames per second, and 720p video at 480 frames per second. Super slow motion video is a common feature nowadays, but the OnePlus 6 also offers 4K recording at 60 frames per second with stabilization. While the company's electronic image stabilization (EIS) has definitely improved across software revisions, they've also now included optical image stabilization (OIS) into the main camera. Finally, opting for the Sony IMX 519 means we get 19% larger sensor, with pixel size coming in at 1.22µm (for reference, OP5T featured 1.12µm pixels while Pixel 2 XL features 1.4µm pixels), and the camera offers a larger f/1.7 aperture as well. From the hardware improvements of the rear camera alone, one would expect a rather modest and honestly much-needed bump in camera performance.

The secondary rear camera is the same Sony IMX 376K 20MP sensor found on the 5T, which from experience doesn't deserve much praise. It should still benefit from "intelligent pixel" technology, using pixel binning to merge four pixels into one for brighter photos, and it should enhance portrait mode pictures by aiding with depth mapping. That said, single camera setups like the Pixel 2 XL's can do a pretty stellar job at this, and the Snapdragon 845 makes it easier for OEMs to incorporate respectable edge detection algorithms — on this note, the OnePlus 6 offers "portrait mode" for its 16MP Sony IMX 371 front camera as well. Additionally, the OnePlus 6 uses "smart capture" to improve picture quality depending on the environment and time of day, and it'll feature the company's "advanced HDR" algorithm. Until the full embargo lifts, I'm unable to present proper camera comparisons, but do expect those to come in the next few days.


Gestures, Odds & Ends

Once again, it goes without saying that the software experience of the OnePlus 6 is remarkably similar to that of the OnePlus 5T. There are definitely some small refinements here and there which we'll detail in future coverage, but for the most part, if you used OxygenOS in the past year, you know what to expect. One of the better things to come with recent Oxygen OS updates is a gesture navigation system, which worked best on the OnePlus 5T due to a lack of capacitive keys, but fully shines with the OnePlus 6's minimal bottom bezel. Below you can find GIFs of the gestures and their respective actions.

As shown above, the setup is relatively simple: swipe up from sides to go back, swipe up from center to go home, swipe up and hold to open the recents menu. With Android P introducing navigation gestures in its developer preview 2, more attention in the Android space is being directed towards "fluid" gesture-based navigation, and we expect that more OEMs will adopt or improve upon it. That said, as it stands, OnePlus' gesture navigation is actually my favorite one yet, allowing the user to enjoy the entirety of the 19:9 tall screen. It also gets rid of the light-grey navigation bar OnePlus offers, which has caused me and others a few headaches given that the lack of contrast with some keyboard apps leads to incorrect inputs (i.e. pressing "home" instead of "space" on GBoard). The gestures also feature some light haptic feedback, as well as a visual cue when triggering the "back" gesture, with the latter detail being included in recent updates for the 5T as well.

The rest of the specifications haven't changed much but I'll list them nonetheless, including a short thought or two for each one. OnePlus hasn't increased the battery capacity, which sits at 3,300mAh still, nor improved Dash Charge (since the OnePlus 3). We may still see an increase in battery life due to the improved efficiency of the new chipset, but for the most part, we believe it won't differ much from the 5T. The bottom facing speakers are still as loud as they've been on earlier OnePlus phones, and they are enhanced by Dirac HD sound. Beyond that, the company offers their "audio tuner" still, plus more features for their new OnePlus Bullets Wireless (audio tuner has only worked with wired earbuds). As reported earlier, the phone also offers gigabit LTE Cat 16 LTE download speeds with 4×4 MIMO, and it also packs support for Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX/aptX HD (to go along their new earbuds). And of course, the fingerprint scanner is still extremely fast (0.2 seconds, though FP gestures aren't available at the moment), as is face unlock which I think works very well with double tap to wake.


Final First Thoughts

(Or maybe first final thoughts?)

While there's only so much we can say in this hands-on, I tried to detail just about everything I've found about the design this new iteration brings, as well as my thoughts on each specification improvement. There's still a lot to unpack and we'll be offering in-depth content for key areas of the user experience. Most of it should stay very close to what the OnePlus 5T offered, though, similarly to how the OnePlus 5 couldn't offer a revolutionary jump over the 3T. It might just be par for the course for this type of release strategy, which each new phone offering the expected 6-months-worth of advancements and not much else. The new design is certainly very attractive with an excellent build quality and, in my opinion, more thoughtful decisions behind it than both the OnePlus 5T and some inescapably similar competitors, as well as OPPO devices. While some will argue that the notch is a step back in design, I personally think that it's better to have one than not to have one, and it can indeed be somewhat-remedied with software.

In the end, OnePlus managed to offer a package that's largely a direct upgrade in important areas, though each upgrade is quite minimal apart from the change in design. Furthermore, the design change itself is bound to offend some enthusiasts who've been pushing back against both the adoption of glass backs and display notches. But for those that don't mind or even appreciate such design decisions, and are in the market for a new smartphone, this actually is one of the more compelling packages offered right now. With support for Android P Developer Preview 2 and Project Treble as well as OnePlus' continued focus on building developer relations, I also expect this to be a great phone for anyone that values customization, custom ROMs and kernels, and experimenting with their device.


OnePlus 6 Pricing

The OnePlus 6 will be available in 3 different RAM/storage variants, though the availability for each RAM/storage variant also depends on the color model you buy. Devices sold in India and China have different LTE bands than models sold elsewhere (refer to the specifications table posted above.)

Here's a summary for each model:

Device USD EUR GBP
OnePlus 6 Mirror Black (6GB RAM + 64GB storage) 529 519 469
OnePlus 6 Mirror Black (8GB RAM + 128GB storage) 579 569 519
OnePlus 6 Midnight Black (8GB RAM + 128GB storage) 579 569 519
OnePlus 6 Midnight Black (8GB RAM + 256GB storage) 629 619 569
OnePlus 6 Silk White (8GB RAM + 128GB storage) * 579 569 519

* The Silk White is a limited edition model that will go on sale starting June 5th.


OnePlus 6 Availability

The OnePlus 6 will be available starting May 22nd in the following countries: India, United States, Canada, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom.

The device will also be sold in mainland China and the city of Hong Kong. There's no word yet on whether the device will eventually be sold by U.S. carriers.

OnePlus 6 Availability

OnePlus 6 regional availability map.

Pop-up events will be held in Europe, North America, and India if you want to get your hands on a device early. If you who participated in the Fast AF promotion, you'll be able to buy the device at a discount and get additional warranty when it goes on sale on the device's Amazon India page.

If you want to learn more about the device, visit the official OnePlus 6 product page. Finally, check out our XDA forum for the device where you can discuss the latest news about the device, share tips and tricks, talk about accessories, and download ROMs, kernels, and other mods for the device.

Visit the OnePlus 6 Forums on XDA



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