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And we’re at number 6. OnePlus, the first company to provide a smartphone with top of the range features, but mid-range price, continues its race with the support of a wider community. Just five years after its birth, it can safely be considered one of the most successful alternative brands, with unexpected results.
The previous top-of-the-line, the OnePlus 5T, sold out well before expected. By now, the brand has created so much confidence that the most passionate fans pre-order the new models before they are unveiled.
The secret of the OnePlus is its sturdiness with a special consideration for the price. OnePlus 6 does not derail from these basic rules, although this model has one feature that divides the community: the notch.
How it is made
OnePlus has acknowledged the present market standards, implementing them wisely and with caution, thus ensuring a first-class user experience with solid ergonomics. This means a 19:9 screen, a dual camera and a glass body. And of course an all-screen design, where we find the much loved and hated notch, that we will address later. Inside the notch we find the front camera and the ambient sensors.
Around the screen, which has a diagonal of 6.28”, there is a thin frame, perfectly harmonized and integrated into the aesthetic, and also essential to avoid sending inadvertent inputs while handling the phone. We do not believe that an even more flush-screen solution is a good idea, and we fear that in future this tendency will lead to ergonomic problems. But that’s a different discussion.
The bottom bezel is more generous. This extra space is important, not only allows you to grasp your smartphone well with one hand, but it is also essential for effectively using the gesture-only interaction mode.
The Gorilla Glass 5 shell consists of three elements: the rear cover, the front cover and the lateral structure. The edges are not entirely round, but lily formed, offering a bit more solid and less slippery grip. The choice of glass rather than ceramic has a positive impact on the overall weight, although 177 grams is not light.
The antennas are noticeable only along the side edges. On the right side there is the power button and on the left the volume rocker, both precise and with sound feedback. The “do not disturb” button makes a return, and is placed just above the power button.
In the bottom there is the audio jack, the USB Type-C connector and a slot that houses the main speaker. On the left side we find the tray for the Sim card (Dual Sim) above the volume rocker. On the back and aligned in the center, we find the double camera, underneath which is the flash with double LED hue and the fingerprint reader. The camera is protruding.
The model we reviewed was the “Mirror Black”, so glossy to the point that you can mirror yourself. It is meant to have a ceramic look, in fact at first glance, we thought that it was ceramic. The “Midnight Black” is instead opaque, the glass is treated with a corrosive element to achieve this effect. The other color available is Matt White (pearl) with Rose Gold elements.
Mirror Black has the flaw of showing every smudge on the body. Moreover, all models are very slippery; not when you hold them in your hand, but placed on a tilted surface they will slowly slide down. Unfortunately, this behavior is common to many other modern smartphones, which is quite annoying. A case can sort out the problem.
It is a top-of-the-range, and as such, the hardware equipment is top of the class. Snapdragon 845, Adreno 630, 6 or 8GB of RAM and 64, 128 or 256GB of storage.
Equipped with environmental sensors includes an accelerometer, a gyroscope, a proximity sensor, an ambient light sensor and a compass. It is compatible with LTE standard with MIMO support.
Wi-Fi is standard AC dual-band, there is also Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX and aptX HD support, NFC and GPS.
The experience is smooth at all times. The hardware platform is such that ensures fluidity and responsiveness under heavy loads. Modern smartphones no longer suffer from lag due to hardware performance. Even lower-end platforms are able to offer a lag-free experience.
Since the notch is a much discussed feature, it wouldn’t have been so weird if OnePlus decided to choose a more traditional design. We asked the company’s representatives to have an opinion on this, and the answer was simply that, despite the fact that they hold fan requests in the highest regard, there is also a clear strategy that is being carried out by the company itself. An acceptable response, considering that user requests are clearly made up of personal opinions that do not take into account the direction of the market.
Aware of the possible blow back from some users, OnePlus has included a feature in the software that darkens the top of the screen and restores a more classic design.
In any case, it is the personal opinion of the writer that the discussions about the notch are totally superfluous and often the result of superficial and subjective opinions. After all, this design only exposes a larger screen area without increasing the size of the device. If this area is used well, as is the case for most smartphones, we do not see any problem whatsoever. A totally subjective factor on aesthetics remains, of which it would not be correct to give judgment, precisely because of its nature. However, we want to reassure those who, without a particular position on the subject, may think that this design leads to some ergonomic problem. It’s not like that at all.
The screen has a diagonal of 6.28” and a shape ratio of 19:9. The Resolution is 2280×1080px. Each square inch of the screen is made up of 401 pixels, and this number ensures a very high accuracy of the images. The density is such that the pixels are totally invisible, and consequently the images are extremely sharp, precise and full of detail.
The technology behind the AMOLED panel achieves a high contrast ratio and a virtually infinite viewing angle. You can tilt your smartphone perpendicular to your eyes and still distinguish the details of the various elements. There is, of course, a drop in brightness, but is small.
With the base profile the colors are bright, and their brightness increases with the brightness of the panel. The display is clear even in a sunny day. The Gorilla Glass 5 cover has a limited refractive index, which helps maintain high visibility. Only by pointing a light source directly at the screen you will not be able to distinguish the various elements.
Through the display settings menu you can choose between four settings, one default (colors tend to be more saturated than natural), sRGB and DCI-P3 that set the screen to meet the parameters defined by the corresponding color space, and an “Adaptive mode” which makes colors more natural. If necessary, you can set a custom profile that will make a slider appear that will allow you to choose the color rendering to your liking.
For the number crunchers among you, the screen/body ratio is 84%. OnePlus has been given some reprimand for the screens that have been used in some of the older models. The screen on the OnePlus 6 is qualitatively on par of the current top of the range offering a satisfying color experience as well as high brightness and a clear view even outdoors.
The audio of the ear capsule is great, and even when we turn up the volume we didn’t notice any kind of disturbance. The quality of the main speaker, on the other hand, is less impressive. The yield is subtle and nothing else. It lacks body, the audio spectrum is unbalanced in the upper part, with a low medium almost non-existent. It is OK for basic multimedia content, for everything else it is obligatory to use headphones.
Moreover, the lack of stereo audio is now more penalizing since most competing models offer it. We have asked OnePlus about this, and they have replied that implementing an earpiece that works well as a second speaker would mean compromising the design, mainly a matter of space. We are no smartphone designers, but we can assure you that other brands have implemented this solution with interesting results and without too many compromises. In any case, whether technically feasible or not, there is no doubt that this is a missed opportunity. We hope that OnePlus significantly improves the quality of the speaker/s in the next model.
OxygenOS and user experience
OnePlus 6 debuts with Android 8.1 (Oreo) customized with OxygenOS. We are dealing with a version of the operating system a little dissimilar from stock, with a consequent user experience significantly close to that of a Pixel or other Motorola smartphones.
After years in which we have evaluated multiple customization we have realized that skipping on customization is not always the best solution so we can only reward this choice of OnePlus.
Interaction is fast, everything is snappy, and you don’t risk getting lost in the settings menu. Even better there is almost no bloatware. All apps are the basic Android ones, and if you want something more, the Play Store will be your answer.
Customization made by OnePlus in the functions are consistent with the additional hardware features or design choices (such as the notch or the side mode selector). A swipe on the right brings you to a smart, customizable page from which you can quickly make call or open a recently used app. A down swipe opens the Quick settings menu which is fully customizable. The app drawer opens with an up swipe.
The gestures are a novelty included in this version of OxygenOs, whose activation further amplifies the concept of “all screen”. That’s because you can completely disable the bottom bar of virtual keys (home, back and open applications), replacing them with gestures.
Initially we had doubts about the actual efficiency of this system, but after activating it, we never went back. It works well, it is very easy to learn and above all it allows the user to work with one hand. OxygenOS is well designed, and its strength is the simplicity.
Unlocking the phone
You will mainly use two methods to unlock your smartphone, the fingerprint sensor or face recognition. The fingerprint is now a safe, secure, precise and high-speed method. I prefer the sensors positioning in front, under the screen, because it is a visible and easy to reach area. The rear placement of the sensor, as in this case, always leaves doubts and is not infallible. You have to get used to it and only after a few days, and many unlocks, it will become a natural gesture.
As soon as the technology that will allow the placement of the fingerprint reader under the screen will be ripe smartphone makers will return to position the sensors in the front.
In order to unlock even faster, you will also want to use Face Unlock. It works well if ambient light is good, less so when it’s dark or when you wear accessories, such as sunglasses.
The main camera consists of a Sony IMX 519 sensor with 16Mp and an f/1.7 aperture with optical and electronic stabilization. The other camera has a 20-megapixel, f/1.7 Sony IMX376K sensor. The two cameras work together to improve image quality.
The main screen allows you to choose between videos, photos and “Vertical”, a mode designed to take photos of objects or people in the foreground and blur the background (bokeh), each with a few options, a left swipe reveals other modes, including the “Pro” mode. It must be said that the software is less chaotic than that of many other smartphones, but the totally manual mode that allows you to control time, exposure, white balance, ISO and, above all, focus, is the one that will please the fans.
Among other modes we find Time Lapse, Panorama and Slow Motion. The latter does not reach 960 FPS seen in the S9 or P20 Pro, but 1080p at 240 FPS or 720p at 480 FPS. We do not consider this a defect, as slow motion on smartphones is little more than a nice gadget to be used from time to time, but not a feature that can make a difference.
Video can be recorded at 4K and 60 FPS. The front camera consists of a Sony IMX 371, 16Mp, f/2.0 sensor with an electronic image stabilizer.
One trend that OnePlus hasn’t followed is that of the AI. Most manufacturers have advertised their “Artificial Intelligence” functions: the advanced algorithms that, when applied to the camera, allow it to recognize the scenes or objects and to automatically adjust shooting parameters, enhancing the image.
For example, when the algorithm detects that the image is a beautiful green lawn, it will enhance that color for a much more exciting photo. OnePlus has avoided this concept, while maintaining a good HDR implementation.
We believe that this choice is in tune with the Community around the brand, composed of people who know very well that the concept of AI is nothing new in this field. After all, the use of the Snapdragon 845 SoC and the Qualcomm DSP would have facilitated the implementation of advanced features in this area, since the chip manufacturer has already included them in its development suite. In short the company has preferred a more conservative approach aimed at not complicating the experience and producing an end product to which many potential buyers are already accustomed to from previous generations.
Photo Quality Rating
OnePlus 6 is able to generate good quality shots, which deteriorate as the ambient light decreases. It’s not the best camera on a smartphone, but the shots it generates are certainly more than adequate. If photographic quality is for you the most important function you should look at other models.
The battery is a 3.600mAh so it will last you a whole working day, but you must obligatorily charge it every night. By limiting the usage and activating the integrated energy saving solutions, you can reach two full days. Anyhow you’ll probably prefer to use the Dash Charge feature. In about half an hour you’ll be able to recharge half the battery.
OnePlus 6 is a smartphone that combines modern design and function trends with a fantastic user experience. All this at a very good price.
Let’s be clear, OnePlus has made some tradeoffs. For example, you cannot expand the memory and the audio is not stereo. But there are no other particular flaws.
On one hand, the Chinese company has been more conservative this time, and has not added particularly innovative features, apart from perhaps the Gesture Only Navigation. On the other hand, it has succeeded in offering, once again, a totally convincing experience.