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October 29, 2018

OnePlus 6T review

by John_A

oneplus-6t-2-90x90-c.jpg


Research Center:

OnePlus 6T

Like changing the clocks for daylight savings, the biannual OnePlus launch has become so regular that we almost take it for granted. Despite this clockwork-like frequency, we still find ourselves caught up in the hype and excitement — much of it generated by the masterful OnePlus marketing team — and full of anticipation for the new model.

This is the OnePlus 6T, and like previous T models it’s not a giant leap over the product it replaces. Does that mean our anticipation has been quelled? Has the seemingly endless wave of new OnePlus phones become so much that we’re now not all that bothered by a new one? It has to happen at some point, right? Well that day hasn’t come yet. The OnePlus 6T is so good, it doesn’t need the hype.

Teardrop notch

What if the last phone you released was a bit of a looker, and you don’t want to mess things up for the sequel. What do you do? If you’re OnePlus you take basically the same shape and design, put a more sensibly shaded rear panel on, then alter the two least attractive aspects of the old model: the notch and the fingerprint sensor. The result? The OnePlus 6T, and the phone is a stunner.

The mirror black seen on the OnePlus 6 has returned, along with a less reflective midnight black version that shifts between inky black and a shiny gunmetal grey in the light. Get it just right, and a subtle S pattern emerges to finish off the effect. The OnePlus 6T doesn’t need crazy colors, it’s happy being classier than a whole room full of people who’ve just graduated from etiquette school.

OnePlus 6T review

OnePlus 6T review

OnePlus 6T review

OnePlus 6T review

Look back at the OnePlus 6 and the notch stands out, and not in a good way. It looks bizarrely dated for a phone that only came out earlier this year. The OnePlus 6T’s notch is a tiny dewdrop, and contains only the selfie camera lens. The speaker is set just above that in the body itself; it’s less intrusive, it’s prettier, and it doesn’t mess with notification icons too much either. We’d call that a success.

There are still bezels around the screen and a small chin, but they’re well disguised and don’t detract from the look of the phone greatly. On the back, the dual-lens camera is the only blemish, as the fingerprint sensor is now part of the display. Until now, we’ve only seen this on a few phones, with Huawei most recently pushing wider adoption with the Mate 20 Pro. More on that a little later. New for the 6T is the removal of the headphone jack, which OnePlus said is a reflection of how the industry is headed, and while sure to bother some, it is a necessity due to the device’s internal design.

Adopting and combining symmetry with minimalism, along with sensible design alterations like moving the trademark notification slider above the sleep/wake key on the right, OnePlus has been refining its overall design for several device generations now. Slightly heavier than the OnePlus 6 in the best way possible — it has a larger battery — but no less comfortable to hold, the OnePlus 6T takes a strong design and improves in all the areas where it lacked before. It’s one of the best looking smartphones you can buy.

Biometric security

The in-display fingerprint sensor has been dream technology since we first saw it on concept phones last year. Now that these sensors are here, what’s it like to use one every day? OnePlus has built the sensor into the very base of the screen, and claims it’ll unlock the device in 350ms. It does so with an eye-catching animation and a bright green light, which OnePlus says increases the accuracy over other colors.

It’s one of the best looking smartphones you can buy.

In reality, it’s a mixed bag, as it seems to get confused over time. When it’s working at its best, we’re talking lightning fast. It’s not as reliable as a traditional fingerprint sensor though, and we have removed and rescanned our fingerprint several times, as the accuracy dropped for no apparent reason. Doing so saw the sensor return to its former glory, but for how long until we have to do it again, we don’t know.

OnePlus has added its super-fast face unlock feature too, and if you activate this, the screen is usually unlocked before you even get your finger near the in-display sensor. It’s not a secure option though, so you won’t want to solely rely on it.

AMOLED screen

The OnePlus 6T has a 6.41-inch, 19.5:9 aspect ratio, AMOLED Full Optic screen with a 2,340 × 1,080 pixel resolution, for an 86-percent screen-to-body ratio. It’s covered in Gorilla Glass 6 — one of the first phones to use it — which provides six individual layers of protection. The screen is slightly larger than the one on the OnePlus 6.

OnePlus 6T review Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

We love all the many tweaks OnePlus has added to the display settings, from its very effective adaptive brightness to a varied screen calibration setting. We left our phone in Adaptive Mode, which alters the contrast and brightness based on lighting conditions, and found it really useful. A night mode and a reading mode are also present, plus the option to hide the notch, if you for some reason still find it objectionable.

It’s bright, attractive, and looks great for gaming, YouTube, and Netflix. However, it doesn’t seem to have quite the same level of luster we’ve seen in the very best screens of 2018, notably the Galaxy Note 9 and the Huawei Mate 20 Pro. You’ll probably only notice when comparing them alongside, and considering the OnePlus 6T costs less than those two devices, it’s not a huge issue.

Great software

Our OnePlus 6T has Android 9.0 Pie with Oxygen OS 9.0.3 installed over the top. It’s worth pointing out how close Oxygen OS is to a Pixel-style Android experience, right down to the welcome inclusion of Google’s Gboard keyboard. What’s new? There’s a Gaming Mode, where notifications can be blocked, brightness is set to maximum automatically, and extra network data gets piped to whatever connected game you’re playing. Notifications arrive in a ticker-tape style display, to minimize intrusion.

The OnePlus 6T seems to have the best camera we’ve seen from the company.

Like the display settings, there are plenty of options to make Oxygen OS your own. There are four options for the ambient display clock, the option to run parallel apps like two versions of WhatsApp or Facebook, and also an encrypted locker to hide apps away, and to not show notifications either. There are even three different animations for the in-display fingerprint sensor as it scans. Unlike other deeply customized versions of Android, these are all options, and they aren’t intrusive.

The OnePlus 6T’s full screen nature lends the device to being used with a gesture control system, much like the iPhone XS and the system Huawei introduced with EMUI 9. It’s an option, and not set as default, but it does feel more natural to use than the Android buttons at the bottom of the screen. Why? Because the phone is all screen, and tapping those buttons is awkward when the device doesn’t have a chin to hold on to.

OnePlus 6T review Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

A center swipe returns to home, a swipe up and hold reveals the app switcher, and swiping on the left or right of the screen goes back. Despite it making more ergonomic sense, it’s not the best gesture control method we’ve tried. You do have to be very precise with the back swipe — from the bottom of the screen or it won’t always register — and the app switcher requires effort to reveal, otherwise you just go back to home.

We experienced no stability or speed issues with Oxygen OS, but will continue using the phone over the coming weeks to build a better picture of medium to long-term use.

Speedy performance

The OnePlus 6T has a Snapdragon 845 processor and 6GB or 8GB of RAM. The choice for buyers is either 6GB/128GB, 8GB/128GB, or a range-topping 8GB/256GB configuration.

Here’s how it fared in benchmarks:

  • AnTuTu 3DBench: 295,082
  • Geekbench 4 CPU: 2,414 single-core; 8,949 multi-core
  • 3DMark Sling Shot Extreme: 3,833 (Vulkan)

These figures surpass the OnePlus 6, the Galaxy S9 Plus, the Galaxy Note 9 the LG G7 ThinQ, and the Pixel 3 XL. OnePlus has specially tuned its software for benchmark results in the past, so treat these as for information only. But there’s no question the phone is fast enough for you, old man.

Solid camera

The camera sensors on the back of the OnePlus 6T are the same as those fitted to the OnePlus 6. There are two: A 16-megapixel camera with an f/1.7 aperture and optical image stabilization, and a second 20-megapixel lens with the same aperture. Both work together to create bokeh-style pictures, without cropping the image. OnePlus has improved the software driving the cameras, saying they provide better face identification, less noise, and greater edge detection.


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We’ve only had a few days with the camera at the time of writing, but so far we’re impressed with its ability. Taking outdoor photos on an overcast day, the HDR mode kicked in to reveal some very atmospheric clouds, while maintaining the autumnal colors on the ground. Indoors, we were surprised at the very effective white balance, and its ability to bring out plenty of detail in low light.

However, there’s a new Night mode, and it hasn’t proven to be effective yet. Taking photos of a sunset across the rooftops in both standard and Night mode didn’t reveal many differences. If anything, the Night mode shot had more noise and less detail. OnePlus has not revealed how the Night mode operates yet.

Edge detection in portrait mode shots is excellent, thankfully, and the improvements are obvious.

Slightly heavier than the OnePlus 6 in the best way possible, but no less comfortable to hold.

The camera app isn’t the best we’ve used. The settings are hidden under a slide-up menu, which isn’t that intuitive and mostly just repeats the functions available on the main screen, and when you swap to the front camera, modes like Night mode remain available, yet don’t work with the selfie cam. Accidentally tap one, and the camera reverts back to the rear camera. Annoying.

We will be trying out the slow motion video mode, and the 2× zoom feature — both which have been great so far — more, along with taking more photos in more environments, over the next few weeks. So far, the OnePlus 6T seems to have the best camera we’ve seen from the company, but it’s still one of the weakest parts of the phone compared to other flagships.

Battery

Inside the OnePlus 6T is a 3,700mAh battery, and a clever new component design under the base of the screen. You’ll never see it, but OnePlus has stacked several components in this section to make space for the new in-display fingerprint sensor, and maintained the size of the speaker box, while fitting a cell that’s 400mAh larger than the one in the OnePlus 6. We’ll take this new tech, and the larger battery, over the headphone jack.

OnePlus 6T review Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The battery has fast charging using the proprietary Dash Charge cable and plug, but still no wireless charging. We have not spent enough time with the OnePlus 6T yet to establish battery life, but have so far seen great performance, with a single charge powering through to a day-and-a-half.

Price, warranty, and availability

The phone’s pricing is as follows:

  • Mirror Black 6GB/128GB – $549
  • Mirror Black and Midnight Black 8GB/128GB – $579
  • Midnight Black 8GB/256GB- $629

The cheapest OnePlus 6T is $20 more expensive than the equivalent OnePlus 6, while the 8GB versions are the same price.

Things are changing for OnePlus. What was once an online-only purchasing endeavor is now considerably more a hands-on buying experience, in both the U.S. and the U.K. For the first time, you’ll be able to go into a T-Mobile store and try, then buy, the OnePlus 6T for yourself from November 1. The carrier is also offering a trade-in scheme that could save you up to $300 off the total price.

OnePlus 6T Compared To

porsche design huawei mate 20 rs prd

Porsche Design Huawei Mate 20 RS

lg v40 thinq press

LG V40 ThinQ

huawei mate 20 pro press

Huawei Mate 20 Pro

honor 8x prod

Honor 8x

galaxy note 9 press photo

Samsung Galaxy Note 9

moto e5 plus hands on review 9

Moto E5 Plus

xiaomi mi mix product

Xiaomi Mi Mix

samsung galaxy s6 edge press image

Samsung Galaxy S6 Edge

yotaphone 2

YotaPhone 2

sony xperia z3

Sony Xperia Z3

LG Optimus 4X HD

HTC One S

samsung-galaxy-s-ii-screen-front

Samsung Galaxy S II

Google Nexus S

Google Nexus S

t mobile mytouch 3g

T-Mobile myTouch 3G

Additionally, the OnePlus 6T will work on the Verizon network, if you buy the phone without a connection through OnePlus. In the U.K. the OnePlus 6T will be available through the O2 network, as before, but also now through EE and Vodafone stores too.

Our Take

OnePlus continues to refine its formula for the perfect smartphone, and the OnePlus 6T is the closest it has gotten to it yet. The downsides are few, and often only niggles, leaving a reasonably priced phone that has something for everyone.

Is there a better alternative?

The 6GB/128GB version for $549 is arguably the only version you really need; paying out for more storage space will add to the longevity, but we’d be surprised if adding 2GB of RAM will make a meaningful difference to performance. It certainly hasn’t in the past. Paying $630 for the 8GB/256GB model will see it potentially “last longer,” but once you start spending this much money, you’re getting closer to other high performance options.

In descending order of price, you’d be advised to look at the $800 Google Pixel 3, the $750 iPhone XR, the $650 LG G7 ThinQ, and the $450 Moto Z3 Play. There are fewer phones competing directly with the $550 OnePlus 6T, but Samsung’s new Galaxy A9 (2018) is a serious foe (for U.K. buyers), and while the Honor View 10 is getting a little old, the Honor 10 is 400 British pounds, and another good buy.

If you want to save even more, take a look at the $350 Nokia 7.1, or for an outside alternative, take a look at the seriously good value $300 Pocophone F1.

How long will it last?

Let’s talk about durability first. It’s a glass phone, so it’s going to break if you drop it. We’d recommend putting it in a case. Like the OnePlus 6, the 6T does not have an IP rating to indicate water and dust resistance. But OnePlus says the phone will be fine in normal conditions, like using it in the rain or a steamy bathroom. There are special silicone rings inside the device, sealed ports, and a sealed up screen. OnePlus’ argument is that IP ratings are difficult to figure out due to the complexity of protection levels, and by saying the 6T will be work in normal damp conditions, it’s being more honest about what to expect. Don’t submerge it, or drop it in water.

While we agree that IP ratings can be confusing, and sometimes give people a false sense of security, it helps for comparison, and if you do enough research into them, they bring more clarity regarding protection. Even if OnePlus doesn’t consider IP ratings consumer-friendly, it’d be interesting to see where the OnePlus 6T fits on the scale, with its current level of water and dust resistance.

Our review phone has Android 9.0, the latest version of Google’s operating system, and OnePlus is good at releasing updates, at least compared to many of its competitors. Despite OnePlus releasing a phone every six months or so, the 6T will easily last you for more than two years before it will require updating.

Should you buy it?

Yes. We question why you wouldn’t consider buying it.

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