OnePlus 6T Review

Posted on December 10, 2018 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 22 Comments

The OnePlus 6T is the best value in flagship-class smartphones, and it offers some subtle improvements over its well-regarded but quirky predecessor. But as I noted in my first impressions article, the 6T also comes with some curious and controversial design choices.

Design

From a form factor perspective, the OnePlus 6T closely resembles its predecessor, and the handset itself is roughly the same size, and just a hair less heavy.

The biggest and most obvious change, of course, is the new notch. Where the OnePlus 6 has what I’ll call a traditionally-sized notch, for lack of a better term, the OnePlus 6T has a much smaller notch with a curved enclosure. It kinds of looks like a hill on the horizon, but upside-down.

The theory here, of course, is that the smaller notch will be less distracting than the previous version, or the even larger notches that we see on handsets like the iPhone XS. In practice, I’m not so sure that’s the case: Weeks into using the OnePlus 6T, I still notice this small notch regularly for some reason. And that never happened with the previous OnePlus handset.

I can’t speak to why this is so—perhaps it’s related in some way to how our eyes process visual information—but it’s real. That said, you can “remove” the notch in software, and because it’s so small, the resulting black color that extends across the top of the display blends naturally into the status bar at the top of the handset. Now that my review is done, I’m going to switch to using that.

Like the OnePlus 6, the OnePlus 6T is encased entirely in glass, a dubious design decision when you consider its breakability and the fact that this handset does not feature wireless charging capabilities. It is at least attractive, but most will want to cover it with a case. As did I.

Display

The smaller notch in the OnePlus 6T results in a bigger, taller display. So where the OnePlus 6 featured a 6.28-inch 19:9 AMOLED display running at 2280 x 1080, the OnePlus 6T hits 6.41-inches with an even taller 19.5:9 aspect ratio and a resolution of 2340 x 1080. Those additional pixels don’t result in a higher pixel density, however: Both handsets provide the same 402 ppi.

This is roughly how much the OnePlus 6T display (left) is than that of its predecessor (right): Not much

It’s 2018, so we have to have a conversation about using a 1080p display in a flagship smartphone. This will be controversial, since Samsung, of course, uses very high-DPI displays in its flagships. But Samsung also ships those devices at a lower resolution to help with battery life. And Apple’s iPhone XR provides a lowly 828p display that hits just 326 ppi.

So it appears that OnePlus may be on to something: That the right balance here is a reasonably high-resolution display instead of a crazy high-DPI unit because it will result in better battery life.

I think the display is gorgeous and colorful, and it hits a very bright 575 nits of light, which helps with outdoor usage. Also helping matters somewhat, OnePlus provides both a night mode for removing glaring blue light at night and a unique reading mode for apps like Pocket, NYTimes, and Amazon Kindle that changes the display to gray-scale for a better experience.

Hardware and specs

As always, the OnePlus 6T arrives with high-end specifications that should embarrass the makers of other flagship-class handsets. RAM choices include 6 GB and 8 GB, depending on the model, which is about double the RAM you get on other smartphone flagships. And for the 6T, OnePlus has upped the base storage to 128 GB, where others still offer just 64 GB at the entry level. There’s a 256 GB choice, too, but no microSD storage.

Like its predecessor, which was released just six months ago, the OnePlus 6T is powered by an 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and Adreno 630 graphics. From a benchmark perspective, one should expect this handset to score identically, or nearly so, with its predecessor, and it does, hitting 2368 on the Geekbench 4 single core test and 8987 on the multi-core test. (My OnePlus 6 review unit scored 2429 and 8880, respectively, back in July.)

Connectivity is excellent, and improved over the OnePlus 6. So in addition to the expected worldwide GSM coverage, the 6T is the first to support Verizon’s CDMA-based LTE network. That said, it doesn’t support Verizon’s older networks, nor does it support Sprint. Beyond this, the 6T ships with dual-band MIMO Wi-Fi 802.11ac, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX and aptX HD for improved wireless audio, and NFC too. There is a dual-SIM card tray for those that wish to access two different networks without the inconvenience of removing and replacing cards.

Like all OnePlus flagships, the OnePlus 6T retains the firm’s best-in-market fast charging, and it ships with a fast charger in the box. (Unlike, say, Apple.) OnePlus claims simply that this technology will provide “a day’s power in half an hour.” My real world tests suggest that you’ll get about 60 percent of a full charge in that time, which is excellent.

Battery life is excellent, and it should be improved over that of the OnePlus 6. Where that phone featured a 3250 mAh battery, the OnePlus 6T comes with a much bigger 3700 mAh unit.

Less excellent, the OnePlus 6T inexplicably doesn’t include wireless charging capabilities, as do all other flagship smartphones. And in keeping with the flagship normal, the 6T unfortunately drops the headphone jack too. At least the firm provides a USB-C to headphone jack dongle in the box—Apple doesn’t—and it’s even color-coded red like the firm’s charging cables, a nice touch.

While we’re focusing on things the OnePlus 6T doesn’t have, it’s worth pointing out that the firm has not gone to the expense of getting its handsets tested for water resistance. OnePlus says only that its handset is “splash proof,” and while I suspect it would survive a quick dunk in a sink or toilet, I’d hate to have to test that theory.

Cameras

The OnePlus 6T ships with exactly the same camera system as its predecessor, which is a bit surprising given how much weight flagship smartphone buyers give to this important feature. But you go to war with the army you have, and in this case, it’s a dual rear camera system with a 16 MP Sony IMX 519 main sensor and a 20 MP Sony IMX 376K secondary sensor, each with a f/1.7 aperture. The main sensor supports both optical and electronic image stabilization, but the secondary sensor supports neither.

(The front-facing camera, with its 16 MP fixed-focus Sony IMX 371 sensor and f/2.0 aperture, has likewise not changed.)

Camera systems like this are pretty well understood at this point, and while OnePlus did literally nothing to improve the hardware, there were apparently some deep-level software improvements—which, to be fair, are also coming to the OnePlus 6—that should improve quality and lower noise across the board. But I can’t say that I’ve seen a perceptible change in general camera quality.

More noticeably, OnePlus has added a number of useful new software features to its Camera app that do improve matters.

Key among them is a new Nightscape mode, available from the Camera app’s overloaded overflow menu, that works like a bit like the Night Sight feature from Google’s Pixels by letting in more light in low-light situations. This helps you avoid using a distracting flash, but it also requires you to hold the handset pretty steady for a few seconds. Long story short, it works surprisingly well, but it requires a lot of post-capture processing time. And Nightscape is preferable to the processed low light effects you get with Samsung’s flagships by default.

Pixel 2 XL in Night mode (top) vs. OnePlus 6T in Nightscape mode (bottom)

As with its predecessor, the 6T also supports a nice portrait mode, plus Pro mode, Time-lapse, and Panorama, and a slow-mo capture mode. OnePlus has long provided excellent tools for those that wish to take and edit videos as well.

The OnePlus 6T portrait mode works with non-human subjects, unlike iPhone

Given that the camera hardware hasn’t really changed since the OnePlus 6 (or even the OnePlus 5T, really), nothing here is going to wow anyone with a Google Pixel or modern Apple iPhone. But the OnePlus 6T is still capable of some truly great shots and should be more than adequate for anyone other than professional photographers or those who value photo quality above all else in a handset. With the possible exception of vacations where I want the best possible quality, I would have no issues using the OnePlus 6T as my daily carry.

Security

The OnePlus 6T’s in-display fingerprint reader is arguably this device’s marquee new feature. The question, of course, is whether it works as well as the excellent back-mounted fingerprint reader that OnePlus provided on its previous two flagships.

And … it’s not as fast, overall. It is surprisingly quick when it works, however, but I’ve experienced a few instances—especially when my finger is wet—where it doesn’t work at all. This is especially odd because there’s a green starburst-style animation on-screen at the fingerprint reader, so it sits there animating while not unlocking your phone for an extended period of time. Then you’re finally prompted to use a PIN like its 2007 again.

That said, the OnePlus 6T in-display fingerprint reader is quite a bit faster than Apple’s woeful Face ID facial recognition scheme, and it doesn’t require an additional swipe to actually get into the phone.

The only real issue I have with it won’t impact most OnePlus customers: Because I use so many different handsets, I will often pick up the OnePlus 6T and find my finger moving to where it expects the fingerprint reader; on the back. But what it finds, instead, is the camera flash. This will likely impact new OnePlus 6T users for a short period of time. But once you get used to it, using the in-display reader will just seem natural.

Put simply, I’m surprised OnePlus pulled this off. A first-generation in-display fingerprint reader should be slow, unreliable, and distracting. But it’s not. And while we all have whatever peculiar preference when it comes to signing-in to a phone, the in-display fingerprint readers works great overall.

(If you want even better speed, OnePlus also offers a Face Unlock feature. I don’t recommend this, however, as it most certainly not secure.)

Unique hardware features

Like previous OnePlus handsets, the OnePlus 6T retains the firm’s unique hardware alert slider, which is found above the Power button on the right side of the device. (The volume buttons are on the left.) This textured switch lets you move the phone between three notification modes, Ring, Vibrate, and Silent. It’s such a great thing to have.

It’s hard to photograph, but the textured OnePlus 6T alert slider is right above the Power button

Missing, alas, is the LED notification light that graced the top of the OnePlus 6 and previous OnePlus handsets. The company tells me this was removed in order to accommodate the smaller notch, and that few users used it anyway. (I did not.)

Software

In keeping with its performance mantra, OnePlus specially customizes the Android software that ships on its handsets to provide the best possible performance in as many situations as possible. I normally don’t like to see heavy Android customization. But the OnePlus user experience, called OxygenOS and now based on Android 9, is not particularly egregious.

That said, I still find that OxygenOS looks a bit more old-fashioned that Google’s stock Android, mostly because it uses some old-school icons for things like Phone, Settings, and Camera. But you can at least customize the UI to your heart’s content—by such things as icon packs, gestures, and other features—or just replace it with a third-party launcher.

OnePlus doesn’t overload Android with duplicate apps as Samsung does. But it does provide some useful apps that are missing in stock Android, including Downloads (which is really just a shortcut to the device’s Downloads folder), File Manager, (photo) Gallery, Notes, (audio) Recorder, and others.

There are also some nice OnePlus-specific apps such as OnePlus Switch, to help you move from another handset, and Community, so you can keep up with the company’s forums and support. Don’t like this stuff? You can uninstall all of it. Suck it, Samsung.

Overall, I like what OnePlus has done here, but I’d prefer a more modern default look.

Pricing and availability

Like its predecessors, the OnePlus 6T is priced to sell and is a far better value than any iPhone, Google, or Samsung flagship. The starting price is $550, which provides you with an incredible 6 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage in an age in which most flagships provide 3-4 GB of RAM and start with 64 GB of storage. Upgrades are reasonable, too: For $30 more, or just $580, you can get models with 8 GB of RAM (!) and 128 GB of storage. Or for $630, you can go for the high-end models with 8 GB of RAM and 256 GB of storage.

Doing the math here is almost laughingly quite one-sided in the OnePlus 6T’s favor, but it’s worth examining.

Apple’s cheapest new iPhone, the XR, starts at $750 and provides just 64 GB of storage; to match the OnePlus 6T, you need to upgrade to 128 GB of storage for a total price of $800. So Apple’s most affordable flagship is really $250 more expensive than the OnePlus 6T.

Over in Google’s fantasy land, a 64 GB Pixel 3 XL likewise costs $900, but a 128 GB upgrade lands at $1000, which is $450 more than the OnePlus 6T. And then you have to deal with the possibility of a major hardware failure, given the reliability of that company’s phones. (As I write this, the Pixel 3 XL is temporarily on sale, so a 128 GB version costs $850, which is $300 more than the OnePlus 6T.)

And then there’s Samsung. A 64 GB Galaxy S9+ starts at $740, but the 128 GB version is $790. That’s $240 more than the 6T. And while that’s not as severe as the other two examples, it’s still $240. And it’s worth pointing out that the S9+ is only a few months away from being replaced by a newer version.

From an availability standpoint, most OnePlus customers will purchase a 6T directly from the company’s website. That can be slightly problematic because the firm doesn’t offer any monthly payment plans beyond PayPal Credit payment splitting (with an expensive 26 percent interest rate). That’s not a great solution, so most would have to come up with the full cost of the handset upfront, which might offset any potential savings for many.

But in a first, the OnePlus 6T is also available from a U.S.-based wireless carrier, T-Mobile. So that might be an interesting option for those who can use this carrier and would like to pay for the device over time.

Recommendations and conclusions

Because the OnePlus 6T provides a curious mix of high-end components and missing features, you’ll need to examine the “Cons” list below to determine whether it can meet your needs. The pricing certainly helps: Selling for hundreds less than other flagship-class smartphones, the OnePlus 6T provides incredible value.

For me, none of the missing features—the headphone jack, stereo speakers, wireless charging, and world-class camera key among them—are necessarily showstoppers. But they are concerning, and I don’t feel that OnePlus can use its “no compromises” slogan here without an asterisk. There are many compromises, in fact. Whether they matter to you is, of course, a personal decision.

But its flagship specifications, incredible performance, and reasonably clean Android image make the OnePlus 6T one of the best smartphone choices on 2018. The pricing will almost certainly put it over the top for many.

The OnePlus 6T is highly recommended. Just be sure you can live with its quirks and missing features.

At-a-glance

Pros

  • Reasonable pricing
  • Excellent performance
  • Fast and convenient in-display fingerprint reader
  • Best-in-market fast charging
  • Carrier unlocked
  • First OnePlus handset to support Verizon (LTE only)

Cons

  • No headphone jack
  • Single mono speaker
  • Camera doesn’t rival the market leaders
  • No wireless charging
  • Not officially water-resistant

 

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Comments (24)

24 responses to “OnePlus 6T Review”

  1. shameermulji

    "Apple’s cheapest new iPhone, the XR, starts at $750 and provides just 64 GB of storage; to match the OnePlus 6T, you need to upgrade to 128 GB of storage for a total price of $900."


    That is incorrect. The iPhone XR with 128GB storage is $799 USD, just $50 more than the 64GB version.

  2. jblank46

    Ended up getting a OnePlus 6T from T-Mobile over Black Friday weekend for free and ended up liking it a lot. I wasn't sure if I'd like the big size after coming from a gen one Pixel non xl unit but it is surprisingly easy to one hand with this thing.


    These new taller, narrower phones are awesome. The battery life and software experience on this thing have been amazing. I also downloaded the Pixel camera app and sideloaded it and it produces amazing pics now. It's called gcam port for OnePlus and is on XDA somewhere.

  3. saurabh2254

    hey, it is great phone i know that phone has a great feature like this

  4. jwolfe529

    I have the T-MOBILE variant and very happy with it. Especially since I was able to trade in my OnePlus 5 for a $300 discount. I don't miss the headphone jack because I use Bluetooth headphones.

  5. Omega Ra

    I love the performance of this device. I have the T-mobile Variant and it is great. And though it doesn't have an official IP rating...I have watched videos where they dunk the phone in a bowl of water for a full half hour and still works perfectly, so it IS basically IP68 rated, just not officially. Also, the camera is actually pretty good, plus you can download a ported version of Google GCam over at XDA and the pictures get even better, as most of the Pixel camera abilities are software based, it is actually pretty amazing the difference when you use that app.

  6. jbinaz

    Question on the camera: is it the sensor or the software that make the pictures not truly flagship worthy? Or some combination?

  7. per

    I would hesitate to call the 6T "highly recommended" as it has a number of flaws as listed in the article, although it's an excellent choice if camera and fingerprint reader performance are not important to you. Coming from a OnePlus 5 and having read about Paul's terrible Pixel experiences, I bought the 6T as my first choice for a new phone but returned it after a few days. The fingerprint sensor is not good at all, and I could not make 6T a real Google phone as it would not run Google Now launcher or Pixel launcher -- Android without a fully integrated Google assistant is a bit pointless to me.


    I ended up going with Pixel 3 XL 128GB at a Black Friday price of $800. I have had none of the problems that everyone lists, although I have specifically been looking for them, and I am extremely happy I made the switch. So, maybe the reviewers get the first production run phones and almost ready software. My observations, getting a phone a few weeks later, are very different. YMMV.

    • akcanuck

      In reply to per:

      Should have given the fingerprint sensor more time. It gets better with use. I have had mine about a month and it works pretty darn well. There are a few launchers that replicate the Pixel launcher. I think you can even get the official one installed.

  8. PeterC

    I’ve had a few OnePlus handsets, 1,3T and 5T. I keep the 5T as my backup mobile. One Plus have always been interesting and in the early days affordable, but their pricing is creeping up bi- annually these days. Dash charge has been excellent but you will experience battery degradation. I’d have dash charge over wireless charge any day, way more useful every day. The cameras on the phones have always been ok to good but never great, I don’t think you can expect more in mid price points. There’s always been niggles with them, voice calls in the early days, screens, battery fatigue etc but hopefully they’ve overcome the customer support issues which did plague them badly.


    At at these price points the other handset maker I’d check out is HONOR, a Huawei owned brand. They’re extremely competitive and well featured too.


    if a pixel 3 lite does appear it will be interesting to see how it stacks up to OnePlus and HONOR handsets in features and price.

  9. rosyna

    What is “Verizon’s CDMA-based LTE network”?

  10. obarthelemy

    Again, to me the key question is "what can I do with this semi-expensive phone that I can't do with a cheaper phone ?".


    Let's take the "cheap phone" champ Xiaomi redmi Note 5 Pro for comparison.The answer is: not much. The OP6T has


    • much, much better low light pics
    • slightly better full-light pics
    • much better performance, but performance stopped being an issue when the UI stopped being laggy, and it certainly isn't laggy on the XRN5P
    • screen excellent instead of very good (same remark: very good is more than Good Enough)


    And on the other hand, the Redmi Note 5 Pro has features the OP6T misses:

    • SD slot
    • Audio jack
    • Better battery
    • FM Radio
    • IR blaster
    • $300-$500 cheaper


    I'm not saying the Xiaomi is a better phone, it isn't. I'm saying for 80% of users it's is a delightful phone, way more than enough, and they should do something else with the spare $400-ish.

  11. jaredthegeek

    8 Gigs of Ram in this thing but MS among others still thinks that 4 gigs enough in a mobile device, ARM powered or not.

  12. RM2016

    You should really check out the Pocophone F1.

  13. VirtualDanMan

    Just a quick note. The 6T comes with a 3700 mAh battery. ;-)

  14. JH_Radio

    Think you oops here...

    Pros:

    • Fastest wireless charging in the market

    Cons

    • No wireless charging

  15. HellcatM

    For the pros you said "Fastest wireless charging in the market" but for the cons you said "No wireless charging"????

  16. InIndyDB

    I use T-mobile and moved to the OnePlus 6T from a Galaxy S7 plus. I had to download the APK for the Pixel camera and it solved the one glaring issue I had with the phone, very average quality from the stock photo app, It now has very solid photos now plus improved video stability options.

    The battery on this phone goes into day 2 w/o problems whereas the S7 would drop 10% the first 30 minutes off charger.

    The fingerprint sensor is much better than the S7, the only problem with it, is that is requires light to be used in dark environments and can be blinding if used in bed.

    I miss always on display as I used the old phone as a bedside clock. Wireless charging would be nice, I doubt the phone would ever get below 50% of charge having used wireless charges at home and work.

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