We are on the very cusp of the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro launch but this isn’t a review of those devices, instead, we’re going to take a look at the fantastic OnePlus 6T six months after its initial release.
The thing is, it’s easy to forget that the average consumer or ‘non-techie’ won’t pick up devices right at or after launch. Heck, even many ardent tech fans are not able to constantly pick up new devices as soon as they’re available. We get that when your own money is being used to pick up a device, you’re inherently more aware of the cost of devices at almost any point in its lifecycle.
This is why heading back to a device such as the OnePlus 6T a little over 6 months later once the dust has settled and device traits have been established is always such a valuable exercise. It gives us a solid indication of how a handset now stacks up against the competition — and wow does the OnePlus 6T stack up — it surpasses even some recent releases.
Design & Hardware
Refined cutbacks, certain setbacks
As an iterative update, the OnePlus 6T simply refined what was great about the OnePlus 6. I can’t say that I was a fan of the removal of a few key portions. The notification LED and headphone port being the most prominent.
The shrinking of the notch was one area I’m happy that OnePlus spent time, but even the addition of the in-display fingerprint reader has somewhat dulled in the 6 or so months since this latest ‘flagship killer’ was released.
For me, the OnePlus 6T has a superb form factor, the all-metal frame and matte glass back feels great when gripped without a case. The softly curved back feels especially good in the bare hand, but I have found the edges a little sharper when you grip a little harder.
It’s not a dealbreaker by any stretch, the entire device is a testament to how far OnePlus has come as a manufacturer of what you would call ‘premium’ devices. I particularly adore the side buttons. The alert slider is exceptional, with its ridged bumps and easy to decipher analogue method of turning your handset silent when needed.
I do wish we’d see more manufacturers adopt this in their own designs as it makes the process of tuning your notification settings to your specific surroundings rather inconspicuous and much more streamlined than unlocking your device and then activating a mode. You can simply slide the alert toggle from within your pocket in milliseconds.
That does bring up a minor gripe I have with the OnePlus 6T — and one I haven’t softened on since the initial review — the seemingly unnecessary removal of the notification LED. I just love it when a device has a notification LED. It’s even better when you can customize said LED so that you know exactly what notifications from what specific apps are waiting for you. The OnePlus 6 notification LED was a godsend when you receive tons of emails, tweets, messages and more throughout the day but prefer to have your phone on vibrate or silent mode. So having it removed has been disappointing even six months down the road.
I was very excited prior to release regarding the inclusion of the in-display fingerprint reader. I can’t honestly say that I’m as enamoured by the biometric security addition. I’ve found the performance incredibly mixed, especially when a tempered glass screen protector gets placed atop the display.
I’ve also been highly critical of FHD+ displays in the past, but my stance has softened quite substantially over the past couple of years. The 6.4-inch AMOLED panel looks as good as it did the day I opened the box. I would still love to see a Quad-HD panel, which we’re expecting on the OnePlus 7 Pro for the first time on OnePlus device.
Given the entry price tag, it’s right to be less critical of certain shortcomings — the display is most definitely not one of those. In fact, it’s one of the best design decisions made by OnePlus, as the slightly lower resolution screen makes for insane battery life — more on this later though.
I miss the inclusion of the headphone port but considering I managed to pick up some Type-C Bullets and now have several pairs of Bluetooth buds to choose from, the removal has been less of an issue this time around. If the removal of the headphone port is an issue, then it may be a bitter pill to swallow seeing OnePlus drop support for all upcoming devices.
Audio brings up one kind of major issue I have with the entire design, and that has to be the earpiece up top. It’s so tightly aligned with the top bezel that you have to really jam your ear into the side of the phone during phone calls to really hear who you’re talking to. I will say that with the official silicone case the lip funnels the audio better. It’s still odd to need a case to be able to hear who you’re speaking to.
Software & Performance
A breath of fresh air
The OnePlus 6T is the best performer in general usage within the Android ecosystem. OxygenOS is simply the best third-party Android skin, and every touch, swipe, tap or app runs so blazingly fast that it’s almost unfair on everyone else in the industry.
I enjoy using OxygenOS so much that I haven’t even setup my go-to launcher Nova since the OnePlus 6 launched, such is the quality here. That’s not to say that the 6T doesn’t have issues, far from it. The seriously stacked internals do help gloss over issues and result in an everyday experience that even the Pixel 3 XL cannot match. I have seen very little slowdown on the OnePlus 6T, as it’s certainly no slouch.
Launching and running multiple applications concurrently is exactly what we should expect on devices costing double. Sadly the Pixel cannot compete with the RAM overhead on offered by the OnePlus 6T. The combination of the power internals and ultra lightweight skin make for an experience that bests even the reference OS — and that deserves plenty of plaudits.
I’ve reviewed some of the best devices in the Android ecosystem over the past 12 months and no single device matches the unbridled feeling of ‘speed and flow’ that the 6T offers. The device barely breaks into a sweat in anything that I throw at it, and even when I do, it comes back for more.
To distinguish the performance of the 6T vs the OnePlus 6 is almost impossible given the identical main internals. There are very few extra software additions that really differentiate the two devices, albeit the in-display fingerprint reader and the way OxygenOS handles the teardrop notch.
Additions like the gaming modes and the native Dark Mode (plus extra theme options) are just the kind of additions that although don’t improve performance, show an attention to detail that even Google could pick up for future versions of Android.
Good but not quite up to standard
When all other areas of the OnePlus 6T are so impressive, it’s easy to forgive the one major weak point. I don’t think the camera is bad by any stretch, it’s just seemingly where the money has been saved when building a genuine sub-$500 flagship.
Images don’t lack dynamic range or contrast. The color accuracy is also not bad at all, it’s just that the sharpness can be a little off at times — or has been in my experience. I’ve said this about previous smartphones and I will say it again, installing Gcam is not the solution even if it is a great way to improve your photos.
I have thoroughly tested the built-in Nightscape night photography mode, and I can’t say it’s great. Using without a tripod it makes little to no real difference in the end result. The results are much better when you use the Gcam apk file and get some of that Night Sight action.
Although this criticism of the camera performance is likely not completely fair, you can get some exceptional images. The main 20-megapixel plus 16-megapixel 2x telephoto combination is a solid one. You get plenty of flexibility and the 2x telephoto zoom lens actually comes in very handy for getting just enough of a variation on perspective to make it a welcome addition.
The autofocus is very good, to the point that I’d go so far as to say that you can rely on it in almost every scenario. That autofocus is so good is that it uses phase detection autofocus. Not having any real shutter lag is also a massive bonus.
Don’t go in expecting a camera that can really duke it out with the best on the market and accept that the OnePlus 6T has a good but not quite superb camera and you will leave happy.
While I don’t record too much video on my smartphone often, I will say that I find the video on the OnePlus 6T to actually be far superior to the stills capabilities.
The range of video recording modes is extensive, but not quite all-encompassing. You’ll be pleased to hear that the video modes include 4K 60fps with OIS at 30fps the camera relies on EIS. In 1080p modes you don’t actually gain the benefits of OIS or EIS, so handheld footage can be a little shaky.
Both 60fps modes can exhibit some very minor ‘jello’ effects when moving quickly, but I’ve yet to see a camera system that relies on EIS that doesn’t. In no way is it distracting or a dealbreaker.
In slow-mo, there is naturally a dip in the quality, but overall the results can be really striking given your subject matter. Beyond testing the modes in my initial OnePlus 6T review, I can’t honestly say that I have used slow-mo on the device more than a couple of times. The mode is there though, and that’s a bonus.
Focus in video modes is also exceptional. If you stick your phone camera in front of someone’s face or even in front of an object, expect it to tune in and pull sharp focus in milliseconds without hesitation. I have to applaud the wealth of camera recording modes, and overall the quality is impressive.
Almost class leading
During my initial review of the OnePlus 6T, I could not believe the level of battery life I was able to eke out of this device. While the battery life now isn’t quite what it once was, it’s still utterly superb. I average between six and seven hours of screen time on a heavy day.
Using as a mobile hotspot does cause quite substantial battery drain, but the OnePlus 6T will still manage several hours of screen time before giving in. Even with this intense usage, I am always confident that the 3,700mAh cell packed inside will not let me down.
The lack of wireless charging is disappointing initially, but the formerly-named Dash charging — now just Fast Charge — is superb for blasting that battery percentage in mere minutes. I’m still slightly concerned just how this will affect the extended battery lifespan, but it’s still amazing to recoup even further usage potential simply by plugging in for a few moments.
If the OnePlus 7 does indeed break the 4,000mAh battery barrier, then we could see 10+ hours of screen on time from the standard version — very exciting.
Should you still buy one?
The closest device you can buy that offers an experience even close to the OnePlus 6T is the OnePlus 6. I mentioned in my Pixel 3 XL re-review that I will happily return to the Google-made device, but I do often carry the OnePlus 6T as a secondary device with an active SIM card.
Like I said in my initial review, there is no single feature that is particularly groundbreaking or could even be considered ‘killer’. Instead, the entire package just feels so cohesive and snappy that should you want a device that has extensive support and will most definitely withstand the test of time, this is it.
We are at a point where buying the top-tier version of a device is highly recommended if you want to hang on to a handset for an extended period. OnePlus decided that stacking up the internals and scrimping in a few less-than-key areas — like wireless charging — make for exceptional longevity that is only really seen in the iOS ecosystem.
Cutting to the chase, the OnePlus 6T is still one of the best phones on the market but without the associated price tag. Given the extended support offered by OnePlus, the shelf life of the 6T will no doubt extend way beyond even some flagships costing double.
This is a true powerhouse smartphone that will still be an excellent buy 12 months from now. That said, the upcoming OnePlus 7 will no doubt usurp the OnePlus 6T in performance thanks to the inclusion of the Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 chipset. Personally, I think that the differences may not be all that astronomical in day-to-day usage. And there is no doubt the Snapdragon 845 chipset still packs more than enough punch for a smartphone.
The bottom line is that the OnePlus 6T is still one of the best phones on the market even since our initial review six months ago. What’s even more impressive is that it offers — in many cases — more than the competition without the associated price tag. In their bid to become the flagship killers, with the 6T, OnePlus has ascended into the flagship space but without the associated price tag.