review

OnePlus 6T Review: Another Step Up the Value Chain

But are the additions worth it?

It started off as the brand which offered users flagship level hardware and innovative design and software at surprisingly affordable prices. But subsequent years have seen OnePlus slowly but steadily step away from budget seas and start dipping its toes into premium lakes. And with the OnePlus 6T, it takes another step in this direction.

Looks and feels like the 6…that ain’t bad, really!

Not that it is easily noticeable. The general feel and build of the OnePlus 6T device seems broadly similar to the OnePlus 6, with glass in front and curved glass at the back and a metal frame in the middle. Yes, at 157.5 mm, the phone is longer than its 155.7 mm long predecessor and at 8.2 mm, a bit thicker too (the OnePlus 6 was 7.8 mm), although it is less wide (74.8 mm against 75.4 mm on the OP6). But amazingly, even though the phone is slightly thicker, it is not much heavier – tipping the scales at 185 grammes as against the 178 grammes of the OnePlus 6.

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There are two points of immediate distinction, however – the “drop” notch on the 6T and also the absence of a fingerprint scanner below the vertically aligned dual cameras on the back of the device. Still, you would be hard pressed to tell the difference between the two from a distance – even their cases fit each other! Yes, the all glass construction will pick up scratches and smudges (there is a transparent case in the box, thankfully). OnePlus has put the latest Gorilla Glass 6 and OnePlus has as always put a display protector over it, but only time will tell how tough this edition of Gorilla Glass is.

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Does it look good? Yes, it does. But OnePlus devices are beginning to lose that “distinct” look that  defined them initially. Even the drop notch is not as distinct as it once was, as you can see it in other devices too. So yes, the OnePlus 6T looks good, and premium as well, but it can be mistaken for another phone, including its own predecessor. Which is not a bad thing, really – the OnePlus 6 was a bit of a looker, and remains one even now. But it does make one long for the sandstone finished backs that made the OnePlus One and Two stand out in any crowd!

Them similar specs too, with some camera smarts

The similarity of the OnePlus 6T and 6 broadly stretches to their hardware too. They are both powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 processor and come with 6 GB and 8 GB RAM variants, although in the case of the 6T, onboard storage stands at 128 GB and 256 GB. Connectivity options remain the same, and with Android Pie coming on the device out of the box, you can be assured of some serious speed on the device. Be it a hectic PUBG session, detailed image editing or even routine messaging or indeed all of them together, the OnePlus 6T will sail through them at the rate of knots. No, it is not perfect – we did have to deal with some app crashes and the odd freeze, but hey, this is a OnePlus, so one can be assured of software patches coming along to fix matters and save the day. OnePlus is betting big on gestures as far as the UI is concerned and to give them credit, once one gets the hang on them, they do work very well indeed.

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The cameras remain the same on paper as well – 16 and 20 megapixels (f/1.7 both) on the rear. And 16 megapixels (f/2.0) on the front. OnePlus, however, claims to have improved the camera algorithms for better face and scene recognition, with a dollop of AI thrown into the mix for good measure. Does it make a massive difference? Well, images do seem marginally sharper than what we saw on the OnePlus 6 and there seemed to a bit more detail in many shots, but we could also see greater signs of saturation too, with some colours seeming unnaturally bright (our skins were not spared).

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Interestingly, the OnePlus 6T also has a Night mode on it – and it seems very similar to the one that many are saying will come to the Pixel 3 XL, brightening up dark areas. However, the level of noise seems higher – maybe something to do with those oversaturated snaps! In selfie terms, the phone does well too. We hear that Portrait Lighting is also being planned for the device, although we did not have it on the current version of software at the time of writing.

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Something new, something missing

Of course, not everything is the same hardware wise. Most noticeably, the 6T has a slightly bigger display – 6.41 inches as compared to 6.28 inches on the 6 – and also has a slightly higher resolution (2340 x 1080 as against 2280 x 1080). The difference in resolution and size is not massive enough to make the viewing experience very different from that on the OnePlus 6, but we did feel that the 6T was slightly more brighter than its predecessor. And just a little more saturated in comparison when it came to handling colours.

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The other big change in hardware terms is the presence of a larger battery – 3700 mAh as compared to 3300 mAh. And unlike the display, here the difference is evident – whereas the OnePlus 6 lasted a day but involved a little careful handling as time passed, the OnePlus 6T can see a day off comfortably. To be honest, we think the Honor Play and the Poco F1 still do better in that department, but this is easily the best battery life we have seen on a OnePlus device.

The big issue is does that additional battery life compensate for the other big change in hardware – the loss of the 3.5 mm audio jack. We are not too sure. The change in battery life is significant but not dramatic, and to be honest, while battery life was not awesome on the OnePlus 6, neither was it a deal breaker. Speaking personally, we would have preferred if the company had retained the jack. The battery as we have said was not a deal breaker and anyway Dash Charge ensured we could recharge it in a jiffy.

Finally there is the under-display fingerprint scanner. Yes, it remains a tad slower than the conventional one, but unlike with other devices, we did not face too many rejections. Fortunately, the OnePlus 6T has one of the fastest face unlocks we have seen, so for routine tasks that more than compensates – the fingerprint scanner taking time for transactions is something we can live with.

Unfortunately, neither wireless charging nor IP rated dust and water resistance make it to the OnePlus 6T. Neither is a deal breaker when when you consider what you are getting but considering the brand is moving up the price ladder, their exclusion is increasingly noticeable.

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Worth the extra bucks?

As with every new edition of the OnePlus, the price has been bumped up a little. At the time of writing, we do not have the confirmed price of the OnePlus 6T in India (that will be revealed tomorrow at the India launch) but its US price of USD 549 seems to indicate that rumours of its price in India being in the vicinity of Rs 37,999 contain more than the odd grain of truth. While this was expected, we do think that OnePlus is just beginning to get out of the zone when it was the only alternative for those who wanted premium specs with a device that looked premium at a less than premium price. And is getting into premium flagship waters from budget flagship ones. In other words, it is moving from the neighborhood of Asus, Honor and Xiaomi to the one where the likes of LG, Vivo and Oppo hang out and even Samsung and Apple drop in to visit. It is a brave new world, and unlike in the past where it was seen as the leading option, OnePlus is now in a zone where it is dealing with well established brands and some former champions. If that sounds difficult to believe, then consider the fact that the LG G7+ ThinQ is already available for a price that is close to that of the OnePlus 6T and while not as RAM-laden, definitely brings as much, if not more, to the multimedia table. In fact, there is even a section of consumers that feels that the OnePlus 6 remains a better deal than the OnePlus 6T as it retains a 3.5 mm audio jack and has broadly the same hardware and also a faster fingerprint scanner.

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Indeed, the OnePlus 6T sees OnePlus enter a whole new zone, one where the competition is rather different and is fighting on being premium rather than value for money. It still offers staggeringly good value for money in terms of design, hardware and one of the most uncluttered software experiences on a flagship device this side of the Pixel brigade. The OnePlus 6T makes a good case for itself but OnePlus faces a formidable challenge: of being able to settle in a higher price bracket, with competitions who have a track record of always having been there. The brand believes in Never Settling, but we do think it might want to make an exception in this case.