Two weeks with the OnePlus 6: Useful buttons, gorgeous design, stellar software, and reasonable price

top picks



The 10 best smartphones of 2018

CES and MWC are over and it’s time to clear the dust and see what smartphones are leading the pack this year.

Read More

Last week ZDNet’s Sandra Vogel posted the site’s full review of the OnePlus 6 and the week before that OnePlus sent along a mirror black one for me to test. After just a couple of days of use, I ordered my own Silk White OnePlus 6 and after more than two weeks with this device I am going to have a tough time paying for a flagship again.

While I mostly enjoy the new Samsung Galaxy S9 Plus after several weeks of use the battery life is a bit disappointing I’m not convinced it really is the best Android right now. I was hoping that HTC U12 Plus was going to be the one, but the haptic buttons are a fatal flaw that should convince HTC to pull it from the sales channels and try again. The LG G7 ThinQ, at $750, is back near the top of my list too with all of the flagship specs and a nice form factor.

The OnePlus 6 sold more than one million phones in just three weeks, which is quite a feat considering not a single US carrier has the phone in stores and it is only sold directly from OnePlus. After testing the Mirror Black one, I bought my own Silk White model and it is honestly one of the most gorgeous phones I have ever used with a back that feels more like a marble counter top than glass.






















Here are several reasons to consider the OnePlus 6:

  1. Design: There are some stunning phone designs today, but the Silk White OnePlus 6 may be my favorite. The front Gorilla Glass 5 transitions into beautiful rose gold metal edges and then into curved back pearl white Gorilla Glass 5 that looks and feels stunning. The highlights of rose gold are perfect, the rear fingerprint scanner is perfectly positioned, and the entire device feels like $1000. However, I only paid $579 for this 8GB RAM and 128GB internal storage smartphone.
  2. Buttons: While HTC completely failed with its new buttons, OnePlus continues to have tactile volume, power, and alert slider buttons. The alert slider gives you a three position physical button for silent, vibrate, and ring modes where you can define some specifics for your needs.
  3. Gestures: Google demonstrated an Android interface with gestures in Android P, but OnePlus beat them to the punch with an option in Android 8.1 to depart from using the three bottom navigation buttons and use gestures to replace the navigation bar. I chose that method since I am so used to the iPhone X and am very happy with the performance and functionality of the gestures. OnePlus also provides system gestures and the ability to customize five letters for screen off gestures.
  4. Speed and updates: OxygenOS provides nearly a stock Android experience with software customizations that make the device even better than stock. The software screams and in the short couple of weeks of using it I have seen updates so the default software is Android 8.1 with the May Android security update. Shoot, the HTC U12 Plus I tested was still at Android 8.0 with the March update.
  5. Band 71: Samsung and LG both launched new phones with Band 71 (600 MHz) support, which is the expanded network T-Mobile is actively rolling out. It’s fantastic to see an independent, non-carrier phone launch with support for this frequency. In addition, the OnePlus 6 is a dual SIM device so you can even switch networks on the fly.
  6. Minimal bezels and a notch: I have no issue with notched screens and after using the iPhone X for many months I prefer to maximize my screen experience. The OnePlus 6 has minimal side, top, and bottom bezels so it feels like most of what is in my hand is all screen and I like my phones this way.

There is always something missing from a phone, especially ones that are priced hundreds less than the flagships from Apple, Samsung, and Huawei. There is no wireless charging, but honestly the fast proprietary charging provided by OnePlus is extremely quick at charging up a phone and the battery has easily lasted me a full day of typical usage.

There is no rating for the water resistance, but OnePlus states that it will survive the rain or a dunking. Don’t take it swimming or submerge for extended periods, which is something you should not do even with a phone with an IP68 rating. It’s nice to know I can use it in Washington State’s often overcast drizzly days though.

OnePlus has dual cameras on the back and so far I have been satisfied with their performance. It seems to be a bit of a lost opportunity for the second lens to only help with depth effects rather than optical zoom, wide-angle coverage, or monochrome images, but maybe we’ll see more with the next OnePlus device.

The Silk White OnePlus 6 keeps selling out when OnePlus has a few more available, but it is worth checking the OnePlus Twitter account and keeping an eye out for availability. It is stunning and now that I’ve tested it out for a few weeks I am off to install the Android P beta since the OnePlus 6 is one of the devices officially supported by this beta program.










Jabra Elite Active 65t review: Better than the AirPods and designed for active users

top picks



The 10 best smartphones of 2018

CES and MWC are over and it’s time to clear the dust and see what smartphones are leading the pack this year.

Read More

Last fall I evaluated the Jabra Elite Sport wireless earbuds and found them to be a fantastic option for running with music. At CES, we saw the new Jabra Elite Active 65t announced and for the last few weeks I have been running with them.

The Apple AirPods generated excitement for the cable-free Bluetooth earbud market, but they are not designed for sports with no level of dust or water resistance and a form factor that does not secure them into the ear canal. We’ve seen many new models released since then, including ones from Samsung, Jabra, Bose, Jaybird, and many more. It is now a crowded market with options across the spectrum.

The Jabra Elite Active 65t differentiate themselves from the Elite Sport earbuds with better buttons, a refined design, slightly more battery life, Bluetooth 5.0 technology, and support for Amazon Alexa (coming soon). The dust and water resistant rating is slightly lower, there is no heart rate or VO2 Max support, and the warranty is two years instead of the three years that we find in the Elite Sport headset.

The Jabra Elite Sport headset remains available and offers a bit more for those who want their earbuds to support advanced training features, but the Elite Active 65t is priced less and offers what is likely desired by more casual athletes and those looking for something more rugged than Apple AirPods.

Check out the CNET review where the earbuds earned an 8.2/10 rating and a statement that they are superior to Apple’s AirPods in some ways.

Specifications

  • Sensors: Tri-axis accelerometer for motion sensing
  • Mics: Four digital MEMS with advanced noise cancellation technology
  • Water resistance: IP56 rating
  • Battery life: Up to 5 hours of play with charging case providing another 10 hours. 15 minutes of charging provides up to 1.5 hours of battery life.
  • Wireless connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0
  • Earbud weight: Right-6.5 grams and left-5.8 grams

Hardware

The retail package includes the two wireless earbuds, a charging case with integrated battery, a microUSB cable, and small/medium/large silicon gel earbud tips. By default, the medium silicon EarGels are installed on the earbuds and they fit me perfectly.

Top ZDNET Reviews

The Elite Active 65t has a slightly different earbud design than the Elite Sport with the molded shape of the earbud itself design to twist and secure into your ear without the need for wing tips. I have rather large ear canals so was never bothered with wearing the Elite Sport earbuds for hours at a time while training for a marathon, but it seems to be common feedback from customers. The new Elite Active 65t has a redesigned form that seems to nestle into the bottom of your ear more without putting pressure on the back side. I think people will find them more comfortable.

The earbuds are available in titanium black with a gold outer panel that pushes in and serves as the button. The case is also black matte with a soft touch finish.

The earbuds rest inside the carrying case with the charging pins resting on the custom fit opening. The earbuds do not lock into the case so are held in the case by closing the lid. This also initiates charging up the earbuds.

The right Jabra Elite Active 65t earbud has two mic openings with one at the end of the protrusion that extends towards your mouth. The entire outside gold panel is a single button so a single press acts to play/pause or answer/hang-up a call. A double press of this button will toggle the ambient noise HearThrough option. A press and hold of this button will launch your selected voice assistant, including Amazon Alexa, Siri, or Google Assistant.

The left side has the same large button design with the ability to press on the forward or backward side to conrol volume and playback of audio tracks buttons are primarily for volume control. Holding each of these down will skip to the next or previous track.

The Jabra Elite Active 65t fit my ears well and I was able to enjoy music for a couple of hours without any discomfort or dislodging of the earbuds.
















Smartphone software

While you do not need to install and use the Jabra Sound+ app for your iPhone or Android device, the app adds quite a bit to the overall experience and I highly recommend you install it on your phone.

With the app, you can control the level of ambience when using HearThrough, equalizer settings, pause toggle for audio, call equalizer settings, headset audio prompts, and more. There are modes for commute, focus, and active moments such as walking or running where the headset can help you count total steps during the activity.

The app is also used for updating the headset to the latest firmware and while testing there was one update that appeared and I installed.

Price and competition

The Jabra Elite Active 65t earbuds have a MSRP of $189.99, which is $60 less than the $249.99 price that the Elite Active Sport model launched at last year. I’ve seen these new Active 65t buds available on Amazon for as low as $149.99 so look around and you can get them for a great price.

Other competing truly wireless earbuds include the Samsung Gear IconX that also provides integrated music storage so they can be used without a phone.

Daily usage experiences and conclusion

Headphone jacks are no longer the default on smartphones so most of us are making the move to wireless headset. While Apple may have been one of the first to offer a compelling truly wireless experience, others quickly surpassed them with better options for those who are active and for those looking for more than a very basic experience.

The Jabra Elite Active 65t earbuds have very good battery life, five hours, by themselves with a convenient carrying case providing about two more full charges.

I thought music sounded loud and clear with great stereo performance. Callers said I sounded very good when using this headset too. I don’t make many calls while working out, but it is good to know when a headset can perform well in this role.

The controls are easier to access than the Elite Sport and I have never missed a function while working out. I ran the Seattle Rock ‘n Roll Half Marathon last weekend with a Spotify playlist on my iPhone X streaming to these earbuds and the experience was flawless. The music never skipped a beat, volume control was easy, and the earbuds never even moved around as I was extremely sweaty at the end of my two hour race.

In the past, I have had my chest and swinging arm block the Bluetooth signal to the earbuds and there is nothing more frustrating than constant intermittent audio. Bluetooth performance, and easy connectivity, was perfect with the Jabra Elite Active 65t and the range even allowed me to listen to music in another room. Opening the case initiates the connection too so when you pull them out they should be connected and ready to go without any touching of buttons.

If you like to listen to music when you workout and want to enjoy a cord-free setup, then it is tough to beat the Jabra Elite Active 65t. If you don’t need the advanced fitness analysis provided in the Elite Sport and want to save some money then you can’t go wrong with the Elite Active 65t.