OnePlus 6T vs. Galaxy S9: Can the Flagship Killer claim another victim?

OnePlus 6T review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

The OnePlus 6T is OnePlus’ latest high-spec flagship phone, with the powerful Snapdragon 845, a stunning glass design, and great cameras — but for less. The question is: Does the Flagship Killer still live up to its reputation? The Samsung Galaxy S9 is one of the most popular phones in the world, with similar specs to OnePlus’s latest — but it comes with a bigger price tag. Can the OnePlus 6T take the Galaxy S9 down?

Specs

OnePlus 6T Samsung Galaxy S9
Size 157.5 x 74.8 x 8.2 mm (6.20 x 2.94 x 0.32 inches) 147.6 x 68.7 x 8.4 mm (5.81 x 2.70 x 0.33 inches)
Weight 185 grams (6.5 ounces) 163 grams (5.75 ounces)
Screen size 6.41-inch AMOLED 5.8-inch Super AMOLED display
Screen resolution 2,340 x 1,080 pixels (402 pixels per inch) 2,960 x 1,440 pixels (570 pixels per inch)
Operating system OxygenOS (over Android 9.0 Pie) Android 8.0 Oreo
Storage space 128GB, 256GB
64GB, 128GB, 256GB
MicroSD card slot No Yes, up to 512GB
Tap-to-pay services Google Pay Google Pay, Samsung Pay
Processor Qualcomm Snapdragon 845 Qualcomm Snapdragon 845
RAM 6G, 8GB 4GB
Camera Dual 16MP (with OIS) and 20MP rear, 16MP front 12MP (with OIS) rear, variable aperture, 8MP front
Video Up to 4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 480 fps 4K at 60 frames per second, 1080p at 240 fps, 720p at 960 fps
Bluetooth version Bluetooth 5.0 Bluetooth 5.0
Ports USB-C 3.5mm headphone jack, USB-C
Fingerprint sensor Yes, in-display Yes
Water resistance No IP68
Battery 3,700mAh

OnePlus Fast Charge

3,000mAh

QuickCharge 2.0

Qi wireless charging

App marketplace Google Play Store Google Play Store
Network support T-Mobile, AT&T T-Mobile, AT&T, Verizon, Sprint
Colors Mirror Black, Midnight Black Midnight Black, Coral Blue, Lilac Purple
Price $549 $840
Buy from OnePlus Samsung, Amazon
Review score 4 out of 5 stars 4 out of 5 stars

Performance, battery life, and charging

OnePlus 6T review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Both phones come with this year’s “flagchip,” the Snapdragon 845, so you can expect to get similar high-level performance from each. OnePlus previously pushed for super-fast performance on the OnePlus 6, so it might be that the 6T will feel faster in everyday tasks. The 6T has options for 6GB and 8GB of RAM — significantly higher than the S9’s 4GB — however, the impact that more RAM has on performance is debatable. Storage space is similarly close, with both phones topping out at 256GB — but only the S9 has a MicroSD card slot.

The 6T wins in pure battery capacity, as its 3,700mAh dwarfs the S9’s 3,000mAh. It’s fair to expect longer battery life from the OnePlus phone. Charging times on both will be speedy, but the 6T’s fast charging outstrips the S9’s QuickCharge 2.0 fast charging by a decent margin. However, only the S9 comes with convenient wireless charging.

With flagship specs on both, it’s very tough to call a winner here. Looking at elements the phones differ on, the 6T’s larger battery and speedier charging win out over wireless charging on the S9.

Winner: OnePlus 6T

Design and durability

As usual with Samsung and OnePlus, these are both exceptionally beautiful phones. The S9 broadly follows the Galaxy S8‘s style, but that’s not a bad thing — the S9’s sleek glass silhouette is still one of the most beautiful handsets around. At the same time, we really like the OnePlus 6T’s changes, including slimming the bezels down even further, and adopting a dewdrop-style notch. It’s just as beautiful and sleek as the S9, and both phones score a 10 in looks.

Things aren’t as solid when we turn to durability. While the glass on each phone is similarly fragile, OnePlus continues to avoid adding any IP-rated water resistance to its phones. As a result, the 6T is far less likely to survive a slip into the pool than the IP68-rated S9. Also, if you’re a fan of your old pair of headphones, the OnePlus 6T breaks with tradition and does away with the headphone jack — which the S9 retains.

While both phones are super-stylish, the S9’s IP-rated water resistance really gives it an advantage, though you’ll still want a case.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Display

samsung galaxy s9 review
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

There are deep inky blacks and strongly vibrant colors for everyone, thanks to the AMOLED displays on both phones. The OnePlus 6T comes with a huge 6.41-inch display running a 2,340 x 1,080 resolution, and it’s a very good screen. The Galaxy S9’s display is smaller at 5.8-inches, but it’s running a 2,960 x 1,440 resolution — making the S9’s display significantly sharper than the 6T’s. Samsung also has considerable knowledge of screen tech, and the S9 has one of the best displays in the world, as evidenced by it initially topping DisplayMate’s ratings.

The OnePlus 6T’s display is beautiful, but it can’t compare to the S9’s master class in screen-tech.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Camera

OnePlus 6T review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

Bucking multilens trends, you’ll find only a single 12-megapixel lens on the back of the Galaxy S9. It’s still a great camera, with fantastic performance in a variety of lighting, thanks primarily to the variable aperture that changes depending on lighting. Despite lacking a second lens, it can simulate a portrait mode on the rear camera and the front-facing 8-megapixel lens.

The OnePlus 6T packs a primary 16-megapixel lens with a secondary 20-megapixel lens. It’s more or less the same two lenses we saw on the OnePlus 6, and while it’s a good setup, it can’t quite match the S9’s great camera. OnePlus has added A.I. optimization to the 6T’s camera, though, so it should be capable of adjusting settings to get the most out of a sunset, your lunch, or a bunch of other scenes. The 16-megapixel front-facing camera should also be capable of the same thing.

Video-wise, you’ll be able to take full 4K video at 60 frames per second on both devices, but the S9 goes further with the ability to shoot super slow motion video at 960 fps. The 6T can capture 480 fps in super slow motion, but it can’t quite match the S9.

This is something of a mixed bag. While the OnePlus 6T has a decent camera, it’s still one of the weaker points of the phone, and it’s simply not as capable as the Galaxy S9’s excellent single shooter.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

Software and updates

galaxy s9 hands-on review front bottom
Julian Chokkattu/Digital Trends

The Galaxy S9 comes with Android 8.0 Oreo underneath the Samsung Experience UI. It’s a good skin, and it shouldn’t be hard for anyone with prior Android experience to make the switch. Samsung’s update record isn’t as good though, and most owners will find themselves waiting for some time before an update to Android 9.0 Pie is available. The S9 will definitely get the Pie update, as well as Android Q — but Samsung has never been quick on updates.

The OnePlus 6T comes with Android 9.0 Pie, hidden under OxygenOS. It’s low on bloatware and pre-installed apps, and it’s extremely fast — but the real win here is Android 9.0 Pie. The 6T is up-to-date, and that’s not something the S9 can match yet. OnePlus’ record with updates is also extremely good — so it’s one to watch if you like prompt updates.

Android 9.0 Pie and much faster updates win this for the OnePlus 6T.

Winner: OnePlus 6T

Special features

OnePlus 6T review
Andy Boxall/Digital Trends

You’ll get a good amount of special features in the Galaxy S9, including the Bixby voice assistant, VR support with Gear VR, and support for desktop-style work with Samsung’s DeX mode. There’s even augmented reality support with AR Emojis, as well as everything you’d expect from Android 8.0 Oreo, including the Google Assistant.

The OnePlus 6T is similarly packed with special features. You’ll find Android 9.0 Pie’s biggest new features on here, including the new gesture-based controls. OnePlus has added more gestures to the mix though, and owners will be able to pause music by drawing a pause sign on the lock screen, or take a screenshot with a three-finger gesture. There’s also a gaming mode that prioritizes performance and network traffic for your games, and modes for your display that cut out blue light at night, or shift to monochrome for easier reading.

There’s face scanning too, like the OnePlus 6 — but the biggest new addition is an in-display fingerprint scanner. Simply press down on the fingerprint icon on your lock screen and you’ll be logged in. Keep pressing, and you’ll also pull up a customizable menu for quick app access.

It’s another tough fight. The 6T’s features aren’t quite as flashy as the S9’s — outside of the in-display fingerprint scanner — but the S9’s features generally require some sort of buy-in. Ultimately, we feel this choice is a personal one — pick whichever one has the better features for you.

Winner: Tie

Price

The Samsung Galaxy S9 is currently available, with prices starting at $840 for the 64GB model, although if you shop around, you can get one for quite a bit less than that now. It will work on every major network. The OnePlus 6T costs $549, but it will only work on T-Mobile, AT&T, and other GSM networks.

Overall winner: Samsung Galaxy S9

The Galaxy S9 may have come out on top in this particular battle, but that doesn’t mean the “Flagship Killer” has entirely missed its mark. The OnePlus 6T is a phenomenal phone with all the power, beauty, and advanced camera tech that you’d expect from a flagship device — but for several hundred dollars less.

On balance, the Galaxy S9’s water resistance, large array of additional features, and extremely solid performance mean that Samsung’s phone is probably the better of the two to pick up — but if you can’t ignore the OnePlus 6T’s lower price, then OnePlus’s newest flagship killer is a fantastic choice.

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