OnePlus 6T hands-on: This time around it might actually be a flagship killer

oneplus 6t back

In a crowded month-plus of phone releases, Android might have saved the best for last. It’s no easy task to follow the Galaxy Note 9, Pixel 3 XL, Mate 20 Pro, and iPhone XS Max, but the OnePlus 6T might just give Samsung, Google, Huawei, and even Apple a reason to be concerned.

The $549 6T is easily OnePlus’s most exciting release since the original One. Back then, it was the company’s invitation-only ordering and premium-specs-for-less promise that made the One such a hyped phone, and for good reason. It might not have had all the bells and whistles of a Galaxy S5 or HTC One M8, but the One was close enough to make some noise.

Four and a half years later, that noise has turned into a sonic boom. As with the 6, the OnePlus 6T is virtually indistinguishable from the premium phones it emulates, with specs, screen quality, physical design, and all-around innovation to match any handset out there:

  • Dimensions: 157.5 x 74.9 x 8.2mm
  • Display: 6.4-inch 19.5:9 AMOLED Full HD 2340 x 1080
  • Processor: Snapdragon 845
  • RAM: 6GB/8 GB
  • Storage: 128GB/256GB
  • Battery: 3,700mAh
  • Rear camera: Dual 16MP, OIS, f/1.7 + 20MP, f/1.7
  • Front camera: 20MP, f/1.7
  • Colors: Mirror black, matte black

It’s important to note these specs match up extremely well with the OnePlus 6, which received our Editor’s Choice award in June:

  • Dimensions: 155.7 x 75.4 x 7.75mm
  • Display: 6.26 inch 19:9 AMOLED Full HD 2280 x 1080
  • Processor: Snapdragon 845
  • Memory: 6GB/8GB
  • Storage: 64GB/128GB/256GB
  • Battery: 3,300mAh
  • Main camera: Dual 16MP, OIS, f/1.7 + 20 MP, f/1.7
  • Front camera: 16MP, f/2.0
  • Colors: Mirror black, matte black, white

But for the first time with a OnePlus phone, the 6T’s awesome specs don’t tell the whole story.

Shrinking notch, invisible fingerprint sensor

The OnePlus 6T is slightly bigger and thicker than the 6 thanks to a larger screen, but it’s not something you’re likely to notice while using it. What you will notice is the notch. That’s because it’s way smaller than on the 6, with a “teardrop” design like the Essential Phone and Mate 20. It’s so small and unobtrusive, in fact, that adding the blackout bar actually degrades the experience. The display is wrapped in Gorilla Glass 6 and comes with a pre-applied screen protector, but I definitely saw a fair number of small scratches on the one I used.

oneplus 6t full Michael Simon/IDG
The OnePlus 6T has a 6.4-inch OLED display and a tiny notch.

There’s still a slight forehead that creates a bit of visual imbalance with the side bezels, but the smaller notch combined with the skinnier chin and well-rounded corners give the 6T a full-screen feel that few other Android phones deliver.

You’ll also notice that there isn’t a fingerprint sensor on the OnePlus 6T. That’s because it’s hidden under the glass. We’ve seen this type of technology in other International phones, but the OnePlus has the distinction of being the first U.S. phone to ship with the technology, and as such it will endure the appropriate scrutiny. OnePlus says it unlocks the 6T in 0.34 seconds and is as secure as the traditional sensor on the 6. In my testing, it was lightning fast—when it worked.

oneplus 6t fingerprint2 Michael Simon/IDG
The in-display fingerprint sensor looks all futuristic when it works.

It very much feels like first-generation tech, though. Setting up my fingerprint took at least twice as long as it does any other Android phones, and the failure rate of unlocking was relatively high as well. Chiefly, it’s hard to quickly nail the spot where your finger goes without the inherent boundaries of a physical sensor. Also, it seems to work much better in bright overhead light, which I suspect has to do with the optics of the sensor, which requires a burst of green light to “see” your fingerprint through the display. All in all, I appreciated the effort, but I can understand why Samsung and Apple have opted to hold off on an in-display sensor. It’s just not as good as other methods.

Bring on the carriers

OnePlus has always excelled on paper, but the 6T improves in one key area: LTE band support. Like most China-based OEMs, OnePlus phones have always had spotty carrier support, with T-Mobile and AT&T unofficially working and Verizon users being shut out. That didn’t stop OnePlus phones from selling to Android enthusiasts in the U.S., but it did prevent the company from reaching anything close to mainstream popularity.

oneplus 6t camera Michael Simon/IDG
The camera on the OnePlus 6T is basically the same as the OnePlus 6, with some extra processing.

That’s probably going to change with the 6T. OnePlus has partnered with T-Mobile to sell the 6T in carrier stores, which will give it a retail visibility like never before. But perhaps even more important to the OnePlus 6T’s success is a small addition to the LTE Bands: 13. That means you can pop in your Verizon SIM and you’ll actually be able to make calls and send text messages on your OnePlus 6T. I tested it out and there were no issues. However, because the 6T only supports bands 2/4/5/13/46/48/66 on the network, there could be some areas where data is delivered more slowly.

Regardless, it works, which is more than Huawei, Oppo, ZTE, and Xiaomi can say. All in all, the OnePlus will be supported by nearly 250 carriers around the world, including Gigabit LTE on T-Mobile. That eliminates OnePlus’s biggest obstacle to success, and should make its competitors concerned.

Headphone jack bites the dust

Like the OnePlus 6, the 6T is made of glass, but it only comes in one color: black. You can get it in glossy or matte varieties, with the less-reflective and fingerprint-prone flat version feeling more like metal than glass.

oneplus 6t ports Michael Simon/IDG
The OnePlus 6, right, is the officially last OnePlus phone to have a headphone jack.

But you’ll have to wait for the OnePlus 7 if you want wireless charging. You’ll also be saying goodbye to the headphone jack, though a bundled USB-C to 3.5mm adapter will take some of the sting out. That’s nice and all, but even Apple has learned that wireless charging is basically a standard feature when you have one port. By removing its headphone jack, One Plus was able to bump the battery by 400mAh, which the company says will lead to 23 percent better battery life. I’ll test those claims once I use the phone for a while, but based on previous OnePlus phones, I’m willing to give OnePlus the benefit of the doubt.

The camera is essentially the same as on the 6 as well, but OnePlus has tweaked its image processing to deliver better low-light shots a la Google’s Night Sight and studio portrait lighting similar to the iPhone XS. OnePlus is so confident in the new low-light algorithm, it’s bringing it to the OnePlus 6 via an update too.

oneplus 6t specs Michael Simon/IDG
That’s Android 9 Pie out of the box on the OnePlus 6.

Speaking of software, the OnePlus 6T runs Android 9 out of the box and has a new version of its own gesture-based navigation system. It’s kind of a cross between Apple’s and Google’s methods, and I much prefer it to the one in stock Pie. OnePlus says they have made more than 500 optimizations within OxygenOS to make it snappier. I didn’t have a chance to check that number, but animations and scrolling feel as buttery smooth as they do on my Pixel 3 XL, which is saying something.

But once again, the biggest selling point of the OnePlus 6T is literally the price. The price has increased again, mind you, but the $20 hike over the entry-level 6 also gets you twice as much storage (128GB vs 64GB). Another $20 gets you 8GB of RAM ($579) and the top-of-the-line model with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage costs $629. That’s close to half the price of the 512GB Note 9.

But OnePlus phones always cost hundreds of dollars less than its direct competitors. The difference is this time, people will actually get to see the difference with their own eyes. And now that it will be on sale at T-Mobile stores, you’ll be able to get it for even less. T-Mobile is already offering $300 back when you trade in any old OnePlus phone, a Galaxy S6 or later, iPhone 6 or later, or any Pixel. And there may be quite a few premium Android phone users willing to take them up on the offer.


Best gaming laptops: Know what to look for and which models rate highest

Alienware 17 R4

Picking a gaming laptop is a lot more fun today than it was five years ago, when a “real” gaming laptop meant 12 pounds of back-breaking hardware to haul around.

With major advances in laptop CPUs and graphics technologies, you can now get great gaming performance in sizes from slender to huge, and prices from budget to sky-high. That’s where this handy-dandy buyer’s guide come in. We’ll name the best gaming laptops currently available, and we’ll highlight what to look for when buying a gaming laptop. (Check back often, as we’ll update this list as new products arrive.)

Update 10/29/2018: We reviewed the Razer Blade 15, a thinner and lighter gaming laptop that’s packed to the gills with performance hardware. It’s our new top pick for a 15-inch gaming laptop. We also tested Lenovo’s Legion Y530, a budget gaming laptop that’s a bargain right now, but its good-enough hardware could get old fast.  

Latest gaming laptop news

  • Razer isn’t exaggerating when it calls its Blade 15 (available on Amazon) the “world’s smallest  15-inch gaming laptop.” While it’s impressive to get a six-core 8th gen Core i7-8750H and GeForce GTX 1070 Max-Q performance into a compact chassis, note that it’s densely packed and feels heavy for its size. If you can deal with the additional weight, the payoff may well be worth it. Read our review.
  • The bargain-priced Lenovo Legion Y530 (available via Lenovo) could be a good entry-level gaming laptop if you manage your expectations. It’s impressively portable and has a solid feature set. Unfortunately its middling graphics card struggles to deliver buttery visuals from today’s AAA games, and its performance will only go downhill as more demanding titles come down the pike.
  • [“source=gsmarena”]

TP-Link Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip review: The ultimate surge protector for the smart home (or smart home office)

tp link hs300us10 primary

The Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip from TP-Link makes no compromises in providing six switched smart outlets and three always-on fast USB charging ports along with power-surge protection. From a sleek design that fits in with modern home décor, to integration with its well-designed app, to an array of voice-control assistant support and scheduling, TP-Link has managed to make the ideal device—a rare achievement in smart-home hardware or electronics of any kind.

The key feature you want in a smart power strip is robust scheduling. If the app is just a glorified per-outlet on/off switch, it might be slightly useful. But at four or five times the cost of a regular power strip, why bother? Scheduling lets you put the intelligence into each outlet, as if you’re combining (in this case) six separate smart plugs or smart switches into one.

What makes this smart strip so spectacular? The Kasa Smart app helps a lot. There are many smart-home ecosystems available, and the app that ties them all together is often the weakest point, even when the hardware offers robust features. This app is almost perfectly organized, and it has an excellent user interface coupled with graphical reinforcement of actions and behaviors to make it crystal clear what action you’re taking and which outlet you’ve scheduled.

kasa hs300 th 2 Glenn Fleishman
The three USB ports can’t be controlled in the current firmware iteration. They’re always on, providing 2.4 amps at 5 volts each, or a maximum of four amps across all three simultaneously.

The app divides control into three categories:

  • Set one or more one-time-only or repeating events to turn an outlet on or off. This can also be enabled or disabled separately.
  • Count down to turning an outlet on or off.
  • Switch the outlet on and off at random points during a specified interval, such as 6 am to 11 pm, to simulate activity in the home.

The only flaw with TP-Link’s scheduling features is that they apply to individual outlets, which are treated essentially like individual smart devices in the app. That’s too bad, because it means having to create schedules, away plans, or timer settings individually for each outlet—you can’t copy them or group them.

kasa hs300 create recurring schedule Glenn Fleishman
Scheduling when each outlet is on or off offers simplicity coupled with rich options.

A scenes feature, useful with voice control and the app, lets you group outlets together, but only in a simplified fashion. You need a Kasa Smart Home Router to accomplish more sophisticated scene schedules or triggers. The device works with Amazon Alexa, Google Assistant, and Microsoft Cortana, but isn’t equipped with Apple’s HomeKit support.

The switch also includes three USB ports for charging, but these aren’t intelligent—they’re always on. They can provide up to 2.4 amps at 5 volts each, or a maximum of 4A across the three simultaneously. (Editors’ note: A TP-Link product manager at a recent tradeshow we attended said the company is considering releasing a firmware update to render the USB ports programmable if there’s sufficient user interest.) Each outlet has an LED light next to it to show if it’s live, and a separate physical switch, flush with the surface, so you don’t need the app for manual control.

This power strip doesn’t emphasize the fact that it’s also a surge protector, with 500 volts protection on each AC power leg. This is on the high side, but considered perfectly effective with modern hardware. TP-Link designed this unit to continue to provide power in the unlikely case the surge-protection circuits wear out from use. If you live somewhere that has regular surges that have burnt out other gear or surge protectors, you might opt for a surge protector that stops power flowing when protection ends.

Grounding and protection status LEDs are on the top at the device near a circular indicator that shows whether the device is fully on or off, while an analog power switch is recessed under the strip. (A setting lets you disable those indicator LEDs, though the ones next to each outlet are always lit if the outlet is on.)

Set up was a breeze. It required creating a user account with an email address with TP-Link, and then switching a smartphone or tablet to join the strip’s temporary Wi-Fi network for configuration. After the strip joins your local Wi-Fi network, the app prompts you to name the outlets, though you can skip that and do it later.

Finding the configuration menu could be easier. From the main Devices list, the outlets appear individually, and you must tap one and then the gear menu to reach the smart strip’s specific configuration for changing outlet icons, naming outlets, and other parameters.

kasa hs300 th 1 Glenn Fleishman
The outlets don’t rotate and they’re all oriented the same way, but they’re spaced far enough apart that smaller power supplies won’t hog more than one.

The app’s outlet naming and identification system deserves special mention, as I’ve never seen a system that was so beautifully integrated and graphically rich in a way that reduced confusion instead of adding to it.

When you tap the gear icon to choose an icon for the outlet and name it, the app puts an angled view of the power strip in the background with a power cord plugged into the outlet you’re configuring. These are shown as small, charming schematic drawings when you select them. When you tap an outlet to manage it, however, the drawings appear in the background as isometric 3D drawings, a beautiful extra touch. You can also use a stored photo or take a picture to set as the icon.

kasa hs300 graphical reinforcement Glenn Fleishman
The outlet configuration screen uses almost a splash-screen approach with a large illustration. Scheduling options are laid out below that.

And in one more extra feature, for those who want to watch electrical consumption, the Kasa Smart app provides an Energy tab for each outlet, letting you know how much juice whatever’s plugged in consumes.

While I applaud any reduction in unnecessary paper products, TP-Link goes one tick too far as its power strip features too little documentation for getting started. A small card explains how to obtain the Kasa Smart app, but a tiny bit larger or fold-out sheet could make features clear without requiring the download of a PDF, which wasn’t directly linked from the card in the box, either. The app’s built-in help addresses its use and the Kasa ecosystem, but not individual devices like this power strip.

The Kasa power strip isn’t small: it’s a good 20- to 30-percent larger than a similar “dumb” power strip, measuring in at 14 by 2.5 by 1.5 inches, and weighing 1.5 pounds. It has anti-skid feet on the bottom, and an internal slot for wall mounting.

The bottom line

It’s great to have a device about which I have no reservations. If you want a power strip with surge-protection that features multiple smart outlets and makes no compromises in design, hardware, scheduling features, or app-based interaction and control, buy the Kasa Smart Wi-Fi Power Strip. There’s none better: a competitor could only equal it.


Cooler Master MasterCase SL600M hands-on: This sleek PC case has room for a ton of storage

The first in a new line of cases from Cooler Master, the MasterCase SL600M is a full-sized tower with ample space and a relatively compact footprint. One landed on our doorstep just head of its Tuesday launch, and we couldn’t resist opening it up in advance of the project we’ll be using it in. You can watch us take a tour of it—by way of a teardown of the sample build we installed—in the video above.

Among the SL600M’s unique features is a vertical airflow design, powered by two standard, non-RGB 200mm fans at the bottom of the chassis. You also get a whopping eight different mounting points for storage. Four can support both 2.5- and 3.5-inch drives, while the remaining four are only for 2.5-inch models.

Cooler Master SL600M

Adam Patrick Murray/IDG

We found a few particularly clever details in this case, like the two-part PSU mount that keeps the inevitable tangle of connected power cables out of sight. Cooler Master also tucked the storage drive mounts all over the case, largely keeping them out of sight. (If you ever challenge friends and family to guess just how many SSDs you can stuff into this case, you’ll likely always win those bets.)

The Cooler Master SL600M costs $199.99 and is available now.


Giveaway: Win a Overwatch-themed Razer gaming gear bundle

Razer Overwatch

Let’s drop the beat! Just in time for BlizzCon 2018, PCWorld and Razer have teamed up to give away an awesome Overwatch-themed gaming bundle. The bundle includes:

  • Overwatch Razer Blackwidow Chroma
  • Overwatch Razer Man O’War Tournament Edition
  • Overwatch Razer Deathadder Elite
  • Overwatch Razer Goliathus Speed

All you have to do to sign up for free is enter with your email in the Gleam widget below. You can receive extra entries by following our video and social channels. Only legal residents of the 50 United States, including the District of Columbia, or Canada (except Quebec) are eligible to win. The contest ends at 12:00 p.m. Pacific time on November 6th, so get your entries in now!

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