OnePlus churns out top quality phones with such monotonous regularity that the brilliance of the OnePlus 5T shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.
If there’s any kind of surprise at all, it’s precisely how good the OnePlus 5T is, because make no mistake about it, this is one outstanding smartphone.
The firm has somehow taken what made the OnePlus 5 this year’s best mid-range handset and made it even better. What’s more, it’s done so without raising the price or increasing the size of the phone significantly. If you’d bought a OnePlus 5 a month or two ago, you’ll be kicking yourself now.
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OnePlus 5T review: Bigger screen, same size chassis
The big change this time around is to the display, which at 6in is now a significant half inch larger than its predecessor. And it’s one of those funky, 18:9 aspect ratio, chassis-filling edge-to-edge displays, so there’s barely any bezel to the left and right and very little bezel above and below the display – just a half centimetre or so.
This bezel shrinkage isn’t just about keeping up with the Joneses either; it keeps the size down, too. In fact, despite its 20% bigger screen, the OnePlus 5T is hardly any bigger than the 5; there’s a millimetre or so in it, if that, in terms of both width and height.
And, just as with the OnePlus 5, this is an AMOLED screen. That means it has perfect contrast and punchy colours, and the good news is that you can tweak the way it looks to suit your preferences. If you like your colours muted and accurate, pick the sRGB profile in the display settings; if you prefer a brighter, more in-your-face look, choose DCI-P3.
One word of warning. It isn’t the brightest display I’ve ever come across. In our technical tests, the 5T hit a maximum of only 420cd/m2 at maximum brightness, with no way to boost this, even temporarily, to aid readability in bright ambient light. It can’t match the best Samsung has to offer in this regard, with the Note 8 and Galaxy S8 phones peaking at above 900cd/m2 in auto-brightness mode.
Still, at least there are no horrible problems with viewing angles and discolouration as there are with the Google Pixel 2 XL’s display. The screen on the OnePlus 5T uses a polarising layer but it doesn’t interfere with the colours or general visibility, even if you’re wearing a pair of polarising sunglasses.
OnePlus 5T review: Design
In terms of the way the phone looks, design of the chassis is also very, very similar to the OnePlus 5, to the extent that unless you sit the two phones right next to each other, it’s actually quite difficult to tell the difference. The corners and rear panel are curved in the same way, the thickness hasn’t changed at all and, although it is a touch heavier than the 5, 162g still isn’t bad at all for a phone with a 6in screen. Moreover, all the buttons are in the same places, including OnePlus’ ultra-handy three-position do-not-disturb switch on the phone’s left edge. Even the camera housing, which does look slightly different, is in the same place, as is the USB Type-C port on the bottom edge and the 3.5mm headphone jack.
Yes, the OnePlus 5T still has a headphone jack. REJOICE!
What the OnePlus 5T still doesn’t have just yet, which could be an issue for some, is a microSD slot for storage expansion and a dust-/water-resistance IP rating. With almost all the OnePlus 5T’s rivals now providing this feature it’s about time OnePlus joined in.
OnePlus 5T review: Performance and battery life
What is does have is performance to match any phone on the market and that’s because the internal components are all top-spec. You get a 2.45GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage, depending on the model you choose.
So far this year, I’ve very little variation in performance between phones with this type of configuration, so it’s little surprise to see the OnePlus 5 delivering the same results as every other Snapdragon 835 handset. The only phones that benchmark faster, in fact, are the Apple iPhone 8, 8 Plus and iPhone X, but that doesn’t matter – all you need to know is that the OnePlus 5T is as fast and responsive as any phone I’ve used this year.
The one thing you don’t get with the OnePlus 5T – and the same is true of the OnePlus 5 – is gigabit-class 4G connectivity. Although there still aren’t that many places in the UK where the networks have been upgraded to the new speed, the OnePlus 5T’s 600Mbits/sec download ceiling and 2×2 MIMO antenna array will still likely result in slower connections than phones with 4×4 MIMO antennas are able to reach – the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, for instance.
What the OnePlus 5T does deliver in spades, though, is battery life. The battery is the same capacity as before at 3,300mAh and, just like the OnePlus 5, it goes and goes and goes and goes. In our video rundown test the phone took 20hrs 52mins to go from 100% to 0% on the battery gauge – around the same time as the OnePlus 5, which lasted 20hrs 40mins in the same test. That translates, with moderate real-world use, to nearly two full days of use.
OnePlus 5T review: Cameras
The other big change with the OnePlus 5T is to its dual camera array, which is setup in a slightly different way this time around. Where the 5 went for wide-angle and telephoto setup, on the 5T both have identical focal lengths and fields of view, with the secondary camera concentrating on delivering superior low light shots.
The main camera here remains a 16-megapixel, f/1.7 camera with dual-pixel phase detect autofocus and EIS for video stabilisation; the second has the same bright aperture, but a resolution of 20-megapixels.
The idea is that, when light levels dip below 10 lux, the secondary camera comes into play and in really dark conditions it can also use a technique it calls “intelligent Pixel Technology” where the camera merges the data from every four pixels into one to eliminate noise and grain.
That’s the technical explanation, but is it any good? The answer to that question is a resounding yes. In my testing, it produced low-light photos that were richer in colour, if not sharper, than the Huawei Mate 10, and it had a good stab at competing with the Pixel 2 XL as well.
^ In both comparisons, the OnePlus 5T image is on the left, while the Pixel 2 XL image is on the right. Click through to the gallery to see them in close up, where you’ll see that the OnePlus images are ever so slightly more processed and noisy than the Pixel 2 XL’s
In fact, only peering really closely at high zoom levels revealed a significant difference between the OnePlus 5T and Pixel 2 XL. Look closely at the images below and you’ll see that the Pixel produces cleaner, more neutral images in low light, where the OnePlus 5T’s are warmer and a touch over-processed.
The same holds true of the video output. As with the OnePlus 5, the 5T can produce eerily stable video, but it can’t quite match the detail captured by the Pixel 2 XL or, for that matter, the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8 Plus or Note8.
OnePlus 5 review: Software
OnePlus has also been busy adding improvements to its OxygenOS Android launcher. The camera app has had a tiny revamp that sees the various modes shunted into a small pop-up drawer just next to the shutter button. The idea is to make the camera app more easy to use one-handed.
And there’s also a host of other new tweaks, functions and customisations. Chief among these is the new Parallel Apps feature, which allows you to open more than one instance of certain apps so you can be logged into two or more different accounts. The list of supported apps includes Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tinder, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Skype, but there’s more than 20 available from the get-go.
And, of course, you can now unlock the phone with your face. This smacks a bit like a me-too feature and isn’t backed up with special hardware like Apple’s is but, in reality, it works rather well. It unlocks the phone pretty much instantaneously and as soon as you glance at the camera, it whisks you straight to the homescreen or the last app you were using, with no extra gesture required.
The big, frame-filling display does mean you lose the capacitive keys from the bezel below the screen (sad face), but there is some compensation for that in the form of an auto-hidable soft key button bar, which you can pin and unpin with the tap of a button.
It’s all good stuff. The only odd thing here is that OnePlus hasn’t chosen to launch the 5T with Android latest OS, Oreo. Instead, the phone runs on Android Nougat, a version of Android that’s been out for over a year now.
That’s no huge problem, though. Phones still running on Nougat still work well and that includes the OnePlus 5. Plus it’s clear you won’t have to wait too long. Both the OnePlus 3 and 3T have recently received their Oreo and the 5’s is in beta testing. An upgrade looks inevitable.
OnePlus 5T review: Verdict
If ever there was an easy product to recommend, it’s the OnePlus 5T. Not only is this phone superior to the phone it replaces, with a bigger, better screen, an improved camera in low light, and the same great responsiveness and battery life, but OnePlus has kept the price down to £449 as well (at least for the 64GB model).
If you want waterproofing and storage expansion, then the slightly smaller Samsung Galaxy S8 remains an amazing buy at around £500 but for the ultimate in value it’s hard to look past OnePlus’ latest. It’s quite simply the best mid-range smartphone money can buy.
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