OnePlus 5T Hands-on Review

Despite saying another T-version of its flagship smartphone wasn’t certain, OnePlus is back with the OnePlus 5T — a revised version of its excellent OnePlus 5 smartphone. It follows in the footsteps of the 2016 OnePlus 3T, and this approach is similar to what Apple does with its “S” revisions — the “T” denotes the phone is only a slight improvement over the original OnePlus 5. While Apple takes a whole year between these revisions, the OnePlus 5T comes just six months after the OnePlus 5’s release. In our OnePlus 5T hands-on review, we take a closer look at what’s new, and what it means to you.

Slimming those bezels

At a quick glance, it’s easy to see the biggest difference between the OnePlus 5 and the OnePlus 5T. There’s now a large 6.01-inch screen dominating the front of the phone, but the body remains essentially the same size as the 5.5-inch OnePlus 5. This has been achieved by minimizing the edges (or bezels) above and below the display panel, and squeezing the sides even closer than ever before. It’s a significant achievement, technically, and gives the OnePlus 5T the cutting-edge visual excitement the OnePlus 5 now lacks. Slimming the bezels around the screen has been a major smartphone trend this year, from the Samsung Galaxy S8 to even Apple’s iPhone X.

The Full Optic AMOLED screen resolution has slightly increased to cope with the new 18:9 aspect ratio, now packing 2,160 x 1,080 pixels. The 1080p screen on the OnePlus 5 is excellent, and the 5T’s screen is just as good, with deep blacks, high contrast, and the ability to get really bright. You won’t miss the extra pixels needed to reach a 1,440p resolution, in the same way you don’t on the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, which shares the same size and resolution screen.

Fingerprints and faces

Enlarging the screen and shrinking the bezels has forced OnePlus to relocate the fingerprint sensor to the rear of the phone, and the home button has disappeared entirely. OnePlus has used the outgoing format since the OnePlus 2, and some hardcore fans may find this change controversial. We actually welcome it. Fingerprint sensors on the rear are almost standard across the Android world now, with LG, Samsung, Google, and others adopting it. The fingerprint sensor is well-placed, easy to locate without feeling around, and beyond lightning fast.

The fingerprint sensor is well-placed, easy to locate without feeling around, and beyond lightning fast.

But it’s also not the only way to unlock your phone. OnePlus has added a face unlock mode, which it describes as complementary, rather than a direct replacement for the fingerprint sensor. It’s not an iris scanner like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8, nor does it rely on a 3D scan of your face like the Apple iPhone X. Instead it’s like LG’s face unlock system in the V30, and it uses the selfie camera. The good news is it works really well. You need to hit the sleep/wake key to turn on the screen first, but it unlocks the phone lightning fast without issue every time we tried it. Security-wise, it doesn’t replace the fingerprint sensor for authenticating Android Pay, and OnePlus told Digital Trends it’s more about convenience.

Changes to the dual camera

OnePlus has retained the dual-lens camera from the OnePlus 5 on the T model, but there are some changes to the lenses. Gone is the telephoto lens and in comes a standard 20-megapixel lens with a much wider f/1.7 aperture. The intent is for it to help with performance in low-light scenarios.

oneplus 5t hands on review dual cameraPortrait mode is still available, but we’ve not had much time to test it yet. Backgrounds blur out nicely, with well-defined edges, plus pictures are no longer cropped in portrait mode, giving a wider field of view. You’ll oddly still see a 2x zoom option on the camera, but this is no longer optical, but digital zoom — so the camera is essentially cropping the image when you zoom in.

All this sounds like we may lose out on some great camera benefits with the 5T. Other than Portrait Mode, the only way to use the secondary lens is to be in a low-light environment. We’ll have to test it more to see how it stacks up, and whether the change is really necessary or an improvement. The main lens is the same 16-megapixel f/1.7 aperture as the OnePlus 5, and it’s also a 16-megapixel camera on the front.

The OnePlus 5 camera is excellent, and we hope the OnePlus 5T can live up to it.

Similar design, same specs

The 5T’s metal body is really slim, and the curve around the edge of the body makes it very comfortable to hold. It’s still a little stunner though, and we really adore the minimalist approach. It’s not all good news though: The camera lens bulge has got bigger, and it’s a shame the fingerprint sensor looks like an afterthought. It’s not as indented as we’d like. A little attention to the design here would have only increased its attractiveness, just like OnePlus has always done with the home button on the front of the phone. Positive outlook: Changing the design radically like this has made it look less like an iPhone.

The edge-to-edge screen gives the OnePlus 5T the cutting-edge visual excitement the OnePlus 5 now lacks.

There’s only one color available: The popular midnight black. You still get a choice of either 6GB of RAM and 64GB storage, or 8GB of RAM and 128GB RAM storage. The OnePlus 5T has the same processor — Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 — as well as the same 3,300mAh battery with Dash Charge fast charging. The company assured us you’ll still see similar battery life, despite the larger, higher resolution screen.

More good news — the OnePlus 5T keeps the headphone jack, which is frankly surprising at a time when such a thing is becoming less common.

OnePlus’s OxygenOS software is layered over Android 7.1.1 Nougat. Before you get your pitchforks out, an update to Android 8.0 Oreo will arrive for the 5T and the 5 in the first quarter of 2018. Oddly, Oneplus will release the Oreo update for the OnePlus 3 and 3T later this year.

We like OnePlus’ software as it’s very lightweight but incredibly customizable. There’s a ton of options to tweak the layout just the way you want. Performance is also fluid and fast as we have yet to run into any issues.

The phone the OnePlus 5 should have been

The OnePlus 5T feels like the phone the OnePlus 5 should have been — it’s more of an upgrade than the 5 was over the OnePlus 3T (there was no OnePlus 4). The edge-to-edge screen is a great improvement, but we’re a little concerned the camera has taken a backwards step. We’ll find out for sure after spending more time with the device.

How much extra is OnePlus charging for the OnePlus 5T? The very good news is it isn’t much at all. In the U.S., the phone starts at $500 for the 64GB model, and $560 for 128GB. It starts at 450 British pounds in the U.K., and will also be sold with a contract through the O2 network.

In a year where at least one smartphone has topped $1,000, the OnePlus 5T looks like astonishingly good value given the hardware specifications and style. OnePlus has ignored adding in many extra features — like Daydream VR support, and artificial intelligence outside of Google Assistant — keeping the phone simple, accessible, and laser focused. It’s extremely welcome as phones become more complicated, often with little benefit to you and me.

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