OnePlus 5T review

Making a mark on the smartphone market is hard enough. Muscling in to compete in the same arena – if not at the top step – doesn’t happen often. OnePlus has bucked this trend over the last three years with its phones of high specs and low prices.

Times change though. You may have needed an invitation to buy the OnePlus One in 2014, but the clamour was justified when the phone cost just £229 at a time when the then-flagship iPhone 5s sold for £549 and could compete on specs.

The £449 OnePlus 5T is an upgrade on the five-month-old OnePlus 5 in the same way the 3T was to the 3 a year ago. In eighteen months, there have been four flagship devices from a company that had previously only made two (the mid-range OnePlus X being its other device).

Read our full report on the OnePlus 5T's announcement here.

The new OnePlus 5T is excellent – a huge, crisp screen and screaming performance – but it’s coming from a company that is dangerously close to annoying its fans and appearing like it has run out of ideas, even though it hasn’t.

The OnePlus 5T is an impressive refinement of the company's fast progression in smartphones. It's very similar to the OnePlus 5, but the new screen size and face unlock feature make it feel surprisingly fresh.

Price and availability

The OnePlus 5T costs £449 in the UK for the 6GB RAM/64GB storage model, going up to £499 for the 8GB RAM/128GB version. It is on sale now direct from OnePlus, or on contract. In the UK, O2 is the exclusive mobile network.

OnePlus is also holding pop up events all over Europe on 21 November to let fans purchase the phone in person, in store and get a bag of merchandise while they're at it. Check out the page to see which one you're near to.

These, pleasingly, are the same UK price points as the OnePlus 5 and means the 5T is priced very competitively. If you're looking for value then you've come to the right place.

Phones with the same specs simply can’t compete with OnePlus on RRP. The Moto Z2 Force costs an insane £719, the Samsung Galaxy S8 sits at £669 (though is available cheaper) and the HTC U11 is £599.

With this step up in design language, OnePlus has managed to make its pricing look even better than it did earlier this year.

Design and build

Let’s not pretend here, the OnePlus 5T naturally looks like the OnePlus 5. The front is more attractive with the lack of bezels and fingerprint sensor but the phone itself is largely unchanged aside from the new 18:9 display.

It's only available in midnight black at launch and yes, it looks a lot like the Oppo R11S

It’s a tiny bit taller than the OnePlus 5 to accommodate the new screen, measuring 156x75x7.3mm. It won’t fit properly in an old case, but you wouldn’t want it to now that the fingerprint sensor is on the back. Luckily, it’s really fast, easy to use and is circular.

The rear otherwise looks the same, with dual cameras and a OnePlus logo. It charges via USB-C (and its excellent but proprietary Dash Charge charger) and retains a headphone jack, but ships with no headphones.

There is no waterproofing of any kind, nor any form of wireless charging. We don't care about the latter too much, but the former is something the OnePlus 5T lacks in comparison to nearly every other Android flagship this year. So there are some sacrifices to achieve the price. 

It’s a phone we find to be ridiculously slippery. It’s so thin, and the back isn’t very grippy so snapping it into a case almost a must. This is a shame, as the cases don’t show off the excellent premium build underneath. This isn't a problem unique to OnePlus, though.

It’s also definitely a two-handed phone. The lack of bezels looks lovely, but makes a phone harder to hold. Only the massive-handed will be able to reach their thumb to the top of the display, and for us texting with one hand is impossible.

But for £449, wow, what a looker. It is a more attractive and pleasing phone to use than the OnePlus 5, whose bezels now look antiquated in comparison. And though the specs haven't changed much, they remain credibly high-end in November 2017.

Features and specifications

Unlike the OnePlus 3T, the 5T does not get a notable bump over the previous generation in terms of core specs. But with a Snapdragon 835 and 8GB RAM in the £499 version we tested (and a perfectly adequate 6GB in the cheaper model) that won’t prove a problem for all your smartphone needs.

A benchmark of the handset against phones with similar specs shows that the field is pretty well balanced:

It's worth mentioning that the benchmark speeds of the iPhone X will beat anything Android for this year and probably the next couple, but that the OnePlus 5T feels as fluid as an Android phone can feel other than the Pixel 2.

The OnePlus 5 scores higher than the 5T on a couple of tests, but it is a tiny difference. OnePlus was also accused of boosting the 5 for tests, so they may have stopped that when everyone noticed. 

The 5T is the fastest phone we have ever used besides the Pixel 2 this year. Away from Android, this year's iPhones are also ridiculously quick with Apple's new A11 Bionic chip.

You can read our 5T vs iPhone 8 comparison review for more details.

OnePlus 5 (left) next to OnePlus 5T (right)

Screen

The display is altered with a 6.01in Optic AMOLED panel that uses a 1080x2160 resolution to create the 18:9 aspect ratio. It takes up a whopping 80.5 percent of the front of the device.

It's a bright, colourful panel that is a smidge under Samsung-quality, but as is usually the case with OnePlus, it's a belter of a screen for the price. We found though that the auto-brightness setting is too aggressive and makes the screen too dim much of the time.

The only changes are the display, fingerprint placement, camera sensors and new face unlock feature. The latter works stupidly fast but is less secure than Apple’s Face ID, and akin to the same feature on the Galaxy S8 in that it records a 2D image that can potentially be fooled by a decent quality print out of your face. Apple's uses 3D mapping which can't be tricked this way.

It's also great that the 5T does not suffer from the jelly scroll effect that plagues the OnePlus 5 still. The display size and quality is the best upgrade here.

Cameras

The camera set up is now two Sony sensors. The main is 16Mp with f/1.7 aperture while the secondary is a 20Mp with f/1.7 aperture. This is an upgrade from the OnePlus 5, whose secondary camera was an f/2.6 telephoto lens.

With improved aperture, OnePlus claims the 5T is its best ever phone for low light photography, and this appears to hold true. Check out the below shots taken at the same time on the 5T (top image) compared to the 5 (below image):

We noticed that it takes a lot for the second sensor to even kick in though, and it feels a bit redundant as an inclusion. It's not needed at all for zoom, and is best reserved for portrait mode. This, like on the OnePlus 5, performs with mixed results.

Here's a shot of a goose, where the bokeh effect worked pretty well, but zoomed into the head you can see that the phone struggles to identify exactly where bird ends and background ends, with blurred patches:

There were better results of human subjects, and the cameras did well in the below shot to well define the position of the camera, with the person blended better into the background:

It doesn't perform as well as the Pixel 2 (which only has one lens) and is also less consistent than the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. The camera best performs in bright daylight, where landscapes can look excellent. But it doesn't achieve the same standard as the best smartphone cameras in phones from Apple, Google and Samsung.

The front facing camera is a 16Mp sensor with f/2.0 aperture and is pretty decent in daylight and for video calling.

The 5T isn't the high-end phone to pick if you want the ultimate smartphone camera, despite its relentless 'Shot on OnePlus' social media campaigning. You'll find better results in phones that are admittedly more expensive.

Connectivity and audio

Call quality has been solid, and it's good to see OnePlus plow on with the dual-SIM slot as standard, but there's still no expandable storage. It gets Bluetooth 5.0 which paired the phone flawlessly with a Samsung Gear Fit2 Pro for the duration of our testing.

Full LTE compatibility, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and NFC round up all the inclusions you'd expect.

Battery life

The battery life is about the same as the 5, and the 5T shares the same capacity. Dash Charge remains an excellent charging technology even if it only works with the supplied cable and brick. We also saw the 5T achieve four hours of screen on time under fairly heavy usage until it was reaching empty.

It's not as much of a two-day powerhouse like the BlackBerry KeyOne, but for a phone with the best specs out there and an OLED display, the OnePlus 5T holds its own.

Software

It's a disappointment that the 5T doesn't ship with Android Oreo. It's on Nougat 7.1.1 but we're hopeful for 8.0 Oreo in the coming months. 

Oxygen OS, the firms interface, continues to improve. OnePlus pushes you on set up to use its new font ‘OnePlus Slate’ which is toying with a comic sans vibe at times. We still prefer the other option, ‘Roboto’, Google’s preferred font.

We used the 5T with the Dark theme, a nice touch that changes the whole UI to a slicker black hue with the ability to change the accent colour of icons and menus:

The home screen, app drawer, notification shade and settings menu on OxygenOS (customised)

The changes to stock Android are thoughtful and unobtrusive. Swipe up for apps is better than an app tray, while the notification shade is familiar but excellently customisable.

Unlike previous OnePlus phones, the navigation buttons are now exclusively software features as the bottom bezel can no longer accommodate capacitive buttons either side of a fingerprint sensor. They can of course be remapped, and there are little features like swiping down anywhere on the homescreen or on the fingerprint sensor to pull down the notification shade.

The top bezel still has room for a camera, and that’s how you can set up face unlock. It’s less secure than the fingerprint sensor or a simple PIN, but it is the fastest face unlock we’ve ever seen on a phone.

Tap the power button while looking at the device and it's so fast you don't even see the lock screen. It's odd at first, but is the fastest on any Android device we've used by a country mile. OnePlus also says that it won't integrate it to be used in sensitive apps such as for banking, acknowledging its security pitfalls compared to fingerprint or PIN. 

Along with Google, Nokia and Motorola, OnePlus ships a clean, uncomplicated version of Android that’s all the better for it.

If you like a bit of Samsung style flash on your phone though it might not be for you – the 5T is blindingly fast but partly because of its lack of animations. Everything is very austere and clean cut in order to get a process done as fast as possible, but it's a phone that encourages you to tinker to get a truly unique look and feel - which we love.

The customisation is now key to the OnePlus experience. People (including us) buy iPhones and Samsung phones and never tweak anything. Using the 5T implores you to dig into the UI and change things for the better, and we welcome that wholeheartedly. 

OnePlus confirmed at the phone's launch event that it will be getting Oreo in 'early 2018', which will bring better notifications, security, handy features like password autofill, and visual tweaks.

OnePlus 5T: Specs

  • Android Nougat 7.1.1
  • 5.5in 2160 1080p Full HD AMOLED display, 401ppi
  • 2.45GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • Adreno 540 graphics
  • 6/8GB RAM
  • 64/128GB storage
  • 16Mp and 20Mp rear cameras, f/1.7, support for 4K video at 30fps
  • 16Mp front camera, f/2.0
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 4G
  • Dual nano-SIM
  • NFC
  • 3,300mAh non-removable battery
  • 156.1x75x7.3mm
  • 162g
  • Android Nougat 7.1.1
  • 5.5in 2160 1080p Full HD AMOLED display, 401ppi
  • 2.45GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor
  • Adreno 540 graphics
  • 6/8GB RAM
  • 64/128GB storage
  • 16Mp and 20Mp rear cameras, f/1.7, support for 4K video at 30fps
  • 16Mp front camera, f/2.0
  • 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi
  • Bluetooth 5.0
  • 4G
  • Dual nano-SIM
  • NFC
  • 3,300mAh non-removable battery
  • 156.1x75x7.3mm
  • 162g

SHOULD I BUY ONEPLUS 5T?

The OnePlus 5T isn’t a surprise, both in its existence and the fact it’s very similar to the OnePlus 5. It stands as a reminder that 2017 was the year every company quickly produced a phone with an 18:9 display to make sure its bezels didn’t look outdated on the store shelf.

But OnePlus isn’t on many store shelves given its online retail approach, and its many vocal core fans who bought the 5 will be annoyed by the 5T. OnePlus needed to update its design language quickly to keep up with the wider market where it is yet to make a dent, and the 5T is overall a better device than the 5.

And let's not forget that for £449, the OnePlus 5T is an exceptionally well rounded smartphone. It is at least £100 cheaper than similar handsets, and sometimes close to £300 less.

If you buy into the design (without waterproofing and wireless charging) and price but can accept that the camera isn't top draw and it’ll probably be superseded in six months, then it’s a great choice.

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