OnePlus has grown from a rather obscure phone maker knocking out handsets in limited numbers to a company that now makes feature packed smartphones that can hold their own against the best Android phones the likes of HTC, Samsung and LG have to offer.
Less than a year ago in July 2017, OnePlus proved this with the OnePlus 5 – a phone I found to be highly impressive in the face of strong rivals. It was priced well, had plenty of performance and ran one of the less fussy and unobtrusive takes on Android around.
There were some downsides, with the phone’s design looking rather old compared to the Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and the LG G6 with their bezel eating displays and 18:9 screen ratios.
So in November, OnePlus decided to have another strike at the Android crown with the OnePlus 5T.
As the name would suggest, this is an evolution of the OnePlus 5 not a revolution. But it is one of the best Android phones around when one weights up features, performance and cost.
It’s also a testament to how dedicated OnePlus is on creating a flagship Android phone that does not require a wallet stuffed with notes and a willingness to make do with stringent phone contracts.
But before I go down that point, let us take a closer look at the phone in question.
At a quick glance, the OnePlus 5T looks rather similar to its predecessor, particularly in its Midnight Black guise. The same metal unibody design is present and correct, giving the handset a lightweight and smooth feel.
But the chassis now holds a 6-inch AMOLED display with the 18:9 aspect ratio that’s becoming a common feature with the latest smartphones.
This new screen design means the home button found on the bottom bezel of the OnePlus 5 has been done away with as the display now takes up more than 80 percent of the handset’s front, gobbling up the side bezels and a lot of the top and bottom bezels.
The overall profile of the OnePlus 5T is taller and wider, as well as a tad heavier than its predecessor, but it’s the same thickness. Weighing in at 162g it’s neither the lightest or heaviest phone around, yet to my hands it feels solid with a decent but not ungainly heft.
The rear also holds a protruding dual camera array which now sports a 16MP and 20MP sensors from Sony, with the latter replacing the telephoto lens found in the OnePlus 5.
On the sides you’ll find power and volume buttons as well as a ‘do not disturb’ switch which offers a quick way to shut-off calls and alerts, though I personally find this a bit pointless as such a feature is easily accessed the pull down menu in more recent versions of Android.
While I can’t say the OnePlus 5T’s design is groundbreaking or striking, it’s a very nice phone to use, sitting nicely in the hand with premium if utilitarian design allowing for the handset’s function rather than form to be front and centre.
Before the OnePlus 5T, I was using the Google Pixel 2 XL as my main phone. While it had issues I felt it was the best representation of Android and a truly smart smartphone around. So the OnePlus 5T had plenty to live up to; thankfully, it didn’t disappoint.
Lets start with the biggest change the OnePlus 5T offers, its display. The screen is large, bright and vibrant with lovely colours and contrast.
With an extra half an inch and the 18:9 aspect ration, I found the display to be lovely to use for browsing web pages, sifting through emails and tapping out notes. The extra screen space without significantly expanding the phone’s physical footprint makes it a more pleasing work device than the OnePlus 5, which was an excellent workhorse.
But 18:9 displays are becoming common place and arguably expected in the latest and upcoming Android phones, so it would have been a travesty if the OnePlus 5T lacked such a display.
Under that impressive screen, the phone’s innards are much the same as it predecessor, sporting Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 835 chipset, a frankly unnecessary 8GB of RAM, and a generous 128GB of storage. As such, it’s unsurprising that the performance of the OnePlus 5T is excellent.
The phone breezes through pretty much everything thrown at it and flicking through Android 7 Nougat, which the phone comes with, is very slick.
OnePlus is currently pushing out an update to Android 8 Oreo, which I upgraded my review handset to and I’m happy to say the phone runs just as smoothly. It also sports slightly nicer app icons – providing the apps have been optimised for Android Oreo – and new security features.
Performance feels as fluid as the stock Android optimised Pixel 2 and Pixel 2 XL handsets, which is something few other Android phones can claim to have.
And thankfully OnePlus’ Oxygen 5.0.3 skin is but a light touch on top of stock Android, offering its own take on native messaging, calls and camera apps and adding a handy File Manager app into the mix that makes viewing all the phone’s images, documents, downloads and so on in one place a trivial task.
In the same vein as the OnePlus 5, the OnePlus 5T is simply a pure joy to use as a day-to-day phone for work and play.
Its 3,300mAh battery pack gives it enough power to keep it delivering plenty of performance for a good working day before the temptation to plug it in rears up. And thanks to OnePlus’ Dash Charge technology, which requires the proprietary charger and cable, the battery charges past 50 percent capacity in around half an hour.
OnePlus also introduced Face Unlock with the OnePlus 5T, a facial recognition feature that uses the handset’s 16MP front-facing camera to identify users and unlock the phone; essentially a budget version of Apple’s Face ID found in the iPhone X.
I found this worked very well and speedily unlocked the phone, although its also secure enough to authenticate payments through Android Pay.
Personally, I’ve switched off the feature preferring to use the fingerprint scanner as Face Unlock would rapidly unlock the phone when I simply wanted to glance at the time or skip a song I was listening to from the lock screen. However, it’s a near feature to have and one OnePlus could expand upon in the future.
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