OnePlus as a brand has created its own niche in the mobile industry. Its smartphones aren’t the usual low priced Chinese ones but they aren’t very expensive either. The brand is known to have carved out a non-existent budget flagship category of its own. OnePlus smartphones pack in high-end specifications but cost comparatively less. Another noteworthy thing about the Chinese brand is its different approach towards launching successors. Last year, it surprised users by launching the OnePlus 3T and this year it did the same with the 5T. The upgraded variant was launched just 6 months after the OnePlus 5. Moreover, the new variant costs just as much as the previous one. The OnePlus 5 had a few hits and misses but the 5T looks like a promising phone that ticks all the right boxes. So, has OnePlus managed to retain the ‘flagship killer’ tagline with this new offering? Is 5T the best Android smartphone in its price range? Let’s find out.
Note: We tested out the OnePlus 5T Star Wars Edition (8GB RAM + 128GB storage), but since there are minor differences between the normal version and this one, we have created separate paragraphs for the SW edition wherever required.
The OnePlus 5T occupies almost the same footprint as its predecessor OnePlus 5. But it fits a larger display in the same body, all thanks to the shedded bezels. The metal finish on the back is polished and is a bit averse to a firm grip so you might need to put on a cover. Another reason for doing this might be because it is a big phone. The home button on the front is now gone and the fingerprint sensor finds its place on the back. The rear side also houses the dual-camera setup, an LED flash and OnePlus’ branding. The alert slider stays on the left, it lets you switch between three modes: silent, do not disturb and ring. Below that is the volume toggle which is quite easy to reach. On the right side is the power button above which is the SIM tray. The mono speakers, USB Type-C port, mic and a 3.5mm headphone jack are placed on the phone’s bottom. Just like previous OnePlus phones, even this one isn’t water resistant.
Star Wars Edition
The Star Wars edition of the OnePlus 5T was launched alongside the premiere of the movie ‘Star Wars: The Last Jedi’ on December 15th. It has a sandstone white back but it isn’t the original “OnePlus One Sandstone” texture. This one gives a more polished feel which I initially wasn’t impressed with but later found to be decent. It doesn’t feel as good as the original sandstone finish but this is a different texture and some of you might like it better. There’s a Star Wars logo on the back panel too. Apart from the white colour and sandstone finish, the colour of physical buttons on the phone is different from the regular version. The volume rockers, power button and the SIM tray are all clad in black. But the most attention grabbing thing is the alert slider which has a ‘crystal mineral’ feel to it and is coloured red. OnePlus says that this physical design theme is inspired from the Star Wars world.
Display & Audio
The OnePlus 5T features a bezel-less Full HD+ display that spans 6-inches. It has an 18:9 aspect ratio, just like most phones that come with an edge-to-edge screen. The AMOLED panel on top aids in functionalities like ‘raise to wake’ that shows essential information at a glance without waking up the screen. Software updates can enable more features that make use of the AMOLED display in the 5T. Even though the display looks decent at Full HD+ (2160 x 1080 pixels) resolution, it would have been great if the phone had a Quad HD+ display. This particular critique was also made for the OnePlus 5 and it stays the same for this one. For people who are habituated or want an excellent display, the 5T will disappoint them. For me, it’s not a deal breaker or something I hate about the phone, just that a better display would have made the viewing experience significantly better.
Audio output in the OnePlus 5T is surprisingly good, it gets very loud and is sufficient for a group to listen/watch something together. The phone also has support for aptX and aptX HD that enhances audio experience while listening through Bluetooth headphones.
The OnePlus 5T can be a good multimedia phone with a little compromise with regards to the display.
The dual camera setup in the OnePlus 5T has been slightly tweaked from the OnePlus 5. The primary camera has a 16-megapixel sensor and it is accompanied by a 20-megapixel secondary sensor. There’s a dual LED flash along with the sensors. But the secondary rear camera doesn’t have a telephoto lens anymore, instead there’s another sensor which is specifically tuned for low-light photography. It kicks in only during low-light conditions and isn’t user controllable, the phone decides when to use it. Comparing the OnePlus 5’s camera in low-light with the OnePlus 5T clearly indicates that the secondary sensor does its job well. Pictures in low-light are less grainy and are sharper in the OnePlus 5T. The brand also claims that this lens allows for better portrait mode pictures. However, this secondary low-light sensor comes at the expense of optical zoom provided by the telephoto lens.
During day time or favourable lighting conditions, the pictures from the OnePlus 5T turned out really impressive. The colours are accurate and pixels look sharp in most cases. As for the portrait mode, I felt it captured slightly better overall pictures than in the normal mode. This might be due to the new secondary sensor. It gets the edges right in almost every instance.
The 16-megapixel front camera results in amazing selfies, which stays unchanged from the OnePlus 5. There’s the standard beautify mode with a slider that will help you set its intensity. The phone doesn’t have a front LED flash but low-light selfies are still decent.
In terms of video, the 5T can record 4K videos at 30fps and 1080p videos at 60fps. You can also record a 720p slow motion video at 120fps.
Performance, Software and Storage
Performance of the OnePlus 5T is as good as it gets, there are very few other Android smartphones which can perform better. It has the top-notch flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 along with a laptop-level 8GB of RAM. One can’t expect a better combination when it comes to core performance specifications. There’s a 6GB RAM version too, which by no means is less. The lower variant of the phone will be sufficient for most people’s use case. But if you are a multitasking ninja who likes to dabble with a ton of stuff together, go for the 8GB variant or else, the 6GB one would do absolutely fine.
Apps open up in an instant and there is barely any lag while using them. The user interface as well as the system animations are snappy. Gaming experience is majorly smooth throughout. I tried playing several multiplayer and graphic intensive games, all of which sailed through with no lags or frame drops. The Adreno 540 GPU fitted inside the OnePlus 5T does its job pretty well.
The OnePlus 5T runs on Oxygen OS 4.7 based on Android 7.1.2. OnePlus is testing a beta version of Oxygen OS with Oreo and it shall be out soon. The custom UI maintains a near stock Android experience with very little bloatware. Even the interface elements are similar with some worthy additions on top. Oxygen OS seems to be the perfect phone operating system to me, it retains all the goodness of stock Android and tops it up with likeable and useful features. All of this without putting a lot of bloatware like other Chinese phone manufacturers. Some of the things I liked in the OS were the theme customization settings, three finger swipe screenshot, and native app locker.
During the launch, OnePlus announced that along with the fingerprint sensor, the 5T will also have a Face unlocking mechanism. Although it isn’t as secure as the iPhone X’s Face ID, the face unlock in OnePlus 5T is ridiculously fast. It works 90% of the time and when it works, you won’t even notice that your phone is locked. The 5T uses its front camera to authenticate your face and does everything else via software. This is starkly different from how Apple does it in the iPhone X, it has a bunch of sensors to facilitate the Face ID. Surprisingly, the face unlock in 5T works irrespective of how you hold the phone, provided that the front camera can see your face. It also worked when I covered half of my face as long as I kept my eyes uncovered.
Previously, OnePlus’ face unlock didn’t work in the dark but the latest update has a solution for that too. The screen lights up to full brightness with a white background which helps in face unlocking. If for some reason it doesn’t detect your face, the fingerprint sensor is always there, which is equally fast. I would have loved to see the Face unlock in the native app locker too. Unlocking apps is the only time I found myself using the fingerprint sensor, face unlock did its job well otherwise. OnePlus also announced that the Face unlock feature will be coming to the OnePlus 5 and probably to the 3/3T as well.
Star Wars Edition
On the software front, the OnePlus 5T Star Wars Edition has very few additions. OnePlus phones allow users to choose between light and dark themes. This variant additionally offers a Star Wars theme which turns the interface black and the accent colour to red. Apart from that, there are 10 exclusive Star Wars wallpapers. Everything else in this special edition’s software is exactly the same as the normal variant.
In terms of storage, there are two variants of the device, one with 64GB and another one with 128GB. OnePlus devices don’t have a microSD card slot so you would have to settle with just the internal storage of the variant you pick.
Battery and Connectivity
An impressive battery life is one of the most delightful aspects of any smartphone. With the OnePlus 5T, there is absolutely nothing to complain in this regard. The battery backup from the 3300mAh unit was way beyond my expectations. On a full charge, the phone lasted more than a day consistently, which is phenomenal. My usage included internet browsing, watching videos, playing games and at times, listening to music. OnePlus has done a superb job in increasing the efficiency of its battery over the years.
But this isn’t even the best part about its battery, it is undoubtedly Dash Charge. The charging speed seems unreal at first, it takes barely 30 minutes to reach 50% of charge. The phone charges fully within 1 hour 15 minutes at max. But it reaches to around 90% within an hour after which it trickle charges with a slower speed. Coming from phones that take more than 2 hours to fully charge, this seems magical. Once you experience it, the charging speeds of other phones seem sluggish and you expect every phone to charge with this speed, it’s that good.
If I had to buy an Android phone right now, I would put my money in the OnePlus 5T. It has got the best of everything and satisfies almost every need without costing a bomb. The 6GB variant costs Rs. 32,999 whereas the 8GB one is priced at Rs. 37,999. The performance is top-notch, build quality is appreciable, battery is long-lasting, it charges in an instant and has good cameras.
There is very little the phone is missing out on, probably a better display or water resistance are the only two things that come to my mind. If you are fine with both, there is nothing to worry about before spending your money on the 5T. Except just one thing, you never know how soon OnePlus might surprise you with the next version of the phone. Last I heard, the OnePlus 6 is coming in March 😉
Images by Viraj Gawde, Hannan Mansoori and Sunny Sharma