he OnePlus 5T, it’s safe to say, is the best phone in the market for most of the people. Even more so if you’re not looking to splurge on a really high-end flagship like the Samsung Galaxy Note 8 or the Apple iPhone X, that also cost a bomb to own. No, the OnePlus 5T is not a flagship killer. OnePlus, in fact, has not made any flagship killers yet, the tagline notwithstanding. The OnePlus 3/3T wasn’t. The OnePlus 5 wasn’t. The OnePlus 5T, similarly, is no flagship killer either. It’s also not the best phone in the market. That remains, for me, the iPhone X. But the OnePlus 5T is a good enough phone to be the best for most people because it is almost there, because it has almost everything you will want in a phone, and, more importantly, it costs just Rs 32,999, which is less than half of the price of the Pixel 2 XL and almost one third of what the iPhone X costs.
In other words, the OnePlus 5T is yet again a phone from OnePlus that is practical, good enough, an all-rounder and a damn fine value for money! It is fairly similar to the OnePlus 5 in most aspects, so I am not going to go too deep in its performance and features. They are same. Fast. Useful. Familiar. But there are some major differences too, which actually make the OnePlus 5T a better phone. These I am going to talk about in detail.
Screen makes all the difference
The OnePlus 5T screen is the biggest difference between it and OnePlus 5. It is also the difference that makes the OnePlus 5T a better phone, a bigger phone albeit not by much. In fact it’s marginal. Compared to the OnePlus 5, the OnePlus 5T is taller by around 2mm and wider by around 1mm. Both phones are 7.3 mm thin at their edges. In terms of dimensions the two phones are so similar that you won’t even feel the difference when you are holding them. This also means that despite a larger 6-inch screen, the OnePlus 5T is as easy to use carry as the OnePlus 5. And this is quite incredible from design point of view.
But even though you can’t feel the difference, you will see it. This is because of the OLED screen on the OnePlus 5T. This is a six-inch screen, with 18:9 aspect ratio. In other words, similar to what you see in the phones like the LG G6 and the Google Pixel 2 XL. But this similarity is only in the size and dimensions. When it comes to quality, the OnePlus 5T screen is so much more better. It is right up there with the screens in the phones like the Galaxy S8 and HTC U11. It’s extremely bright and beautifully vibrant, especially with the default colour mode. The colours really pop out on this screen. The yellow of a pumpkin shines with contrast and the blue of sky dazzles.
While most people will like the default colours, if they are too bright and cheery for your taste, OnePlus gives users option to select other colours modes, including SRGB that mutes the screens and the DCI-P3, which gives the colours more depth but also makes the screen warmer. My impression is that the DCI-P3 shows the best colours but its calibration is not perfect, similar to how it is on the iPhone 8 Plus or the iPhone X. If I am using the OnePlus 5T, I will leave the screen with default colour profile.
Along with the size, the resolution of the screen has also gone up. It now comes with the resolution of 1080 x 2160 pixels. This doesn’t make any difference, though. Compared to the OnePlus 5 screen, I find the screen in the OnePlus 5T equally sharp. As earlier noted, the big deal with the screen of the OnePlus 5T is the quality of panel that, OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei tells me, has been sourced from Samsung. In other words, OnePlus really gets the screen in the OnePlus 5T right.
The large screen, combined with very thin bezels, also makes the phone look so much more dynamic. There is no longer a home button to break the design of the device on the front. It has been now moved to the rear cover, which is a more ergonomic position for it. Although, this does mean that you no longer have the option to use the physical back and menu buttons in the OnePlus 5T. But I believe the change is for good. Phones after phones, and the latest is the iPhone X, are getting rid of the buttons placed under the screen. The on-screen button in Android are good enough, at least for me also because I am used to the virtual buttons and Pixel and Nexus phones. While using the OnePlus 5T I never missed the physical buttons on it.
The fingerprint sensor in the OnePlus 5T is fast, better because of its round design unlike the square-shaped one in the earlier OnePlus phones. Apart from the fingerprint sensor, there is another unlock or in other words authentication feature that the OnePlus 5T comes with. This is face unlocking feature. It is basically Android’s Trusted Face feature, which is out there in almost all Android phones are using the stock version of the operating system. But OnePlus seemingly has made some changes to it, or has tweaked it. While you are setting up the phone, the OnePlus 5T also gives you option to set up face unlocking.
Once you have set up the face unlocking, the phone will unlock as soon as you press the power button and look at the device. It’s crazy fast, and definitely faster than the iPhone X Face ID that uses a fancy depth sensing hardware for its feature
Once you have set up the face unlocking, the phone will unlock as soon as you press the power button and look at the device. It’s crazy fast, and definitely faster than the iPhone X Face ID that uses a fancy depth sensing hardware for its feature. But there are limitations. The OnePlus face unlock needs to see your face, even though it uses 100 points to map and identify your facial features. So if the light is low, the face unlocking is slightly slow and requires that you bring your phone closer to you. It is also a regular face unlocking. You can’t create animojis with it the way you can with the iPhone X Face ID or use it for any other purpose than unlocking the phone.
In other words, I find the face unlocking to be a useful addition to the OnePlus 5T but it’s not something that most people would have missed if it wasn’t there.
About that missing zoom from OnePlus 5T camera
OnePlus claims that the OnePlus 5T comes with a newer and better camera system compared to what users got in its previous phone. On paper, it surely seems that the OnePlus 5T has a better camera. But when you use it, the differences that you are going to notice are minor, except in low light where the images are better with the new phone.
That said, the OnePlus 5T camera is surely best in its class. It’s fantastic actually, if you consider the colours, in good light. Just don’t go look for incredible details in pictures. In that area it’s not up there with the big boys like the iPhone 8 Plus, Google Pixel 2 XL and the Galaxy S8. Those phones are in different league when it comes to cameras. But the way OnePlus processes colours is really good. The OnePlus continues to equip its phones with excellent camera software but the hardware now needs an upgrade, the kind of upgrade that the OnePlus 5T doesn’t have.
As I said, on paper the OnePlus 5T has a very impressive camera system. It comes with the 16-megapixel main camera, powered by the same IMX 398 sensor that is inside the OnePlus 5. It also gets the same F1.7 lens. The second camera now also gets the same wide-angle 27mm lens that is on the main camera. It also gets a new IMX376K image sensor that clicks 20-megapixel images. This is different compared to the OnePlus 5, which has a slightly longer (zoom) lens of 35mm. The reduction in the focal length allows OnePlus to give a bigger F1.7 lens to the second camera compared to the F2.4 that the second camera in the OnePlus 5 has. The bigger aperture, on paper, means better images in low light.
The zoom feature of 2X is still offered. But it is now totally done in software and it is still as ineffective as the zoom feature in the OnePlus 5, which was also mostly done in software. Portrait mode too has been offered, but it is also done totally in software. On the front there is the same 16-megapixel camera that you get with the OnePlus 5.
Overall, I find the OnePlus 5T cameras good enough for most people. In fact, in good light, and for closer up shots in good light, it is more than acceptable, it gives a hint of top class performance. The best bit about the OnePlus 5T camera is the colours it captures. It captures brilliant blues, yummy yellows and gorgeous greens. It also handles dynamic light like a champ, exposing the image perfectly most of time, trying to keep the amount of detail acceptable in shadows as well as lights. In close up shots, in good light, it captures a lot of details.
It’s not that the OnePlus 5 was a shabby phone by any account. But the OnePlus 5T is better. It has got slightly better camera and a much better screen
But at the same time, the pixel size that is OnePlus 5T sensors have, particularly the 20-megapixel camera, is on the lower side at 1.1um and that forces OnePlus software to process images in a way where lower noise or grain is favoured over the amount of detail. So even in good light, the amount of detail is lower compared to what a Pixel or the iPhone X can achieve.
With its excellent image processing, the OnePlus 5T camera can still produce beautiful photos. In low light as well as in good light, I find it better than what the OnePlus 5 can manage, and better than all its peers in its price bracket. See the image samples for example and see the colours that OnePlus 5T captures. But camera is still one area where OnePlus has a lot of room for improvement.
The selffie camera performance is similar to the rear cameras. Lower noise is favoured at the expense of detail. The same is true for the portrait mode, which has extremely smooth tones, which some people will like but most will find too soft. As far as zoom is concerned, I don’t miss that. On the OnePlus 5T it was of hardly any use and the same is the case with it on the OnePlus 5T.
Performance, battery and everything else
So, the screen of the OnePlus 5T is a hit. And the camera is okay, will do type. What about the rest of the phone. Rest of the phone is a practical phone. It is not flashy. The design is practical, although that curved glass and the metal body does make it look premium and attractive. The curved back makes the phone easy to hold and easy to carry. The physical button to toggle silent and ringing modes is useful. The camera module on the rear cover is slightly bigger and has a bit different design compared to the one in the OnePlus 5, and that makes it less prone to scratches.
The performance with 8GB RAM — I reviewed the 8GB variant but there is a cheaper 6GB variant too — and the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 is fast. The software — Oxygen OS 4 based on Android Nougat — is clean, fast and comes with some unique features like a reading mode and display calibration. The lack of Android Oreo is slightly disappointing but OnePlus promises that it will come soon in the form of Oxygen OS 5. It’s already rolling out to OnePlus 3 and the OnePlus 3T and next in line will be the OnePlus 5 and the OnePlus 5T.
The OnePlus 5T, just like the OnePlus 5, is a fast phone in every aspect. Fast camera, fast scrolling when you are going through all those photos you have clicked, fast browsing, and fast gaming. And no, the OnePlus 5T doesn’t heat.
Unlike some other phones in the market, the OnePlus 5T comes with single speakers. No stereos here. But the speaker is loud enough to fill a small room with sound. The dual-SIM feature is supported. The Dash Charging is fast as ever — around 50 per cent in 30 minutes — and the headphone jack is still present on the phone. Battery life, if not phenomenal, is acceptable around 14 to 15 hours, that in other words means charge-once-a-day and then forget.
Should you buy OnePlus 5T
If you are out in the market looking for a phone for around Rs 30,000 you should totally get the OnePlus 5T. It sells for Rs 32,999 for the 6GB RAM and 64GB internal storage variant. This makes the OnePlus 5 a great value for money. The 8GB RAM and 128GB internal storage variant of the OnePlus 5T sells for Rs 37,999.
It’s not that the OnePlus 5 was a shabby phone by any account. But the OnePlus 5T is better. It has got slightly better camera and a much better screen. The big screen, with no fingerprint sensor under it, also makes the phone look more attractive and dynamic compared to the OnePlus 5, or for that matter the Nokia 8 or the Moto Z2 Play. Also its rounded edges make it look more attractive as well as make it look more handy than the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2.
The OnePlus 5T does lack a few things. It is not a flagship killer and will not be unless it gets a camera that is in the league of what Pixel or iPhone packs in. It also lacks a truly waterproof body. But what it lacks doesn’t matter because it costs less than half of its most serious competitors. So, let me repeat again: The OnePlus 5T is the best phone for most people. May be you want absolutely best camera or the best that money can buy. The Pixel 2 XL and the iPhone X are your friends in that case. But maybe you want the best phone without dropping one half a lakh rupees on it. The OnePlus 5T is what you will need to get.