OnePlus 5T Review: A Very Strong Contender Even in 2018
OnePlus 5TNovember, 2017
It is 2018, the year where we will be greeted with the OnePlus 6, but that does not make the OnePlus 5T any less relevant. Armed with the best Android internal specifications that you camera san see in 2017, the rest of the hardware is certainly overkill for the competition right now but that is just on paper. What is really important is how it performs and functions to make it worth your dollars. Is the OnePlus 5T still a compelling purchase as a flagship in 2018? Find out in a comprehensive review.
Hardware Specifications of OnePlus 5T
Before proceeding with the review, here are the important specifications of the OnePlus 5T.
- Display size: 6.01-inch display with approximately 80.5 percent screen-to-body ratio
- Display type: Optic AMOLED with Gorilla Glass 5 protection
- Resolution: 2160 x 1080
- Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
- Processor: Octa-core (4 x 2.45GHz Kryo & 4 x 1.90GHz Kryo)
- RAM: 8GB
- Internal storage: 128GB (no microSD card slot)
- GPU: Adreno 540
- Internal storage: 32GB (with a microSD card option up to 256GB)
- Primary camera: 16 + 20MP
- Secondary camera: 16MP
- Battery: 3,300mAh
- Water-resistance: None
- Price: $539.80 for the base model in the U.S. (6GB RAM model available at GearBest for $617.95)
Design, Display & Aesthetics
The unibody aluminum construction of the OnePlus 5T means that the smartphone is as durable as they come. I did attempt a less brutal replication of the bend test that we thoroughly see on the popular YouTube channel JerryRigEverything. The device would not even flinch, and that is certainly an impressive feat for a phone that is lightweight and extremely slim. It is safe to provide a statement that OnePlus’ phones are amongst the sturdiest out there.
Despite its large 6.01-inch display, I was able to hold it comfortably. I’ll do admit that I have slightly larger hands than the average smartphone owner to the extent that the iPhone 7 Plus became easy for me to carry around so whipping out the OnePlus 5T and start to use it with one hand was a piece of cake. The taller display with slimmer bezels certainly came with an added bonus but just make sure that you do not end hitting up the handset face first on a hard surface or you will certainly regret it later.
From the front, It looks like any other modern-day smartphone with an 18:9 aspect ratio but from the back, minus the rear-mounted fingerprint, the OnePlus 5T resembles the iPhone 8 Plus thanks to the orientation of the dual-camera and LED flash. That’s not to say that it is a bad thing but we’re hoping that the OnePlus 6 comes with a better design this time around to certainly one-up against the competition.
The overall look of the device is very clean and the black color gives it a subtle appearance, which is just the way I like it. Lots of smartphone owners will want the ‘bling’ factor in their devices but design and aesthetics are one of the least concerning factors for me when buying a smartphone although it will certainly be a missed opportunity for the manufacturer if they do not put in just a little effort on changing up that look with the successor.
The display gets noticeably bright indoors, even if you crank up the brightness mid-way but outdoors it is not exceptionally bright, but it is more than sufficient to make sure that you know exactly where and what you are tapping and swiping at. This is thanks to the Optic AMOLED display and if you want to know more about it, we suggest reading our detailed comparison.
Conclusion this segment, if you prefer a clean design and a display that gives you a ton of brightness both indoors and outdoors without harming your eyes, then you will certainly love how the OnePlus 5T looks, but how does it function? Let us find out.
User Interface: Doesn’t Get In Your Way and Is Beyond Smooth
Have you used Google’s stock Android interface that comes with the Pixel and Pixel 2 family? Have you used something that offers a customized skin? Now imagine a user interface that is a cross between the two and you get OxygenOS. A user interface that offers a decent amount of customization options and does not get in your way is certainly something that OnePlus has perfected ever since it foregoes its partnership with CyanogenMod to bring its own skin to the table.
Having used the phone for about two weeks, the UI does not display micro-stutters at all, which is a refreshing addition to the Android experience. Naturally, I wish I had the same experience with my other devices but the OnePlus 5T’s fluidity comes very close to the fluidity of Apple’s iOS platform. In fact, while using the two operating systems in unison, I did not manage to see a difference between the two devices and because the OnePlus 5T also offers a myriad number of customization options, it was not difficult to fall in love with this interface after using it for a number of hours.
Having used Android for a considerable part of my life, I have obtained a habit of using Nova Launcher as my daily driver for custom launchers but with the OnePlus 5T I did not need to invest my time in this tiny, but crucial step. The UI was loaded with whatever I wanted right from the start. In a nutshell, it offers an uncluttered experience but the way the customization options are presented; they are offered in such a manner where they honestly do not get in the way of your everyday smartphone computing.
Unlike Samsung’s and LG’s heavily customized skins, this one is something that I prefer in comparison. I understand that each and every user will have their preference, but for me, OnePlus has nailed it. I’d also like to point out one more thing; since the smartphone was shipped from China via GearBest, it was running the Chinese version of Google’s Android OS, which OnePlus is calling it HydrogenOS.
This means that Google Play Services will not be able to run unless you flash the OnePlus 5T to running OxygenOS. Once again, this process was a walk in the park. All I had to do was download the .zip file onto my computer and transfer it to the local storage of the OnePlus 5T. Afterward, I ran OxygenOS on the phone and was comfortably able to install the Google Play Store and the rest of the services the tech giant offers, all that in less than 15 minutes. In short, kudos to OnePlus for making the switching and flashing process so much easier.
The first customization option you will notice on the OnePlus 5T is the alert slider. Located on the left-hand side and at the top of the volume rockers, OnePlus has not bothered to change up the orientation since the very first iteration. There are three modes that you can use when adjusting the alert slider. Sliding it to the lower bottom and the phone will be at its default profile, which is ‘Ring’. Slide it in the middle and the OnePlus 5T will be completely silent except when it comes to waking you up via an alarm.
Putting that slider towards the top will make the OnePlus 5T vibrate, even during calls. In addition to the alert slider, the impressive UI of the OnePlus 5T gives you access to other options such as Buttons, Gestures, Status Bar, Font and Default Home app. If you want to check out what each option presents for you when it comes to accessing the OnePlus 5T and performing a certain number of functions, we have provided screenshots for each and every one of them.
My favorite customization option was being able to see the number of seconds in the digital clock on the top right-hand corner as well as the network speed the phone is using. This is the first time I am seeing such an addition and I certainly hope that other competitors are able to replicate it on their future products.
Default Home app
In Android, you have the usual PIN, Pattern and Password options but with the OnePlus 5T, you also get something called Face Unlock and biometrics to unlock the home screen. The OnePlus 5T does not come with its own 3D sensing hardware as Face Unlock relies more on software to unlock the home screen without requiring your fingerprint to perform the exact same task.
To my surprise, Face Unlock gathered my face data immediately and an even more pleasant surprise is the fact that the OnePlus 5T unlocked instantaneously as I brought my face in front of the display; it was instant the moment I presented it forward.
Even in various lighting conditions, the phone recognized who I was. I did try confusing the software with a series of old parlor tricks such as wearing a cap, headband, and glasses to make sure it did not recognize my face, but surprisingly, I was unsuccessful.
Now where Face Unlock is flawed is in its speed when compared to the fingerprint reader. The reader is mounted at back, which is my least favorite position to be because it messes up the ergonomics while you are carrying the device with one hand. Still, the handset unlocked in a split second and it was noticeably faster than Face Unlock, which just goes to show you how far fingerprint scanners have come in terms of development.
Combine a Snapdragon 835 with 8GB of LPDDR4 RAM and you have a turbo-charged smartphone that will pretty much chew anything you throw in its path. Thanks to the RAM count, you can open up multiple counts of applications and find that they were in the same state when you last closed and opened them. The ‘fast app opening’ is more attributed towards the phone featuring UFS 2.1 internal storage and that too, 128GB of it.
This is also the reason why the OnePlus 5T is able to record 4K video recording at 30 frames per second; the read and write speeds of UFS 2.1 standard is more than sufficient to handle the job. We’ve conducted our own series of benchmarks using AnTuTu, Geekbench, and GFXBench, three of the most popular benchmarking suites for smartphones and tablets. While we’ve already summarized that you will never have to worry about performance drops on the phone, here are some numbers that you will be interested in seeing.
While running gaming applications, the phone does get a bit hot from the backside but it did not feel that the processor was thermally throttling because we did not notice a drop in gaming performance while playing intensive gaming titles. Games like Modern Combat 5, N.O.V.A. Legacy, and Asphalt 8: Airborne all ran buttery smooth, which should be the case when you have a lethal internal specifications combination.
OnePlus was also kind enough to include a mode called ‘Gaming Do Not Disturb’. It might not allocate more resources towards your gaming applications but it will limit apps and users from disturbing you when you’re embroiled in your intensive gaming sessions. As you can tell from the options present, there is even one to answer calls through the speaker so that you do not have to pause the game mid-way to listen to the person on the other end via the earpiece.
The performance is perhaps the most impressive thing about the OnePlus 5T and we are certainly hoping that the company continues this trend with the imminent release of the OnePlus 6.
Despite having a 3,300mAh battery, which is bigger than the Galaxy S8’s and Galaxy S9’s 3,000mAh cell, we feel that the battery life portion was a missed opportunity on the OnePlus 5T. We understand that there is only so much you can cram into a phone that sports such a thin form factor but we hope that the company is able to improve this with the announcement of the OnePlus 6.
After consecutively running AnTuTu, Geekbench, and GFXBench, the battery life went down from 100 percent to 75 percent in under 30 minutes. Keep in mind that I had not inserted a SIM card while performing these benchmarks and the phone was only connected to my Wi-Fi network with the brightness level at 50 percent.
During the time I was using the phone as my daily driver around the house, with ‘Wi-Fi only’ connection enabled, I was getting roughly 5 hours of ‘screen on’ time. That is not a bad result, but during the weekends, where I make my usual run of going out with friends, I have Wi-Fi + LTE enabled, and that brought down the ‘screen on’ time to less than 4 hours. Do keep in mind that I have enabled a torrent of notifications ranging from Twitter, YouTube, Facebook, WhatsApp and several other apps so my OnePlus 5T unit was not given any breathing room as far as notifications go.
During this battery flexing period, the brightness was kept at 50 percent continuously irrespective if I was outdoors or indoors, so I am sure that my mileage would vary if I dropped that brightness. Overall, I was only a little disappointed with the battery life since the UI was such a huge surprise for me, but I hope that the capability of the OnePlus 6 on the battery side can improve considerably.
If you checked out the camera specifications of the OnePlus 5T first, you will know that the smartphone does not feature a variable aperture like the Galaxy S9 and Galaxy S9 Plus. Its camera UI is also very basic and we understand why the company has resorted to a minimalistic approach like this. When you take out your smartphone to capture or record a moment, you want to do it in the shortest delay possible and that can only take place using a camera app that provides the most basic functions without going overboard.
Stock Camera App UI
Unfortunately, enthusiasts will not appreciate this and some of them might even criticize OnePlus for being too lazy in implementing custom controls that LG incorporates on its high-end smartphone series. We understand why the phone manufacturer done such a thing and we certainly hope that it comes back on the OnePlus 6.
If the upcoming flagship successor will have a professional mode, the interface should be done in the exact same manner as the customized UI; it should not get in the way of your usual photography and videography sessions.
I certainly enjoyed my time with the OnePlus 5T though I have to say that the experience was far from perfect. The battery life for me could have been better and seeing that the smartphone only has one speaker cutout and that too at the bottom really shattered my heart. Though it still retains the headphone jack, the least OnePlus could have done was to make sure that the earpiece also emanates audio, as this is an implementation that has been done well by Apple and its iPhone lineup, resulting in a pleasant surround sound experience.
There’s no storage expansion, but we should not be the one to crib since the phone comes with ample internal memory that you’ll eventually forget about the microSD card. Let us hope that with its successor, we can see things like wireless charging and a more capable camera to duke it out with rest of the flagship competition.
I certainly appreciated the build quality, as it is the best that I have ever seen on any smartphone to date. The UI was simply magnificent and the performance was perhaps the best I have ever seen from an Android flagship that will go easy on your wallet. Overall, I am impressed, but I expect the OnePlus 6 to address the limitations of the OnePlus 5T to a certain extent.
If you want to learn more about the OnePlus 6, you can always check out our extensive features, specifications, pricing and release date roundup here.
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Buy OnePlus 5T from Amazon (8GB RAM + 128GB)
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Buy OnePlus 5T from GearBest (code GB4thdeal67)
An impressively designed smartphone with the best possible performance you can expect from Android flagship that costs less than the premium competition
- Best possible hardware in an affordable Android flagship
- Retains the headphone jack and still features a slim form factor
- Both of both worlds in security features
- Super durable
- Taller display to keep up with the competition
- Massive amounts of internal storage
- Exceptional UI
- Lack of expandable storage
- Battery life could have been slightly better
- No water resistance
- Non-removable battery
- No wireless charging
- Sound comes through just a single speaker cutout