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Review

OnePlus 5T Review: It’s a OnePlus 5 with a bigger screen, really

The OnePlus 5T is a powerful smartphone that improves on its predecessor in small ways that help it to retain its relevance. We review to find out if it’s worth your money.

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OnePlus 5T 4 5
BGR Rating :
4/5

Highlights

  • The OnePlus 5T is priced at Rs 32,999 for the 6GB/64GB variant and Rs 37,999 for the 8GB/128GB variant.

  • OnePlus has introduced Face Unlock and a larger 6-inch 18:9 screen on the 5T.

  • The phone is the successor to the OnePlus 5, and is powered by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC.

If there’s one thing that Apple has perfected, it is the idea of the flagship-only smartphone range. No other brand does it better. Apple has typically stuck to having only one flagship product sitting at the top, with its former flagships making up the lower end of the range. The company’s marketing follows the same drive. Sure, you can buy an iPhone 7 or iPhone 6S, but what you really want is the iPhone X, and you know it.

Most Android smartphone makers take a different approach to product planning and sales. Samsung will be able to sell you a phone in practically every price segment, while manufacturers such as Xiaomi and Micromax choose to focus on budget devices which attract buyers in larger volumes. There are a couple of major brands that come to mind when you think of the flagship-first approach Android: Google and OnePlus.

While Google’s Pixel line-up is a direct competitor of Apple on approach and price, OnePlus does things a bit differently. The Chinese company positions itself as a ‘flagship killer’ – you get the capabilities of a flagship device, without the arguably exorbitant pricing. Taking the philosophy forward is OnePlus’ seventh phone – the OnePlus 5T. It’s the mid-cycle successor to the OnePlus 5, and a device that some might argue has come too soon. But more on that later – for now, let’s dive into our review.

The differences are small, but key

I’ve spoken extensively on the OnePlus 5 both in our initial review as well as the long-term review. This is important, because the OnePlus 5T is a lot like the OnePlus 5. It’s powered by much of the same hardware, with only small changes in the software. Remember, it’s a ‘T’ device that’s come just five months after the OnePlus 5, and there’s not much that has changed in the world of smartphones since then.

Indeed, the OnePlus 5T is powered by the same Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, with the same 6GB/64GB and 8GB/128GB variant options. In fact, even the prices remain the same, with the lower variant priced at Rs 32,999 and the higher variant priced at Rs 37,999. Now, if you’re thinking about what happens to the OnePlus 5 as a result of these prices, we have you covered with some information. ALSO READ: OnePlus 5T Vs OnePlus 5: What’s different?

The OnePlus 5 is on its way out. Whether you like it or not, it’s being discontinued, with the final stocks being cleared to make way for the OnePlus 5T. This allows OnePlus to maintain pricing on the 5T, with the simple explanation that it’s a direct replacement, meant to take over the mantle of the company’s flagship device. It’s also an admittedly short life cycle for a phone we rather liked. The OnePlus 5 stayed on sale for all of five months, a much shorter period than the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T before it. We’ll miss it.

If you already own a OnePlus 5, the OnePlus 5T will create some implications. For one, you put a fair amount of money down on a phone not longer than five months ago. Some of you may have bought your new OnePlus 5 only weeks or days ago, only to have it quickly replaced by a newer, fancier device. If that’s indeed the case, I’m truly sorry for you.

OnePlus, for all of its fan-friendly overtures and buyer-first philosophies, launched a new smartphone at the exact same price far too soon. I’ve personally recommended the OnePlus 5 to a bunch of people shopping for a smartphone at under Rs 40,000, and I’ve got a fair bit of explaining to do myself. To add salt to the wound, the OnePlus 3 and 3T are already receiving the OTA for Oxygen OS 5.0 based on Android Oreo, a little bit before the OnePlus 5 and 5T are slated to see it. It’s fair to say that the OnePlus 5T’s very existence has meant stepping on various toes by OnePlus.

However, that aside, the actual differences between the OnePlus 5 and the OnePlus 5T aren’t a lot. If you already own the OnePlus 5, you’re unlikely to be tempted to put money down to buy a new one. A lot of the software-based improvements on the OnePlus 5T are likely to make it to the OnePlus 5 with a firmware update, including face unlock and the tweaks that come with Oxygen OS 4.7. The fingerprint sensor at the front is actually better in my opinion, so that’s one department where the OnePlus 5 remains better than its successor.

While the fingerprint sensor at the back on the OnePlus 5T is accurate, quick and as capable as the one on the OnePlus 5, it’s simply a matter of the positioning itself. While you can see exactly where to direct your finger or thumb on the OnePlus 5, using it on the 5T involves a bit of guesswork with your index finger. You would also need to lift your phone and adjust your grip to get your finger on the sensor, which certainly adds a bit of time to the entire process of getting your phone unlocked and ready to go.

That’s where face unlock comes in. After the Apple iPhone X, this is the next big thing in the smartphone space. Of course, the lack of a fingerprint sensor on the iPhone X necessitates Face Unlock as the phone’s only biometric security method. However, it has signaled a trend in the Android space, and manufacturers will now more widely adopt Face Unlock. ALSO READ: Apple iPhone X Review

On the OnePlus 5T, Face Unlock is incredibly quick. You can also set it up to unlock directly to the home screen on waking the device, provided the phone’s front camera can see your face and match it against the image it has saved. It isn’t as superior a face recognition technology as what you see on the Apple iPhone X, but it does have the distinct advantage of being incredibly fast. In ordinary and even low light, as long as the phone’s front camera can see your face, it will immediately unlock and go to the home screen on being woken, or hold at the lock screen according to how you set it.

The face recognition system uses facial features and points, so it will work even if you’ve changed your facial hair or use glasses. It’s usually accurate, works from odd angles and has the advantage of speed. Additionally, you can choose to either wake the device with the power button or a double-tap on the screen, both of which will bring it straight to the home screen. Its only weakness is that it won’t work in absolute darkness; you’ll need to resort to the fingerprint sensor for that.

Bigger screen

The most important change is, of course, the OnePlus 5T’s screen. The phone sports a 6-inch full-HD+ screen, with a resolution of 1080×2160 pixels and an aspect ratio of 18:9. This is the key reason the OnePlus 5T even exists. OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei spoke at the launch event about how the point of the ‘T’ model is to bring improvements to market before the typical annual cycle of the phone. With wide screens on smartphones trending strongly, the OnePlus 5T brings the company’s range up-to-date with this trend.

The larger screen fits into a form factor that is nearly identical to that of the OnePlus 5, so the OnePlus 5T doesn’t actually feel any larger in your hands. The screen occupies more of the front with an 80% screen-to-body ratio, with narrow non-screen space at the top and bottom. The top strip has enough room for the front camera, sensors, notification light and earpiece. The bottom necessarily does away with the fingerprint sensor, which has been moved to the back.

The screen is still an Optic AMOLED one, but OnePlus’ learnings over the last couple of years means that you get to choose you screen calibration profile according to what suits you. With the OnePlus 5T, you get an adaptive profile which adjusts screen colors according the ambient light and content being viewed. It works fairly well, offering you punch when you need and realistic tones when necessary. While it isn’t as high in resolution as the screens on the Pixel 2 XL or Samsung Galaxy Note 8, it’s sharp enough for all practical purposes. The software also ensures that most apps are able to adjust to the screen aspect ratio, which is still relatively uncommon for Android.

Oxygen OS sees some improvements

While the OnePlus 5 and until recently, the OnePlus 3 and 3T were all running on Oxygen OS 4.5, the OnePlus 5T launches with Oxygen OS 4.7. While it isn’t radically different from what we’ve already seen on the OnePlus 5, it is in fact better than the watered-down version of Oxygen OS 5.0 on the OnePlus 3T. There are some changes which add features to the OnePlus 5T as a result.

The biggest of these is parallel apps, which now lets you have two instances of popular apps on the phone by creating a second profile only for that app and pointing the mirrored instance to that profile. It doesn’t work across the board, but only with apps that OnePlus supports for the feature. Popular apps such as Twitter, WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat are supported, but a lot of other apps that also use profiles, such as Uber and Ola, are not. Support might be added for these at a later date, though.

Other changes include the gallery map, which shows you the locations of your pictures on a map based on geo-tags, improved customizations for the home screen, icons, notification shade and status bar. Reading mode and night mode also return to the OnePlus 5T.

Small camera tweaks

There are a total of three camera sensors on the OnePlus 5T, and two of them are the same their counterparts on the OnePlus 5. The primary 16-megapixel sensor at the rear and the 16-megapixel sensor at the front are identical, while the secondary 20-megapixel camera at the rear features a different sensor while retaining the resolution and pixel count. The new sensor features a change in the aperture – both rear cameras in the dual-camera setup now come with f/1.7 aperture. The result of this minor tweak is a slightly more bulging rear camera module, but this doesn’t affect the form factor in any noticeable way.

The change in the aperture has a positive impact on the quality of portrait shots. Using the stereo-vision of the dual-camera setup, the camera is now able to more accurately detect outlines on portrait shots, which are better composed than portraits taken on the OnePlus 5. While it should also affect the quality of zoomed-in shots, it doesn’t have a large impact on that in my opinion. Lossless zoom remains decent, but does require some level of stability to get pictures properly. Low light images are about as good as those on the OnePlus 5 as well, capturing a decent amount of detail with acceptable grain and saturation.

In general, I’m not seeing a lot of difference between pictures taken on the OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T. Images tend to retain a bit of artistic blur, looking a bit like oil paintings when zoomed in and studied up close. While pictures aren’t on par with those taken on devices such as the Google Pixel 2 XL, Apple iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy Note 8, I’m satisfied with the results keeping the price of the OnePlus 5T in mind. ALSO READ: Apple iPhone 8 Plus Vs Samsung Galaxy Note 8 Vs OnePlus 5: Dual Cameras Compared

(Camera samples shot on the OnePlus 5T)

Verdict

On its own, the OnePlus 5T is excellent. It’s a worthy successor the OnePlus 5, and if you’re looking to buy a new phone right now, picking up a 5T over a 5 is pretty much a no-brainer. It’s also among the better phones in the under-Rs 40,000 price segment, and definitely worth considering if you’re looking at a new phone or even an upgrade from a more affordable handset. But what if you already own the OnePlus 5? There isn’t enough to justify the upgrade.

OnePlus’ most important users are people that have stayed with the brand for a while, and while the 5T may make sense if you own the OnePlus 3 or something older than that, it really doesn’t offer enough for anyone that bought a OnePlus 3T or OnePlus 5. That aside, the 18:9 screen, face unlock, software improvements and camera tweaks are what was needed for this mid-cycle update, and bring the phone up to the mark when compared to the competition. It remains one of our recommendations for an Android smartphone at under Rs 40,000. However, it has perhaps come a bit too soon.

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Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Octa-Core 2.45GHz Processor
dual camera 16 MP + 20 MP with Dual LED Flash
  • Published Date: November 22, 2017 9:10 AM IST
  • Updated Date: November 22, 2017 9:39 AM IST