There was a small part of me that was worried that the OnePlus 5T would be a phone of missed opportunities. Although OnePlus equipped the new phone with a whole bunch of goodies, one of the biggest things I wanted to see upgraded was left untouched.
So, when it came time to review the device, I made it my quest to find out if OnePlus had made the right call. And after a couple of weeks with it, my answer is still no. But, the rest of the phone is so good that I don’t think it matters as much.
Wait, is it really that good?
Well, yeah. I definitely think so. The original OnePlus 5 was already an excellent smartphone. It performed phenomenally every day, making it one of the fastest phones I’ve used in 2017. The handset also featured the best camera on any OnePlus device coupled with one of the best built bodies on any OnePlus handset.
Combine that with a near-stock Android experience, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a lighting fast fingerprint scanner plus lightning fast battery charging and you’ve got one killer device. But it wasn’t without its flaws and it sure looks like OnePlus took a lot of that to heart because the 5T addresses almost all of its predecessor’s issues.
OK, what did they fix and improve?
For starters, that screen. You’ll almost immediately notice that the OnePlus 5T has a gorgeous new 18:9 6.01” Optic AMOLED display that takes up nearly every inch of usable space on the front in a very 2017 fashion. It gains a few more horizontal pixels, pushing resolution to a crisp 2160×1080 Full HD+ pixel resolution. Those additional pixels allow it to maintain the 401ppi that I think is frankly good enough for any phone display.
But the more anal of you will definitely notice the subtle but noticeable eradication of the “jelly scrolling” effect that plagued the original OnePlus 5. No matter how I swiped — vertically or horizontally — I couldn’t get the phone’s UI elements to jelly out. So, if you’re someone who hated the jelly scrolling effect, the 5T is the OnePlus for you.
It’s still crisp, with great viewing angles and vibrant colours but now with 100% less jellying.
That said, because of this much larger screen, real estate on the front of the handset becomes scarce. As a result, the fingerprint scanner has been moved to the back, something I doubt everyone will be happy with.
To alleviate the lack of front-facing biometric security options, OnePlus slapped on a facial recognition feature called Face Unlock. It’s not as safe as a fingerprint scanner, but it’s super fast and fairly accurate.
I don’t think it can quite replace the front-mounted fingerprint scanner because you can’t unlock it when the phone’s on the desk. You still have to lift it up to your face and if you’re already going to do that, you might as well just reach back and use the fingerprint scanner instead.
Good screen aside, I also think OnePlus has improved its primary camera, at least by a little bit. This new unit ditches the f/2.6 short telephoto lens so now both the 20MP sensor and the 16MP sensor has f/1.7 aperture lenses with the same focal length.
Images look that little bit better but it’s not something that I think you’d necessarily notice. It’s still not a top-dog contender but it also doesn’t really leave you wanting for a better smartphone camera.
I do lament the continued omission of optical image stabilisation because I think it hurts photography way more than the phone’s videography and I usually prefer taking photos on phones. This phone has some sick EIS for videos. It’s so good, in fact, that I’d liken it to Sony’s excellent SteadyShot technology. Some handheld/walking video footage is stabilised so well that it feels like you were using a gimbal like the DJI Osmo Mobile or Zhiyun Smooth Q.
However, aggressive EIS does have its drawbacks. Sometimes if you want to do quick pans or flicks, the phone can overcorrect for the movement in a way that it looks freakishly robotic. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, all the handheld/walking footage in this video was shot on the OnePlus 5T’s camera (front and back):
This video was also shot entirely on the OnePlus 5T so you can get an idea of the image quality:
[nextpage title=”But they didn’t “fix” everything, did they?”]
No. Unfortunately, they did not. OnePlus did not add IP68/IP67 dust and water resistance to the 5T. Nor did they add stereo speakers. But those are fairly situational and are definitely things you can learn to live with fairly painlessly. Especially the single speaker because it’s easily one of the best sounding single speakers I’ve heard on a smartphone. It gets really loud but doesn’t distort at max volume — at least, not to my ears.
However, the most upsetting thing they left out of the list of upgrades is the battery capacity. OnePlus stubbornly stuck with a 3,300 mAh cell despite having the opportunity to give it a 300-400 mAh boost in capacity like they did with the OnePlus 3T.
Through my daily usage, the 5T pulls relatively similar numbers to the 5 despite the larger screen. I think on average I was losing at most 20 minutes of screen-on-time on my really heavy days, while lighter days were pretty similar. This meant I was getting on average close to 4 hours and 30 minutes of screen-on-time with over 12 hours of time on battery.
Still above average, but imagine how much better it could have been with a 4,000 mAh cell. Talk about missed opportunities, because I really wouldn’t have minded a slightly thicker phone if space was their issue.
I was also a little disappointed that the the unit I reviewed only came running Android Nougat out of the box. Sure, OnePlus’ skin on top of Android is one of my favourites but I would have liked to see Android Oreo on the 5T out of the box especially with the subtle notifications shade adjustments and the other under the hood goodies that come with Android 8.0.
So, is it worth my money?
Even into early 2018, I still think that the base OnePlus 5 is a device worth considering when you’re buying a brand new handset. On paper, it’s still a very capable device. Under the hood the handset has the same kind of capable specs its predecessor did, with a Snapdragon 835 processor, 6GB/8GB of RAM and 64GB/128GB of internal storage.
Couple that with the improvements (screen, camera) and the fact that they retained a lot of what made the old device good (performance, headphone jack, build, stock-like OS), and you’ve got a really solid flagship smartphone experience. But the best part is that you can get all of that for a pretty killer price. The unit I reviewed will officially set you back RM2,449 for 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, but you can easily find more affordable variants online at sites like Lazada or DirectD.
And with such good performance per ringgit, it’s kind of hard to say this is a bad buy even now. Sure, the new crop of flagship handsets are just around the corner but those phones will almost certainly be way more expensive and may only hit our shores in a couple of months.
If you’re someone who needs a new phone right now, you won’t be disappointed with the OnePlus 5T. It’s a marked improvement over the original 5 — so much so that I feel a little bad for OnePlus 5 owners — which was already an excellent smartphone and a killer value proposition. However, if you’re already on the 5 and are considering this as an upgrade option, I wouldn’t recommend it. Wait for the 6 instead.
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Here are more photos captured with the OnePlus 5T. Click on each image to view its full resolution.
While only by a small margin, I think the OnePlus 5T takes better photos than its predecessor. The difference is hard to spot in good light because they both have that OnePlus-y post-processing (saturated colours, over-sharpened edges) about them, the differences are more obvious in low light. Noise management is slightly better and that makes a difference when the going gets dark.
One small touch I enjoyed about photography with the OnePlus 5T is the fact that you can add a semi custom watermark. Rather than have the generic manufacturer ones, you can also add your name or Instagram handle or whatever you want to it which is a pretty cool touch.
That said, I don’t think the difference in camera performance is big enough that OnePlus 5 owners should be kicking themselves. They’re both more than good enough for casual photography.
In this photo, OnePlus tendency to overprocess their images comes out:
This image was taken in pretty much a pitch black alley with auto-exposure. It still captured the colours reasonably well:
The 5T kind of failed in this first image. Perhaps the lighting was a little challenging for it but it wasn’t very bokeh-ed:
I would also like to apologise for the lack of a Bonus Selfie. I know you guys love that. Fret not, it’ll return in the next phone review!