After using the OnePlus 5T for close to a month, it’s clear that this is one of the best smartphones released in 2017.
Several mobile manufacturers have had strong game this year. Samsung really impressed with its brilliant Galaxy S8 and Note 8 devices, while Motorola’s wallet-friendly handsets are great for the more budget-conscious consumer.
OnePlus is another brand going from strength to strength. The OnePlus 5, launched just six short months ago, offered very similar specs to other premium phones, plus a capable dual lens camera and satisfying all-round user experience. All from just £449 here in the UK, making it one of the cheapest flagship blowers around.
The year isn’t over however and OnePlus has already released an updated model, called the OnePlus 5T. A design overhaul, some new features and updated camera tech can be yours for the same asking price of the older OnePlus 5, which might understandably aggrieve any early purchasers of the original phone. However, there’s no denying that this new device is the manufacturer’s best handset to date, and once again rather stunning value for money.
After using the OnePlus 5T as my full-time personal smartphone for three weeks, I’m happy to award it our best possible review score. OnePlus fans will already know what to expect from this handset, but here’s why everyone else should jump on board too.
Check out our OnePlus hub for all you need to know, including our OnePlus 5T comparisons:
OnePlus 5T review: Design
The last few OnePlus phones have served up slight refinements to the overall design, for a sleeker if unremarkable finish. However, this fresh model really changes things up, taking cues from most other premium smartphones released in 2017.
So while the standard dimensions haven’t changed much at all, the OnePlus 5T now sports a larger 6-inch screen. This is thanks to the more slender bezels surrounding the display, especially above and below. The result is definitely a better looking handset.
Of course, it’s still a bit of a sod to use one-handed, although there are software features which help out with that. We’ll touch on that later.
Flip it around and the OnePlus 5T looks a lot more familiar. Besides the new rear position of the fingerprint sensor and some changes to the aerial banding, nothing has really changed. You still have a neatly curved metallic backing, which can be grabbed in silver or black. I tested out the black handset and it proved perfectly hardy, resisting scratches and scuffs throughout the three week testing period.
You also get a screen protector slapped on the front of the phone, although we found that this got scratched up in no time at all. After two weeks we pulled it off as it was beginning to peel at the edges anyway.
While most premium handsets offer full water resistance, you don’t get any such protection from this new OnePlus device. That’s far from a deal breaker of course; definitely more of a ‘nice to have’ feature. And since its absence is obviously a cost-saving measure to achieve that commendable asking price, we can certainly forgive it.
OnePlus 5T review: Screen and media
That spacious 6-inch AMOLED display sports an 18:9 aspect ratio, the same ‘stretched’ design used by the Samsung Galaxy S8, LG V30 and plenty of other flagship phones. This is longer than the traditional 16:9 smartphone screen, and so better suited to watching movies on the likes of Netflix (as there’s less letterboxing).
I’m certainly happy watching flicks on the OnePlus 5T, especially as it’s a crisp and vibrant panel. Colours really shine, although not to some horrifically artificial degree. Meanwhile the Full HD resolution means images are pleasingly sharp, despite the size of the screen.
No complaints when it comes to the brightness, either. On top levels, the OnePlus 5T practically gives you a tan. You have a night mode, which can make the display warmer for an easy-on-the-eye experience in the dark. Plus that reading mode is back, although all it really does is turn your screen monochrome when you’re getting stuck into a book.
Audio isn’t quite as impressive as the visuals, however. You only get a mono speaker on the bottom edge of the blower for your media, which is fine and nothing more. You’ll definitely want to hook up some headphones to experience your music or when kicking back with a movie. As well as Bluetooth support, there’s a 3.5mm jack for cabled sets.
You get a minimum of 64GB of storage for your media, apps and everything else. However, there’s no microSD memory card slot for expansion.
OnePlus 5T review: Features and OS
Android Nougat (version 7.1.1) is the OS on board, rather than the latest Oreo release. Not that we’re particularly bothered by that, as Android Oreo is still rather half-baked, so to speak. Plus, you get the usual OxygenOS overlay on the OnePlus 5T, which adds a lot of useful bonus bits.
For a start, the one-handed experience of Android has been much improved, which is just as well considering this is a 6-inch beast. You can swipe the notifications bar down in different ways, for instance, while gesture recognition makes life easier. General customisation has also been improved. You can change the size of the desktop grids, fiddle with icon styles and all sorts, to get the OnePlus 5T setup just the way you like.
You’ll find most of the same software features found on the OnePlus 5 are back in action here, including the gamer mode and reading mode. However, there’s also one big new addition: facial recognition, courtesy of the front-facing camera.
Like the (considerably more expensive) iPhone X, the OnePlus 5T can craft a 3D model of your gorgeous features. This is then used, if so desired, to verify your identity. You still get a fingerprint sensor as standard of course, this time located around the back of the phone as there’s no space around the front any more. This works perfectly well, unlocking your handset in a heartbeat, provided your fingers aren’t wet or mucky.
If you’re wearing gloves or hard at work in the kitchen, that facial recognition comes in pretty handy. It actually works well too. Donning a pair of glasses or growing out my stubble to tramp-like levels didn’t fool the phone, and the only times it struggled were in complete darkness or when I was moving about. As long as you’re stood still and there’s some kind of ambient light, chances are the facial ID will succeed.
On the left edge of the OnePlus 5T you’ll find the Alert Slider switch, which can be quickly used to silence the phone or stick it into Do Not Disturb. This is a commendable feature for anyone who’s constantly dipping into meetings, although I found that I often knocked this switch to a different position by accident when slipping it into my pocket. After a while I learned to be more careful when pocketing the handset, and then it was fine.
For more on the software experience of the OnePlus 5T, check out our full tips and tricks guide.
OnePlus 5T review: Performance and battery life
The OnePlus 5T sports the same Snapdragon 835 chipset as the OnePlus 5 and most other flagship Android smartphones launched in 2017. You can therefore expect blistering fast performance no matter what you’re up to, helped along by the generous 6 to 8GB of memory stuffed alongside.
Even the most complex and demanding games play with a smooth frame rate, while multi-tasking is a dream. Likewise, you can expect strong connectivity for jumping online, whether you’re on mobile data or WiFi.
Battery life is a step up over prior models, which was definitely a relief. While most OnePlus phones just about last the day with regular use, the OnePlus 5T consistently survived for a day and a half between charges. That even includes some media streaming, plenty of camera use and near constant checking of emails and messages.
Plus, when the battery finally runs dry, that Dash Charge tech ensures that the handset can be recharged in just over an hour. It’s one of the best performing fast charge technologies around, especially as the phone stays impressively cool throughout.
Of course there’s no wireless charging support, but again that’s just a nice-to-have feature right now.
OnePlus 5T review: Cameras
One of the other areas where the OnePlus 5T has been updated is the rear camera. Slapped on the back of this blower you’ll find a familiar dual lens setup, with a 16-megapixel and 20-megapixel shooter working together to capture your memories. However, this time around the secondary snapper has been upgraded to a wider aperture lens, which can suck in more light when conditions are dim.
As before you can shoot great bokeh effects, thanks to the depth perception afforded by those twin lenses. You can also record up to 4K resolution video, complete with some solid digital image stabilisation.
There’s no change with the front-facing camera, a 16-megapixel shooter that can once again capture sharp shots in almost any environment. There’s a screen flash feature for night time too.
To see all of our photo and video samples, check out our OnePlus 5T camera review. This also includes a comparison with the original OnePlus 5, so you can see how things have changed.
OnePlus 5T review: Verdict
The OnePlus 5T is a near faultless phone, and those few weaknesses when compared with other flagship phones are minor at best. A lack of microSD support isn’t really an issue thanks to the plentiful on-board storage, for instance, while the absence of water resistance and wireless charging are more than forgivable considering the commendable asking price.
If you want a premium smartphone at a cost that won’t drain your savings, this is one of the best choices right now.
You can bag the OnePlus 5T exclusively from O2 here in the UK, from £38 per month on contract or £449 without contract. Check out the O2 OnePlus 5T page for details and to grab yours now.