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OnePlus 5T review: The same price as the OnePlus 5 – but better

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OnePlus phones have always been reasonably priced, but when it launched the OnePlus 5 at £450 I was worried it was the thin end of the wedge. Thankfully, the OnePlus 5T arrests the slow but steady increase in price we’ve seen over the past few models and holds it steady at £450.

On that evidence, you might have expected the OnePlus 5T to be a minor upgrade, but not a bit of it. This is a phone that, thanks to its bigger edge-to-edge screen looks more like an annual upgrade than the mid-term refresh it was supposed to be.

And, in the face of Apple’s move to a £1,000 price point with the iPhone X and Samsung’s £870 Samsung Galaxy Note 8, the OnePlus 5T looks even better value than its predecessor – relatively speaking.

READ NEXT: OnePlus 5 review

OnePlus 5T review: What you need to know

So, down to brass tacks: what is the OnePlus 5T and what makes it so special? That’s a pretty simple question to answer. It takes all the ingredients of the OnePlus 5: reasonable price, nice design, excellent performance and a good camera and gives it an extra bit of polish.

It’s an Android 7 Nougat phone with an edge-to-edge 6in AMOLED screen that’s simply stunning, a class-leading Snapdragon 835 processor, and a new dual camera that focuses on low light photography. You can unlock it with your face or by using the newly positioned rear fingerprint reader, and OnePlus has squeezed all of this into a chassis that’s barely any bigger than the 5.5in OnePlus 5.

OnePlus 5T review: Price and competition

Despite the new screen and camera, the price of the OnePlus 5T is exactly the same as the OnePlus 5: £449 for the 64GB model and £499 for the 128GB model. Both editions represent staggering value for money in today’s (admittedly somewhat inflated) smartphone market.

In fact, nothing else, aside from the Nokia 8 and Samsung Galaxy S8, which you can pick up for around £500 now, approaches the value of the OnePlus 5T. For those wanting a phone with a more glamorous look, dual-SIM and microSD expansion capabilities, the Honor 9 is a good shout, but it doesn’t have the same big screen or top-level processing power that the OnePlus 5 has.

OnePlus 5T review: Display and design

So how about that screen? It’s the OnePlus 5T’s big new feature and it’s very good indeed. As with previous OnePlus phones, the 5T employs an AMOLED panel and this time it measures a huge 6in across the diagonal.

Its resolution is 1,080 x 2,160, giving a pixel density of 401ppi and, on first inspection, it’s sharp and clear with OnePlus’ usual bright candy-coloured default wallpaper giving it a bright, fun look that grabs your attention straight away.

Like other manufacturers, OnePlus has chosen to slightly round off the corners of its display, although not quite to the extent of the ill-fated Google Pixel 2 XL and the screen stretches almost, but not quite, to the edges of the chassis on the left and right, leaving a mere half centimetre of bezel above and below the screen.

Technically, the screen is pretty good, too, although it can’t quite match the best in the business. Colour reproduction, in particular, is very good. With the sRGB calibration mode selected the phone was able to reproduce 98.4% of that colour space and, with good accuracy across the broad spectrum of colours, it copes well with all types of material.

Peak brightness, on the other hand, is slightly disappointing, reaching only 420cd/m2 even with auto-brightness enabled, meaning in really bright conditions it’ll be difficult to read without shading the screen with your hand.

Having said that, OnePlus does employ a polarising layer to cut glare and it arranges the polariser sensibly, too: diagonally, so it doesn’t black out the screen when you’re wearing polarising sunglasses.

And it is a good deal better than the Google Pixel 2 XL’s screen, apologists for which still, unbelievably, exist.

OnePlus 5T review: Physical layout

It’s quite a dramatic change over the OnePlus 5 but OnePlus has kept the changes to a minimum elsewhere, physically at least. Spin the phone around in your hand with the display off and, initially, you might struggle to tell the difference between old and new. The profile of the rounded corners and rear-panel curves is near-identical to the old phone, and OnePlus has even shaped and placed the plastic antenna bands in exactly the same way.

The OnePlus 5T is a little larger than the 5 by a millimetre or so in width and height, but you need to stack the two phones side by side to perceive any difference. Practically speaking, the OnePlus 5T might as well be the same phone. All the buttons and switches are in the same places. Even the new dual camera (more on which later) is positioned identically, although the surrounding housing for it is now flared slightly and sticks out a fraction more.

Look hard at the rear of the OnePlus 5T and you’ll see the phone’s other main visual change: due to that edge-to-edge screen on the front, there’s no room left for the fingerprint reader below the screen. It’s now circular and has shifted to the rear, just above the OnePlus logo.

The knock-on effect of this move is that the phone no longer has capacitive buttons for home and recent apps on the front of the phone below the screen. The good news is that, although you now have to use soft keys instead, you can hide them at the tap of a button, so you don’t waste a fraction of the OnePlus 5T’s glorious 6in display.

The two disappointments on the hardware front continue to be the lack of microSD expansion and of dust and water resistance, the latter of which is particularly baffling considering most rivals have at least IP67 protection.

OnePlus 5T review: Performance and camera

Inside, the OnePlus 5T is identical to its forebear and it’s hardly surprising to find that it produces near-identical benchmark results. Its core power plant is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, it has 6GB or 8GB of RAM and 64GB or 128GB of storage and it’s at least as speedy as the OnePlus 5 and every other 2017 flagship phone I’ve seen.

Check out the graphs below; there’s literally nothing in it:

In fact, the only difference is that the 5T has fewer pixels to push around than some of its rivals, which means that the most demanding games may run smoother, but there really isn’t an awful lot of difference. Even the less powerful Honor 9 will run most titles apps and games perfectly well.

The battery is the same size as before, too, at 3,300mAh, and Dash Charge is still in place, with OnePlus promising “enough power for the day” with half an hour of charging. That’s great news and, the new phone delivers once again on the battery front.

In our video rundown test, the OnePlus 5T lasted just as long as the OnePlus 5 did – and that translates to battery life of approaching two days in real-world use. At the time of writing, in fact, I’ve been using the OnePlus 5T as my main phone for three days and it’s averaging one day 18 hours per full charge as reported by GSam Battery Monitor.

OnePlus 5T review: Cameras

It’s all change when you turn your attention to the camera. Instead of offering a telephoto option for the second camera like last time, OnePlus is focusing this time on low-light photography. There’s a 16-megapixel main camera with an aperture of f/1.7 as before, but the secondary camera is now a 20-megapixel unit with the same aperture and focal length. This should also make for even more effective portrait shots than on the previous model.

In lighting below 10 lux, the OnePlus 5T switches to the secondary camera, which can also combine four pixels into one to produce cleaner images in low light. A nice idea, and the results seem to back the theory up. I tested the OnePlus 5T’s camera out in low and dim light on a dark winter’s evening and it matched the Huawei Mate 10 Pro’s dual camera in some respects, producing less noisy images far richer in colour while the Mate 10 Pro produce photographs with slightly better detail retention.

It can’t quite match the Google Pixel 2 XL, though, which produces sharper, cleaner images all-round with a more neutral colour cast. You do have to look quite closely to see the difference, though.

^ In both shots, the OnePlus 5T’s image sits on the left and the Google Pixel 2 XL’s shot is on the right. The OnePlus images have a slightly grainier appearance, but aside from that, low light photography is impressive

Video capture, meanwhile, runs to 4K at 30fps and, as with the OnePlus 5, it’s smoothly stabilised, too. Not quite as nicely as on the Samsung Galaxy S8, S8 Plus and Note 8, but still pretty good. Again, close inspection of the video output reveals that detail capture isn’t quite as good as the Pixel 2 XL, which itself is no match for the Samsung phones. 

As for the front-facing camera, it’s the same as last time out: a 16-megapixel camera that’s pretty good at avoiding the dreaded shiny-headed exposure problems that so many front cameras are afflicted by.

OnePlus 5T review: Software improvements and face unlock

As mentioned earlier, OnePlus runs the latest version of its own Android launcher on top of Android 7 and there are a number of key improvements here as well. I’ve already mentioned the ability to hide the soft-key shortcut bar with the tap of an extra icon, but the OS abounds with lots of extra little touches like this.

One such is the reversal of the answer-call gesture from standard Android install from a swipe up to a swipe down. Another is the ability to search for pictures in the OnePlus Gallery app based on where they were shot. OxygenOS also has a brand-new feature that OnePlus is calling Parallel Apps, which allows it to generate two instances of popular apps such as Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Skype so you can run them with two accounts at the same time.

And then there’s face unlocking, which OnePlus isn’t quite making the song and dance over that Apple is. Just like on the iPhone X, the OnePlus 5T’s facial recognition system can be used to unlock the phone and it works in 0.4 seconds according to OnePlus, which is really, really fast. Registering your face is simply a matter of lining it up in an onscreen template and to use the system you simply hit the power button and look directly at the camera.

Unlike Apple’s Face ID, the system can’t be used directly for payments via the Play Store and it doesn’t work if you look at the screen from an angle either. But unlike Apple’s system, it does unlock the phone directly to the homescreen with no further swipe gesture required. OnePlus has done a great job here.

The only strange thing about the OnePlus 5T’s software is that it runs on Android 7 Nougat and not Google’s latest operating system, Oreo. It’s strange because almost every other new phone being currently launched does have Oreo on board. Still, with the OnePlus 5 yet to get its Oreo update it’s not that surprising and, if OnePlus follows the same update pattern as with the 3 and the 3T I’d expect both the OnePlus 5 and 5T to get the software at the same time at some point in the near future.

OnePlus 5T review: Verdict

OnePlus hasn’t been doing mid-term upgrades for long, but it’s a strategy that seems to be working for the company, and the OnePlus 5T is a cracking upgrade.

The phone’s design is just as appealing as the OnePlus 5 but with a bigger, frame-filling screen. The camera is great and in low light it performs exceptionally. With great battery life, a fantastic screen and a very reasonable price as well, the OnePlus 5T ticks just about all the boxes apart from waterproofing and expandable storage.

For me, the OnePlus 5T strikes the perfect balance between affordability, performance, design and battery life. It’s pretty much the perfect smartphone.

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