OnePlus 5T main features
OnePlus only make flagship phones, but their “bargain” prices keep increasing with each new model they introduce. Are they still a great buy?
Read our full OnePlus 5T review
It seems almost unbelievable but the OnePlus 5T has arrived just five months after the launch of the OnePlus 5. It’s not the first time though, with OnePlus following a similar pattern last year when the 3T replaced the 3 just a few months after release. That means the 5T is now their fourth flagship model in under 18 months.
That’s their prerogative of course but to the rest of us it seems a slightly odd way to challenge the competition, and OnePlus fans who bought the 3 may not be too happy that their flagship handset has been replaced not once or even twice, but three times in such a short space of time.
Another model, another new look
Yet again the appearance of the phone has been completely updated. Whereas companies like Sony and Motorola tend to stick with a unified design across the range that are always familiar, particularly with fans of the respective brands, OnePlus seem to go the other way and opt for a complete redesign with each new iteration.
However this time it’s more than just a cosmetic redesign. The obvious change here is that the screen now measures 6 inches. That’s a real diversion from the three previous models, all of which had 5.5 inch screens. The design of the rear panel gives more than a nod to the design of….in fact scratch that, the undeniable truth is that it looks uncannily identical to the iPhone 7 Plus, with the dual camera lens placed side by side in a protruding hump at the top left side of the rear panel – exactly the same style and arrangement as on the Apple flagship model. The same panel now also houses the fingerprint sensor.
Keeping up appearances
The reduced bezel size on the front of the display has resulted in the removal of the home button and sensor from its original location below the screen. Sadly the resulting hump on the back takes away some of the classy styling we saw on the OnePlus 3T. It also protrudes more than on the OnePlus 5 due to the camera’s redesign.
It’s a shame because the 3T was as impressive to look at as it was to use (oddly there was no OnePlus 4), but it’s not just about the aesthetics. The ugly hump, or lump if you prefer, also means the phone won’t lie flat on it’s back on a table or desk so for us this is a backward step which has arisen out of the need to keep pace with competitors in camera design.
It does at least offer a good degree of separation between the camera lens and the centrally mounted fingerprint sensor. But given the reality that most people only use their cameras for occasional snapshots anyway, at least once the new-phone novelty has worn off, it could almost be argued it wasn’t even a necessary design change.
It’s notable too that LG have managed to retain a more balanced look with the dual lends arrangement on the LG G6 mounted flush and central. Whatever, we would have much preferred OnePlus to retain their own identity and leave the abducting of other manufacturers’ ideas to companies like Apple and there is no doubt the 5T is aimed at grabbing a few customers who are considering the iPhone 7 Plus. The exact same 7.3mm slim casing being identical to both phones.
You might argue that the G6 is thicker at 7.9mm but seriously, does another 0.6mm really make a difference in real world use? Needless to say we prefer the style of the LG handset and we’ll take the extra half millimetre if it gets rid of the unsightly hump which we didn’t like when it first appeared on the iPhone 7 Plus.
To these eyes it’s akin to sticking a roof rack on a sleek new Ferrari. What’s the point of making an effort to produce a sleek and slim design, then spoiling it? Still, if you love the iPhone’s design then you’ll love the 5T’s design so maybe we’re overstating the case. Design is subjective after all.
If you’re thinking that OnePlus have simply added an extra model with a larger screen to their portfolio, it’s not quite the case. The 5T sees considerable changes over the 5, not least the design of course. The fingerprint scanner may have been relegated to the back but in another nod to Apple, OnePlus have introduced facial recognition to the 5T, this time in a nod to the iPhone X. It’s fair to say it’s not quite as sophisticated and we haven’t had the opportunity to test it yet but it’s an interesting feature that most people think only appears on the iPhone X and Samsung Galaxy S8. In fact it first appeared over two years ago on Microsoft’s Lumia 950!
Like the Galaxy S8, you will find an 18:9 screen ratio here which means it’s the same width and same HD resolution as the 5 model, but a little taller. Not half an inch taller, note, as screens are measured diagonally. Visually it looks slimmer rather than taller. Apps on Android 7 scale automatically and Netflix now offer an 18:9 viewing mode, but YouTube aficionados are stuck with 16:9 which means that in landscape mode you will find a black stripe either side of your video. Some will argue that it negates the point of having a taller screen and in that scenario they would be right, but in most cases the extra height does come in useful.
It is a stretch to reach from top to bottom of the screen and this is there the option to split the screen comes in handy, which gives you two perfectly square 9:9 portions of screen, each housing a different app, though not all apps support it.
Updated camera drops OIS!
Apart from the screen, the camera is the other main change on the 5T. It first appears to be that same 16MP + 20MP arrangement as on the 5, but here the 20 megapixel lens matches the 16 megapixel’s f/1.7 aperture and 27mm focal length, with the last model being an f/2.6 36mm lens on the 20MP camera. What this does is vastly improve low light shots, always iffy on most smartphones due to the small lens size but it was a particular weak spot on the 5 model.
Optical image stabilisation is a necessary victim of the removal of the telephoto lens, required to achieve the improvements, and while you can still use digital zoom it obviously leads to a loss of quality. But overall it’s a good move that converts a good outdoor camera into a more premium model. While the number crunching geeks will tell you it’s benchmark figures are not quite as good as those of the Google Pixel or iPhone 7, in the real world you now have a camera that’s up there with the very best and you would have to study photos from the various models side by side to notice any discernible difference, and along with the aforementioned improved low light performance this is a camera that would be worthy of any flagship handset. Nobody will return this handset because the camera isn’t good enough.
Take a swipe
One of our criticisms of Android is that it has never used swiping to great effect often enough, especially within apps. A good example is Microsoft’s Edge browser with allows you to swipe back and forward through pages by swiping left and right. This works on PCs, laptops and Windows Mobile, but not on Android where you have a good old fashioned back/forward button.
It good to see that OnePlus have made more use of that feature here. You swipe left to access Portrait mode and right to access Video mode. A very complete range of features includes slow motion, time lapse and pro modes with a full range of comprehensive user controls for those who like more manual adjustments. The camera is quick to start up and shutter speed also impresses with its speed. There’s no LED flash up front but the phone uses a blank white screen flash for 16 megapixel selfies, and it’s very easy to achieve high quality photos. For a lot less money you get a camera that is on a par with the Galaxy S8, though perhaps still a little behind in terms of quality when the lights go down, but a night time street scene with plenty of street lighting will still impress.
OnePlus again add on their Oxygen 5.0 OS over the top of Android Nougat, the updated 7.1.2 version of Google’s operating system included from the off with an upgrade to Android Oreo 8.0 due at the beginning of 2018. What we like about Oxygen is it’s very similar to the stock Android system for those who don’t like to drift too far from the original, but adds in a great deal of customisation.
You can have up to 5 navigation buttons for example, with the ability to add additional shortcuts to them, and the navigation bar and notification screen can also be customised by adding or removing items that you may or may not want to see. It offers you more choice to customise Android how you want it to be, which is a big plus in our opinion. You can never say no to more choice.
Another big plus is the ability to have more than one version of an app open at once, so if, for example you have a personal and a business Facebook or Twitter account you can have both of them open. This is something many have long believed should be a feature of Android but until now it’s never materialised.
Our favourite feature has to be the new rear mounted fingerprint sensor, which also acts as a camera shutter with a long press, or allows you to pull down the notification screen with a slide of your finger downwards.
More power than you’ll ever need
Features retained from the OnePlus 5 include the most powerful smartphone processor available at the moment, the Qualcomm 835 and coupled with 4GB of RAM and 64GB memory this is already more power than just about everybody needs. It’s a vastly quick and powerful set up but if even that’s not enough for you, you can opt for the 6GB RAM version with 128GB storage space. Where Apple charge a huge £150 for the next model up, with just 1GB extra RAM, OnePlus only charge an extra £50 and in both cases you get double the about of RAM that the iPhone 7 and 7 Plus carry compared with the OnePlus 5 and 5T.
But why anybody will actually need 6GB of RAM we’re not sure. It’s almost too powerful so if you have no need, and you most likely don’t, consider the cheaper 64GB option which is the same in every other aspect. The only caveat here is that there’s no MicroSD card slot, as ever, with OnePlus matching Apple’s stance of not giving you the option to add extra storage space here but that’s the one and only reason you might want to opt for the 128GB version.
You even get a headphone socket!
Unlike Apple, OnePlus do stick with the 3.5mm headphone socket, so you still have the option of using wired headphones. It makes a pleasant change to be able to report the built-in speaker also produces decent enough sound which is quite rare, but all smartphones are limited by the size of the speaker and there’s only so much you can do with the limited speaker size that will fit the available space.
Beyond that it’s as you were, with the remaining feature set being the same as you get with the OnePlus 5. Even the battery remains the same size but thankfully doesn’t seem to suffer despite the larger screen size so we assume better power management is at work here. The Dash fast charging system remains one of the best around, giving you up to 60% of power – enough to get you through a day’s use according to the manufacturer – in just 30 minutes but it’s built into the charger rather than the phone so you’ll have to carry it with you to take advantage.
There is no wireless charging here, which is possibly the only missing feature we would like to see, but it’s impossible to complain about that at this price given that several other flagships still don’t include it.
This is a tricky one. Pointless update or great enhancement over the 5 model? The screen is just bigger rather than better, but that not a fault as it’s still an excellent display. It’s “only” full HD but beyond that resolution there’s not much point on a smartphone screen.
The home button has been moved onto the screen but can be hidden so that it doesn’t take up any screen space. That’s not new on Android but it is for OnePlus. The fingerprint sensor is now becoming more familiar to us placed on the back panel with even Sony following suit on the Xperia XA2, so that has to go down as an improvement with a larger screen and less bezel taking precedent.
And the camera has been improved a little but most people would have been happy enough with it anyway. So we’re sort of on the fence on this one. Those who recently bought the OnePlus 5 may not be happy, especially as the OnePlus 5T is the same price but to be honest if you’re one of those people you’re not missing much. We think a 5.5″ screen in 16:9 format is about right and nothing has been gained here by adding a few extra millimetres to the screen.
We actually think it’s a shame you can’t choose from the two, although but it’s already gone from OnePlus’s UK site with only the 5T now available to buy. We still hate the camera hump and the way they have copied the design from Apple – sorry guys, but it’s too blatant to say otherwise – but if you want a top class premium smartphone for under £500 it’s pretty much impossible to buy anything better than the OnePlus 5T.