OnePlus 5T review – almost matches iPhone, Samsung and Sony’s best, and at half the price
Latest smartphone from Chinese handset maker doesn’t quite have the bells and whistles of the top brands’ flagships, but there’s little difference and the 5T costs less than half as much as top-end Apple, Samsung, Sony and HTC models
Since 2014, Shenzhen-based OnePlus has made a big name for itself, its models always well reviewed, it is probably the best loved Chinese phone brand for Android fans in the West. The company produces handsets with clean software and mostly the same internal specs as flagship smartphones from Samsung, HTC and Sony, but at half the price or less.
The catch was that users often had to compromise a little in terms of style: the first two OnePlus phones were bulky and had a rugged back that was practical but not sleek; the more recent 5 (released in June) was an excellent device but had dated bezels compared to other top Androids.
With the 5T, the company has just about nailed it.
Design and hardware
The OnePlus 5T features – stop me if you’ve heard this before – a 6-inch, 18:9 OLED display sandwiched top and bottom by thin bezels; a Snapdragon 835 processor; dual cameras and a fingerprint reader on the back, all in a sleek unibody package.
In other words, the 5T doesn’t stray too far from the 2017 flagship handbook. In fact, the 5T looks almost identical to the Vivo V7+ reviewed two weeks ago (Vivo and OnePlus are owned by the same corporation, BKK Electronics).
This is a testament to the competitive nature of the smartphone industry: all the aforementioned features were amazing as recently as April. Now they feel mundane. But while the 5T isn’t flashy, it is definitely practical.
There’s 6GB or 8GB of RAM inside the 5T (this review unit is the 8GB variant), which is likely more than most would ever need, but it ensures the phone never gets bogged down the way 4GB phones can and often do.
Software and features
Despite the great value, the biggest reason OnePlus phones are always among the best reviewed phones in tech media is due to OxygenOS, the company’s Android skin that looks and feels like stock Android, but with many customisation options.
The big new OnePlus feature introduced in the 5T is the use of facial recognition to unlock the phone.
Unlike the iPhone X’s “Face ID”, which uses a series of sensors to create a 3D map of the user’s face, the 5T merely uses its selfie camera to scan for identifiers such as face shape and distance between eyes. It is almost certainly not as secure as Apple’s much more hi-tech offering, but it’s much faster, and I was unable to trick the 5T into unlocking despite multiple attempts with life-sized photos of my face or friends with similar facial features.
If you’re OK with having a bit less security for extra convenience, the 5T’s face unlock essentially lets you access the phone instantaneously with your first glance at the screen.
The camera is the one area that the 5T falls short when stacked against the best of the best, and even then, it’s only noticeable in low-light conditions.
During the day, the 5T’s cameras (16-megapixel main with a 20-megapixel telephoto lens, both Sony IMX sensors) can absolutely go toe-to-toe with anything captured by the iPhone X or Huawei Mate 10 Pro, whether it’s bokeh, macro or landscape photography.
At night, however, you can see the difference. Take a look at the two images captured by the 5T and Mate 10 Pro respectively. Huawei’s image produced more appealing colours and superior dynamic range.
Performance and battery life
In our review of the OnePlus 5 we praised the phone’s speed and the same holds true with the 5T. With 8GB of RAM, clean software, and the newest Qualcomm chip set, the 5T can handle every smartphone task imaginable without a hiccup.
The OLED panel here has slightly inferior viewing angles and maximum brightness when compared to top-notch OLED displays found on the iPhone X and Galaxy Note 8, but it’s still a great screen. There are hardly any traces of the blue tint shift that plagues other OLEDs and the overblown “jelly effect” (pages look slightly wiggly when scrolling) of the original 5 has been fixed.
It’s worth mentioning that the 5T’s display resolution is “only” 1080p instead of the Quad HD found on other flagships, but it’s virtually impossible to tell the difference in pixel count on a relatively small mobile display. Besides, 1,080p resolution saves the 5T from the battery drain that affects Samsung phones. The 5T’s 3,300 mAh cell can get the phone through an entire day without power issues.
In a vacuum, the OnePlus 5T comes close to, but doesn’t beat, the top phones from Apple, LG, Huawei and Samsung. The 5T lacks any type of water resistance, wireless charging, and doesn’t take the most stunning night shots. But that we keep comparing a handset that starts at HK$3,688 to phones that cost HK$8,000 or more says it all.
If the iPhone X and Huawei Mate 10 Pro are A-plus phones, the OnePlus 5T is an A-minus phone. The question is are you willing to pay an extra HK$4,000 (or more) to get that tiny grade bump.
Dimensions: 156.1mm x 75mm x 7.3mm
Display: 6-in 1,080 x 2,160 OLED panel
Battery: 3,300 mAh
OS version reviewed: Oxygen OS 4.7 over Android 7.1.1
Processor: Snapdragon 835
Cameras: 16-megapixel lens with f/1.7 and 20-megapixel with f/1.7 (back); 16-megapixel with f/2.0 (front)
Memory: 64GB/128GB; 6GB/8GB RAM
Price: HK$3,688 (6GB RAM/64GB ROM); HK$4,288 (8GB RAM/128GB ROM)