OnePlus 5T review:
Refined power at low cost
The upgraded model of OnePlus' current flagship improves the camera and display screen, making for a compelling flagship device.
- Great performance
- Improved display
- No expandable memory
- No water resistance
- Face unlock isn't very secure
OnePlus made an initial foray into the Australian market last year by soft-launching the OnePlus 5 in very limited numbers. It's been rather quiet on the local OnePlus front since then, even though the company discontinued the OnePlus 5 in favour of its newer flagship, the OnePlus 5T.
As the name suggests, this isn't an entirely new flagship device, but instead an update of the existing OnePlus 5 model. There's still no sign of an official local release, which means you'll have to look for a direct importer if you're keen. For this review, we used a model supplied by Gearbest.
The OnePlus 5T uses the same essential design style as that of the OnePlus 5, or for that matter most of Oppo's output, including the Oppo R11s, and that's not accidental. Both Oppo and OnePlus are owned by the same parent Chinese company, and while you could easily accuse them of cribbing heavily from the Apple design playbook, they do deliver some nice looking handsets.
The big change in the OnePlus 5T's case is the shift to an 18:9 aspect ratio display, bringing it more in line with the 2017 flagships it competes with. 18:9 displays are clearly going to be a big aspect of selling mobile handsets in 2018, with even low-cost makers like Alcatel getting into the widescreen game, but that shift has made some changes to the OnePlus 5's design in the OnePlus 5T's case.
Most prominently, the full-screen display on the 5T leaves no space for a fingerprint sensor, so that's been shuffled around to the back in a light indented circle.
The OnePlus 5T measures in at 156.1 x 75 x 7.3mm, just a shade larger than the OnePlus 5T, which fits in a 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.3mm frame. However, those extra millimetres do buy you quite a lot of extra screen real estate, with a jump up from a 5.5 inch 1080 x 1920 display in the OnePlus 5 to a 6.01 inch 1080 x 2160 pixel panel.
The precise model I was able to test was OnePlus' Lava Red model, although it has produced variants in Midnight Black, Sandstone White and even a limited edition Star Wars branded style. No matter the colour, it's a striking design with a metallic body that is rather predictably a little slippy in the hand while still being able to grab onto your fingerprints quite well.
While the fingerprint sensor has shifted, the rest of the OnePlus 5T's controls mimic those of its predecessor, which means you get a power button and SIM card tray on the right, and volume controls and mute switch on the left. It's worth noting that the SIM card tray, while supporting dual Nano SIMs, has no microSD card reading capability.
Like the Google Pixel 2 or Pixel 2 XL, what you get in storage is all you get in storage when it comes to the OnePlus 5T. Yes, it does come with 128GB of onboard storage, but flexibility in storage matters is always preferable.
The OnePlus 5T follows on from the already impressive OnePlus 5 in camera terms, with a dual lens array that's slightly upshifted to a 16MP f/1.7 27mm lens alongside a 20MP f/1.7 27mm lens. Around the front, you'll find a 16MP f/2.0 lens lurking in the top bezel. While the rumour mill suggests we'll see a lot of Chinese-produced phones in 2018 with iPhone X style "notches", the OnePlus 5T dates from late 2017, so bezels are still very much the prevailing style.
The secondary lens on the rear acts as a low light sensor, although not with its full 20MP output. Instead, OnePlus combines up to four pixels to give it greater low light sensitivity, sacrificing resolution in the process.
If you're looking to shoot for poster prints, this might not be ideal, but for most everyday phone users it's a perfectly acceptable tradeoff that should give your Instagram snaps that little bit more pop when the sun goes down.
This also means that the 2x zoom function in the camera app is just using digital zoom with a touch of quality loss as a result. In many cases, unless you need the whole frame, taking a regular shot and then cropping down will give you a more pleasing result than fiddling with digital zoom.
The OnePlus 5T's camera app is a fairly shameless clone of Apple's camera app, which means that if you want simplicity, it's on offer, with only three options (video, photo and portrait) available at first. Swiping up the screen will reveal additional slow motion video, timelapse, panorama and pro modes for those who prefer to tweak their shots a little.
The OnePlus 5T's camera, like the camera on its predecessor, is exceptional for its price point. That doesn't quite mean that it's the absolute best that money can buy, but when you consider the low asking price for this handset, it shoots right up there in recommendation terms, whether you're shooting portraits, landscape shots or indulging in a little slow motion malarkey.
The one caveat here is again that OnePlus doesn't support microSD expansion, so if you fill up the OnePlus 5T with camera shots, you'll have to offload them elsewhere.
Here's a range of sample shots taken from the OnePlus 5T:
|OnePlus 5T Sample Photos|
The OnePlus 5T runs on the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 that was the core of the majority of premium Android handsets in 2017.
While we're seeing the first of the Snapdragon 845 phones now in devices such as the Samsung Galaxy S9 or Sony Xperia XZ2, the 835 is still a powerful contender. That's especially true here as OnePlus has once again gone down the route of matching it up with a higher than usual quantity of RAM. While this can vary by model, our test sample had 8GB of RAM to heft around and compete with.
Here's how it compared using Geekbench 4's CPU test:
|Handset||Geekbench 4 CPU Single Core (higher is better)||Geekbench 4 CPU Multi Core (higher is better)|
|Apple iPhone X||4185||10319|
|Apple iPhone 8||4270||10272|
|Apple iPhone 8 Plus||4113||10221|
|Huawei Mate 10 Pro||1888||6787|
|Samsung Galaxy S8+||2020||6690|
|Samsung Galaxy S8||1989||6628|
|Huawei P10 Plus||1863||6544|
|Samsung Galaxy Note 8||2024||6490|
|Sony Xperia XZ Premium||1908||6324|
|Google Pixel 2 XL||1914||6254|
The OnePlus 5T performs almost exactly as you'd expect it to, matching up nicely with the rest of the Snapdragon 835 pack. It is worth noting that OnePlus has been in hot water for seemingly artificially peaking its performance to juice benchmark results in the past, although it is on the public record as backing off from that kind of malarkey for the OnePlus 5T.
For gaming too, the OnePlus 5T impresses. Here's how it compares using 3DMark's Slingshot Extreme test:
|Device||3DMark Slingshot Extreme OpenGL||Vulkan|
|Sony Xperia XZ Premium||3721||2717|
|Google Pixel 2 XL||3599||2826|
|Apple iPhone 8 Plus||2762||N/A|
|Samsung Galaxy Note 8||2649||2185|
|Samsung Galaxy S8||2633||1857|
|Apple iPhone X||2595||N/A|
Benchmarks are only part of the smartphone application story but in day to day use the OnePlus 5T doesn't disappoint. The first versions of the handset launched with Android 7 ("Nougat"), and OnePlus had a somewhat rocky road to stable Android 8.0 ("Oreo") release for its OxygenOS modifications. However, the unit I tested had few issues for real world use. The OnePlus 5T is NFC-capable, so it should work with payment systems such as Google Pay without issue.
The OnePlus 5T is sold at a discount price compared to other flagships, and that does mean that there are a few compromises along the way. While the display is 18:9, the resolution is still only 1080p in a world where premium phones are pushing towards 2K or 4K displays. There's absolutely no stated water resistance at play either, so immersion of your OnePlus 5T would be very unwise indeed.
The OnePlus 5T also supports a face unlocking feature, but this is a simple image recognition style affair rather than anything complex in the style of the iPhone X. As such, it's convenient when it works, which it mostly does, but it's not really secure.
Then there's the challenge of repairs and warranty issues. The OnePlus 5T I've tested – and so far, any you might see in Australia – is an import model, because there's no sign as yet of OnePlus setting up shop in Australia full-time.
That does mean that if anything goes wrong with the OnePlus 5T, while you should be protected by Australian consumer law, actual repairs will involve shipping times to sort out any claim issues.
The one area where OnePlus made no change with the OnePlus 5T is in battery life, with a 3,300mAh sealed battery to power it through the day. Like the OnePlus, you do get a "Dash" fast charger, although as mine was an import model you do need a plug adaptor to get that working. Actual charging is via USB C and any standard phone charger should be able to handle that via OnePlus' rather distinctive red USB C cable.
Still, the OnePlus 5T does have more screen real estate to deal with than the OnePlus 5 did, and so it's pleasing to see it track just a little better than its predecessor in Geekbench 4's tough battery test:
|Device||Geekbench 4 Battery Score||Geekbench 4 battery time|
|Google Pixel 2 XL||4805||8:08|
|Sony Xperia XZ Premium||4796||8:06|
|Samsung Galaxy Note 8||3240||5:24|
|Apple iPhone 8 Plus||3058||5:07|
|Huawei P10 Plus||2974||5:23|
|Apple iPhone X||2836||4:44|
Geekbench 4's test is very linear and most people's usage of their phones won't reflect that. In day to day testing of the OnePlus 5T, I've had few issues with getting it to last through a full day, although clearly if you pushed it you may find yourself resorting to its power saving measures. Like most, they're on the brutal side in terms of utility but can do the trick if you just need a little longer until you can plug back in.
The OnePlus 5T is very much a 2017 premium flagship phone, and if it's premium performance you thirst for, it's rather hard to argue with its basic proposition.
However, as with all import phones, there's a fair bit of price variance at play that does affect the OnePlus 5T's value proposition. Generally for the 128GB model tested, you'll find it around the $700-$800 price point depending on your storage needs and colour choices. Obviously, you're better off buying on the lower end of that curve, because the more you pay, the closer you'll get to the prices of 2018's flagship phones.
Without a doubt, there will be a OnePlus 6 appearing sometime this year, and we've already started to hear a few rumours around what it will feature, but for now, the OnePlus 5T very much hits the sweet spot of affordability and performance against its competitors.
OnePlus 5T: What the other reviewers say
|Ars Technica||"An outstanding combination of specs, design, and price."||N/A|
|CNET||" The OnePlus 5T is a superb, affordable phone for new buyers, despite only minor changes from the OnePlus 5."||8.9/10|
|The Guardian||"The OnePlus 5T propels the Chinese company into the brave new era of full-screen smartphones."||5/5|
|TechRadar||"The flagship killer returns in style."||4.5/5|
|Trusted Reviews||"The OnePlus 5T is one of the best deals in tech, offering fantastic features for a great price."||4.5/5|
- Product Name
- OnePlus 5T
- 1080 x 2160 pixels
- Android 8.0/OxygenOS
- Front camera
- Rear camera
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
- 156.1 x 75 x 7.3 mm