4 OnePlus 5T

£449 inc VAT from

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Mak­ing a mark on the smart­phone mar­ket is hard enough. Muscling in to com­pete in the same arena – if not at the top step – doesn’t hap­pen of­ten. OnePlus has bucked this trend with its phones of high spec­i­fi­ca­tions and low prices.

Times change though. You may have needed an in­vi­ta­tion to buy the OnePlus One in 2014, but the clam­our was jus­ti­fied when the phone cost just £229 at a time when the then-flag­ship iPhone 5s sold for £549 and could com­pete on spec­i­fi­ca­tions.

The £449 OnePlus 5T is an up­grade on the five-month-old OnePlus 5 in the same way the 3T was to the 3 a year ago. In 18 months, there have been four flag­ship de­vices from a com­pany that had pre­vi­ously only made two (the mid-range OnePlus X be­ing its other de­vice).

The new phone is ex­cel­lent – a huge, crisp screen and scream­ing per­for­mance – but it’s com­ing from a com­pany that is dan­ger­ously close to an­noy­ing its fans and ap­pear­ing like it has run out of ideas, even though it hasn’t. It’s an im­pres­sive re­fine­ment of the com­pany’s fast pro­gres­sion in smart­phones. It’s very sim­i­lar to the OnePlus 5, but the new screen size and face un­lock fea­ture make it feel sur­pris­ingly fresh.

De­sign

Let’s not pre­tend here, the OnePlus 5T nat­u­rally looks like the OnePlus 5. The front is more at­trac­tive with the lack of bezels and fin­ger­print sen­sor but the phone it­self is largely un­changed aside from the new 18:9 dis­play. It’s only avail­able in mid­night black at launch and yes, it looks a lot like the Oppo R11S.

It’s a tiny bit taller than the OnePlus 5 to ac­com­mo­date the new screen, mea­sur­ing 156x75x7.3mm. It won’t fit prop­erly in an old case, but you wouldn’t want it to now that the fin­ger­print sen­sor is on the back. Luck­ily, it’s re­ally fast, easy to use and is cir­cu­lar. The rear other­wise looks the same, with dual cam­eras and a OnePlus logo. It charges via USB-C (and its ex­cel­lent but pro­pri­etary Dash Charge charger) and re­tains a head­phone jack, but ships with no head­phones.

There is no wa­ter­proof­ing of any kind, nor any form of wire­less charg­ing. We don’t care about the lat­ter too much, but the for­mer is some­thing the 5T lacks in com­par­i­son to nearly ev­ery other An­droid flag­ship this year. So there are some sac­ri­fices to achieve the price.

It’s a phone we find to be slip­pery. It’s so thin, and the back isn’t easy to grip so snap­ping it into a case al­most a must. This is a shame, as the cases don’t show off the ex­cel­lent pre­mium build un­der­neath. This isn’t a prob­lem unique to OnePlus, though.

It’s also def­i­nitely a two-handed phone. The lack of bezels looks lovely, but makes a phone harder to hold. Only the mas­sive-handed will be able to reach their thumb to the top of the dis­play, and for us tex­ting with one hand is im­pos­si­ble.

But for £449, wow, what a looker. It is a more at­trac­tive and pleas­ing phone to use than the OnePlus

5, whose bezels now look an­ti­quated in com­par­i­son. And though the specs haven’t changed much, they re­main cred­i­bly high-end.

Per­for­mance

Un­like the OnePlus 3T, the 5T does not get a no­table bump over the pre­vi­ous gen­er­a­tion in terms of core specs. But with a Snap­dragon 835 and 8GB RAM in the £499 ver­sion we tested (and a per­fectly ad­e­quate 6GB in the cheaper model) that won’t prove a prob­lem for all your smart­phone needs.

A bench­mark of the hand­set against phones with sim­i­lar specs shows that the field is pretty well bal­anced. It’s worth men­tion­ing that the bench­mark speeds of the iPhone X will beat any­thing An­droid for this year and prob­a­bly the next cou­ple, but that the

OnePlus 5T feels as fluid as an An­droid phone can feel other than the Pixel 2.

The OnePlus 5 scores higher than the 5T on a cou­ple of tests, but it is a tiny dif­fer­ence. OnePlus was also ac­cused of boost­ing the 5 for tests, so they may have stopped that when ev­ery­one no­ticed.

The 5T is the fastest phone we have ever used be­sides the Pixel 2 this year. Away from An­droid, this year’s iPhones are also ridicu­lously quick with Ap­ple’s new A11 Bionic chip.

Dis­play

The dis­play is al­tered with a 6.01in Op­tic AMOLED panel that uses a 2160x1080 res­o­lu­tion to cre­ate the 18:9 as­pect ra­tio. It takes up a whop­ping 80.5 per­cent of the front of the de­vice.

It’s a bright, colour­ful panel that is a smidge un­der Sam­sung-qual­ity, but as is usu­ally the case with OnePlus, it’s a bel­ter of a screen for the price. We found though that the auto-bright­ness set­ting is too ag­gres­sive and makes the screen too dim much of the time. The only changes are the dis­play, fin­ger­print place­ment, cam­era sen­sors and new face un­lock fea­ture. The lat­ter works stupidly fast but is less se­cure than Ap­ple’s Face ID, and akin to the same fea­ture on the Galaxy S8 in that it records a 2D im­age that can po­ten­tially be fooled by a de­cent qual­ity print out of your face. Ap­ple’s uses 3D map­ping, which can’t be tricked this way.

It’s also great that the 5T does not suf­fer from the jelly scroll ef­fect that plagues the OnePlus 5 still. The dis­play size and qual­ity is the best up­grade here.

Cam­eras

The cam­era set up is now two Sony sen­sors. The main is 16Mp with f/1.7 aper­ture while the sec­ondary is a 20Mp with f/1.7 aper­ture. This is an up­grade from the OnePlus 5, whose sec­ondary cam­era was an f/2.6 tele­photo lens.

With im­proved aper­ture, OnePlus claims the 5T is its best ever phone for low light pho­tog­ra­phy ( im­age 1), and this ap­pears to hold true.

We no­ticed that it takes a lot for the sec­ond sen­sor to even kick in though, and it feels a bit re­dun­dant as an in­clu­sion. It’s not needed at all for zoom, and is best re­served for por­trait mode. This, like on the OnePlus 5, per­forms with mixed re­sults.

Be­low is a shot of a goose ( 2), where the bokeh ef­fect worked pretty well, but zoomed into the head you can see that the phone strug­gles to iden­tify ex­actly where bird ends and back­ground ends, with blurred patches. There were bet­ter re­sults of hu­man sub­jects ( 3), and the cam­eras did well in the be­low shot to well de­fine the po­si­tion of the cam­era, with the per­son blended bet­ter into the back­ground.

It doesn’t per­form as well as the Pixel 2 (which only has one lens) and is less con­sis­tent than the iPhone 8 Plus and iPhone X. The cam­era best per­forms in bright day­light, where land­scapes look ex­cel­lent ( 4), but it doesn’t achieve the same stan­dard as the best cam­eras in phones from Ap­ple, Google and Sam­sung.

The front-fac­ing cam­era is a 16Mp sen­sor with f/2.0 aper­ture and is pretty de­cent in day­light and for video call­ing. The 5T isn’t the high-end phone to pick if you want the ul­ti­mate smart­phone cam­era, de­spite its re­lent­less ‘Shot on OnePlus’ so­cial me­dia cam­paign­ing. You’ll find bet­ter re­sults in phones that are ad­mit­tedly more ex­pen­sive.

Con­nec­tiv­ity and au­dio

Call qual­ity has been solid, and it’s good to see OnePlus plough on with the dual-SIM slot as stan­dard, but there’s still no ex­pand­able stor­age. It gets Blue­tooth 5.0 which paired the phone flaw­lessly with a Sam­sung Gear Fit2 Pro for the du­ra­tion of our test­ing.

Full LTE com­pat­i­bil­ity, 802.11ac Wi-Fi and NFC round up all the in­clu­sions you’d ex­pect.

Bat­tery life

The bat­tery life is about the same as the 5, and the 5T shares the same ca­pac­ity. Dash Charge re­mains an ex­cel­lent charg­ing tech­nol­ogy even if it only works with the sup­plied ca­ble and brick. We also saw the 5T achieve four hours of screen on time un­der fairly heavy us­age un­til it was reach­ing empty.

It’s not as much of a two-day pow­er­house like the Black­Berry KeyOne (read our re­view on page 28), but for a phone with the best spec­i­fi­ca­tions out there and an OLED dis­play, the OnePlus 5T holds its own.

Soft­ware

It’s a dis­ap­point­ment that the 5T doesn’t ship with An­droid Oreo. It’s on Nougat 7.1.1, but we’re hope­ful for 8.0 Oreo in the com­ing months.

Oxy­genOS, the firms in­ter­face, con­tin­ues to im­prove. OnePlus pushes you on set up to use its new font ‘OnePlus Slate’ which is toy­ing with a comic sans vibe at times. We still pre­fer the other op­tion, ‘Roboto’, Google’s pre­ferred font.

We used the 5T with the Dark theme, a nice touch that changes the whole UI to a slicker black hue with the abil­ity to change the ac­cent colour of icons and menus.

The changes to stock An­droid are thought­ful and un­ob­tru­sive. Swipe up for apps is bet­ter than an app tray, while the no­ti­fi­ca­tion shade is fa­mil­iar but ex­cel­lently cus­tom­iz­a­ble.

Un­like pre­vi­ous OnePlus phones, the nav­i­ga­tion but­tons are now ex­clu­sively soft­ware fea­tures as the bot­tom bezel no longer ac­com­mo­dates ca­pac­i­tive but­tons ei­ther side of a fin­ger­print sen­sor. They can, of course, be remapped, and there are lit­tle fea­tures like swip­ing down any­where on the home screen or on the fin­ger­print sen­sor to pull down the no­ti­fi­ca­tion shade. The top bezel still has room for a cam­era, and that’s how you can set up face un­lock. It’s less se­cure than the fin­ger­print sen­sor or a sim­ple PIN, but it is the fastest face un­lock we’ve ever seen on a phone.

Tap the power but­ton while look­ing at the de­vice and it’s so fast you don’t even see the lock screen. It’s odd at first, but is the fastest on any An­droid de­vice we’ve used by a coun­try mile. OnePlus also says that it won’t in­te­grate it to be used in sen­si­tive apps such

as for bank­ing, ac­knowl­edg­ing its se­cu­rity pit­falls com­pared to fin­ger­print or PIN.

Along with Google, Nokia and Mo­torola, OnePlus ships a clean, un­com­pli­cated ver­sion of An­droid that’s all the bet­ter for it. If you like a bit of Sam­sung style flash on your phone, though, it might not be for you – the 5T is blind­ingly fast, but partly be­cause of its lack of an­i­ma­tions. Ev­ery­thing is very aus­tere and clean cut in or­der to get a process done as fast as pos­si­ble, but it’s a phone that en­cour­ages you to tin­ker to get a truly unique look and feel, which we love.

The cus­tomiza­tion is now key to the OnePlus ex­pe­ri­ence. Peo­ple (in­clud­ing us) buy iPhones and Sam­sung phones and never tweak any­thing. Us­ing the 5T im­plores you to dig into the UI and change things for the bet­ter, and we wel­come that whole­heart­edly.

OnePlus con­firmed at the phone’s launch event that it will be get­ting Oreo in ‘early 2018’, which will bring bet­ter no­ti­fi­ca­tions, se­cu­rity, handy fea­tures such as pass­word aut­ofill, and vis­ual tweaks.

Ver­dict

The OnePlus 5T isn’t a sur­prise, both in its ex­is­tence and the fact it’s very sim­i­lar to the OnePlus 5. It stands as a re­minder that 2017 was the year ev­ery com­pany pro­duced a phone with an 18:9 dis­play to make sure its bezels didn’t look out­dated on the store shelf.

But OnePlus isn’t on many store shelves given its on­line re­tail ap­proach, and its many vo­cal core fans who bought the 5 will be an­noyed by the 5T. It needed to up­date its de­sign lan­guage quickly to keep up with the wider mar­ket where it is yet to make a dent, and

Geek­bench 4

1.

2. 3.

4.

The home screen, app drawer, no­ti­fi­ca­tion shade and set­tings menu on Oxy­genOS (cus­tom­ized)

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