OnePlus 5T India review: Hitting all the right notes
The OnePlus 5T builds on the strengths of the OnePlus 5 while introducing a gorgeous new display and low-light camera.
OnePlus is doing rather well in India. The Chinese manufacturer racked up a market share of over 28% in the premium segment, a 16% surge in the space of a few quarters. A healthy interest in the OnePlus 5 was a major contributor to the uptick in market share, with the device by itself accounting for 24.75% of the market share in the premium category.
Of course, OnePlus didn’t have much competition in this segment when it launched the OnePlus 5 in the country earlier this year. Xiaomi missed out on a huge opportunity by not bringing the Mi 6 to India, and with the Moto Z2 Play fielding largely unchanged hardware, there weren’t a lot of phones that went toe-to-toe with OnePlus’ offering regarding sheer performance.
That has changed in recent months, with the introduction of the Mi Mix 2 and the Nokia 8. Both phones are powered by the Snapdragon 835 and offer exciting features — a bezel-less frame in case of the Mi Mix 2 and classic industrial design with the Nokia 8 — that make them viable contenders in this space.
OnePlus hasn’t been sitting on its laurels either. With the OnePlus 5T, the company is finally making the switch to an all-screen front, and there’s a brand-new secondary camera that’s designed to improve low-light photography.
The phone is launching just five months after the debut of the OnePlus 5, and given that we’ve seen the same last year with the OnePlus 3/3T, it’s safe to assume that OnePlus will be sticking to a two-phone release cycle going forward. For what it’s worth, the company is calling the 5T an upgraded variant of the OnePlus 5. Let’s find out if it fits that bill.
About this review
I’m writing this review after using the OnePlus 5T in Hyderabad for ten days. The phone received an update on day one, and was connected to Airtel’s 4G network throughout the testing period. The unit was provided for review by OnePlus India.
OnePlus 5T Specs
|Operating system||Android 7.1 Nougat|
|Display||6-inch Optic AMOLED2160 x 1080 (FHD+)401PPI pixel density|
|Processor||Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-coreAdreno 540 GPU|
|Storage||64/128GB UFS 2.1|
|Rear camera 1||16MP (IMX 398), 1.12-micron pixels, f/1.7Dual LED flash, 4K 30 fps, 1080p 60 fps, 720p 120 fps video|
|Rear camera 2||20MP (IMX 376), 1-micron pixels, f/1.7|
|Front camera||16MP (IMX 371), 1-micron pixels, f/2.01080p 30 fps video|
|Security||One-touch fingerprint sensor|
|Connectivity||802.11ac Wi-Fi, 2×2 MIMO, Bluetooth 5.0, aptX, aptX HDUSB-C (2.0), NFCGPS, GLONASS, BeiDou, Galileo|
|Network||3xCA, 256QAM, DL Cat 12, UL Cat 13FDD-LTE Band 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/ 19/20/25/26/28/29/30/66TDD-LTE Band 34/38/39/40/41TD-SCDMA Band 34/39HSPA Band 1/2/4/5/8|
|Dimensions||156.1 x 75 x 7.3 mm162 g|
OnePlus 5T Hardware
The biggest — and most visible — change in the OnePlus 5T is the 18:9 display. OnePlus is the latest manufacturer to join the thin-bezel bandwagon, with the phone sporting a 6.0-inch Optic AMOLED display with minimal borders at the top and bottom. Although the screen size has increased from the 5.5-inch display we’ve seen on the OnePlus 5, the overall dimensions have remained the same thanks to the thin-bezel design. The OnePlus 5T is just 2mm taller than the OnePlus 5, and 1mm wider while retaining the same thickness.
The result is a device that’s much more immersive than the OnePlus 5. It’s not the most dense panel around with a resolution of 2160 x 1080, but you’ll be hard put to find any faults with the display. The Samsung-made Optic AMOLED panel is vibrant and full of colors, and is easily one of the best displays you can get in this category. The only problem I noticed with the screen was that it got quite reflective under harsh sunlight, making it harder to read text while outdoors.
The OnePlus 5T also retains Night Mode, which is essentially a blue light filter. You can either schedule Night Mode automatically from sunrise to sunset, set a custom time range, and adjust the intensity of the filter as well. The mode is designed to boost warmer color tones, reducing strain on the eyes when using your phone at night.
Then there’s Reading Mode, one of my favorite features in OxygenOS. Reading Mode turns the display monochrome, making it easier to read e-books on your phone. You’ll be able to set the mode to automatically kick in for a particular app or activate it system-wide manually.
The OnePlus 5T has one of the best displays in this segment.
Other display features include the ability to adjust the color temperature. You’ll be able to choose between sRGB, DCI-P3, Adaptive mode, and set a custom color profile based on your needs. You can also enable Ambient display, which wakes the screen whenever you receive notifications, and Lift Up display, which does the same when you pick up your phone.
Aside from the new screen, the OnePlus 5T offers the same basic design as its predecessor. There’s nothing particularly noteworthy when it comes to the design — with OnePlus basically copying its sister company OPPO’s design language — but you do get a phone with excellent build quality.
Like the OnePlus 5, the OnePlus 5T features an aluminum chassis with antenna bands tucked away at the top and bottom, and the phone is just as slippery. The device is available in a single color option this time around: Midnight Black. The smooth texture combined with the flat back and tall display doesn’t do the device any favors, and as such a case is highly recommended. Thankfully, OnePlus makes a great selection of first-party cases, and with the OnePlus 5T the company has introduced a red silicon case that complements the device very well.
The all-screen display means that the OnePlus 5T is the company’s first phone without a home button, with the fingerprint sensor moved to the back of the device. Its location at the top-third part of the screen makes it convenient to access with your index finger, and the sensor itself is unerringly accurate. Elsewhere, you get a single-firing speaker at the bottom, and OnePlus has retained the 3.5mm jack 🙏
If you’ve made the switch to Bluetooth audio, you’ll be glad to know that the OnePlus 5T — like previous OnePlus devices — comes with both aptX and aptX HD. Of course, you’ll need an aptX-enabled headset to fully utilize the feature, like Sony’s MDR-1000X or the LG Tone Infinim HBS-910. In addition to the headset, you’ll also need to make sure that your audio files are lossless.
OnePlus built its entire business model on providing flagship-class specs for a few hundred dollars less than the competition, and as you’d expect the OnePlus 5T features the latest hardware available today. That includes a Snapdragon 835, 6GB/8GB of RAM, and 64GB/128GB of internal storage.
You’re not going to notice any slowdowns, nor any hiccups in day-to-day usage. The hardware on tap combined with the 1080p panel and the lightweight OxygenOS leads to a potent combination, making the OnePlus 5T the fastest phone this side of the Pixels. There’s no reason to get the 8GB/128GB variant unless you need the extra storage. The 6GB of RAM is more than adequate to handle everything you throw at it, and then some.
The OnePlus 5T consistently manages to deliver a day’s worth of battery life from a full charge, and when you do need to top up the 3300mAh battery, you can call upon Dash Charge. OnePlus’ proprietary charging tech is one of the best around, providing a day’s charge in a half hour: I was able to charge the phone from 35% to 70% in just over 25 minutes.
I routinely saw over five hours of screen-on-time, and OnePlus has done an excellent job cutting down on idle battery drain. The only downside with Dash Charge is that you’ll have to use the provided wall charger or the car charger to access the insanely-fast charging times.
OnePlus 5T Software
The OxygenOS experience is unchanged from the OnePlus 5: you still get a clean user interface layered with a few OnePlus additions. It would’ve been great to see the OnePlus 5T launch with Oreo out of the box, but you’ll have to wait a few months before you can start using the latest version of Android. For what it’s worth, OnePlus has rolled out the Android Oreo beta update to the OnePlus 5 last month, and has committed to doing the same for the OnePlus 5T before the end of the year.
While the overall experience is similar to what you get with the OnePlus 5, there are a few new additions on the OnePlus 5T. Face Unlock is the biggest new feature, with the company relying on the 16MP front camera to scan your face. OnePlus relies on over 100 data points to identify your face, and while it doesn’t get fooled by a photo, the system isn’t as secure as the fingerprint sensor at the back. That said, it is the fastest face unlock mechanism available on Android, handily beating Samsung’s implementation.
Face Unlock isn’t secure, but it sure is fast.
Another new feature is Parallel Apps, which as the name suggests lets you run two instances of the same app simultaneously. You get a list of suggested apps that work with the feature, and all you have to do is hit the toggle in the settings (Settings > Apps > Parallel Apps) to enable another instance of an app. There’s also a visual indicator to distinguish the cloned app from the original.
Now that the fingerprint sensor is located at the back, OxygenOS picked up a few gestures to take advantage of its placement. First up is swipe for notifications, which pulls down the notification panel when you swipe down on the sensor. There’s also a gesture that lets you take a photo when you long press then sensor when in viewfinder mode.
The usual OxygenOS gestures are intact: you can flip the device to mute incoming calls, swipe anywhere on the screen with three fingers to take a screenshot, double tap to wake the screen, and set custom actions.
OxygenOS continues to be fast, but I did run into a few gremlins in the ten days I used the OnePlus 5T: my go-to document storage app Box wouldn’t load text, so I had to find an alternative. Google Keep also ended up crashing constantly, and I ended up using the web-based client to access my to-do lists. Aside from the minor annoyances, OxygenOS is a delight to use, and is easily one of the best manufacturer skins around.
OnePlus 5T Camera
The OnePlus 5T features the same 16MP primary camera as the OnePlus 5, but the secondary telephoto lens has been switched out for an all-new low-light camera. The 20MP f/1.7 sensor kicks in automatically in low-lighting scenarios (under10 lux), but a majority of the time you’ll be taking photos with the primary camera.
You can get stunning shots with the primary camera provided the scene is well-lit, with the OnePlus 5T holding its own next to the Pixel and the Note 8 in a few shooting conditions. The differences start becoming clearer as the lighting conditions deteriorate, and while the OnePlus 5T manages to do a decent job, it isn’t on the same level as Google’s and Samsung’s flagships. Considering it costs less than half that of the Galaxy Note 8 in India, that’s a fair tradeoff.
The camera app has picked up a new interface, with all the settings laid out in an easy-to-understand manner. You’ll be able to toggle HDR, flash, timer, and switch between the front and rear cameras with ease, and access the shooting modes by selecting the upward arrow. You get Portrait Mode, but it’s just as ineffective as the one on the OnePlus 5.
Then there’s Beautify mode, which is automatically enabled for Portrait Mode. You’ll be able to adjust the setting for the intensity of the filter in Beautify, ranging from natural all the way to Kim Kardashian.
OnePlus 5T Bottom line
OnePlus’ focus on delivering flagship-class performance for less than half the cost of “true flagships” allowed it to cement its position as the go-to brand for those looking to get top-notch hardware without breaking the bank. As a result, there’s considerable excitement over any new release from the manufacturer. The OnePlus 5T is absolutely worthy of that attention.
The 18:9 display at the front is one of the best in this category, as is the primary camera. The clean software experience and all-day battery life make the OnePlus 5T an all-rounder, and the phone to beat in this segment.
The OnePlus 5T costs the same as the OnePlus 5 in India, and that’s amazing.
OnePlus is cognizant of the market conditions in India, and as such the company is introducing the OnePlus 5T at the same price point as the OnePlus 5. The variant with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage is now available from Amazon India for ₹32,999, and the 8GB model with 128GB of storage can be purchased for ₹37,999.
In a market that’s obsessed with price, that’s a masterstroke as it allows the brand to undercut both the Mi Mix 2 and the Nokia 8, which start off at ₹35,999 and ₹36,999 respectively.
Should you buy one? Of course!
If you’re looking for a phone with top-of-the-line specs and an uncluttered software but don’t want to spend over ₹40,000, the OnePlus 5T should be at the top of your list. There isn’t a phone in the sub-₹40,000 segment that offers as much value for your money.
OnePlus is rolling out a Star Wars-themed variant of the OnePlus 5T on December 15. The OnePlus 5T Star Wars edition comes with a custom white paint job and the Star Wars logo etched at the back, and the Alert Slider is painted red. The phone will be sold in limited numbers and exclusively in India, so if you’re interested in Star Wars at all, you’ll want to set a reminder to pick up the phone next week.
Don’t care much for the Force, lightsabers, or spaceships that can do the Kessel Run in under twelve parsecs? Then you can pick up the standard variant of the OnePlus 5T right now from Amazon India.
See at Amazon India