OnePlus 5T Review

When you tell someone that your phone is a OnePlus most people still think that's the name of the phone and ask what brand it is. Depending on your personality you may like that or it might be an annoyance. For me it's somewhere in between. I replaced my Samsung Galaxy s8, a phone everyone's heard about with the OnePlus 5T two months ago. here are my thoughts.

I never would’ve thought the 5T was any more of a budget phone than the s8.

When people compare OnePlus to major OEMs (Original Equipment Manufacturers) the camera is usually the first thing to go. That's the main area in which the companies slogan Never Settle gets questioned the most - but more on that later.

Hardware and Initial Thoughts

The specs are as great as they could be at the launch date:

With the Snapdragon 835
8 gigabytes of RAM
128 gigabytes of storage
3300 mAh battery
Full-HD+ AMOLED display with a 18:9 aspect ratio
Dual cameras with 16 and 20 megapixels
16 megapixel front facing "selfie" camera
USB-C with Dash Charging

Starting of by looking at the design. While there’s something classy about Samsungs curved display it’s no longer the eye candy I once thought it to be. Unboxing the 5T was a delight and the larger form factor is something I immediately realized that I had missed. The design is clean, it’s very enjoyable. Picking up the device I couldn’t help to notice how slippery it is though. But it’s also impressively thin and the matt black color is great. This is, believe it or not, my first all metal phone and I’m glad I got to try one. It's easy to understand that metal is more durable than glass, but holding the phone in the hand I must admit that it feels fragile. It's light and as I mentioned slippery and therefor feels like it's prone to being dropped whilst the metal feels like it's going to be scratched. I must applaud OnePlus for shipping the phone with a screen protector on. They also include a case which I regret using though as it managed to leave marks on my device, most likely due to dust getting in between and scratching the antenna lines. Now it sounds like I'm not happy with the 5T but I am, even though it feels fragile it's still my preferred phone over what Samsung is currently offerings.

This is the first phone I’ve owned that people have commented on since the OnePlus One. The comments are positive and mostly about how thin the phone is. While powering on I was greeted by the beautiful boot-up animation from OnePlus. This is a small detail but one I feel that other OEMs, i:e Samsung, LG and Sony, to name a few have forgotten about.

The fingerprint sensor is positioned exactly where it should be, and the alert slider is a godsend. I can't believe more devices have this. I always wear a smartwatch so I immediately set the volume buttons to default to media volume. It’s so convenient!

The screen is beautiful. There are several resolution discussions concerning 1080p vs. 1440p, but looking at the 5T I couldn’t care less if future phones go back to full HD (or full HD+ these days). It’s bright, and dim, easy to read in every lighting condition and sharp. I’ve also noticed a lot of discussions about the 18:9 aspect ratio being unnecessary and not practical for watching videos and taking photos. But in my opinion the added black bars during these activities don’t take away from the overall experience of using the phone. And when reading and scrolling through the interface etc. 18:9 is great.

Software, Battery Life and Overall Performance

Speaking of scrolling through the interface, this phone is fast. So fast that I immediately looked forward to having all my necessary files transferred and my Galaxy s8 to be placed in its box. And to tell you the truth: If I had lived under a rock, I never would’ve thought the 5T was any more of a “budget phone” than the s8. The phone flies through everything I do. OnePlus offers it's users to join the Open Beta versions of it's software and I decided to do that right off the bat. They’ve been stable throughout my usage. I really enjoy the navigation gestures over the now old on-screen buttons:

Full Screen Gestures

Swipe up from the middle to go home. Swipe up and hold for recent apps. Swipe up from left or right to go back.

All I miss it the left or right swipe to jump between apps.

I’d like a hardware button to activate the Google assistant though, but not so much that I’ll go back to on screen buttons. Oxygen OS is convenient, pretty and overall a breeze. I knew I wanted close to stock Android and I don’t regret a thing. The launcher is great and I haven’t considered switching it yet. I would like the option to replace Shelf with the Google Feed though. I’m not sure I’d do it, but the option would be nice.

Face Unlock is a magic trick. It’s fast and really reliable in most lighting conditions. I’ve read some earlier review criticizing that it skips the lock screen completely, but OnePlus as usual fixed this in a software update. You can now have it unlock the phone as soon as you activate it and still remain on the lock screen until you swipe.

The settings menu is full of features and things to change but it’s also balanced and not over whelming. Every feature feels thoroughly planned like the ability to change the on screen buttons or replace them with gestures. I’m so glad that the off-screen gestures introduced on the OnePlus One are still present. I didn’t feel like playing around with the screen calibrations as I believe OnePlus hit a nice balance there but that’s an option too. You can choose between sRGB, DPC-P3 and adaptive mode or even set up your custom color tone.

I opted for Dark Mode with a blue accent color. I feel like it complements the interface well. The Ambient Display is great and although I really liked the Always-On Display on the Samsung this doesn’t feel like it’s draining the battery as much. It’s responsive and it looks good so thumbs up. In addition to the Ambient Display when you lift the phone or receive a notification it also lights up when you switch the alert slider which is a great touch.

The battery life on the OnePlus 5T is yet another thing I was really excited about. I’ve seen screenshots of 7+ hours of screen on time with usage from 8am to 10pm which is out of this world for me. Now, I don’t do a lot gaming on my phone, but I consider myself a heavy user. I watch a lot of YouTube videos from tech reviewers every morning and throughout the day. I also read up on tech and other news delivered on my Google feed and lately I’ve taken a liking to keeping my eye on the second-hand tech scene. I also just let Google track everything, including if I’m close to a point of interest on the Google Maps Local Guides program. Simply put I don’t use any kind of battery saving techniques at this time. I get about 4 - 5 hours of screen on time. Compared to the 3 hours I used to get on previous phones that’s amazing. I leave work (8am – 5pm) with over 40% battery left and I don’t have to worry about it dying before I go to bed. When it's finally time for the 5T to be plugged in there's Dash Charging, OnePlus' proprietary quick charger. I knew the Dash Charger was fast, but I didn’t think I’d notice it that much. I was wrong. From 16% to 94% in about 40 minutes? The first time I charged it I was almost confused when it slowed down to top up those last 6%. I immediately ordered another charger to have at work in case I ever need a little pick me up before heading out. I get what all the hype is about.

Reading up on the hype and reviews of PUBG or PlayerUnknown’s Battleground I decided to install the game. It installed quickly and automatically cranked the setting up to high. The frame rate is high and I’m impressed as to how far mobile Gaming has come. OnePlus also updated the phone with a Gaming mode which includes the ability to block notifications and disable the automatic brightness. These are great settings and I applaud OnePlus for adding them. Playing PUBG on my 5T might actually become my new way to kill time. It loads up so quick that it’s possible to play a round with my colleague and still make the next meeting. I also think the screen real estate gives me an edge towards some other players.

The latest beta update released on April 25th also came with the feature to double tap the home screen to lock the phone. This is a highly requested feature and I’m glad to see it arrive so quickly. Now all I hope for is the ability to open the assistant with the power button – I think Apple got that idea right.

Now, back to my opening statement.

The Camera

I’m going to be honest, I don’t miss the camera on the Galaxy s8 at all. I knew I wanted a phone with Portrait mode. I also knew that the 5T camera was supposed to be good at this. It is. Every photo here was taken with Auto mode or Portrait mode.

Evening Portrait shot of my Fiancée. 

It might not look like it, but this was taken in the evening. We were walking our Dog around Malmö when we crossed a small bridge. Not only does the camera separate the edges well. It also manages to do so without cropping the photo at 2x so the scenery is preserved. 

It even manages capture our dogs edges, if she’s not moving to much.

Mid-day shot of the Turning Torso building in Malmö trying to capture it's reflection.

Now obviously I’m not a pro photographer but I like to learn and I appreciate being able to carry around this capable shooter. Playing around with the camera have become a new part of walking around. And whilst not being worried about the battery nonetheless. Here are some additional shots:

This next one is in a pretty low lit staircase outside of our apartment. I happened upon this innocent looking teddy bear while walking our dog at around 8pm. Who could pass that up as a photo opportunity?

The Feels.

In low light shots the 5T takes advantage of the second camera and some processing magic. Shots are very visible, but sharpness takes a toll. I like the addition and it makes a lot of sense. I sometimes wish it was an option to switch between the cameras though.

Some sharpness is lost in low-light shots.

The so called Oil painting effect.

Whilst trying to use the second camera for low light is a great idea, it's not always that great in practice. What I first thought to be a blown out issue turned out to actually be true. A common complaint on the OnePlus forums is that the 5T camera tend to create a oil painting effect. This is supposedly due to the processing trying aggressively reduce the noise in low light. But as you can see on the cat above it's not always awesome. This is not something I encounter normally, but it's worth pointing out. 

The selfie Camera is also high quality with a pixel count of 16 megapixels. The beauty-mode can be turned off which is great news. Sometimes it over exposes the shot, but most of the time I'm pleased with my limited amount of selfies. Only shame is that there is no Portrait mode on the selfie shooter.

I haven’t used the camera for a lot of videos, but filming our dog running and swimming the quality is seemingly good at 1080p 60 fps. It also manages to stabilize well when I’m riding my bicycle, but while doing so cropping the image which is a shame. My understanding is that this is due to the electronic image stabilization so let's hope that the optical one on the OnePlus 6 fixes that.

The Rest

Never settle. Well I guess that depends on what you look for in a phone. Is it the stand out features, the best camera on this side of the 21th century or the fastest device. OnePlus next device is marketed as "The speed you need" while Samsung counters the marketing with "Why settle for speed?". As I said, the speed OnePlus delivers is noticeable, and I know both me and my fiancee lose patience with a smart phone that starts to stutter.

Talking about features I’m ambivalent towards wireless charging, the headphone jack and phone speakers. Well, maybe not wireless charging, but if it's going to be there I want it to work all the time, not 45% of the time like on my previous Samsung phone. These features are great to have but won’t make or break the phone. The Speakers on the 5T are loud and clear. I mostly use them while watching Youtube though, there are headphones and external speakers for music.

I do however miss the ip-certification. Not that I usually play around with my phone in the water but for the ease of mind. Seeing YouTubers like Matthew Moniz drop his 5T in the water without damaging it creates some amount of faith though. 

Sound quality during phone calls is clear and I haven’t had any issues with cell reception or data speeds.

On the accessories side of things I purchased the Rosewood case. It’s a high quality product and probably the first time I don’t mind putting a case on my phone. It looks beautiful and feels good. I think I’ll order the sandstone one as well.

Conclusion

The OnePlus 5T is the fastest phone I have tried, with the most reliable fingerpring scanner I've tried and the bonus of face unlock keeping up with the UI speed as well. The camera holds it's own. It might not be the best smart phone camera out there but it's far from bad. Just be ware of the oil painting effect so that you don't notice it 3 days later and missed the shot. Portrait mode works like a charm.

If you ask me it's worth looking at these budget friendly smart phones in 2018, because the difference you get for paying two thirds more is not that great.

For me this phone is worth just as much as the Galaxy s8 and I’d recommend it to anyone. OnePlus phones also cirkulate second hand markets (I just sold mine) and you're sure to get a great phone for a low price. The OnePlus 6 was recently released as well and looks to be a great bargain. After my incoming device (it's a special one) I'll probably check it out!

I fully enjoyed my purchase of the 5T.


 

If you enjoyed my review and have decided to try out OnePlus' devices purchasing through the following Link will give me a small bonus from OnePlus. https://www.oneplus.com/se/invite#IG98NXB6AU7JI2 Thanks!

Of course you can chose to purchase though them without using my link following https://www.oneplus.com instead, or run it through Google.