OnePlus 5T first impressions: Keeping up with the competition

By Hardik Singh | Published on 16 Nov 2017
OnePlus 5T first impressions: Keeping up with the competition
HIGHLIGHTS

OnePlus 5 was one of the best smartphones to launch this year, but it was apparently missing some key features. Hence, the we get the OnePlus 5T.

There was as time when OnePlus used to be the first choice for Android smartphone enthusiasts as it offered a stock Android interface and great specs at an affordable price. With the changing times though, the company also seems to have changed tactics. While OnePlus has maintained its superiority in terms of performance and still maintains a stock like UI, both the OnePlus 5 and now the 5T are priced at Rs. 32,999 during launch, while the top-end variant is priced at Rs 37,999. This makes them not so affordable in the Indian context anymore. Still, the phone maker offers quite a lot for the price and the latest OnePlus 5T picks up the baton, from the OnePlus 5 which is still less than six months old. The most noticeable change in the phone is the new FHD+ display and 18:9 display aspect ratio. But beyond that, everything else has either been tweaked or polished. 

Display, Design and Build quality: Adding minor changes
Like we mentioned earlier, the most noticeable change on the phone is the new FHD+ display with an 18:9 aspect ratio. OnePlus has done a good job in combining a 6.01-inch AMOLED display in similar frame as the OnePlus 5. However, like various other flagship phones in the market, it also sports black bezels around the display. These bezels are not intrusive in any way and definitely make the phone look better than the OnePlus 5. OnePlus is again using an Optic AMOLED panel, which is just like SUPER AMOLED, but has a slightly different tuning for colour fidelity. Since on paper it has a similar display to the OnePlus 5, the colour fidelity should have been similar as well, but apparently that is not the case. In fact, in the limited time we used the phone, 5T’s display looks slightly inferior to the OnePlus 5.

The other thing we noticed is that many Android apps are not yet optimized to take advantage of the 18:9 aspect ratio and end up with black bars on the sides. Then there are games like Injustice 2 run zoomed in, cutting menus within the game. So, while phone makers are enthusiastic about moving to the new aspect ratio, the app developers need follow suit.

Anyway, the good thing is that even with the larger display, the ergonomics have remained more-or-less unchanged. The OnePlus 5T is equally handy as its predecessor and comes in the same tried and tested matte black colour. The metal back is curved at the edges making the new 5T just as ergonomic as the OnePlus 5. The camera bump is still there, but it is a hair bigger now. When put side-by-side, the 5T is definitely taller as well, but unless you have both the phones on hand, the different is hard to notice. That being said, if you have smaller hands, reaching that notification shade means shuffling the phone in hand. Here is where the fingerprint scanner comes in handy, which has been moved to the back in order to make room for the display. It is easily accessible and you can just swipe down on that to bring up the notification shade. Like the OnePlus 5, the 5T also features a ceramic coat on the fingerprint scanner, hence it won't get scratched easily. Besides that, it is super accurate and equally fast.

UI: Smooth, and can now recognise your face… most of the time
Out of all smartphone makers, we were expecting that OnePlus to bring Oreo to its latest smartphone. Sadly, the phone has been launched with Android Nougat v7.1.1 with the promise of an Android 8.0 update down the line. So you get the same slick and stock like Android experience, that OnePlus 5 offers. The camera app is now simpler to navigate and there is a new feature that you will find in the security menu called “Face Unlock”. OnePlus’ implementation here is as fast as its fingerprint scanner, but is a bit inconsistent as well. Sometimes, face unlock would work in less than ideal conditions, and sometimes it won’t work even under good lighting conditions. Then there is the issue of security. According to OnePlus, the phone uses ‘Advanced facial recognition” and matches over 100 identity points and then unlocks the phone. In the little time we have been using the phone, it has worked 60% of the times, but we still need to test it further to check OnePlus’ claims.

Performance: Same as the OnePlus 5
Like the OnePlus 5, the OnePlus 5T is also powered by a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, which is running OxygenOS 4.7.1 layered on top of Android 7.1.1. So it is just as powerful as the 5 and it performs similarly. The phone can handle multiple applications running in the background and can take care of any game you may want to play. We haven't seen it slow down or slouch even with two dozen apps running in the background. In addition, the 10nm SoC remains cool, even under heavy load.

The phone is launching in the same RAM and storage combinations as the OnePlus 5. It also has the same 3300mAh battery capacity as the five, which can run through an entire work day easily. If you still need to top up, then OnePlus’ dash charging is one of the best fast charging technologies around.

Camera: Better low light
At first glance, while there is no discernible difference in the overall image quality between the outgoing OnePlus 5 and the new 5T. However, watching the images on a larger screen brings out the differences. We noticed that the images taken by the OnePlus 5T were a bit better in low light than the 5. It seems like OnePlus has also done some changes to the algorithm as the noise levels in low light images are visibly lower. Images taken in the day look even better and we can put OnePlus 5T among the best camera phones in the sub-40K smartphone segment, thanks to the returning 16MP camera using the Sony IMX 398 sensor.

Natural light conditions - indoors

On the 5T, OnePlus has removed the secondary telephoto lens and instead added a secondary 20MP camera. So, while the 2X zoom still works, it is now done digitally. The 20MP secondary camera now works tandem with the primary camera in capturing depth data when taking standard photos and takes charge of the primary duties in low light conditions, such as in this one below. However, the 20MP camera only kicks in when the light is under 10 lux.

Low light outdoors

The 20MP secondary camera also has the f/1.7 aperture lens and since both the rear cameras have the same 27.22mm focal length, you can now take ‘Bokeh’ images without the frame crop. The portrait images look similar to that those taken by the OnePlus 5.

So, should you press that buy button?
Well, we are not going to beat around the bush. If you are still on a OnePlus 3T or 3, or are in need of a new phone the answer is yes. If you are using a OnePlus 5 though, stay put, there is nothing dramatically new in the 5T. If you just want a good phone with an 18:9 aspect ratio display and are not convinced by the much expensive Pixel 2 XL, then go ahead as this is the phone for you. However, we would suggest you to stick around till we publish our full review next week. While we are not expecting any surprises, we still need to assess the battery life, camera and other aspects better.

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Hardik Singh

Light at the top, this odd looking creature lives under the heavy medication of video games.

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