OnePlus 5T review

The OnePlus 5T, as the name suggests, isn't a completely new handset – rather, it's an incremental upgrade of the OnePlus 5.

[Update: The OnePlus 5T is officially off sale from OnePlus in the US, UK and Europe as the firm prepares itself for the arrival of the OnePlus 6 on May 16. You may find the 5T is still available from some retailers in these regions, but you may want to wait until May 16 before picking one up.]

It's not just an upgrade though; it's also a replacement, as OnePlus ceased production and sales of the phone it launched just six months prior to the arrival of the OnePlus 5T.

This isn't a surprising move, as OnePlus did exactly the same thing in 2016 when it introduced the OnePlus 3T half a year after launching the OnePlus 3.

So what do you get with OnePlus' second generation 'T'? The main talking points include the biggest screen the firm has ever put on a phone, a tweaked design, improved rear camera and face recognition. 

In short, there's enough new stuff to justify its existence without it offering a radically new smartphone experience.

Check out our video below outlining the design and screen of the OnePlus 5T

OnePlus 5T price and availability

  • OnePlus 5T launch price: from £449, $499, AU$599
  • OnePlus 5T release date: November 21

The OnePlus 5T price at launch is exactly the same as the OnePlus 5's, which means SIM-free you're looking at £449 ($499, AU$599) for the 6GB/64GB model, and £499 ($559, AU$699) for the 8GB/128GB variant.

This makes the OnePlus 5T cheaper than pretty much all of its flagship rivals – but significantly the difference in spec between them is the smallest it's ever been.

However, the OnePlus 5T is now officially off sale from OnePlus in the US, UK and Europe as the company prepares itself for the arrival of the new OnePlus 6 on May 16.

Stock still remains at select retailers and carriers, but it's not as easy to come by as it once was – and you're best holding off buying a new 5T for now, as it will be worth waiting to see what the OnePlus 6 brings.

Display

  • Biggest-ever screen on a OnePlus phone
  • 6.01-inch Full HD, AMOLED display with 18:9 aspect ratio

The 6-inch full HD display on the 5T is bright and clear

The single biggest change on the OnePus 5T is the display, with the handset boasting a 6.01-inch Full HD AMOLED panel with a 18:9 aspect ratio that follows this year's trend of elongated screens on the iPhone X, Google Pixel 2 XL, Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG V30.

It's the first time OnePlus has increased the size of the display on its core handset (the smaller OnePlus X aside), making this the biggest screen we've ever seen on a handset from the Chinese firm. 

While its size and aspect ratio may see the OnePlus 5T pull inline with the flagship handsets it's looking to topple, there is still one spec which denies it full membership of the high-end display club: resolution.

OnePlus has once again opted to stick with a Full HD resolution, at 1080 x 2160 with a 401ppi pixel density, while rivals all boast QHD (2K) displays.

It doesn't mean the screen on the OnePlus 5T is poor, and thanks to the AMOLED panel colors are bright and punchy, but when you slide it alongside the competition you can see it's not as sharp. In isolation though, it’s difficult to pick any real fault with it.

OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei also revealed on Twitter that he fooled a fan into thinking it did have a QHD display, when actually it’s stuck with Full HD.

Alongside QHD rivals it doesn’t look as good, but it’s by no means a bad display

The default color balance does seem to be a little blue, and if that doesn't suit your eyes you can change this in the settings menu.

The screen calibration options enable you to switch to SRBG, DCI-P3, adaptive mode or customize your own settings, although the default mode does give you the punchier colors. 

Selecting another mode mutes the vibrancy, but does give a more natural look to colors, especially when viewing images. The choice is yours, but we opted to stick with the default setting for the majority of our OnePlus 5T review.

OnePlus has also included a feature it calls Sunlight Display, which automatically detects harsh light and adapts the display for the best viewability; it's basically an auto brightness mode, but it also knows what you’re doing on screen (whether it's a game, movie or general navigation) and will optimize the display accordingly.

We didn't notice the OnePlus 5T adapting the screen during our review period, but we also didn't experience any viewability issues, which suggests that Sunlight Display does work, if only subtly. 

Design

  • Premium metal unibody looks and feels great
  • Fingerprint scanner on rear with smaller bezels up front

The bigger display has had a knock-on effect in terms of the design of the OnePlus 5T, with the bezels above and below the screen getting slimmed down to provide a sleeker look and an 80.5% screen-to-body ratio.

That reduction in bezel has necessitated another design change too, with the fingerprint scanner and physical navigation keys disappearing from the front of the phone.

Biometric fans needn't worry though, as the digit reader has been relocated to the rear of the device, and its centralized position means it's easy to hit with your forefinger – and of course there's now face recognition too, of which more in a moment.

The OnePlus 5T continues with the premium metal unibody design of the phone it's replacing, which makes it look good and feel great in the hand, with the gently-curving rear helping it nestle nicely into the palm.

At 156.1 x 75 x 7.3mm and 162g the OnePlus 5T is wider, taller and heavier than the OnePlus 5, but remains the same thickness, making it similar in size and weight to the LG V30 and iPhone 8 Plus.

OnePlus 5T Midnight Black hands on gallery

Something the design doesn't offer, though, is much grip, so you may want to invest in a material or silicone case to give you a little extra purchase – although it will add to the phone's size in your hand.

You'll find that the power/lock key on the right, and the volume rocker on the left, fall easily under thumb and finger when you're holding the phone in portrait, and OnePlus continues with its notification slider on the side of the handset, allowing you to easily switch between silent, do not disturb and loud modes.

At launch it was available in just one color (Midnight Black), but in January 2018, OnePlus launched a new color variant of the OnePlus 5T, the limited edition Sandstone White finish.

First of all it's white (duh), but only on the back. The front of the handset remains black, as does the rear camera bump. While we would have liked a white surround on the front too, we do like the black camera bulge.

The Sandstone White OnePlus 5T uses the same black volume rocker, power switch and SIM tray, providing more contrast against the white finish. Then there's the alert slider, which is an eye-catching red.

OnePlus 5T Sandstone White hands on gallery

If this looks familiar, it's because it's exactly the same color composition OnePlus used for the Star Wars Edition of the handset (launched in just a handful of countries) minus the famous franchise's logo on the back.

What the white finish does provide is more grip, with a textured finished which more closely resembles the original OnePlus One. The trade-off is the white version doesn't feel as premium in the hand, and if the OnePlus One is anything to go by it could end up getting quite dirty relatively quickly.

The white variant sold out in a few weeks, and it was swiftly followed by the introduction of the Lava Red OnePlus 5T in February 2018. Again, it's a strictly "while stocks last" type of deal, and is only available on the more expensive 128GB model. Like the Midnight Black version, Lava Red is fully metal, meaning a slippery body front and back.

OnePlus 5T Lava Red hands on gallery

It's worth noting that OnePlus provides a clear plastic case in the box with both the Midnight Black, Sandstone White and Lava Red models, which should keep it looking smarter for longer.

Another plus point on the OnePlus 5T is that the headphone jack has also been retained, allowing you to plug in your headphones without the need for a clunky adapter.

The camera bump from the OnePlus 5 remains on the 5T, but this time around the edges of the protrusion have been more lovingly sculpted into the main body of the device for a more uniform and slick look.

OnePlus claims it has added an anti-fingerprint layer to the finish on the OnePlus 5T, but we found that it still got grubby pretty easily, although marks and prints are easy enough to wipe off.

From the back, it looks like the OnePlus 5, only with a fingerprint scanner

Face recognition

  • Fast, easy and effective
  • Not as accomplished as iPhone X

Another key feature, and a first for OnePlus, is the inclusion of face recognition tech as the brand attempts to ride the coattails of the iPhone X.

Face recognition on the OnePlus 5T isn't as advanced as Apple’s offering, but it's still surprisingly good, using over 100 facial identifiers to check it's you. 

It's used only for unlocking the handset, and you'll need to double-tap the screen or press the power key to utilize it.

The good news is that it's really easy to setup, with the phone requiring only a matter of seconds to lock in your look.

Face unlock is surprisingly quick and easy to setup on the OnePlus 5T

It's incredibly fast, with almost no delay between you tapping the screen or button and your home screen appearing before you. OnePlus claims the tech can identify you and unlock the handset in just 0.4 seconds, and we’re inclined to agree.

This does mean it’s a touch slower than the fingerprint scanner (0.2 seconds), and it requires you to be looking almost directly at the phone for it to work.

However, we did find that face unlock worked at some impressive angles, which means you don't have to hold the OnePlus 5T directly in front of your face for it to work. 

Something it can't do, but which the iPhone X can, is see you in the dark. That's because, unlike Apple, OnePlus hasn't used an infrared camera to spy you in the dark. 

Face unlock on the 5T requires a light source – street lights at night are enough, but the screen brightness itself isn't – to check your face.

The OnePlus 5T can handle glasses and no glasses, so whether or not you’re wearing them the phone will know it’s still you, as long as your eyes are still visible. Where it struggles is when the eyes are covered.

The OnePlus 5T unlocked for us in the top row, but the disguises worn in the bottom row saw the 5T lock us out.

We tried face unlock in several different scenarios (as you can see above), but when we wore a low slung hat, and then blinkered goggles, the 5T wouldn’t unlock.

We also passed it around the office, friends and family to see if anyone else’s face unlocked the handset, and the good news is they didn’t. The likelihood is that the technology may be fooled on rare occasions – as it has been on the iPhone X – but it feels secure.

In the future OnePlus plans to expand the use of face recognition to enable you to log in to apps and verify purchases, but for now it's using the OnePlus 5T as a test bed for the technology to make sure it's secure.

Battery life

  • 3,300mAh battery comfortably lasts a day
  • Dash Charge gives you 60% in 30 minutes

The OnePlus 5T comes with a 3,300mAh battery, which the firm claims lasts a full day on a single charge – a claim we found to be fully justified.

Watch the video below to see the battery and camera in action

We were concerned initially that the OnePlus 5T might struggle in the battery department, with it using the same-size power pack as the OnePlus 5 while boasting a bigger screen, but fear not – the 5T is a solid performer.

It doesn't go above and beyond the competition – a full day of usage from a single charge is par for the course these days – but we were regularly plugging in around 11pm with 20% left in the tank after taking it off charge before 7am each day.

Typical daily usage during our review time included a couple of hours of Spotify streaming, an hour of gaming, a healthy dose of email and social media action and a number of phone calls throughout the day.

We ran our 90-minute Full HD video test on the OnePlus 5T, with screen brightness at max and accounts syncing over Wi-Fi in the background. From 100% of charge, the 5T lost 12% during the test, which puts it in the middle of its flagship rivals.

It’s a better performance than the LG V30 (lost 13%), iPhone 8 Plus (23%) and Razer Phone (18%), but not quite as good as the Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus (11%) or Huawei Mate 10 Pro (9%). In short, battery life shouldn’t be an issue, as the 5T performs well.

The OnePlus 5T easily offers a full day of usage from a single charge

The phone also features OnePlus' Dash Charge technology, which is claimed to give you 'a day's power in half an hour', which in reality means just under 60% in 30 minutes. 

That's useful if you're about to step out the door for the night, but you have to use the Dash Charge plug block that's included in the box to achieve those numbers; a standard plug will give you a much reduced rate of replenishment.

One battery feature that's gained popularity in 2017 is wireless charging, but it’s not available on the OnePlus 5T on account of the phone's metal unibody. 

Apple had to switch to a glass back for the iPhone X, 8 and 8 Plus in order to implement wireless charging, as the technology doesn’t work through metal.

Camera

  • Dual rear cameras: 16MP + 20MP Sony sensors
  • Revamped camera app for easier one-handed use

The dual cameras on the 5T are solid snappers

Like the OnePlus 5 the OnePlus 5T comes with dual cameras on the rear, but it's not an identical setup.

The OnePlus 5T has 16MP and 20MP Sony sensors, both of which boast an increased aperture of f/1.7 for better low-light shots and the same 27.22mm focal length.

While the 16MP rear camera is the same as the one found on the OnePlus 5, the 20MP rear sensor is no longer a telephoto option, with it instead being brought in line with the main snapper. 

OnePlus says this move improves the 5T's low-light credentials, with the phone switching to this camera when lighting drops below 10 lux. This camera also features OnePlus' Intelligent Pixel Technology, which merges four pixels into one to improve clarity and reduce noise and blurring. 

The OnePlus 5T does perform better than its predecessor in low light, which goes to show the work on the cameras wasn’t for nothing; it isn't quite as good as the likes of the Google Pixel 2, but that’s allowable considering the lower price tag here.

Shots, especially those indoors, can end up looking a little muddy, although on a clear nights outside the 5T performs well.

The loss of the telephoto lens does mean the natural 2x zoom function offered on the OnePlus 5 by switching between two cameras of different focal length is gone. 

The 2x zoom function remains, but now it’s handled digitally, and in good light a single tap of the ‘1x’ button on-screen jumps you into ‘2x’ mode with little noticeable quality loss. 

The new OnePlus camera app is easy to use one-handed

OnePlus has overhauled its camera app on the 5T, with a simpler look and easy-to-use gesture controls. Swiping up gives you mode select, while swiping down (in Pro mode) brings up quick settings. It makes things much easier to do one-handed.

Meanwhile, sliding from left to right jumps you into video mode, while a movement in the opposite direction takes you to Portrait mode, a popular feature on most flagship phones in 2017.

Portrait mode has also been improved on the 5T to offer better background defocusing and a sharper subject, with fewer artifacts where sharp subject detail meets the blurred backdrop.

Pro Mode offers up a selection of controls for those with a more considered approach to their  photography, with ISO, white balance, shutter speed, focus and brightness settings.

You can also long-press the fingerprint scanner on the rear of the handset to take a photo, which we found to be surprisingly intuitive.

Pro Mode provides useful additional tools for improving your shots

On the front you get the same 16MP selfie snapper as the OnePlus 5, with a screen flash to help illuminate things in darker conditions.

Taking snaps with the OnePlus 5T we found that shutter speeds were fast and image quality was good in good light, with plenty of detail and natural-looking colors.

Overall the camera experience is  a step up from the OnePlus 5, bringing it closer to the flagship elite, but the 5T still doesn’t quite dazzle in the way the Google Pixel 2, Samsung Galaxy S8 and iPhone X do.

OnePlus 5T camera samples gallery

How does the camera on the OnePlus 5T stack up against the Honor View 10? Watch our live comparison above and view our examples!

Android and interface

  • Android 8.1 Oreo now available for the 5T
  • Oxygen OS overlay provides plenty of customization

The OnePlus 5T launched with Android 7.1.2 Nougat out the box. That was fine, but it was a little disappointing that it didn't ship with the latest Android software, 8 Oreo.

The good news is that the Android 8 Oreo update for the OnePlus 5T has landed, and in fact the latest version of the software for the device is actually 8.1, ensuring it's nicely up to date.

OnePlus has, as usual, stuck its Oxygen OS interface over the top of Android, which keeps the general look and feel of Google's platform while adding in extra customization options. This gives you more flexibility over the interface, allowing you to fine-tune elements of the software to suit your needs.

Simple options include swapping in and out quick settings in the notification shade, as well as choosing which icons you want to appear, and those that you don't, in the notification bar. 

You can also swap the on-screen navigation keys around, and assign 'long press' tasks to them, giving you more shortcuts at your fingertips.

Oxygen OS still offers a relatively stock Android experience

Jump into the gestures section of the settings menu and you have the option to swipe down on the fingerprint scanner to bring down the notification shade – a useful option for a screen that’s as tall as the 5T's, as it saves you stretching your thumb up.

Another customization option we found useful was the ability to hide the navigation bar, allowing you to take advantage of the extra screen space, with a swipe up from the bottom of the display returning the bar to view.

Then there's Parallel Apps, is a new feature for OnePlus. This enables you to clone certain apps, allowing you to log in to two different accounts. Supported apps include Facebook, Messenger, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, WhatsApp, Skype and Snapchat. 

Parallel Apps will be useful for those wanting to keep work and personal accounts separate

It’s an interesting option to have, and one that some people will find very useful, especially if they're trying to keep work and personal accounts separate. It's easy to enable and use, and Parallel apps have a small orange badge on their app icon to denote they’re a clone.

We found it useful when managing our personal Twitter feeds alongside TechRadar's, reducing the risk of posting to the wrong feed – although you'll need an eagle eye when glancing at notifications to tell whether they’re from the main app or the parallel one.

We like the additional customization options that Oxygen OS brings to Android, and it allows you, if you want, to set up your OnePlus 5T in a more personal way. And if these additional options aren’t for you they don't get in the way, keeping the default software clean and easy to use.

To see more on the UI and media of the OnePlus 5T, check out the video below

Movies, music and gaming

The larger screen makes the OnePlus 5T the best handset for watching movies that the firm has made. With extra display real estate, the viewing experience is enhanced, and the AMOLED panel helps to pack extra punch with bolder colors.

Some may find the minimizing of the bezels around the screen means there’s less space to rest your fingers without obscuring some of the display, but in practice we found this wasn’t an issue.

Something that is an issue, however, is the placement of the speaker. The OnePlus 5T comes with a single speaker on the base, which is easily covered when holding the handset in landscape. It means that movie watchers and gamers will likely have to put up with muffled audio if they opt to utilize the built-in speaker.

Audio quality from the speaker is acceptable for YouTube videos and the odd song or two, but you don't get the stereo experience of dual front-facing speakers such as those on the Razer Phone or Google Pixel 2 XL.

There is a silver lining though, as the 5T still packs a 3.5mm headphone port, allowing you to plug in your favorite set of headphones without the need for a fiddly (and easy to lose) adapter. If you want better audio from the 5T, plug in some headphones.

Do not disturb mode for gaming is useful

Something the Oxygen OS interface provides is a gaming 'do not disturb' mode.

This removes the risk of accidentally hitting a navigation key that'll exit you from your game, and prevents notifications from obscuring the action on screen. 

OnePlus isn't the first to offer this feature, but it's a welcome addition on the 5T.

Performance

  • Flagship Snapdragon 835 chipset
  • 6GB RAM and 64GB storage or 8GB/128GB

When it comes to power the OnePlus 5T has the same flagship Snapdragon 835 chipset as the OnePlus 5, and you can again choose between 6GB of RAM with 64GB of storage and 8GB/128GB variants. 

Something OnePlus continues to leave out of its handsets is a microSD slot; 128GB will suit most users, but with the brand appealing to early adopters and power users there will be some who find the lack of expandable storage a real bugbear.

All that power means Android runs smoothly, and we didn't experience any performance issues during our time with the handset.

We ran Geekbench 4 on the OnePlus 5T, and the handset scored an average of 6663 on the multi-core test. That's pretty much on a par with the OnePlus 5, which averaged 6716 in the same benchmark test, as well as rivals such as the Samsung Galaxy S8 (6630) and Google Pixel 2 (6260).

What it means is the OnePlus 5T will handle pretty much anything you throw at it, with multitasking and split-screen applications all handled with ease. 

Verdict

OnePlus considers its T series handsets to be an extension and evolution of its summer releases, taking what it's already achieved and making it more relevant with a selection of significant updates.

The OnePlus 5T fulfills the brief, offering a pleasing array of upgrades that will keep fans of the brand happy without reinventing the wheel or upping the price. It's the best phone the brand has ever made, and one that can mix it with the best handsets around without looking out of place.

Watch the video below to see our final verdict on the OnePlus 5T

The increased screen size is welcome and the camera is stronger (although still not at the same level as the Galaxy S8 or Pixel 2), while any potential worries regarding battery life can be put to bed.

The inclusion of Face Unlock is nice, and it works surprisingly well, but it's also good to see OnePlus retain the fingerprint scanner and headphone jack, which will no doubt please the geekier elements of OnePlus' following.

Who's it for?

The OnePlus 5T is a fantastic option for anyone who's looking for a flagship smartphone but doesn't want to (or can't) spend the big bucks demanded by Apple, Samsung, Google and co.

While there are a few small compromises to consider – no QHD display, stereo speakers, expandable storage or standout camera – the OnePlus 5T represents some of the best value for money in the market. You won't be disappointed.

Should I buy it?

In short, absolutely. You're getting a flagship phone in the OnePlus 5T, at a price which undercuts every big name on the market. 

The compromises are small, the screen is large and the power plentiful – and with Android 8 Oreo scheduled to arrive in early 2018, things should get even better for the OnePlus 5T.

If you're in the market for a flagship phone there's plenty of choice, although most are considerably more expensive. Below we’ve highlighted some of the main rivals the OnePlus 5T is facing.

Samsung Galaxy S8

It's our best phone in the world right now, and for good reason. The Samsung Galaxy S8 pulls all the key features required of a flagship phone together into an alluring package with a dazzling display.

Compared with the OnePlus 5T it has a better screen, camera and overall design – but it does cost a little more (although recent price price drops have made it an ever more attractive option).

For those looking for the complete flagship experience, the Galaxy S8 gives it to you whereas the 5T comes up a little short – but just think of the money you’ll save if you opt for the OnePlus.

Read our in-depth review: Samsung Galaxy S8

Google Pixel 2

If smartphone photography is important to you, you'll be pleased to hear that OnePlus has improved its dual camera setup on the back of the 5T – but it’s not the best mobile snapper around.

That accolade belongs to the Google Pixel 2 (and Pixel 2 XL). While it offers just a single camera on its rear, it’s simply top-notch.

That said, the Pixel 2 is much more expensive than the 5T, so you'll need to ask yourself whether you want to part with the extra cash.

Read our in-depth review: Google Pixel 2 

Honor 9

When it comes to low-cost flagships there are two front runners: OnePlus and Honor. The Honor 9 is cheaper, and those with smaller hands may be drawn to its more compact 5.15-inch display and shiny glass body.

It looks and feels premium, although it still has chunky bezels above and below the screen, while there are dual cameras round the back and a punchier chipset and 6GB of RAM under the hood.

The Honor 9 isn't as strong as the OnePlus as a complete package, but its price means it's certainly worth considering.

Read our in-depth review: Honor 9 

First reviewed: November 2017