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OnePlus 5T review: Hands-on with the new king of smartphones

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The OnePlus 5T is a phone that should generate no shock headlines. It’s been leaked left, right and centre in the build-up to launch day, with benchmarks and even unboxing photos posted across the web. So it should comes as no surprise that, as the phone launches today, we all know about its core features.

The price isn’t changing either, which is a positive move, especially when so many other manufacturers are ramping up the cost of their own flagships, but what about the phone itself? Is it a positive upgrade or a so-so one?

READ NEXT: Apple iPhone X review

OnePlus 5T review: Key specifications and release date

6in 1,080 x 2,160 AMOLED display with Corning Gorilla Glass 5

2.45GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC with Adreno 540 graphics

64GB or 128GB of storage

6 or 8GB RAM

75 x 156 x 7.3mm, 162g

3,300mAh battery

Dual rear cameras: 16MP, f/1.7; 20MP, f/1.7

Front camera: 16MP, f/2

Price: £449 – 6GB/64GB; £499 – 8GB/128GB

OnePlus 5T review: Big features and first impressions

The big change is to the display, which at 6in is now half an inch larger than the OnePlus 5’s 5.5in screen. It’s also one of those funky, 18:9 aspect ratio, chassis-filling edge-to-edge displays so there’s barely any bezel to the left and right.

There’s a substantial half-centimetre or so black strip that runs along the top and bottom of the screen, but the size of the phone has barely increased. There’s a millimetre or so in it, if that, in terms of both width and height.

And, just as with the OnePlus 5, this is an AMOLED screen. That means it has perfect contrast and it appears the company has been listening to user feedback, too. Delve into the settings for the phone and you’ll also see that OnePlus has provided several different profiles for you to play around with, including sRGB for more realistic colours while browsing the web and a DCI-P3 profile, which is best employed for watching video content.

The design of the chassis is also very, very similar to the OnePlus 5, to the extent that unless you sit the two phones right next to each other, it’s very difficult to tell the difference. The corners and rear panel are curved in the same way, the thickness hasn’t changed at all and, although it is a touch heavier than the 5, 172g still isn’t all that bad. Moreover, all the buttons are in the same places, the new dual camera is in the same location and so are the speaker grille, USB Type-C charging port and 3.5mm headphone jack.

Yes, the OnePlus 5T still has a headphone jack. REJOICE.

What it still doesn’t have just yet, which is a disappointment, is a microSD slot for storage expansion and a dust- water-resistance rating.

OnePlus 5T review: Performance and battery

Despite the larger screen, I don’t expect there to be any change to the performance of the OnePlus 5T and that’s because the internal components are identical to before. That means you get a 2.45GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chip with either 6GB or 8GB of RAM and either 64GB or 128GB of storage, depending on the model you choose.

As we’ve seen so far this year, there’s very little variation in performance between phones with this type of configuration, and I’d expect the OnePlus 5T to deliver very similar performance results to phones such as the HTC U11 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium. It won’t be as fast as an iPhone 8 Plus or iPhone X, but that doesn’t matter. It’ll be as fast as anyone needs it to be.

The one thing you don’t get with the OnePlus 5T – and the same was true of the OnePlus 5 – is gigabit-class 4G connectivity. Although there still aren’t that many places in the UK that will go this fast, the OnePlus 5T’s 600Mbits/sec download ceiling and 2×2 MIMO antenna array will still likely result in slower speeds than phones with 4×4 MIMO antennas are able to reach.

What the OnePlus 5T should deliver, however, is battery life on a par with its predecessor. It’s the same size, after all, and I have high hopes that, in combination with the Snapdragon 835 chip it’ll reach the heights of the OnePlus 5 that made it my go-to phone for the middle part of 2017.

The joker in the pack here is the new display. It’s larger and has a few more pixels to push around, too, which could have a negative impact. Still, with Dash Charge in place, the OnePlus 5T ought to charge pretty quickly; OnePlus is promising “enough power for the day” with a mere 30 minutes of charging.

OnePlus 5T review: Cameras

The OnePlus 5 had a dual camera array but it’s employed in a slightly different way in the 5T. Where the 5 offered one for wide angle shots and the other for telephoto, on the 5T both have identical focal lengths and fields of view, with the secondary camera concentrating on delivering superior image in low light.

Your main camera here remains a 16-megapixel, f/1.7 Sony IMX398 module while the second one is a 20-megapixel camera, also with an aperture of f/1.7 – this time, a Sony IMX376K. At the front is a 16-megapixel camera with an aperture of f/2.0, just like on the OnePlus 5.

Essentially, the second low-light camera works entirely automatically. Whenever it senses the ambient light levels have dipped to 10 lux or below it switches over to the 20-megapixel camera and in really dark conditions it can also use a technique where the camera merges the data from every four pixels into one to eliminate noise and grain.

The fact that both cameras now have identical focal lengths (7.22mm in case you were wondering) and fields of view should also mean portrait photographs are produced more effectively.

OnePlus 5 review: Software

OnePlus has also been busy adding improvements to its OxygenOS Android launcher. The camera app has had a tiny revamp that sees the various modes shunted into a small popup drawer just next to the shutter button. The idea is to make the camera app more easy to use one-handed.

And there’s also a host of other new tweaks, functions and customisations. Chief among these is the new Parallel Apps feature, which allows you to open more than one instance of certain apps so you can be logged into two or more different accounts. The list of supported apps includes Twitter, Instagram, Facebook, Tinder, Snapchat, Pinterest, LinkedIn and Skype.

You can now unlock the phone with your face (in 0.4 seconds says OnePlus) and in the gallery app you can also search for photographs based on where you took them. In compensation for losing the capacitive keys from the bezel below the screen (sad face) the soft key button bar can be quickly hidden at the tap of an addition circular icon on the left-hand side. Whenever you need it again, simply swipe a thumb up from the bottom of the screen and it’ll stay there until you hide it once again.

It’s all good stuff.

OnePlus 5 review: Early verdict

It’s early days yet, and we haven’t yet had the opportunity to fully benchmark it, but the OnePlus 5T does look like another cracking mid-range smartphone.

It’s basically the same size as the OnePlus 5 but with a significantly bigger screen while the camera and software have both also seen an upgrade, too. It remains to be seen how good the screen actually is and battery life may be impacted by the extra half inch, but for now it looks as if OnePlus has another world-beater on its hands.

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