Reviews

OnePlus 5T Review

I’ve been using the OnePlus 5T on and off since it launched. I’ve had the original, I’ve had the Star Wars Limited Edition and now I have the Lava Red variant. Before that I had the OnePlus 5, which was largely the same phone. So you could say I’ve had a good amount of time with it. 

Aesthetically, the 5T is very nice. The glass and aluminum body is thin, light and curves in all the right places to make it easy to hold (I do have fairly large hands, though). The front looks better now than it did on the 5 due to the taller display that leaves very little in terms of bezels. It’s all very well-designed and ergonomic and the only complaints I have is that the buttons are bit too easy to press.

The display is superb. It’s not as high resolution as on some other, more expensive phones but I don’t think that’s a big deal. It’s big, bright, doesn’t have any weird distortion when viewed at nominal angles and when set to the sRGB mode has excellent color accuracy. I really do like the move to 18:9 aspect ratio; you see a lot more content when using the phone normally in apps like Twitter or Instagram and when you do come across a proper widescreen video or a movie the experience is even better.

The software on the 5T at the time of writing is OxygenOS 4.7.6 on top of Android 7.1.1. OxygenOS is still my favorite custom ROMs out there because it successfully marries Google’s design language with some OnePlus ingenuity. While it looks pretty much like stock Android it comes with a bunch of clever additions that enhance the experience without getting in your way. It’s pretty much a masterclass on how to do an Android custom ROM.

In terms of performance, the 5T is phenomenal. The phone is smooth and fast almost every time and while it’s not as consistent as the Google Pixel phones, it’s close enough to make me switching from the Pixel 2 to the 5T full time a painless experience. Every aspect of the phone, from the apps to the camera, the fingerprint sensor and even the face unlock, is blinding quick. This thing makes my iPhone 8 Plus feel slow, although that’s largely due to the painful animations in iOS.

The camera, or the cameras, on the 5T are largely underwhelming. Even in broad daylight the images come out dull with lackluster colors. Lowlight is worse with images that look like they came out of a much cheaper phone. Even the dedicated low light camera doesn’t help, mostly because it kicks in when the light is really low and at that point it is too incompetent to do anything about it so all you get is a blurry mess. There is also no OIS, which makes matters worse. Portrait mode images do look decent, however, and the front camera quality is not bad for a front camera. The video also looks good except in the 1080p60 mode where the electronic stabilization is not available and the footage is very shaky. You can find some samples here.

The new face unlock system on the 5T is very inconsistent. When it works it really works well. Most of the time you won’t even see the lockscreen and it even works in challenging lighting conditions. I held the phone upside down for shits and giggles and it still managed to unlock. But when it doesn’t it’s really frustrating. It’s really annoying to have something that’s either really fast or doesn’t work at all; it’s like walking through a doorway that may or may not have a glass door. If you walk confidently through it every time, occasionally you will hit the glass door. After that you just stop trusting the system and get an extra level of uncertainty and anxiety for something as simple as unlocking your phone. The fingerprint sensor is fortunately much more reliable.

The battery life on the phone has largely been very good, to the point I don’t really think too much about it, which is always a good thing. The DASH charging as usual is utterly fantastic and easily the fastest way to charge your phone. Unfortunately, it is also extremely proprietary, from the charger to the cable, so you need to carry the whole kit around and can’t just use any fast charger or cable with this phone.

Some miscellaneous thoughts:

  • The speaker on the bottom gets very loud but only sounds good about 70% of the way after which it becomes quite unpleasant.
  • The alert slider on the left is a boon and something every phone should have.
  • The fingerprint sensor is too sensitive for its own good and unlocks the phone unintentionally quite often.
  • The touchscreen cannot tell the difference between an intentional double tap or when you’re just holding the phone in your hand and keeps turning itself on.
  • It’s still just USB 2.0 and not USB 3.1.
  • The phone comes with a basic but useful silicone case in the box.

Overall, I quite like the OnePlus 5T. The price is not higher than the 5, which is good but it has gone up considerably over the years compared to previous OnePlus devices. Having said that, the phone still doesn’t have a lot of competition and it decimates most of what is there easily. (The new Honor View10 looks promising but I haven’t had a chance to use it yet.) If you’re in the market for a mid-range smartphone you really can’t go wrong with this one.