The OnePlus 5T was released as a follow-up model of the OnePlus 5, but it’s just more of a mid-cycle refresh as oppose to a full new model. Still, the concept of the 5T doesn’t change – to be a flagship killer without blowing a hole in your bank account. With an official price of RM2449, what improvements does the 5T brings, and is it still worth buying over the to-be-released OnePlus 6?
First off, some on-paper stuff:
Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 Processor, 4x 2.45GHz + 4x 1.9GHz
6GB RAM, 64GB internal storage, No microSD support
6.01-inch Optic AMOLED display, 18:9 1080 X 2160, 401 ppi
16MP + 20MP Rear camera, f/1.7 aperture, 4K video recording
16MP f/2.0 Aperture Front-facing camera
Being just a follow-up model, the changes in design of the 5T compared to the 5 is subtle, and that’s not a bad thing at all. We love the design on the 5, and its good to see that OnePlus is improving it on the 5T. The usual OnePlus design cues remain – simple and premium looking. The design on the 5T definitely matches its price. The overall size of the 5T hasn’t changed much, but putting them side by side, you’ll notice the slight extra height and width. Thickness remains the same for both devices.
Like the 5, the 5T doesn’t disappoint in terms of build quality. A solid metal unibody construction is seen here, and with its matte surface, it really looks and feels premium. Combining that with the glass front, the 5T has the premium feel and build quality that is expected on premium device. The premium feel is also contributed by its weight, at 162-grams, it is well weighted.
One of the big party tricks about the 5T is on the front – the new 6.01-inch 18:9 display, which equates to 80% body-to-screen ratio. Mild rounded corners are present, which gives it a premium look and feel. Gone are the physical android navigation controls at the bottom, instead it’s been replaced by simple on-screen controls. The bezels on both sides are pretty minimal as well. On top there’s still space for a 16-megapixel front-facing camera, LED notification light, regular earpiece and a few sensors.
In typical OnePlus fashion, there is a sound mode slider on the left, and you can choose between 3 modes – normal mode, priority mode and full silent mode. It is really convenient as you don’t even need to turn on the phone to mess with the sound settings. The volume buttons are below the slider. On the other side it houses the power button and SIM tray. Since the 5T lacks storage expansion, both slots on the tray takes NanoSIM.
The top is completely empty, while the bottom houses the 3.5mm headphone jack (which we’re still happy to see), a USB-C port, and a bottom-firing mono speaker.
The fingerprint reader that was used to be on the front has been moved to the rear, and it is round in shape. Like most other rear-mounted fingerprint readers out there, it has a matte surface, which is good for precision and speed, and it is well positioned, just enough for the index finger to easily reach. Like most other smartphones, the camera housing sticks out from the body slightly, but the lines on the housing does flow with the camera housing, so that it doesn’t look like an afterthought. It houses 2 cameras – a 16-megapixel and 20-megapixel unit, and next to it is a dual-LED flash.
The official unit that is brought in for our market only comes in a midnight black, while there’s a tasty lava red and sandstone white available if you search for other alternatives. There’s also a Star Wars limited edition which is very limited for our market.
The 18:9 display
The biggest change of the 5T is the display on the front, where an 18:9 display makes it’s first appearance. It measures 6.01-inches, carrying a resolution of 1080 X 2160 (which most manufactures labelled it FHD+. With a density of 401 pixels-per-inch, the screen is adequately sharp, pretty much what you’d expect from smartphone these days, even though higher resolution displays are expected to create a better experience. There are subtle rounded corners on all 4 corners, although its not as obvious as Samsung’s Infinity display.
As for the panel, OnePlus’s Optic AMOLED remains. It’s a custom-manufactured panel by Samsung, based on their usual AMOLED panel that we loved. In typical AMOLED fashion, the the colours are vivid and quite true to life, thanks to the way it works where the pixels of a dark area don’t light up. The brightness goes quite high too, and there’s no problem using the device under sunlight.
There are a few things to play around with the display. To start off, there’s a dark mode that you can choose to use, which darkens the entire interface, which does help with making object and text pop more. It looks cool and we wished that more manufacturers are implementing this as well. If you don’t like the vividness of the Optic AMOLED panel, there’s an option to tune it down as well. There’s even a reading mode in addition to night mode, where the display will turn greyscale to aid in low-light reading. Apart from applying a yellowish tint to filter out bluelight, the night mode will also tone down the display colours to make it more friendly to the eyes.
Being a brand that is well known for “offering flagship specs on a budget device” (even though prices of OnePlus devices have increased), the performance of the OnePlus 5T should be up to our expectation. The processor that comes in the 5T is the same as the 5 – Qualcomm’s flagship Snapdragon 835, which is used by pretty much all of the flagships out there (apart from Huawei and Samsung). We’ve seen this processor in the Nokia 8, and its good to see its back with the 5T. If you’re wondering, the Snapdragon 835’s follow-up model – the 845 was launched shortly after the 5T is out, hence it does not come with that processor. The 4 high-powered cores of the 835 goes all the way up to 2.45GHz, while the other 4 stays at 1.9GHz.
Pairing that setup with OnePlus’s OxygenOS operating system, the OnePlus 5T definitely feels like a flagship device, and in some cases, better. It takes everything that you throw at it well, and resources are there when it needs them. There’s not much problem for heavy tasks too. The larger display and more pixels do require more processing power, but to be honest, there’s not much difference between the 5T and the 5. It definitely beats the Galaxy A8+ that we reviewed previously for pretty much the same amount of money.
With such an amazing spec, you can expect amazing numbers when it comes to benchmark scores. Our single-core score is at around 1974, while multi-core score is at 6731. Both numbers definitely put the 5T in the flagship category.
Our base model comes with 6GB of RAM, which is plentiful, considering the fact that most other manufacturers give you 6GB of RAM as an upgrade. It allows good amount of apps to be in the background, and ensures quick app switch and allowing multi-window apps running simultaneously without having to fight for resources. If you go for the higher-capacity models, OnePlus will offer you 8GB of RAM, which is on par with what most PCs are running, or even the laptop, where this review is being written on.
Our base model also comes with 64GB of internal storage with should be sufficient for most users. Considering the fact that there’s no support for microSD storage expansion like the 5, OnePlus also offers 128GB of internal storage, which will give you the bump in RAM as we mentioned above. Both are of UFS 2.1, so you can expect fast read and write speeds.
Our unit comes right out of the box with Android 8.0 Nougat, with OnePlus’s OxygenOS 5.0.4 customization on top. In most cases, it looks and performs like vanilla Android operating system, with added functionality here and there. It’s pretty lightweight with minimal bloatware, which helps in the performance of the device.
The fingerprint reader on the back is quick and responsive. With its matte surface, it’s accurate for most of the time too. There’s also a face unlock option, and not only its easy to setup, it is surprisingly quick too in good lighting scenarios. Most of the time it skips the lock screen, and brings us directly to the home screen from sleep. In lower-lighting conditions however, it’s better to stick to the fingerprint. The double-tap-to-wake function is a good addition too.
Nothing much has changed in terms of connectivity as well. A 802.11a/b/g/n/ac dual-band WiFi remains on the 5T, as with WiFi Hotspot function. Both SIM cards do support 4G+ network. Bluetooth 5.0 is present as well, with improved speed and range. NFC support is still available.
It’s dual rear camera setup
Dual-camera setup seems to be a must-have in smartphone these days, and the 5T is no exception. A 16-megapixel and 20-megapixel configuration is found on the 5T, and unlike the 5, both are of the same focal length at 27.22mm and same aperture at f/1.7, sitting in front of the Sony IMX398 sensors. And, guess what, both are RGB sensors as well. Both sensors worked off independently, unlike the RGB and monochrome setup found on Huawei devices.
In broad daylight, samples turned out well. It’s definitely not a mind-blowing experience, but it doesn’t make you want a better camera either. Details are sharp and well-rendered, and colours are quite neutral. It could use a slightly more vivid colour setup, but overall, it isn’t too bad either. It handles exposure well too, and the HDR backs it up if you leave it in auto mode.
OnePlus’s “Intelligent Pixel Technology” kicks in when it comes to low-light photography. OnePlus claims that it was able to achieve better low-light photography by merging 4 pixels into one, which reduces noise and contains more details, which is where we think the 20-megapixel sensor comes in. To be fair, it does work quite well, in addition to Sony’s good low-light photography capability on their IMX398 sensor. There’s not much visible noise to be seen, and colours are still preserved really well. It could still use more details, but overall, its not too bad. While the shutter time isn’t long, its still recommended to have a pair of steady hands.
With dual-camera, you can play with portrait mode as well. Using information from both sensor, it applies the bokeh effects to background of an object. While for most shots its alright, it especially doesn’t like complicated objects or different objects at different distances. Overall, while at times the effects might look a little too artificial, it’s good enough as OnePlus’s first attempt.
Recording in 4K is one of the 5T’s capability, and although image is slightly zoomed in, there are lots of details. The colours are the same – a little too neutral for us. The EIS works really well here, but the video is a little choppy during playback. Stepping it down to 1080p gives a wider field of view and smoother videos, but there’s noticeable detail loss, and weirdly, it seems like EIS isn’t working for our case for 1080p, both 30 or 60 frames-per-second. On the bright side, it doesn’t go focus-hunting crazy.
On the other side lies a 16-megapixel sensor with f/2.0 aperture. Even with the lack of focus, it does take good photos in good lighting. With the added bonus of gyro-dependent EIS and Auto HDR, the OnePlus 5T can produce selfies with better colour tone and details. It does not have bokeh mode for the front-facing camera. It will also record videos up to 1080p, and that’s where the EIS really comes into play.
The camera app on the 5T is pretty normal. Mode selecton towards the right of the viewfinder allows you to switch between photos, videos and portrait mode, while tapping on the arrow next to it reveals additional modes such as slow-motion, pro mode, time-lapse and panorama. There are only 4 simple shortcut toggles on the left, which allows you to toggle the flash, aspect ratio, HDR and timer. You can play with pretty much everything in Pro mode, including white balance, exposure, shutter speed, ISO and focus point. There’s also an option to save it as RAW format.
The Battery Life
We’re expecting the 5T is a little more power-hungry with larger displays and more pixels to work with at the same battery capacity, and it is, by a little bit. The built-in 3300mAh battery allows us to easily go over 12 hours on a single charge on a busy day. Turning dark mode on does help in battery life too, as there are not as many pixels to light up with at once.
Charging the OnePlus 5T is pretty quick too. Using the supplied charger and cable, with their Dash quick-charging technology, it will get a flat battery to 65% in just 30 minutes, while it takes just under an hour to fully charge its battery! That’s pretty impressive.
Of course, the OnePlus 5T doesn’t seem like it has brought lots of changes to the table even as a follow-up mid-cycle facelift, but it does put the 5T right back in the competition. To be honest, we’re not even sure what’s the point of a mid-cycle facelift, especially when it’s only 5 months from the model that it replaces. All the improvements that the 5T had should just exist in the OnePlus 5 to make it more competitive in the first place. No one will ever want to purchase a phone only to find out there’s a newer model coming out in less than 6 months. The OnePlus 5T is only going to appeal to new buyers from older OnePlus devices or from other brands. It is also getting harder to recommend with such pricing, especially when brands like Honor can bring similar experience at a lesser price. But, considering that it goes head-to-head with flagship smartphones which easily costs over RM2500, the OnePlus 5T is still a pretty good buy.