OnePlus 5T First Impressions

Posted on November 22, 2017 by Paul Thurrott in Android with 39 Comments

OnePlus 5T First Impressions

I’ve always been a big fan of OnePlus and its approach to the smartphone market. But the OnePlus 5T is special: This flagship phone delivers on the design and specification needs of even the most demanding customer. And it does so at prices that should make the market leaders blush.

Let’s step through the ways in which OnePlus nailed it with this release, which comes just months after the initial OnePlus 5 release.

First up is the thin, light, and gorgeous form factor. Unlike, say, the Google Pixel 2 XL, the OnePlus 5T is so pretty you’re going to want to forego the case and leave it exposed. I … won’t do that, of course. And OnePlus was nice enough to include five cases in the reviewer’s kit, plus the freebie that it throws in the box with the OnePlus 5T itself. A nice touch.

It’s also modern, from a design perspective, in that it features a tall 18:9 aspect ratio and near bezel-less 6-inch AMOLED display. Like that Pixel 2 XL, it’s not curved at the edges, but I like OnePlus’ more subtly-curved corners better than those of the Google device, which look crude by comparison. One minor nit (pardon the pun): The display runs at “only” 1080p—in this case, 2160 x 1080—which I assume is a nod towards battery life. But in person, it is crisp, bright, and beautiful. And it holds up well against the Pixel 2 XL, with its much higher resolution display, when viewed side-by-side.

The tall display did necessitate some changes: So the OnePlus 5T features a back-facing fingerprint reader, which is ideally located and works quickly. It bolsters this sign-in method—and answers the complaints of dissenters—by also adding facial recognition, which I’ve enabled for testing purposes. See, Apple? You can do both and make everyone happy.

OnePlus also has enough class to retain a standard headphone jack, a move I find more courageous than following Apple like sheep. And like previous OnePlus devices, the 5T includes a unique notification slider, which is both a great idea and a rejection of the current move to fewer and fewer hardware buttons.

The internals are as modern as they get: An 8-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor, 6 GB or 8 GB of RAM, and 64 GB or 128 GB of storage. (The review unit has 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage.) It features universal wireless coverage, Bluetooth 5.0, and 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, and runs off of USB-C as you’d expect. There’s no microSD expansion.

The camera system is interesting. The original OnePlus 5 was the firm’s first smartphone with dual cameras, and it featured a wide-angle and a telephoto lens, the latter of which provided iPhone Plus-like 2x optical zoom. For the 5T, OnePlus has kept the wide-angle lens but swapped out the telephoto lens for one that is more optimized for low-light shots. This has been somewhat controversial among OnePlus fans, but my early shots look great and I’ll be testing the camera thoroughly.

Speaking of controversial, the OnePlus 5T ships with Android 7.1.1, though the firm says that Android 8.0 Oreo is coming in early 2018. I don’t see this as a big deal, but their unique take on a clean Android distribution—OnePlus calls it Oxygen OS—remains a thing of beauty. I’ll be delving into the unique features there.

So this is all good. Very good, in fact. But where the OnePlus 5T crosses over into bonzo territory is with pricing. The “base” OnePlus 5T—with 6 GB of RAM and 64 GB of storage—costs only $499. And the version with 8 GB of RAM and 128 GB of storage is just $559. Oh. My. God.

To put this in perspective, comparable Pixel 2 XL phones are $850 and $950, respectively. So you’d save $350 to $390 by choosing the OnePlus 5T instead. And from the look of things—granted, I just got it—you’d end up with a better phone too.

The value of this phone is exciting, and it is, of course, reminiscent of what Google often did with Nexus, in particular the now-lamented Nexus 6P and 5X. But OnePlus is here today, getting it right, and not gouging their customers just because they can. And you just have to respect that.

I’m eager to see if the OnePlus 5T meets my initial expectations, and will do so. But my first peek at this wonderful device has raised no alarms. I will have more soon.


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