22 Nov 2017 15:37 IST

OnePlus 5T review - OnePlus 5 with a few wonderful twists

The ‘flagship killer’ now comes all topped up with modernised features

Recent phones from OnePlus have been too popular for the Chinese company to go tampering around with the basic formula too much. Why fix it when it ain’t broke, after all? So, wisely, they’ve stayed with what users have loved about the phone, but added things that could make the OnePlus phone seem dated by the time June, its usual launch time, comes around.

Research analyst firm IDC has just released a report that says the OnePlus 5 was so well liked it’s the best seller in India in the premium segment. OnePlus is obviously doing something right and should stick with it while it’s still working. And their strategy seems to be paying off as the interest in buying the OnePlus 5T reaches two million customers before it’s even available. The company estimates the interest to be easily double that of the previous version.

The OnePlus 5T is still the OnePlus 5 with a few wonderful twists. As I hold the phone in my hands, the smooth metallic back is still very much OnePlus. The logo is subtle and as great looking as it ever was, the contours are as familiar as ever, and the device itself is still slim, sleek and good to hold. I did immediately use a sandstone case on the back because it feels more OnePlus and reminds me of the first ever device from the company. Also, it reduces the slipperiness hugely.

Face unlock

There are a few immediate differences on the OnePlus 5T that you’ll notice immediately. It’s ever so slightly bigger, at 6.1 inches. On the back, a fingerprint sensor makes an appearance, having moved from the Home button. The sensor works fast, as it always did, but here’s what’s faster now. Face recognition. You may snigger if you believe it’s a thought borrowed from a certain other phone we know, but OnePlus did promise to give what others do at a reasonable price. The 5T uses an image of your face and unlocks in a blink of an eye. The process is extremely fast but then let’s remember that this device isn’t using any 3D projected data to figure out who you are -- it’s just an image. It obviously won’t work in the dark or to pay for anything. That’s why the fingerprint sensor is still very much there for times when you need beefier security. Much is often said about how one can fool a face recognition system with a photo, but in real life situations, it’s rather rare for that to happen.

Going thin-bezels

Another immediately noticeable difference is that the display has been modernised to wear thin bezels. Users are quickly becoming intolerant of thick edges as their expectations change about how a smartphone must look, so it’s a good thing OnePlus didn’t think to wait till the next generation of its phone to bring in this feature. So now we have a display that takes up 80 per cent of the front of the device. Of course it looks better and does nothing to compromise the OnePlus personality except for moving the fingerprint sensor to the back. It’s still a good, crisp, vivid AMOLED display.

The OnePlus 5T has essentially the same specs as the 5 that it’s replacing. The next processor isn’t yet out in the wild and so it runs on the Snapdragon 835 that all premium phones are using. It again comes with 6GB or 8GB RAM and 64GB or 128GB of internal storage — with the additional memory card slot. It runs Android 7.1.1 with an update to Oreo promised very soon. Its own system, Oxygen OS, is in version 4.7. As ever, the phone is fast and furious and has no hint of stutter.

Shoot in low light

The camera on the 5T has a few improvements over the earlier version. Now the telephoto lens has been swapped for a secondary camera with an f/1.7 aperture to equip it for low-light photography. And yes, it definitely makes an immediately visible difference. The noise is controlled much better and the image is more lit up than it is in real life. What OnePlus uses is something they call ‘Intelligent Pixel Technology’ which combines 4 pixels into one.

The dual 16MP rear camera now also catches up with other devices by giving you a Portrait mode option. Actually, the OnePlus 5 also did a pretty good job of blurred backgrounds to begin with. In other ways the cameras, including the 20MP front camera, are the same as on the OnePlus 5. You have electronic zoom and image stabilisation.

The other popular features on OnePlus devices are still here including the famous Dash charging, the alert slider button that lets you immediately silence your phone or choose to get only priority communication, and there’s still a 3.5mm headphone jack.

Anyone who owns the OnePlus 5 certainly doesn’t need to upgrade — or rather, buy again — out of necessity. If they have the money and want to move on to the 5T for the love of the phone, that’s a different matter and they should head for it because it’s still that deadly combination of power, features and a good price.

Price: ₹32,999 for 6GB variant; ₹37,999 for 8GB model

Pros: Nicer edge to edge display, fast facial recognition, welcome improvements to camera, essence of the device is maintained, same fast performance

Cons: Camera protrudes dangerously, can’t do without a case. No water resistance, no expandable storage, no Android Oreo out of the box

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