OnePlus 3T review

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PROS

  • Great build quality
  • Excellent performance
  • Good camera
  • Improved battery life

CONS

  • Not quite as fantastic value as OnePlus 3
  • Have to use proprietary Dash charger otherwise charging is slow

KEY FEATURES

  • 5.5-inch Super AMOLED 1080p display
  • 2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
  • 6GB Dual-channel DDR4 RAM
  • 64GB/128GB storage options
  • Android 6.0.1 with OxygenUI
  • 16-megapixel front and rear cameras
  • 3,400mAh battery
  • Manufacturer: OnePlus
  • Review Price: £399.00/$598.50

WHAT IS THE ONEPLUS 3T?

The fact that OnePlus opted to call its new phone the OnePlus 3T, and not the OnePlus 4, immediately makes it clear this an evolution of the existing OnePlus 3, not a true sequel, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

In a similar manner to how Apple’s S series has refined iPhones between complete refreshes, the OnePlus 3T is an important under the hood re-tooling. Key changes include a faster Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, 13% larger battery capacity and improved front-facing camera. But, with the pricing now starting at £399/$598.5, do the changes justify 3T’s increased upfront cost? Fortunately for OnePlus, the answer is largely yes, which is doubly good news as the OnePlus 3 is being discontinued.

ONEPLUS 3T – DESIGN

Not a great deal has changed here. There are now two colour options, a new Gunmetal finish or Soft Gold, although if you want the new larger 128GB capacity option you’re limited to only Gunmetal. The Gunmetal option replaces the previous Graphite finish available with the OnePlus 3 and is a little darker in shade.

OnePlus 3T

Outside of this, the OnePlus 3T remains 7.4mm thick and is made from a single slab of aluminium alloy that feels lovely in hand. OnePlus made a big deal about how the top of the frame curves differently from the rest of the edges. It’s not something you’re going to notice unless you go looking for it, but it’s still a nice touch.

Look to the bottom of the phone and you’ll find a neatly drilled speaker grille, a USB-C port and a headphone jack. The latter is worth drawing attention to as, despite Apple’s efforts to kill the 3.5mm jack, no one seems to be in a great rush to make USB-C headphones over Lightning headphones.

I’m actually all for moving away from the 3.5mm jack and use Bluetooth headphones more often than not, but there are still times when I want to use a wired connection beyond headphones. Too often I went to plug the jack-less Moto Z into my car radio only to remember I’d left the adaptor connected to my wired headphones back home. It’s a frustration I can do without.

OnePlus 3T

Along the left edge is a three-level Alert Slider to toggle between notification profiles. You can either have them all, priority or none, just like the OnePlus 3. It’s a useful addition you don’t see often. Below this is the volume rocker, and on the opposite side the power button.

There’s a front fingerprint sensor, which I’ve always stated is my preferred position over a rear placement. The fingerprint sensor also doubles as the Home button, flanked by capacitive Back and Recent keys that are only marked by a backlit dot, rather than their standard icons. This is because you can swap their positions in the OnePlus 3T’s settings.

The button setup is similar to the Samsung Galaxy S7’s, and means you can do away with Android’s on-screen navigation buttons, freeing up more of the display. You can still turn on the on-screen navigation in the settings if you want.

Having a choice is great and the customisation options don’t end there, on the 3T you can also choose different shortcut actions for double-press and hold inputs for any of the capacitive buttons.

The fingerprint sensor feels responsive and on a par with other great fingerprint sensors, such as the Huawei P9’s, when it comes to swiftness. It does fall afoul of the same pitfalls as all other fingerprint sensors I’ve used though, so wet hands will still see you resorting to more traditional unlock methods.

OnePlus 3T

Turn the OnePlus 3T over and you’ll see a moderate camera bump from the protruding rear camera. It’s not as pronounced as on certain other phones though and OnePlus has also made improvements here by coating the sensor in sapphire glass, for an extra level of resilience.

The OnePlus 3T supports dual SIMs, useful if you have a personal and work number and don’t want to carry multiple devices. The second SIM slot does not double as a microSD card slot, as is the case with certain other phones, so there’s no expandable storage, just like the OnePlus 3.

But as mentioned, there is now 64GB (£399/$598.5) and 128GB (£439/$748.5) capacity options. The extra for 128GB isn’t a complete rip-off compared to what others have charged for extra storage, either. Otherwise, NFC makes a welcome return so you can use Android Pay.

ONEPLUS 3T – DISPLAY

The 3T’s 5.5-inch screen is on paper identical to the OnePlus 3’s. It has the same 1,920 x 1,080 resolution and uses the same Optic AMOLED technology. That’s not going to amount to the highest pixels-per-inch density in the world, but with general use it’s not something you’re going to notice.

The Optic AMOLED tech means black levels are superb and the display still looks super sharp, regardless of its comparably low pixels-per-inch count. Viewing angles are also excellent, with limited brightness drop-off when viewed off-centre.

OnePlus 3T

I was also impressed with the reserved auto brightness adjustment. Too many of the phones I’ve tested have had very aggressive automatic adjustment settings that kick in even when ambient light levels haven’t changed. Brightness on the OnePlus 3T is also more than adequate for outdoor use.

One of the chief complaints when the OnePlus 3 launched was its unflattering and unnatural colour calibration. This was something that eventually got fixed through software updates, which is at least a testament to OnePlus listening to its customers.

Luckily, some of these learnings have been applied to the OnePlus 3T. Out of the box colours are a little oversaturated but the display looks great and in truth, this is how I left the display during most of my testing.

If you want more natural, representative colours, an sRGB calibration profile is also an option, which makes the colours look considerably more muted. Another custom option lets you manually adjust the colour temperature to your liking.

From the Quick Toggle menu you can also turn on a Night mode, which knocks down the blue light part of the colour spectrum. This makes the display a little less harsh on your eyes in the dark as well as supposedly reducing the impact on your circadian rhythm.

Like the Moto Z, there’s also an Ambient Display that turns the display on in a low-power mode when notifications come in, as well as Proximity Wake that turns on the display when you wave your hand over the camera. The latter doesn’t work as well as the Moto Z’s dedicated proximity sensors, however.

ONEPLUS 3T – SOFTWARE

The OnePlus 3T runs Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow overlaid with OnePlus’ OxygenOS skin. OnePlus has promised an Android 7.0 Nougat update should be available before the year is out, but just wasn’t ready for launch.

Thankfully, as skins go, OxygenOS is one of the better and more reserved ones and most of the additions are actually very useful. The look and feel of Android is largely the same, and most of the OxygenOS customisations augment what’s already available through gestures or additional inputs. You can draw a circle on screen to open the camera app and swipe with three fingers to take a screenshot, for example.

OnePlus 3T

You can also customise how the Home screen looks and performs. If you want, swiping up anywhere on the Home screen can open search, or swiping down from anywhere opens the notification panel so you don’t have to drag from the top. You can leave the icons exactly like stock Android or you can choose different designs, shapes or sizes. OxygenOS lets you change things only if you want, otherwise it all feels like stock Android.

OnePlus’ ‘Shelf’ makes a return, which is accessible by swiping right on the Home screen. This houses your recent contacts, recent apps and a management centre that shows your storage and battery levels, as well as how much data you have left if you’re on a limited tariff. Again, if you don’t want to use Shelf, you can just turn it off.

ONEPLUS 3T – PERFORMANCE

The 3T is powered by a quad-core 2.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821: that’s the same chip seen in the Google Pixel and Google Pixel XL. Paired with 6GB of DDR4 RAM it’s unsurprising that the OnePlus 3T feels incredibly snappy. But like the Pixel phones, the benchmarking scores don’t really tell the full story. In Geekbench 4’s single core test it managed a score of 1,853, a fraction above the Pixel XL, and in the multi-core test it managed 4,256, again just over the Pixel XL. As a frame of reference, the original OnePlus 3’s Snapdragon 820 managed 1,700 and 4,019 in the Geekbench 4 tests.

While it beats the Pixel XL, and it manages to just beat the Samsung Galaxy S7’s 1,848 single core score, it falls considerably short of the S7’s 5,841 multi-core result. It also easily beats the more expensive Moto Z in the Antutu benchmark, where it scored 163,181. The Moto Z scored 130,550 by comparison and the OnePlus 3 138,857. Similarly, its 3DMark Slingshot score of 2,646 also wiped the floor with the Moto Z’s 2,121.

The OnePlus 3T is definitely not short of performance.

OnePlus 3T

Really, though, benchmark scores are beginning to lose their importance. The main thing is that the OnePlus 3T feels super responsive in day-to-day use, although it did feel like the Pixel phones had it beat in terms of touch responsiveness – again showing the shortcomings of pure benchmark numbers.

OnePlus has said it’s introduced an upgrade file system algorithm to help with app launch speed and it did feel like large games loaded that much quicker. Asphalt 8 loads up almost instantly and there’s no dropped frames while in-game. The OnePlus 3T isn’t going to leave you waiting impatiently at every turn.

As for call performance, I never encountered any problems with call quality. The microphone picked up my voice perfectly well, while I could hear callers without any issues. Using the OnePlus 3T as a loudspeaker, it delivers a surprising amount of volume, which was similarly the case with the original OnePlus 3. It’s not going to deliver particularly impressive sound quality, but if you’re just after sheer volume it does surprisingly well especially if you want to casually watch something on YouTube.

ONEPLUS 3T – CAMERA

OnePlus hasn’t changed the rear-facing camera from the OnePlus 3. It’s the same Sony IMX 298 16-megapixel sensor with 1.12-micron size pixels. This is paired with an F/2.0 aperture lens that supports Phase Detect Autofocus with optical image stabilisation.

What is new, though, is the introduction of electronic image stabilisation when shooting video, which allows for up to 4K at 30fps. This greatly reduces the jittery shakiness that plagued the OnePlus 3’s video.

Other OnePlus 3 camera features like the dynamic de-noise and Auto HDR return. Even with the latter engaged, which only operates under ideal scenarios, there’s no shutter lag and the Camera app responds well. OnePlus says the 6GB of RAM is actually used for the Camera app to help boost its responsiveness.

OnePlus 3T

Camera performance compared to the OnePlus 3 hasn’t changed a great deal, and the OIS helps to maintain less blurry shots under low-light. Still, OIS isn’t a miracle worker and the ISO still tends to push up to noisier levels faster than some rivals, due to a smaller aperture and sensor pixel size. So while you get workable shutter speeds, low-light photographs can be noisier than I would like.

There’s a robust level of manual controls for those who want to get more creative with their shots, allowing you to pick your shutter speed, white balance and ISO among others. RAW support will also appeal to those who prefer to do their own post-processing, rather than leaving the image processing decisions to the phone.

OnePlus 3T

Performance from the rear camera overall is still great for the money, although not quite as amazing as when the OnePlus 3 launched at £309/$463.5 (which then subsequently increased post-Brexit).

OnePlus 3T

Colours are vibrant

OnePlus 3T


OnePlus 3T

Low-light is generally good but can be noisier than rivals

OnePlus 3T


OnePlus 3T

The OIS helps the camera to produce sharp shots

A bigger change has been made to the front-facing camera, which now uses a 16-megapixel Samsung 3P8SP sensor and an F/2.0 aperture lens. It’s more than adequate for selfies or for video chatting as it’s a far higher resolution than you’ll find on most phones. Photos are sharper than what most front-facing cameras dole out and there’s even smile detection for automatically capturing your best you.

OnePlus 3T

OnePlus 3T on the left, OnePlus 3 on the right.

The original OnePlus 3 had a habit of producing smeared skin tones, whereas the OnePlus 3T looks less like the lens has been coated in vaseline and produces generally sharper results. For the narcissists out there, the selfie camera upgrade is a decent improvement.

ONEPLUS 3T – BATTERY LIFE AND CHARGING

OnePlus has upgraded the battery to 3,400mAh over the 3,000mAh in the OnePlus 3. That’s a 13% increase. This goes some way to alleviating some of my complaints about the OnePlus 3, which could sometimes struggle to make it to the end of the day.

For me, the OnePlus 3T could make it a day even under more intense usage. On a typical day I’d get to bed and there would be anywhere between 20-30% remaining. The fact that the display isn’t Quad HD no doubt helps with its battery performance. An hour of Netflix streaming with the display set to 60% brightness also only saw a drop of 9%, which is very good. Half an hour of Asphalt 8 took the battery down 7%.

OnePlus 3T

OnePlus has its own quick charging technology, which it calls Dash Charge. This is dependent on using the supplied OnePlus Dash Charge USB wall adaptor and OnePlus USB-C cable. The reason for this is because all of the temperature regulation happens in the adaptor itself, meaning only thermal regulated current reaches the phone, so it shouldn’t overheat or have to throttle its charging. This also means that if you’re using the OnePlus 3T while it charges, the charge rate won’t need to slow down.

Dash Charge means that you don’t strictly have to leave the OnePlus 3T plugged in overnight if there’s a reasonable amount of charge remaining. Instead, I would sometimes leave it disconnected overnight, wake up, quickly plug it in for half an hour while I got ready and then there would be enough juice to get me through the day.

Topping up the power quickly becomes an option. The only annoyance is that charging through a non-Dash charger can be a little slow, so if you can, carry the Dash charger with you.

OnePlus 3T

SHOULD I BUY THE ONEPLUS 3T?

The cynical among us would say the OnePlus 3T merely corrects the shortcomings of the original OnePlus 3, and gives OnePlus a reason to hike the price up again. But the hardware improvements do go some way to justifying the OnePlus 3T’s creation and, in fairness, the OnePlus 3 was an already excellent template to build upon.

The OnePlus 3T remains the best Android phone you can buy in its price category with fantastic performance, great build quality and an improved battery life, but now that it’s edged towards £400 and beyond, it’s not quite as big a bargain as its predecessor.

VERDICT

The OnePlus 3T is again the best Android smartphone you can buy for the money.

(trustedreviews.com, https://goo.gl/BTKVov)

 

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