The OnePlus 5T launched in November 2017, just five months after the release of the OnePlus 5, and was initially built for the Premium market. At launch time, the OnePlus 5T was priced at $559 for the 8 GB RAM/128 GB and $499 for the 4GB RAM/64 GB (at publishing time, it is found at $460 on Amazon).
The OnePlus 5T features the same Snapdragon 835 and 8GB RAM as its older OnePlus 5 sibling but gets a major display size upgrade. One could wonder why the brand expects people to buy a smartphone with the 2017 Qualcomm flagship processor, knowing that the next-gen would be released imminently.
The answer is that OnePlus made the upgrades where it counts, delivering a performance-packed, well-built, 6-inch device at a sweet price. In fact, it is the best price for a device featuring the combo Snapdragon 835+8GB RAM.
On May 6, 2018, OnePlus released the OnePlus 6 (its brand-new flagship and successor of the OnePlus 5T. We will review the OnePlus 6 soon, and let you know how it compares to the 5T.
Please note: Although this product was created to address the Premium market, the truth is that many products will move from segments as their price are pushed down over time. We consider phones to be Premium when the price ranges from $400 to $600.
The OnePlus 5T is officially sold out in the US. since March 2018, so you cannot buy it from the OnePlus website. It is only available from Amazon. We did review it anyway since many people are looking for an affordable phone with good performance, and they could be interested in our opinion of the 5T.
Key Specifications and competition
- 6.01” AMOLED Display (2160×1080)
- 16 Mepgapixel Camera, f/1.7 aperture
- Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 platform 8 RAM, 128 GB of Storage (no microSD)
- 3300 mAh battery capacity
- Android 1.1
Using cost as principal selector, we chose many cellphones which will be used to assess how the OnePlus OnePlus 5T fits in its immediate smartphone landscape.
Some people like to compare it to the more pricey Galaxy Note 8 as it offers the same hardware configuration: 8GB/snapdragon 835. However, at $875, which is 66% more expensive, with a long list of better features (8% more screen surface more, waterproof, better camera, better industrial design, better looking…), we did not think it would make sense to consider the Note 8 in the above list.
- Good build quality made of aluminum alloy body
- Switch notifications button
- Lack of IP certification – no water resistance
- Light-and-thin, for a tall 6-inch device
With a width of 75mm (2.95 inches) and a thickness of 7.3mm (0.29 inches), the smartphone feels comfortable in hand. We use U.S M-size gloves for male hand-size reference, so this will vary from person to person. The 156 mm long device weighs 162 grams (5.71 oz) and we would consider that weight to be medium weight.
When compared with some other 6-inch products in the Premium category, the OnePlus 5T is on the lighter and thinner side, with only the Honor 10 tipping the scale below, at 153g (7.7 mm).
The smaller (149 mm height) Huawei P20 weights 165g (7.65 mm), while the similarly sized Honor View 10 weights 6.2% more, at 172g (7 mm). The longer (159mm) Galaxy S8 Plus is the heaviest our selected group at 173g (8.1 mm).
This handset design has good performance in relation to its size. From another standpoint, how much battery capacity the user has available is excellent for a device of this size. The screen display-to-body ratio of 79.6% is also quite good in absolute terms and as mentioned earlier a 6.6% increase from the previous model (OnePlus 5).
Right out of the box, the OnePlus 5T feels premium, featuring a similar aluminum alloy chassis as its predecessor. A rounded form factor has replaced the sharp edges of the OnePlus 5, with a larger display (6-inch vs. 5.5-inch). The display-to-body ratio is larger that the previous model as well (79.6% vs 73%). Therefore, the manufacturer had to move the fingerprint to the back. The new model is a little taller and now delivers an 18:9 ratio (vs. 16:9 ratio for the OnePlus 5).
Looking at how the smartphone was built, we estimate that the risk of cracking during a landing on a hard surface to be fairly low unless it lands on the front (glass). You can refer to our detailed article about how phones could be constructed to avoid cracks upon drops: How the LG V20 Was Designed To Survive Drops
The OnePlus 5T is not rugged at all; it does not feature any water resistance or dust protection IP rating, nor does it have a U.S Military MIL-STD 810G rating. This is the downside of the design. At this price point, the absence of water protection is disappointing.
Of course, this does not mean that the smartphone has not designed with special care for potential dangers. It means that its toughness has not been certified by a neutral lab.
The OnePlus 5T display uses an AMOLED panel, branded Optic AMOLED and custom built by Samsung, according to OnePlus.
OLED is a radically different display technology (than LCD) that has been widely available to smartphones, mainly thanks to Samsung. The fundamental difference between OLED and LCD displays is how light is emitted. With LCD, there is a small number of white light emitters (1-2 for handsets, 2-100 for TVs) and black pixels are possible by “blocking” the white light with a filter. Unfortunately, using a filter leads to “light bleeding” and “black color” that is dark-gray.
With OLED, every pixel emitts its own light. This also means that creating a black pixel simply means leaving it OFF. As a result, black color is really black and other colors are more straightforward to control without using complex filters and color control technologies such as Quantum Dots and Nano Dots. You can read our complete LCD vs. OLED article which goes deeper into the details.
Brightness & image quality
- Impressive brightness at 775 NITs (our measurement)
- Standard FHD resolution for an 18:9 ratio (updated from 16:9 last model)
- Large 6.01” display with very good 80% screen-to-display ratio
The resolution of 2160×1080 would is considered high in absolute terms, and compared to the competition, it would be the norm for this price point.
The $100 more expensive Galaxy S8 Plus is the only device in our selected list to feature a significantly higher resolution at 2960×1444, for the largest display (6.2” vs 6.01” for the OnePlus 5T), and the highest screen-to-body ratio (83% vs 79.6% for the OnePlus 5T). The pixel density is pretty standard at 402 ppi and the lowest compared to the 5.8” Huawei P20 (429 ppi), the 5.84” Honor 10 (432 ppi), 5.99” Honore View 10 and the 531 ppi Galaxy S8 Plus.
The display brightness of is 775 NITs is impressive. In general, more intense light is needed to watch the screen content on a sunny day (or bright environment). Higher brightness is responsible for better image quality in very common situations.
In comparison, the competitive devices feature lower brightness: the AMOLED Galaxy S8 Plus only delivers 600 NITs, and the three other smartphones equipped with various types of LCD displays provide 520 NiTs (Huawei P20), 470 NITs (Honor 10), 531 NITs (Honor View 10).
- Primary camera sensor size (20.28 mm²) and Aperture (f/1.7) and resolution (16 MP)
- No Optical Image Stabilization (OIS)
- Secondary 20 MP camera for low-light, bokeh and digital zoom
- No dedicated zoom lens
- EIS for up to 4K video
In the OnePlus 5T, the camera aperture of f/1.7 is very nice and the sensor size of 20.28 mm2 would be considered large (for a smartphone). In comparison, only the more expensive Galaxy S8 Plus features a larger sensor ( ~23.52 mm²) while both the Honor 10 and the Honor View 10 delivers the same size, and the Huawei P20’s sensor lack some surface at ~15.64 mm². Only the Galaxy S8 Plus delivers a f/1.7 aperture while all the other stand at f1/8.
Sensor resolution (16 MP) in relation to image quality – Primary camera
The 16 Megapixel resolution should not be used as a general metric for photo quality but on a sunny day or in very bright light situations, Megapixel could be a good proxy for photographic detail and sharpness. For example, on a sunny day, a cityscape photo with a higher megapixel count could capture finer details. Between 12 MP, 16 MP and 21 MP differences in small details can be quite noticeable, if printed or viewed on a large and/or high-PPI display.
In dark scenes situations, the high Megapixel count (>12) does not matter as much. Also, the physical size of each sensor pixel is critical: with higher megapixel counts, sensing pixels (sensels) may have to be smaller. Each sensor pixel obtains less light information and in dark conditions, it is better for the overall photo quality to gather more light with fewer (but bigger) sensels than the opposite.
It is a balance that needs to be achieved. Today, 12 Megapixel seem to be the best sensor trade-off between sharpness, low-light and auto-focus performance. Techniques like Pixel Binning are a way to get high megapixel counts, with good low-light performance, but it works better on very large sensors.
No Optical Image Stabilization
The OnePlus 5T‘s camera does not have Optical Image Stabilization (OIS) on the primary camera module. The lack of OIS support will slightly lower the chances to snap great photos, especially in low-light situations.
OIS helps to achieve better image clarity and higher low-light performance by offsetting tiny hand-shaking motion. OIS makes it practical to leave the shutter open longer to gather more light (longer exposure). Optical and digital stabilization are different, with digital stabilization only suitable to improve video recording smoothness.
Secondary 20 MP camera: enhanced low light performance, bokeh and digital zoom
Today, most premium mobile camera systems feature two cameras modules where the secondary sensor is sometimes used to improve low-light performance. OnePlus brands its proprietary implementation of this technique “Intelligent Pixel Technology” and explains: “by merging 4 pixels into one when ambient light is lower than approximately 10 lux, it reduces noise in low-light environments and enhances clarity”.
We have explained what Pixel Binning does in Cameras, but the short story is that it can help gather more brightness, sometimes at the expense of sharpness. By combining images from both cameras, it is possible to mitigate the less of details, while gaining brightness. The LG V30S popularized binning as a forefront technology for low-light photography, and the Huawei P20 Pro Camera also uses that tech.
Thanks to the secondary sensor, the OnePlus 5T delivers a nice bokeh effect because the camera app can build a better depth map, than when using a single lens (see samples in the image quality paragraph).
The OnePlus 5T does not feature an optical zoom, unlike its predecessor the OnePlus 5 (1.6X optical zoom+ 0.4X digital – confirmed by OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei). We suppose that the 5T’s secondary 20 MP sensor may be used to perform the digital zoom with the “crop-sensor” technique, as known as lossless digital zoom.
A digital zoom enlarges the center of the photo and crops the edges, and when the camera features a sensor with a larger resolution than the resolution of the final image, it enables minimal loss in quality. Since there are more pixels in the sensor (20MP) than in the final photo (16MP), the image can be cropped and the full-size zoomed-in final photo still contains enough pixels to deliver maximum quality.
Autofocus with Phase Detection
The autofocus of the OnePlus 5T camera is based on Phase Detection technology.
Phase-detection AF that started in discrete AF sensor chips in the DSLR days. Then it got integrated into the camera image sensor. It works by having specialized AF pixels sensors that would tell if specific points in the image are in-focus.
This method is very fast and the AF capabilities work well in most cases. AF performance is more or less proportional to the number of hardware AF sensels. Typically, this number can go from dozens to hundreds of Phase-Detection AF points. Phase detection AF is an excellent system, which is only inferior to Dual-Pixel AF.
Image Quality (photo samples)
Daylight photo – 300 nit (our lab)
In optimal lighting conditions (300 nits in our lab settings) the image quality is quite good and comparable to other premium smartphones in the same price range.
In our selected batch of phones (please see the introduction), the Samsung Galaxy 8+ and the Huawei P20 have the lowest resolution at 12MP while the OnePlus 5T stands at 16MP, like the Honor 10 and the Huawei View 10.
Since the resolution is lower, the photo delivered by the S8+ is a little blurrier than the rest, while the Honor 10, Honor view 10 and OnePlus 5t capture equivalently sharp images. In our lab test, we could see less image processing in the photos from the Honor 10 and the Huawei View 10, while the white balance is a hair better for the OnePlus 5T, its camera delivers more natural colors
Shooting outdoors, we had a good experience with the OnePlus 5T . The sky is rendered a little too turquoise compared reality, the OnePlus 6 sibbling produced a little more natural colors, which is good news since it is the latest model in the OnePlus lineup (our review of the OnePlus 6 coming soon). On the same picture, the S8+ was a little more on the yellow side.
For this shot, the OnePlus 5t delivers good image quality, with good color balance, the S8+ tends to be slightly more yellow (warm) and the Honor 10 slightly more blue (cold- like the OnePlus 6) – all cameras are quite well tuned and stay within reasonable color range.
When zoomed at 2X and 3X, the image details are well preserved with the Oneplus 5t, better than the Honor 10. The Honor 10 photo has more noise (see the image comparison slider below). The details of the OnePlus 5T is comparable to the S8+.
The OnePlus 5T 16MP resolution gives a slight edge in sharpness over the Galaxy S8+ photo.
HDR – photo outdoors
The OnePlus 5t does not render all the details in the dark areas – however, the shot had more volume due to a more natural rendering of the sunny areas of the picture.
The Honor 10 camera wants to brighten everything up, so it has better details of the shaded areas (look at the plants on the lower-right), but the trade-off is the slight over-exposure of certain elements in the sun. Neither is 100% ideal, but you may lean towards one style or the other.
The more expensive and recent phones (Oneplus 6 and Galaxy S9+) were slightly better, which is not surprising.
Zoom – just decent. No surprise for a Digital Zoom
The OnePlus 5t does not feature any optical Zoom so the performance is decent, but not impressive, just as we would expect. We shot a comparison photo with the best mobile optical zoom in the market (at the time of publishing), namely the Huawei P20 Pro, so you can see the difference. (see the detail in the photo comparison above)
To be fair, the OnePlus device from last year is not playing in the same price category as the P20 Pro, so we compared to the Honor 10. The OnePlus 5T’s image is noticeably blurrier, and there is a sizable amount of details that is lost upon a closer inspection (see the blown detail in the slider below)
Low light (~005 NITs) – photo lab and outdoors
The OnePlus 5T has low light performance in-line with its category, perhaps with a little over-processed images.
Bokeh / Portrait – photo
In portrait mode, accessible directly from the screen, the Oneplus 5T delivers a good bokeh effect in broad day light. The face of the toy figure we use for our test came out slightly warmer and whiter in color than reality, possibly because the software tried to lightly whiten the skin tone of the person it “recognizes” in the frame. That is just an assumption.
- Uber-fast charging at 63 mAh per minute – thanks to OnePlus “Dash Charge” technology with its unique (red) wider cable (see photo in the box).
- Standard capacity of 3300 mAh for this price point
- No swappable battery
Similar to the older OnePlus 5, the battery capacity of the OnePlus 5T is 3300 mAh, which is very good in general, and standard in its own category.
The Honor View 10 is the winner in terms of largest battery capacity, with 3750 mAh which is 13% more. The others deliver between 3400 mAh and 3500 mAH (Galaxy S8+), which could be considered similar.
Fast charging (great): one key competitive feature of the OnePlus 5t is its uber fast charging capability. At 63 mAh per minute, it is the best in class with the Honor 10 at 66 mAh per minute (our measurement, measured from the time to charge from 0 to 50%).
The Samsung Galaxy S9, a flagship smartphone, delivers only 37 mAh/min, while the most recent Note 9 pushes 49 mAh/min. The Huawei P20 is better at 58 mAh/min."ONE KEY COMPETITIVE FEATURE OF THE ONEPLUS 5T IS ITS UBER FAST CHARGING"
Battery life is one of the most sought-after features of a handset. A key factor is undoubtedly its battery capacity — especially within the same ecosystem (Android, iOS or other). Battery life can be affected by a bunch of factors, but the main ones are the main processor aka SoC, display and wireless radios (LTE broadband, WiFi, the cell towers location and more).
It is impossible to precisely predict through benchmarks how much energy drain YOUR unique usage pattern will induce. However, two things are without a doubt always good:
- A greater battery capacity
- Faster charging
Things such as display brightness, (LTE/WiFi) radio usage and distance to access points will vary too much. Also, the number of apps installed and their activity is unpredictable. Battery capacity is the most important battery-life indicator for YOUR usage.
This product does not have a swappable battery, which is common for handsets these days. Closed batteries cannot be swapped or easily exchanged, but they do allow for smaller designs and slightly larger battery size inside the same product volume.
Since this smartphone has a very large display, keep in mind that larger displays tend to require more power due to the larger surface area to light up. It depends on the brightness levels displays are being viewed at, but the potential for higher energy exists, so a higher battery capacity is better.
This handset has a relatively common screen resolution. Although this may be less competitive from an image quality perspective, having fewer pixels to handle is a bit better for battery life.
This handset main processor is a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 (8 Cores, 2.45 GHz) which has access to 8GB of memory (RAM).
The amount of RAM is paramount for heavy users, or for having many apps/services on the device. When the memory is tight, the handset may become sluggish if the OS must read/write from the slower Flash storage instead. This used to be one of the differentiator between low and high tiers of phones, but this line is blurry now.
Before you focus on the charts, it is important to realize that most benchmarks are only loose indicators, usually for system or graphics performance. It is possible to perceive sharp performance differences among different classes of handsets (entry-level, mid-range vs. high-end), but it is much more difficult to do so within devices of the same class. Benchmarks alone should NOT lead to a smartphone purchase decision. To learn more, read our Are Benchmarks Important? article.
Geekbench 4 Multi (CPU Benchmark)
The CPU performance of the OnePlus 5T is completely comparable to the nearest competitors in same price category (see chart below), so this is not a very important differentiator.
GFXBench Manahattan (Offscr.)
The GPU (graphics) performance is a little more contrasted in our panel of smartphones. With the OnePlus 5T nearly as fast as the Huawei P20 (Kirin 970 SoC) and even faster than a Galaxy S8+ (same SoC Snapdragon 835 with only 4GB RAM vs 8Gb for the OnepLus 5T). We suspect that the performance difference between the two Snapdragon 835 phones may come from more recent GPU drivers (software) in the more recent OnePlus 5T.
Gaming performance numbers apply mainly to intensive games using 3D graphics. Casual games like puzzles and 2D games do not require this kind of performance and can run virtually on any recent phone.
Wireless Broadband Performance
Wireless networks (3G/4G) performance is often thought as peak download/upload speeds, but it is the average speed that counts. These days 4G/LTE is the primary network of interest, but 5G is coming. The higher the peak LTE performance and the better the average actual experience. Additionally, cellular carriers have better and more efficient LTE networks to lower their own costs.
The OnePlus 5T has a CAT12 LTE modem (~600 Mbps). This level of performance is very good in its category and very good in general, although high-end phones with CAT18 LTE will perform nearly twice as fast (~1200 Mbps).
Before wrapping up the review, we would like to show a few more charts so you can see how the OnePlus 5t is positioned when it comes to value for the price.
The Oneplus 5t has been thought and designed and a best-value handset from the get go, and such it is a great success. Premium phone designs are notoriously difficult because they must suffer being compared to much more expensive handsets.
In some ways, Premium OEMs are asking for trouble because the pitch is often “we’ll give you the same performance at a much lower price”. And sometimes it is true, but most of the time the real genius is to compromise where it hurts the least, if at all."THE ONEPLUS 5T OFFERS AN EXCELLENT PERFORMANCE FOR THE PRICE"
For the price, the OnePlus 5t offers excellent design, display size and battery capacity. In fact, the user gets nearly twice the graphics performance, for each dollar spent, when compared to handsets like the iPhone X.
If you prefer great value over the latest specs and performance, the OnePlus 5t is a handset to take a good look at.