OnePlus 5T Review: Now I’m a Believer

I purchased the OnePlus 2 in 2015, and was generally disappointed. Sure, it came in at a price point of $350, and it had all of the latest specs. But at the time, the LG G4 I was attempting to replace was so much better in terms of camera, build quality, design.

Then in the beginning of last year, I purchased a OnePlus 3T from Best Buy for full price, and set it up against my long-in-the-teeth Galaxy Note 5, and my newer Huawei P9 Plus. And while it performed well, it simply was too boring in my eyes to warrant keeping around.

You see, since I own so many phones, the ones I like are those that are unique and memorable. Not the ones that focus on being Spartan. While the OnePlus 3T was a good phone, it was incredibly boring. The design was a little outdated, the camera was just okay, and the software, while having a few good features, did not have any quirks that made learning the experience an adventure.

I didn’t let that stop me. With the latest release of the OnePlus 6, I was able to get a OnePlus 5T on deep discount (which isn’t common) and I am much more impressed with it than its predecessors.

Design

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The 5T has a bit of a pedestrian design. Many have compared it to the iPhone 7+, but I don’t think the design is unique enough to really draw just one parallel. I like the fact that OnePlus stuck with an aluminum design for at least this model, because I still think there is a place for aluminum phones on the market. There is a light chamfer around the ridge of the phone that looks nice, but actually makes the phone tougher to grip. The phone is quite smooth, and slipped out of my hands a couple times.

The display might not be anything to write home about, but it’s much better than many of the phones released last year. I prefer it over the Pixel 2 XL’s display, as well as much most LCDs.

 

Camera

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I know that the camera quality of OnePlus devices is often the sticking point for many people comparing it against, say, and Pixel 2, but I didn’t have this issue. While I generally prefer the pictures from most other flagships I’ve used, I didn’t think the 5T’s camera was bad. I’m not sure exactly why they needed two sensors, except for portrait mode. I would have been fine with one. There were even a couple pictures I took that came out better than the equivalents on the Pixel 2 XL.

 

Performance and Daily Use

I did not recognize better or worse performance in the OnePlus 5T relative to any of the phones I’ve used this year. Those include the Galaxy S9+, the Huawei Mate 10 Pro, and the Google Pixel 2 XL. What was notably better in the OnePlus than its competitors (namely the Pixel) was the navigation gestures. By the end of my use, I was just as familiar with the OnePlus gestures as I am with the native navigation bar, and I wish all phones had them. It is an easy way to get around the phone quickly without losing screen real estate to the nav bar.

The only downside is the multitasking gesture is not as smooth as I would prefer. The swipe up and hold gesture is completely dependent on the delay. The iPhone X, by contrast, doesn’t have this problem. On that phone, if you swipe up and to the side, it immediately brings up the app switcher view without delay. I found that frustrating with the OnePlus 5T.

I averaged a little over three and a half hours of screen on time during my use, which isn’t great. I found it useable in most cases, but I wouldn’t consider this phone an endurance phone.

 

Software

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In addition from the navigation gestures that really improve the user experience, there are a few other software tweaks that are pleasant additions to an otherwise clean experience. While I didn’t use the shelf (a short swipe right from the home screen) all that often, it wasn’t invasive enough for me to feel the need to disable it. By contrast, I couldn’t stand Samsung’s Bixby home screen.

 

Other

  • OnePlus included a case in the box, and while there isn’t anything exciting about it, I’ve primarily used it. The reason is it is a good form fit, and doesn’t take away from the (somewhat boring) design of the phone.
  • The fingerprint sensor on the 5T is one of the worst I’ve used in a long time. I found myself often hitting the edge of the sensor first, to which I would get an unpleasant buzz, and I would then have to take my finger completely off before it would register again. So sliding your finger into place often did not work.
  • Beyond the fingerprint sensor, I really wish OnePlus used a higher quality haptic motor. Typing on the keyboard with vibration on is actually really difficult because the feedback is so delayed after you actually hit a key.

 

Bottom Line

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For the longest time, I’ve seen new OnePlus releases and thought, “sure, that’s great, but what’s the compromise?” I don’t think there is much compromise at all with the 5T. While you are not getting the latest specs or best camera anymore, I think most people won’t notice those things in day to day use. Especially if you are moving from an older phone.

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