A week with the OnePlus 5T: Hundreds less than competing flagships with minimal trade-offs

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The new OnePlus 5T just launched last week, starting at just $499. While I was hoping to share it with viewers on the New Day Northwest show last week it arrived after recording, but I popped my primary T-Mobile SIM inside and have been using it every day since then.

The last OnePlus device I tested was the OnePlus 3 and it was very impressive. Given that today's Google, Apple, and Samsung phones are near or greater than $1,000, it's prudent to consider phones priced at $500 to see if there is enough value in paying double. After a week with the OnePlus 5T, I again consider my sanity in choosing to pay top dollar for a smartphone. The OnePlus 5T has also earned a spot on my current 10 best smartphones list.

Using other phones over the past year has also given me a good perspective on software updates and the ability of different companies to release timely updates. Google, Apple, BlackBerry Mobile, HTC, Essential, and Moto have done well, but if you buy a Samsung, Huawei, or LG phone I wouldn't count on anything more than Android security patches. OnePlus has a track record of timely updates with an Oreo beta already available for the OnePlus 5.

Specifications

  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 octa-core
  • Display: 6.01 inch 2160x1080 pixels resolution 18:9 AMOLED with 2.5D Gorilla Glass 5
  • Operating system: OxygenOS based on Android 7.1.1 Nougat
  • RAM: 6/8GB
  • Storage: 64/128GB internal
  • Cameras: Rear 16 megapixel f/1.7 with 1.12µm pixel size and 20 megapixel f/1.7 with 1.0µm pixel size. Front 16 megapixel with f/2.0 aperture and 1.0µm pixel size
  • Battery: 3300 mAh with Dash Charge fast charging technology
  • Wireless connectivity: 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac WiFi, Bluetooth 5.0, NFC
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, G-Sensor, Gyroscope, Compass, Ambient Light, Proximity
  • Dimensions: 156.1 x 75 x 7.3 mm and 162 grams

The only specs that don't match the $900-$1,000 flagships is the lack of dust/water resistance and the use of a 1080p display.

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Hardware first thoughts

Most phones today are glass sandwiches, which facilitates the ability to incorporate the convenience of wireless charging while also making the phones a bit more fragile. I've personally always been a fan of the unibody aluminum phones so was pleased to see that is still present here on the OnePlus 5T. The back metal is curved into the sides while being fairly thin at 7.3 mm so it feels fantastic in your hand.

Dual cameras are all the rage today and while most flagships have them, we even see them on mid-rangers like the Moto X4. OnePlus uses the dual cameras to help apply depth effects

Centered rear fingerprint scanners are brilliant for pulling the phone out of your pocket and up into position to use it as you can unlock it as you make this movement. However, I found I rarely had to use the rear fingerprint scanner as the new face unlock worked flawlessly nearly ever time. Face unlock isn't as technologically advanced as Apple's Face ID and it isn't used for payment authorization, but it measures 100 different points on your face and I never once had it false identify my family instead of me. Both of these security methods unlock and then take you right to the home screen, while Apple requires another swipe action to use your phone.

The 6-inch display packed in the same body as the OnePlus 5 is excellent. While it is a 1080p display, note that Samsung's latest high resolution displays default to this resolution setting to help with battery life and I never switch to the higher resolution as 1080p is perfectly capable for my eyes and likely for most people. The OnePlus 5T has an AMOLED display too, made by Samsung, and it looks fantastic.

One of the unique features of OnePlus devices that no one else has yet copied is the alert slider found on the upper left side. There are three positions for this button and these are labeled silent, do not disturb, and ring. Within the settings, you can customize the behavior of each of these positions and it truly is a brilliant feature that distinguishes OnePlus from other Android players.

Software first thoughts

Oxygen OS is a fairly stock Android experience with some fantastic options to help you make the device extremely efficient and customized to your particular needs. Most of these particular OnePlus features are found in the settings.

You can customize the alert slider, on-screen buttons, gestures, status bar, and font. I love that you can auto-hide the bottom on-screen buttons for a truly full screen experience. You can also setup actions for long press and double tap of these bottom buttons or swap them around if you are used to Samsung's arrangement.

Gestures are convenient ways to enhance the efficiency of your phone and include options for the rear fingerprint scanner and screen off gestures. You also have full control over what appears in your top status bar so you can see just what you want to see.

While the phone is mostly stock Android, there are a couple OnePlus apps. These include an image gallery, voice recorder, file manager, and camera app. I'm a fan of custom image galleries that give me more editing tools than you can find in Google Photos.

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Daily usage experiences

With the recent price drop, the Essential Phone is the closest competitor to the OnePlus 5T with both starting now at $499. The Essential Phone doesn't have a 3.5mm headset jack and has less RAM than the OnePlus 5T, but it does have a minimal IP54 dust and water resistant rating with an awesome titanium and ceramic design. Both have dual cameras that are solid, but I personally like having a secondary mono lens for cool black and white photos.

The OnePlus 5T offers a number of customization options to help you use it in the most efficient manner. I am testing the 8GB RAM/128GB internal storage model, that is available now for $559. We will soon see an upgrade to Android 8.0 Oreo and there are also continued tweaks to the camera promised from OnePlus.

OnePlus also has several attractive, functional, and reasonably priced case options for the OnePlus 5T. These cases range in price from $17.95 to $26.95.

The OnePlus 5T is a solid mid-level priced phone with flagship specifications and performance. Before you shell out $900 to $1,000 for a new smartphone, you may want to take a closer look at reviews of the OnePlus 5T.

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