[First Cut] OnePlus 5T: It’s about the spectacle, not the specs

 

When the first rumors of the OnePlus 5T came to our ears (and they came within a few weeks of the launch of the OnePlus 5), many were reasonably sure that this would be a large spec-oriented update to the OnePlus 5, most probably in terms of the processor (Qualcomm Snapdragon 836 as per the rumor mills). There was a reason for this: last year OnePlus’ update to the OnePlus 3, the OnePlus 3T, had been largely in terms of a faster processor and a better selfie camera, but other things had largely remained the same.

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Look not at the spec sheet…

Well, this time we think OnePlus has flipped matters around with the OnePlus 5T. This time, the innards remain largely the same as we saw in the OnePlus 5. The Snapdragon 835 processor aided by 6GB or 8 GB of RAM and paired with 64 GB or 128 GB of storage remains in place. And the dual cameras on the rear are still 20 and 16-megapixel ones, while the one in front remains a 16-megapixel affair. Round that off with a 3300 mAh battery with support for Dash Charge, connectivity options like dual-SIM, 4G, NFC, GPS, Bluetooth and Wi-Fi, and a simple look at the spec sheet would seem to indicate that it is business as usual. These are great specs of course, but not too far from what the OnePlus 5 brought to us.

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…but at the phone itself (do switch it on, though)!

Our first glance of the OnePlus 5T was a little underwhelming, to be honest. As in the case of the specs, the design language too – at first glance – seemed the same. Like the OnePlus 5, the 5T is more curvey in nature and has Gorilla Glass in front, aluminum at the back (available only in midnight black at launch, though). The metallic display/power button is on the right, the volume rocker and Alert Slider button on the left, and the USB Type C port, speaker grille and 3.5 mm audio jack are on the base, leaving the top plain. Even the dual cameras are similarly positioned on the back, which is black metal. The 5T seems slightly larger and wider and very slightly heavier than the OnePlus 5 but is exactly as slim at 7.3 mm.


Switch the phone on, though, and it literally is a whole new world. For the OnePlus 5T sees OnePlus join the 18:9 aspect ration display race. And while the side bezels have not been as brutally knocked off as on the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the Xiaomi Mi Mix 2, they have receded to an extent that OnePlus has been able to squeeze a 6.01 inch display into a frame that seems only marginally larger than its predecessor – 156.1 x 75 x 7.3 mm as compared to 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.3 mm. It is a higher resolution display also – 2160 x 1080 as compared to 1920 x 1080 on the OnePlus 5, although both share the same pixel density of 401 ppi. And yes, it remains an optic AMOLED display, one that is not as eye-popping as those on Samsung devices but definitely brighter than the relatively dull (“realistic”?) one on the Pixel 2 XL.

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And of course, the fact that the bezels have been squeezed means that the fingerprint scanner goes on the back of the device, for the first time in OnePlus history. It remains a ceramic one, but we have to confess that it makes the phone look slightly more “routine,” although it also frees it from the “looks like an iPhone” accusation. All in all, the OnePlus 5T does cut a very different figure from the OnePlus 5, especially when switched on. It is smart enough and compact for a device with a 6.01-inch display.

There are changes below that hood too…

Which is not to say that there are zero changes in hardware. Those cameras may sound similar to the ones on the OnePlus 5, but OnePlus has this time ditched the telephoto lens and instead opted for dual cameras with similar, larger f/1.7 apertures. The idea is to deliver better low light photography. Which is not to say zooming in has been sacrificed altogether – OnePlus says that software tweaks ensure that zooming in will not result in a loss of too much detail. Portrait mode too has been improved. And that front facing camera? Yes, it is still a 16.0-megapixel one but it allows users to unlock the phone using their faces – it is called Face Unlock. So you can unlock your phone by looking at it. Yes, yes, sounds familiar but hey, there’s a fingerprint scanner too!

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There are also some touches in Oxygen OS – the phone runs on version 4.7 of it, which is based on Android 7.1.1 (a bit of a letdown for those who expected Oreo) – which include running parallel apps (login to the same app using two different accounts), icon packs as well as the ability to search for image based on location. It still largely remains very similar to stock Android, and if previous experience is anything to go by, should run smoothly (bugs permitting – remember the OnePlus 5?).

One (Plus) small step or a giant leap?

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All this for Rs 32,999 for the 6GB RAM/64GB ROM version (and Rs 37,999 for 8GB RAM/128GB ROM), which frankly places the OnePlus 5T right up there against its old adversary, Xiaomi, which has the Mi Mix 2 in the same range (the LG G6 is also hovering in the vicinity, and there is life left in the Honor 8 Pro, although neither is being marketed as aggressively as a few months ago). And of course, its very own OnePlus 5. Should those with the OnePlus 5 consider upgrading? We will know for sure only after having used the device extensively. But on the surface, we think that while the OnePlus 5T sticks to the OnePlus formula of great specs at relatively more affordable prices, the most compelling thing about the OnePlus 5T is that display. Yes, it definitely seems a much bigger change than the OnePlus 3T was over the OnePlus 3 – that display and fingerprint button make it very distinct from its predecessor. But is it a small step or a giant leap forward? Stay tuned for our review.

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