OnePlus 5T review: Just a facelift, this is not

Intro

There was a small part of me that was worried that the OnePlus 5T would be a phone of missed opportunities. Although OnePlus equipped the new phone with a whole bunch of goodies, one of the biggest things I wanted to see upgraded was left untouched.

So, when it came time to review the device, I made it my quest to find out if OnePlus had made the right call. And after a couple of weeks with it, my answer is still no. But, the rest of the phone is so good that I don’t think it matters as much.

Wait, is it really that good?

Well, yeah. I definitely think so. The original OnePlus 5 was already an excellent smartphone. It performed phenomenally every day, making it one of the fastest phones I’ve used in 2017. The handset also featured the best camera on any OnePlus device coupled with one of the best built bodies on any OnePlus handset.

Combine that with a near-stock Android experience, a 3.5mm headphone jack, a lighting fast fingerprint scanner plus lightning fast battery charging and you’ve got one killer device. But it wasn’t without its flaws and it sure looks like OnePlus took a lot of that to heart because the 5T addresses almost all of its predecessor’s issues.

OK, what did they fix and improve?

For starters, that screen. You’ll almost immediately notice that the OnePlus 5T has a gorgeous new 18:9 6.01” Optic AMOLED display that takes up nearly every inch of usable space on the front in a very 2017 fashion. It gains a few more horizontal pixels, pushing resolution to a crisp 2160×1080 Full HD+ pixel resolution. Those additional pixels allow it to maintain the 401ppi that I think is frankly good enough for any phone display.

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But the more anal of you will definitely notice the subtle but noticeable eradication of the “jelly scrolling” effect that plagued the original OnePlus 5. No matter how I swiped — vertically or horizontally — I couldn’t get the phone’s UI elements to jelly out. So, if you’re someone who hated the jelly scrolling effect, the 5T is the OnePlus for you.

It’s still crisp, with great viewing angles and vibrant colours but now with 100% less jellying.

That said, because of this much larger screen, real estate on the front of the handset becomes scarce. As a result, the fingerprint scanner has been moved to the back, something I doubt everyone will be happy with.

To alleviate the lack of front-facing biometric security options, OnePlus slapped on a facial recognition feature called Face Unlock. It’s not as safe as a fingerprint scanner, but it’s super fast and fairly accurate.

I don’t think it can quite replace the front-mounted fingerprint scanner because you can’t unlock it when the phone’s on the desk. You still have to lift it up to your face and if you’re already going to do that, you might as well just reach back and use the fingerprint scanner instead.

Good screen aside, I also think OnePlus has improved its primary camera, at least by a little bit. This new unit ditches the f/2.6 short telephoto lens so now both the 20MP sensor and the 16MP sensor has f/1.7 aperture lenses with the same focal length.

Images look that little bit better but it’s not something that I think you’d necessarily notice. It’s still not a top-dog contender but it also doesn’t really leave you wanting for a better smartphone camera.

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I do lament the continued omission of optical image stabilisation because I think it hurts photography way more than the phone’s videography and I usually prefer taking photos on phones. This phone has some sick EIS for videos. It’s so good, in fact, that I’d liken it to Sony’s excellent SteadyShot technology. Some handheld/walking video footage is stabilised so well that it feels like you were using a gimbal like the DJI Osmo Mobile or Zhiyun Smooth Q.

However, aggressive EIS does have its drawbacks. Sometimes if you want to do quick pans or flicks, the phone can overcorrect  for the movement in a way that it looks freakishly robotic. To get an idea of what I’m talking about, all the handheld/walking footage in this video was shot on the OnePlus 5T’s camera (front and back):

This video was also shot entirely on the OnePlus 5T so you can get an idea of the image quality: