Following last summer’s OnePlus 3, the company released an updated version of its flagship device in November: the OnePlus 3T. Serving as a minimal upgrade, we explained the differences between the two smartphones earlier. But being a first time OnePlus user myself, I wanted to give the 3T the review treatment. How well does it fare?
Design and build
Not many handsets have the iconic look the OnePlus 3T sports. The all-metal uni-body construction and premium feel is remarkable. It checks all boxes and the company has done well to pay attention to every single detail, from the chamfered edges to the machine-drilled ports and the darker gunmetal colour.
You might think the device is a bit too large to handle but it certainly didn’t feel that way. The slim and lightweight body made the handset easy to hold and despite it having a metal finish, it wasn’t too slippery in the hand. Nothing was wrong with the OnePlus 3’s design in the first place and the company has stuck with it for the 3T.
On the front of the device, there’s the 5.5-inch Full HD AMOLED display. Although not as sharp as Quad HD panels, the display offers a lot to like about it. At 385 nits, the brightness is enough to use the phone under harsh sunlight. Colours have good contrast, deeper blacks allow for greater immersion and good viewing angles make the display easy to see even at an angle. This may be particularly useful when you’re watching videos with a few friends.
But the bottom firing single speaker was a bit of a disappointment. It’s loud enough for listening in noisier environments but there is a fair bit of distortion. The audio is not very clear and is easily disturbed if you accidentally cover the speaker holes. Having previously owned smartphones with stereo speakers, this drawback was definitely noticeable. But audio via headphones was excellent and no, the 3.5mm headphone jack has not gone anywhere.
Something that was a bit new to me was the hardware alert slider. I thought I’d bring it up while discussing sound because its main use is to toggle between sound profiles. After initial testing, I didn’t find myself using it too often. But for people that constantly have to silence their smartphone, the alert slider will make it a lot faster and simpler.
The heart of the OnePlus 3T is an updated Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor. It is not quite the latest chipset but it definitely does wonders. The phone remained very responsive in day-to-day tasks and I was impressed with its fluidity. The 6GB RAM on board also made switching between applications very easy and graphic-intensive games such as Asphalt 8 and Temple Run 2 ran smoothly with the Adreno 530 GPU.
The phone’s UI takes its cues from a stock version of Android you would typically find on Pixel and Nexus devices. Oxygen OS on top of Android 7.0 Nougat worked great, especially because of the customisation it offered. Changing to a darker theme or toggling between on and off screen buttons are some of the options it provides among others such as display calibration, gesture support and a pocket mode to avoid accidental touches when the phone is in your pants.
Every time I took it out of my pocket, it was a joy to unlock. The fingerprint sensor on the 3T felt truly remarkable with unlock times beating flagships like the iPhone 7 and the Samsung Galaxy S7. While it’s a minor feature, many companies overlook this and OnePlus has done well not to. For me, this smartphone brand has managed to make a better optimised software and hardware combination using Android than most others.
Focusing on the photography side of things, the primary shooter is 16MP. With an f/2.0 aperture and 4K video support, it impressed overall especially because of how fast quick-launching the app via the power button was. During the day, there was high dynamic range in pictures and colour reproduction was good. However, some pictures looked duller than others and didn’t quite “pop”. In darker scenarios, pictures had some noise and grain to them but majority of the detail was preserved. Optical and electronic image stabilisation working in harmony managed some smooth 4K footage, though it didn’t have the sharpness that the Google Pixel offers. While the camera is nothing to sneeze at, this is where OnePlus has cut the most corners.
On the front, we’ve got a 16MP selfie snapper. This one’s got the same f/2.0 aperture but can only record Full HD video. In my use, pictures offered tremendous detail and the lens was wide enough for group selfies. However, a slightly slower shutter speed made for blurry images and blown out backgrounds, especially at night.
Nowadays, battery life is crucial in smartphones and once again, the OnePlus 3T delivers. The 3,400mAh battery got me 5.5 hours of screen-on time daily. This involved using a fair bit of data, watching YouTube videos and playing the occasional game or two. Given the brightness was set to a minimum, you may get a difference in performance.
In any case, the company’s Dash Charge function is one of the best for recharging. In a 30-minute charge, an empty battery jumped to 55 per cent almost every time. Even when on the go, a quick recharge should get you enough juice for most occasions.
The OnePlus 3T is a powerhouse of a device. The premium build and well-optimised software package rivals many competing flagship smartphones. But that certainly doesn’t make it the best device available on the market. It is not water-resistant, nor does it allow expansion of storage via microSD. Additionally, more traditional high-end smartphones pack sharper Quad HD displays and offer a more polished camera experience.
However, it is the price of the device that sets it apart from any other smartphone. To offer flagship specifications at a significantly reduced price is a highly compelling option for users and dual-sim support adds even more value for money. With the 64GB model selling for Dh1,699 via Souq, you cannot go wrong with the OnePlus 3T, especially if you value user experience and price the most in a smartphone.