OnePlus 7T review: Who needs a flagship?

Are we paying too much for flagship smartphones?

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We say OnePlus launches too many phones a year. And for a large extent, that is true. But with its recent OnePlus 7T, the company has really knocked it out of the park. It embodies everything you would want in a top-end smartphone this year, and costs much lower than traditional flagships at Dh1,949.

Design and feel in hand

With the OnePlus 7T, you get nothing short of premium quality. The smartphone has a good deal of heft to it, yet remains lighter and thinner than the OnePlus 7 Pro we checked out earlier this year. At 190g, it isn’t too heavy and at 8.1mm thin, some may call it chunky but I think it gives you just the right amount of grip.

The alert slider is a feature more manufacturers should implement

As usual, the volume rockers, power button and the alert slider all feel aptly placed and have a nice click to them. And on the overall, the device presents a refined feel. The back is plain except for that bulging circular camera unit at the top rear of the device which I do not personally mind. But if the wobble on the table annoys you, you can just pop on a case, even if it is the one that OnePlus provides out of the box. But do keep in mind that such a big hole for the camera on the back does sacrifice build quality, as seen here and like all other OnePlus smartphones, this one does not come with any official IP-rating for water and dust resistance. As for the fingerprint scanner, it is an optical in-screen type which performs well in varying conditions.

The OnePlus 7T supports dual-SIM card slots

On the bottom edge, there’s the Type-C USB port, capable of OnePlus’ new Warp Charge 30T, a dual-SIM card slot as well as the bottom speaker, which is part of the stereo speaker setup with Dolby Atmos sound on the phone. This complements the display on the OnePlus 7T well, which we will talk about next.

90Hz Fluid AMOLED display

Just like the OnePlus 7 Pro, the 7T comes with OnePlus’ new 90Hz display technology. This is one of its biggest changes compared to the OnePlus 7, in addition to its new 20:9 aspect ratio and slightly higher 2,400 x 1,080 resolution. While the screen does use Corning’s Gorilla Glass protection, we are not sure what version it comes with officially.

Watching content on the 6.55-inch FHD+ display is a treat

The 6.55-inch panel falls a bit short from being a true bezel-less with that tear-drop style notch but in day-to-day usage, it does not get in the way. With the display’s HDR10+ certification and 100 per cent DCI-P3 coverage, I thought content was rich and enjoyable. And even using the display outdoors was no problem.

The 90Hz refresh rate makes everything on screen smoother

More so, the 90Hz smoothness is also welcome. Unlike many, I do not think its absolutely a game changer but it is nice to have. The effect of the panel is most evident when scrolling through large web-pages or when gaming. As a side note, some people claim to have a red or green tint on the display but there is no such issue with our unit.

Performance

OnePlus smartphones for the last few years have rarely had performance issues. And with the 7T, you can say the same. Inside, it has the upgraded Qualcomm Snapdragon 855 Plus chipset alongside 8GB of RAM. This combination is the highest-end you can get on an Android smartphone and it’s more than enough to breeze past video rendering, gaming and general usage.

Gesture navigation is done best by OnePlus’ OxygenOS 10 on top of Android 10

In combination with the 90Hz display panel, the sort of performance you see and experience is unrivalled. And a lot of that is also because of OnePlus’ OxygenOS 10, based on Android 10. In traditional OnePlus style, it’s software is unobtrusive with minimal bloatware and some useful enhancements like the ability to screen record or the dedicated gaming modes. It almost seems like OnePlus’ Android experience is better than Google’s stock Android. Another big part of the experience is gestures. Even though users have embraced gestures, I was never a fan of using them over default navigation buttons. But the way OnePlus has done gestures has officially converted me. Animations, responsiveness and intuitiveness are all considered with OnePlus’ experience and I can go as far as saying that nothing beats them, at least on the Android side for now.

Software tweaks help make the user experience fluid and lag-free

One restricting factor though is storage. While the phone comes with up to 256GB of default storage, it cannot be expanded via micro-SD, which may put a few people off. But its UFS 3.0 storage means both read and write speeds are significantly faster than what we are conventionally used to. In layman’s terms, this means applications will download and open up faster giving off a snappy feel.

Camera

The OnePlus 7T makes no sacrifices when it comes to camera performance either. It has a main 48MP lens, centred alongside a 12MP telephoto lens with 2x optical zoom and a 16MP ultra-wide angle lens. This gives users enough versatility, both when it comes to capturing vast landscapes, detailed macros or zooming in on a subject far away. In fact, the dedicated macro mode on the 7T is quite incredible. I was able to use it to take photos around the UK with astonishing results. The camera is also able to capture impressive dynamic range and even when zooming into pictures, detailing in subjects stays solid.

The triple-camera setup enables picture taking in types of scenarios

As ambient light lowers, photos from the 7T start losing sharpness. Overall detail is lowered and you start to see softer results. But even so, for the smartphone’s price, there is nothing to complain about. You can use the night mode feature on the phone to improve photo quality, but there is still some room for improvement with the enhanced images not looking the most natural. Plants, trees and shrubs become excessively green when using night mode which deters from the ambience and mood of the scene.

Video recording on the other hand is excellent. Both 1080p and 4K footage has some incredible dynamic range to it and you will not be disappointed. There is also a Super Stable mode on the OnePlus 7T allowing you capture smooth footage albeit with a bit of a warping motion to it if viewed on the big screen, locked at 1080p resolution. And quite frankly, the footage is so good it looks like it was taken with an additional stabiliser. This time around, you are also able to use the ultra-wide angle lens to capture both 1080p and 4K video which was a feature users wanted with the OnePlus 7 and 7 Pro and it is nice the company has addressed this, giving the video cameras much needed versatility. For video samples, click here.

Battery life

Over the previous OnePlus 7, the 7T sees a larger 3,800mAh battery. For the phone’s size and overall build, I expected to see an event larger battery capacity in there however in its current state, battery life is excellent. Even though reverting the display to its 60Hz refresh rate saves more battery, I have not found the need to do so and have stuck to using the 90Hz refresh rate. With OnePlus’ optimisation, the battery can easily last a full day’s worth of usage with constant updates from OnePlus improving this.

OnePlus’ Warp Charge 30T charges your phone fast without having to worry about it overheating

Moreover, the phone supports OnePlus’ new Warp Charge 30T I mentioned earlier, which is quite remarkable. In just 15 minutes of charging, the phone can go from 0 per cent to approximately 35 per cent whereas 30 minutes of charge will bump it up to as close as 70 per cent. With charging speeds like this, overnight charging becomes a thing of the past and you virtually never face battery issues.

Conclusion

Given my experience with the OnePlus 7T, all I can say are positive things. It addresses everything that the general user wants from a top quality smartphone. And that is a difficult feat to achieve especially where OnePlus has positioned the phone in terms of price point. One may argue a case for the new Oppo Reno2 however the OnePlus 7T is lower-priced and has much better processing power. Another similar phone is Huawei’s nova 5T, which is priced lower and offers strong performance, however does not have the clean Android experience the OnePlus 7T has. So as we stand, it is safe to say the OnePlus 7T is your best value for money smartphone for 2019.