OnePlus 3T Review – Is It Still The Flagship Killer?

Review, Tech

I know it’s been a while (approx 3 months) since the OnePlus 3T released and reviewing it now as a fresh device would be kinda silly. So, I’m reviewing it as device that’s 3 months old and whether or not it still is the same flagship killer that it was when it was released. Also note that when it was released it didn’t have Android 7.0 i.e. Nougat out of the box, instead it was running Marshmallow 6.0.1. But now it has been updated to 7.0 and so this review will be based on that android version.

BUILD

By now I’m pretty sure everyone knows how the 3T is built but still just to recap: Built with space-grade aluminium alloy, measuring 153 x 75 x 7.4mm and weighing 158g, the device feels amazing in hand. It doesn’t feel quite heavy but enough to feel the weight. It’s thin, thinner than I expected. This does make it look like a premium device but also makes it vulnerable to slipping. So I would suggest slapping on any of the nice looking OnePlus cases.

It comes in two color options, the Soft Gold and Gunmetal, and I personally love the Gunmetal. It’s darker and stealthier, not as stealthy as the matte black iPhone, but still looks pretty good(I honestly would have loved a matte black OnePlus). The back has the darker antenna lines that run through the Gunmetal finish, the bumpy camera and the OnePlus logo.

The frame consists of the power/lock button on the right and the volume rocker and the amazing Alert Slider above it. +1 for the Alert Slider but -1 for the placing the volume buttons just opposite the power button. The thumb sits perfectly on top of the power button while adjusting volume with one hand, and that leads to accidentally locking the phone. Not good. But the alert slider.. it’s amazing. All phone manufacturers should implement that feature, period.

The top of the frame is clean while the bottom has a headphone jack, USB Type-C port, mic and mono speakers. (Mono.. why?) The front has the earpiece speaker, front camera and sensor at the top and the haptic feedback fingerprint scanner and back and recents buttons.

PERFORMANCE

Housing the latest Snapdragon 821 chip and 6GB RAM, the 3T is amazing when it comes to performance. The time I spent with the device I didn’t notice any sort of lag, even in graphic intensive games, and no heating either. It does get a tad warm under the camera but that’s quite normal. The 6GB is more than sufficient for a smartphone but that might not be the case in the future with apps getting heavier and requiring more memory. So I’m happy that the 3T is already ready.

OnePlus devices run with the OnePlus’ own skin of android called the OxygenOS. It’s not heavy and filled with bloatware as the few custom skins are in the market but does add minor tweaks. These tweaks are not game changing in any way but it’s good to have these nice features (more below). The current version of OOS is 4.0.3 that is Nougat 7.0 and can be upgraded to OxygenOS Open Beta 3 (7.1.1) if you are the beta kind.

I have the 128GB version which is a little costlier but considering 4k video recording I don’t think the 64GB would cut it. So if you record videos and click a lot of pictures and have a big song and movies playlist, then you’re better with the 128 gigs.

The fingerprint scanner that is placed at the bottom below the screen is surprisingly fast and accurate. There are no lags between the finger touch and the phone unlocking and it rarely ever registers wrong. The only complain I have is its placement. I would have prefered it to be at the back of the phone with the capacitive touch buttons replaced by onscreen buttons. This would help increase screen size also leaving some chin room at the bottom to hold the device.

DISPLAY

The 3T has a beautiful 5.5in AMOLED FullHD display. Yes, I know there are qHD displays out there but still having an AMOLED 1920×1080 at that price is completely acceptable. The display isn’t bad at all, in fact it’s really good. The colors are more vibrant and everything looks sharp. There is an option in the settings to change the color mode to your liking.

BATTERY

The 3T has a 3400mAh non-removable battery which is a step up from the 3000mAh in the OnePlus 3. Having more juice means the battery should be good as expected right? It isn’t. Since the update to Nougat (current version OOS 4.0.3) the battery life has gone down. The screen-on time is just around 5hrs and the battery drops around 6-7% sometimes 8% overnight on standby. This is just the poorly optimized software and hopefully OnePlus fixes it with a new update.

It’s actually not that bad as it sounds as you can go through the day on a single charge but I would suggest keeping the adapter handy. Also, thank you to OnePlus for its amazing Dash Charge, that charges phone from 0-100 in about an hour and a half. That’s like superfast. But still wish to charge it less often and use it more.

CAMERA

This is a tricky one. I know that the OnePlus 3T has received very good reviews for its camera but that was on the stock Marshmallow. In the updated OS things do seem a little different. The pictures are not that ‘amazing’ great but they are far from bad. You won’t get Pixel or iPhone like quality here but it’s pretty good for a smartphone at that price.

Both the back and front facing camera are now 16MP which is another step up from the OnePlus 3, where the front cam was only 8MP. The color reproduction is good and post-processing is also up to a decent level. HDR mode does make the photos look better and I would suggest keeping it on every time if you aren’t taking any manual or RAW photos. But if you are, go completely manual, take RAW photos and then tune it in the software.

The 3T performs really good in sunlight where it has good color reproduction and fast shutter. Night shots don’t look bad but there is considerable noise, which is obvious. I really wish OnePlus upgrades the camera software, if they do that, then it’ll be the best camera phone at that price.

One of the best things about the OnePlus 3T is the ability to shoot 4K videos, which Canon still hasn’t done in their dedicated cameras (seriously Canon?). Also, the 3T can shoot 1080p videos at 60fps. Everything looks amazing on paper and it is in reality too, but as said before, a little software update would really help. 4K videos have huge sizes so it is recommended to get the 128GB version.

FEATURES

The OnePlus 3T also has a few extra features that are unique and surprisingly useful. One of the features is the Shelf that comes with the OnePlus Launcher. It’s more like a shortcut and widget center that shows a customized message, the weather, battery, data and storage information, also recent contacts and apps. You can add more widgets from the widget screen and customize to your liking.

The other feature I really like and use a lot is the double tap to wake on lock screen. Not many phones have this but it’s a neat feature. The lock screen also supports gestures to activate camera, flashlight and control music playback, which can be useful for quick use.

But the best feature is the Alert Slider and as I have said before, every phone manufacturer should add it. It does have one problem and that is, no automatic DnD (Do-not-Disturb), but it’s not a deal breaker for me as I never set automatic DnD before. I always prefered manual and the alert slider does the job perfectly.

One good thing that happened recently and probably for the people who love to use the latest android versions is the open beta for android 7.1.1. You can download it from the OnePlus forum if you want your device to be one of the few rare devices to run the latest Android OS.

DRAWBACKS

There aren’t major drawbacks as far as I can say but I would have loved to have a qHD screen for the costlier version. That would have been a true bang for the buck. Other than that it does have a few minor issues like no auto DnD, which may be used by many. Another one that I really felt OnePlus could have put in is stereo speakers. I mean, stereo speakers sound amazing and OnePlus probably could have made the earpiece speaker into the other pair. But the single speaker is pretty loud too.

Other major deal breaker could be the lack of water resistance. Since many manufacturers are moving into that direction and the 3T comes under the budget premium category, I think OnePlus should have considered it. Another, missing feature and the one I think every manufacturer should implement is, wireless charging. Wireless is not the future, it’s the now!


CONCLUSION

Is the OnePlus 3T an amazing phone? Definitely. Is it worth an upgrade over 3? Not at all. But is it worth buying right now? This is a tricky question. I would say it depends.

It is an amazing smartphone at the price it is selling at and as far as I know there aren’t many to compete with it right now. So, if you really, really want to buy a new device and can afford the 3T, go for it. But if you can wait for like 3 more months, then I would suggest waiting for OnePlus 4/5. According to rumors, it sounds great but will have to wait until its officially released and if I could get my hands on one.

If you want a smartphone that runs flawlessly right now, buy a 3T or else wait for 4/5.

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