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VERDICT:

I was initially nervous about going with a name I previously knew very little about and wasn’t one of the “big” names. Having owned the 3T for a year, however, I’m sure that if it won’t be long before OnePlus are firmly established as key players alongside your Samsungs and Pixels.

I love:

  • Fast & responsive
  • Great battery life
  • Super fast charging!
  • Feels like a flagship
  • Great price
  • Dual SIM
  • Headphone jack!!

I don’t like:

  • No microSD slot
  • Occasional blurry shots on camera
  • Fingerprint reader placement – I preferred rear placement on my previous Nexus 5X
  • No stereo speaker

When my Nexus 5X unceremoniously died after 11 months, I was left looking for a replacement phone with top-end features that wouldn’t break the bank. I think it’s fairly significant that every one of my techy friends said something like, “are you thinking about the OnePlus 3T?” or, “why don’t you get the OnePlus 3T?”. My brother was still singing the praises of his OnePlus 2 and every single review I read gave the 3T high praise, so I thought… why not?

I was immediately impressed when the phone arrived. I already knew that it had the same dimensions, display, RAM, main camera and fingerprint reader as the OnePlus 3 which was released a few months before and highly praised by reviewers at the time, and because of the fortunate timing of my purchase I’d be getting slightly better performance and battery life in the 3T, and the 128GB version was especially attractive as I wanted to use it as a backup 4K video camera. What’s not to love?!

Design & Feel

The OnePlus 3T has a metal body which feels lovely and premium. In fact, it feels like it should have cost a lot more than it did. It’s nice and thin and light, and comfortable to hold – although as I immediately put mine in an Otterbox case (it spends a lot of time attached to the Quadlock on my bike’s handlebars for Strava) that wasn’t hugely important for me.

If I still went and sat in pubs with my friends at the weekends, my OnePlus 3T wouldn’t feel out of place on the bar alongside friends with phones like Nexus 6P, Galaxy S7 Edge, LG G5 etc. and looks miles better than any iPhone ever has.

It’s a minor quibble, but the only thing I’d change is the position of the fingerprint sensor. It’s great, responsive and works very well but I personally preferred it high up on the back on my Nexus 5X, as it was so natural to use my first finger round the back when picking it up. Pressing my thumb on the bottom feels a bit slower, although it does mean you can still do it whilst it’s face up on the desk next to you. Swings and roundabouts, hey…

Screen & Display

The display is lovely. It’s a Full HD AMOLED with a really nice 401ppi density. The screen is probably one of the areas where OnePlus were able to shave some cost off when compared to the likes of the Samsung Galaxies out there – and I’m perfectly fine with that. It’s the same resolution as my 46” TV and is only about 10% of its size, for goodness’ sake! Everything you do on it looks fantastically clear and smooth, and I’m quite glad not to be paying extra for more pixels which serve no real purpose. Very happy!

Day to Day Use

I like my phones to be sort of invisible in my consciousness of using them. By that I mean I just want to get on with what I’m doing, whether that’s making a phone call (rarely!), doing emails with the Gmail app, using YouTube or calendar or browsing Facebook/Twitter. If I want to take a photo, I just want it to work, and work well, and to work well straight away. I want to do all this without having to think much about the phone itself (sorry phone).

Well, I’m pleased the say the OnePlus 3T does an admiral job of this. It might sound bizarre, but for me it’s a real compliment to say that it just blends into the background. It’s doing all that work for me reliably, without slowing down or causing any issues. Thank you, phone!

It’s not quite stock Android that the OnePlus 3T comes with, as it has its OxygenOS software on top for some useful features like double-tap the power button to load up camera (I use that literally hundreds of times a day) or draw a “V” shape on the powered-off screen to turn the torch on/off. Personally, I love the Google Now launcher so I run with that and it feels very much like stock Android which is great – no bloatware and lag, no annoyances and no pointlessly duplicated apps that I can’t delete. I’m looking at you, Samsung!

The OnePlus 3T launched with Android 6.0.1 and has since been upgraded all the way up to Android 8.0.0. As I write this though, it’s nearly May 2018 and the Android security patch level is still stuck on 1 December 2017, which is a little disappointing.

Music and Video

I’ve not included “and Games” in the title to this section as I don’t really play games, so this is just talking about music and video. Music-wise, I use the Google Play Music app with a monthly subscription and the sound quality out of the headphone jack (thank goodness it’s still there) is great. Clearly a lot depends on the headphones or earphones you’re using, but even the best wouldn’t sound good if the phone wasn’t up to the job – the OnePlus 3T clearly is and even sounds great when plugged into a big PA system. For smaller audiences (ie. me, brushing my teeth) the built-in speaker sounds very, very good actually – surprisingly so.

For best results at home, I have a couple of Chromecast Audio pucks dotted around the house and the OnePlus 3T plays its part very well there, keeping connected to the WiFi and staying quick and responsive without missing a beat. The 128GB means there’s plenty of space for caching music or audiobooks for long journeys where 4G data might be hit-and-miss.

Watching videos on YouTube, Facebook or the Google Play Movies app is equally impressive. The clear, bright screen looks great and it sounds great even without headphones too. The 5.5” screen is big enough too that you don’t feel like you’re squinting at a tiny screen, so it’s great for long journeys by plane or coach, for example. Remember the days when you had to lug your laptop aboard to watch a DVD on the flight?

Battery Life

At last! A phone that I can use and abuse all day without worrying that it will have died later when I need it most. Battery capacity has been beefed up from 3,000mAh in the OnePlus 3 to 3,400mAh in the 3T. When I first got it and it was brand new, the battery lasted a good 3 or so days between charges – I was absolutely gobsmacked. The laws of physics and chemistry mean that it’s not quite that astonishing a year later, but I still very rarely have to charge it other than just on my bedside table at night. The dash charger is astonishing – if I’m going out out in the evening and want to make sure I’m well away from the lower percentage levels, then it takes it right up to nearly full in almost no time.

Cameras

The OnePlus 3T’s rear camera is the same as on the OnePlus 3, that’s to say it’s a 16MP Sony camera with a single LED flash underneath. There’s not a lot to say, which I think is what you want from a smartphone camera. It’s simple, no-fuss and takes really good photos 99% of the time. The HDR mode gives really nice, natural-looking colours to the pictures and the HQ mode turns up the quality even more. It’s a shame you can’t use them both together, sadly.

There’s also a pretty decent manual mode and you can even save as RAW files. This will certainly appeal to some, but as a serious photographer I’d always reach for my DSLR camera when I want that level of control and fine-tuning. For me, the point of my smartphone camera is that it’s the one I always have on me for moments like family events, random silly things and other boring things like reaching round to the back of someone’s WiFi router and taking a flash photo of the sticker so I can enter the password into my laptop.

My only complaint with the camera is that occasionally I do have to take a photo again as pictures do sometimes come out blurry if you’re not holding completely still (which is hard on such a small, light device). The stabilisation seems to struggle very occasionally, but it’s easily forgiven.

Verdict

I’m very glad I bought my OnePlus 3T and the timing of my Nexus 5X’s death was perfect as it meant I got to take advantage of the incremental – but significant – improvements over the OnePlus 3.

It basically does everything really well and is a great all-round phone, a definite contender to the more expensive and “high-end” devices from the bigger and better known manufacturers. Should you buy one? No, because it’s a year old now… but should you buy a OnePlus? Sure!

Paul Freeman-Powell

Paul (@paulfp) is the main presenter of the award-winning Switched On Network YouTube Channel, which covers a variety of interesting topics usually relating to his love of technology and all things geeky. He also founded and runs Innobella Media, where he leads in all aspects of video production, video editing, sound & lighting. A father of 3 children including twins, his hobbies used to include photography, playing the drums and cycling. With a degree in Modern European Languages, Paul speaks French, Spanish and a little bit of Italian, and holds dual British & Irish citizenship.

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