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OnePlus 3T review: Time-saver edition

Introduction

OnePlus is a company that has evolved in sync with the smartphone market. It releases smartphones about as fast as Qualcomm can release flagship processors. But just as smartphones in general, OnePlus phones have gotten better in quality.

The OnePlus 3 was the first company smartphone with a quality build, the first to feel like a “Never Settle” product. It was released in true OnePlus fashion, packing the best in must-have tech available – the new 821 chipset, a great display, a great set of cameras and an impeccable finish among others.

Just as the Snapdragon 821 is a little bit better than the Snapdragon 820, the OnePlus 3T is that little bit better than the OnePlus 3.

OnePlus 3T time-saver

The OnePlus 3T looks identical to the OnePlus 3 although it’s a shade darker thanks to its Gunmetal paint job. Its dimensions haven’t changed, but on the inside, it has managed to squeeze a larger 3,400mAh battery and higher megapixel front facing camera.

Key specifications


5.5″1920×1080 pixels



16MP
2160p



2.35GHz
Snapdragon 821



6GB RAM
64/128 GB memory



3400mAhLi-Ion

To complete the changelog, the 3T comes with higher 128-gig storage option and a higher starting price tag – up by 40 Euro.

All the changes amount to an interim OnePlus phone, not the full-fledged flagship we’ve come to expect from the maker. But is that a bad thing? Read on.

Design and build quality

We’ve already said this, but the OnePlus 3T is the same size as its predecessor. It still measures the same height (152.7mm) and width (74.7mm) and is still razor thin at 7.4mm.

Held in hand, the OnePlus 3T feels just as nice and just as small. If you’re an iPhone Plus user, you may even wonder how this phone has a 5.5-inch screen at the front and feels so compact.

There are gentle curves and slopes on the front glass and the back of the phone that help it sit gently and comfortably in hand, but also well-defined sharp edges that give the 3T an elegant look.

The controls haven’t changed from the OnePlus 3, but we’ll go over them once again for those who are curious. On the left, there’s a volume rocker and a three-way alert slider that toggles between Normal ringing mode, Do not disturb and Silent. On the opposite side, there’s a power button and the dual-SIM slot.

OnePlus 3T time-saver

There’s a non-mechanical touchpad key below the display that happens to be one of the fastest fingerprint readers around. Flanking it, are two customizable capacitive buttons that default to Recent Apps and Back.

You can choose to have only on-screen controls and not use the three capacitive keys altogether – more on that in the software below.

Our one gripe with the OnePlus 3T is its camera bulge. The lens protrudes quite a bit from the surface of the back panel.

Design and build quality score



3.0

Display

The screen is one of the things OnePlus didn’t change in the 3T, and there are good reasons for it – mainly battery life. The OnePlus 3T has the same 5.5-inch 1920x1080px Optic AMOLED that has been tuned specifically for this device.

The screen is punchy and vivid and gets reasonably bright. Being an AMOLED, it comes with the great contrast and viewing angles inherent to the technology.

OnePlus 3T time-saver

Another benefit of the AMOLED panel is the low reflectivity, which combined with the high contrast and good brightness, results in a very viewable screen outdoors.

Finally, if punchy colors aren’t your thing, the 3T’s screen can become much more accurate with an sRGB display mode. As accurate as it may be, it makes the lovely punchy screen muted and bland, so it’s best suited for these rare occasions when you need mission critical color accuracy.

Battery life

Probably the best improvement the OnePlus 3T brings over the OnePlus 3 is battery life. For many, this upgrade alone justifies the launch of the refreshed model.

OnePlus made the battery bigger by 400 mAh or 13%, which, combined with clever software optimizations, has resulted in a 25% better endurance as rated in our lab.

The OnePlus 3T improved on the 3’s 66-hour endurance rating by 17 hours, most of which are due to the better battery performance in stand-by.

The OnePlus 3T shares the cool Dash Charge tech of its predecessor. A renamed version of Oppo’s VOOC, Dash Charge is probably among the best fast charging protocols available on the market. Using the supplied 20W charger, you should be able to charge the phone’s battery from 0% to 60% in just 30 minutes.

OnePlus 3T time-saver

And we found the claim true – half an hour on the wall got us consistently to 60% on the OnePlus 3T – the same as the OnePlus 3, which is impressive given the 13% bump in battery capacity.

Audio

We loved the OnePlus 3T’s audio quality. When coupled with an external amplifier, the OnePlus 3T is one of the best on the market, highlighted by very high volume levels.

Adding in a pair of headphones causes moderate damage to the stereo quality and introduces some extra distortion. The overall output is still very good regarding clarity but the volume dropped from excellent to merely good so it’s no longer among the best performers.

Photo camera

OnePlus have obviously decided that the Model 3’s camera is perfectly fine for another generation’s time and have incorporated the same Sony IMX298 sensor into the Model 3T. It’s the front-facing unit that has received an upgrade – from 8MP to 16MP, matching the main camera’s resolution.

OnePlus 3T time-saver

The main 16MP camera has a 1/2.8″ sensor with regular-sized 1.12m pixels and an aperture of f/2.0. The software behind the camera is clean and focuses on the basic features such as flash control, a timer and the HDR on and off toggle.

OnePlus has added an excellent Pro Mode with full manual control over everything.

Regarding image quality, the OnePlus 3T may have the same camera hardware as the OnePlus 3, but it comes with a new factory tuning. The camera processing apparently applies more sharpening and leaves more of the noise alone. As a result, the perceived detail from up close is higher compared to the OnePlus 3, so you get sharper, more detailed photos that are more pleasant looking.

OnePlus 3T samples - Oneplus 3t review
OnePlus 3T samples - alt tag
OnePlus 3T samples - alt tag

OnePlus 3T samples

The OnePlus 3T has doubled the already high-res 8MP front-facing snapper of the OnePlus 3 to 16MP. The software behind the shooter hasn’t changed at all, which is a shame – we would have loved a screen flash feature, for instance, but that’s missing.

OnePlus 3T samples - alt tag

The stills themselves are much better with the new camera. Detail is impressive, and there’s even a hint of bokeh behind the subject. Colors aren’t very vivid, but skin tones come out natural.

The one weakness we found is the limited dynamic range – backgrounds can get overexposed for good exposure on the face – but that’s true of any selfie snapper out there.

OnePlus 3T samples - alt tag
OnePlus 3T samples - alt tag

Selfie camera samples

Video camera

The front-facing camera is capable of 1080p video while the main one can go all the way up to 4K. Videos from the OnePlus 3T have a higher bitrate than before, and the corresponding detail is also higher.

Thanks to the new Snapdragon 821 processor there’s an improved software stabilization that works great.