REVIEW: The OnePlus 5T is not only a bargain — it’s the best Android phone you can buy at any price

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Business Insider

The new OnePlus 5T is an excellent smartphone, but one thing about it stands out from the rest: its $500 price.

That amount is near the top of what OnePlus has charged for its past smartphones. But it’s hundreds of dollars cheaper than other top-of-the-line devices – many of the latest flagship smartphones, including Apple’s iPhone X and Samsung’s Galaxy Note 8, cost more than $900.

Given that, you could be forgiven for thinking OnePlus made some serious compromises with the 5T to get its price so comparatively low. But you would be wrong.

While the 5T has some trade-offs, they aren’t meaningful. And I’d recommend the new phone even if it were to cost as much as its rivals.

Check out the OnePlus 5T:


The OnePlus 5T looks great.

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

Designwise, the 5T doesn’t stand out. But that’s a good thing.

It has most of the latest features of other contemporary phones, including narrow top and bottom borders around its screen, as well as a metallic back. Those elements make for a minimalistic, almost generic design. It’s functional, not flashy.

What is noticeable, though, is the thinness of the 5T compared with that of other top Android phones. On paper, the 7.3-mm-thick 5T may not seem that much thinner than Google’s 7.9-mm Pixel 2 XL or Samsung’s 8.6-mm Galaxy Note 8. But those fractions of a millimeter make a difference.

That thinness combined with its light weight make the 5T supremely comfortable to use.


The 5T’s screen is great, especially considering the device’s price.

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The 5T’s display is on par with those of other top Android smartphones. It has a 6-inch Amoled screen with an 18:9 aspect ratio. That’s more elongated than the typical smartphone screen from as recently as last year.

Some spec-scrutinizers may think the 1080p resolution on the 5T’s display doesn’t match up well with the 1440p resolution offered on most other flagship Android devices. But you’d be hard-pressed to notice much of a difference when comparing the phones side by side.

The 5T’s display is beautiful. Its vibrant colors and brightness and contrast levels equal those of displays of phones that cost $350 more.


The phone’s performance is stellar.

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Hiding underneath the 5T’s minimalist outer shell are specs that are as good or better than those of most of its rivals.

Like many of its newest competitors, the 5T includes Qualcomm’s powerful Snapdragon 835 processor. But it has more memory than most of its rivals. Most top Android smartphones come with 4 GB of RAM, whereas the base model of the 5T has 6 GB and the top model has a whopping 8 GB.

Typically, the more memory a device has, the faster it can switch among apps. And the 5T’s extra RAM may make a difference if you customize your phone with software that offers a greater range of Android design and setting options.

I’ve been testing the higher-end model of the 5T, which costs $560 and comes with 128 GB of storage and 8 GB of RAM. I haven’t noticed much of a difference in performance from the Pixel 2 XL, which has the same processor and half the RAM.

But I’m not going to complain about the extra memory, especially given that it’s included in the 5T’s sub-$600 price.


The 5T has a facial-recognition feature — and it works almost too well.

The 5T is the first OnePlus phone that comes with facial-recognition technology. The company nailed the feature, but it works almost too well.

When I press the power button on the 5T, the phone immediately unlocks and goes straight to my home screen. There’s no indication that it’s trying to recognize my face first. It works so quickly that it’s almost disconcerting. It feels as if the feature isn’t even turned on, and I don’t have any security measures in place.

In fact, I hardly ever see the lock screen on the 5T or the notifications it displays there. The only time is when I’m in a very dark area and the phone has trouble recognizing my face.

Because the feature works so well, I had to change how I check notifications. At first, I started angling the 5T away from my face so it wouldn’t unlock while I was going through my lock-screen alerts. Realizing that was ridiculous, I now check my alerts by pulling down the Android notifications shade after my phone unlocks and view them there.

But as good as the 5T’s facial-recognition system is, it’s not on par with Face ID on Apple’s iPhone X. The 5T didn’t recognize my face when I was wearing sunglasses, for example. That made me doubt whether it would recognize users when they got haircuts or were wearing makeup.

Still, the 5T has a big advantage over the iPhone X: It also has a fingerprint sensor. So if its facial-recognition system doesn’t work for you, you can always use your fingers to unlock it.


But the phone’s fingerprint sensor can be finicky and frustrating to use.

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To make room for the 5T’s larger display and offer thinner borders around its screen, OnePlus moved the fingerprint sensor to the phone’s back. Unfortunately, that makes it hard to use.

The sensor is flush with the case, so it can be difficult to find without looking at it. And it’s not very forgiving – it wouldn’t unlock my phone unless I put my finger squarely on it right from the start. It didn’t like it when, while blindly hunting for the sensor, I slid my finger over to the middle after discovering its edge.

In this way, the 5T’s fingerprint sensor is like the Samsung’s Galaxy S8’s.

By contrast, the fingerprint sensor on the Pixel 2 XL is a lot less picky, and those on previous OnePlus phones were easier to use because they were on the front.

Overall, it’s much easier to unlock the 5T with the facial-recognition system.


It has a very good camera.

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The 5T’s camera compares favorably with those of other top phones.

The pictures it makes are ike those of Apple’s iPhones, and the color palette is warmer than that of Google’s Pixel 2 devices, which yield photos with more neutral tones.

Its HDR – high dynamic range – feature works very well, bringing out great details in the shadows of brightly lit shots.

The 5T has a 16-megapixel primary camera. That’s superior to the cameras in other top Android phones, which typically are 12-megapixel shooters. But I didn’t see much better sharpness from those additional pixels.

Like many other recent phones, the 5T has a dual-lens camera system. Its secondary camera is a 20-megapixel one. Instead of using the secondary camera to offer an optical zoom feature, as the latest iPhones do and the previous OnePlus phone did, the 5T uses it to improve photos shot in dim light.

The result is pretty good. Low-light photos shot with the 5T are sharper than those taken with previous OnePlus phones. However, both Samsung’s Galaxy phones and the Pixel 2 do a better job in low light.

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A low-light photo taken with the OnePlus 5T.


And its portrait mode works well, too.

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The 5T’s portrait mode, which blurs out the background of a subject, is very good.

Like the Pixel 2’s portrait mode – but unlike that of the latest iPhones – the 5T’s does a great job of keeping the entire subject in focus.


The 5T’s fast-charging feature works better than those of its rivals.

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OnePlus’ Dash Charge fast-charging feature should be the standard for all smartphones. It essentially keeps all the heat-emitting charging elements in the adapter, so the phone doesn’t get hot when it’s plugged in.

In addition to keeping the 5T cool, the feature allows it to charge faster than rival devices. Other Android phones with fast charging will slow down when they get hot to prevent overheating.

Additionally, I have no complaints about the 5T’s battery life.


And look! A headphone jack in 2017!

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Antonio Villas-Boas/Business Insider

For less than $600, something’s got to give …

So what’s the catch?

There are at least two notable features you’ll find on other top devices but not on the 5T: wireless charging and water-resistance.

For me, the lack of those features isn’t a deal-breaker, especially because of the 5T’s relatively low price. Wireless charging is slow and is more of an extra convenience than a necessity. Fast charging – via OnePlus’ Dash Charge system – is much more important.

And while the 5T isn’t officially water-resistant, OnePlus says it can handle light sprinkles. It might be able to withstand a lot more – some courageous OnePlus owners have posted YouTube videos showing that previous OnePlus phones can handle water pretty darn well.


But because of the low price, I’m willing to make an exception for the 5T.

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For me, the two features an Android phone needs to have are an unmodified version of the operating system and the ability to get Android updates as soon as Google releases them.

Those requirements have always limited me to Google’s devices – first its Nexus line and now its Pixel phones. Good thing, then, that those were or are among the best Android phones you could buy.

The 5T essentially meets my first requirement. Its version of Android is about 99% similar to what you’ll find on the Pixel phones. The only notable thing missing is the Pixel Launcher, an extra layer of features that Google reserves for its phones.

But the 5T doesn’t meet my second requirement – OnePlus devices generally don’t get the latest versions of Android as soon as Google releases them. As a case in point, the 5T runs Android 7.1, while Google’s new Pixel 2 devices run Android 8.0.

However, for the 5T, I’m willing to bend my rules. It is just such a good smartphone for such a good price that I’m not going to rule it out because of that.

In fact, I’d go further and say that if you’re in the market for an Android phone, you should buy the 5T. There’s little reason to get any other device unless you absolutely have to have the latest Android updates immediately – or you enjoy spending more money than you need to.

There is one big caveat, though: The 5T doesn’t work on Verizon’s network. So if you’re wedded to Verizon, as I am, you’ll have to get a different phone.

The OnePlus 5T went on sale on Wednesday, and it’s available from OnePlus’ site.