OnePlus 3T Gives the Most Smartphone Bang For the Buck [Review]

May 9, 2017

4:30 pm

The past few years in the world of smartphones have been more about refinement of an industry and less about innovation. Curved screens, less buttons, water resistance, and better cameras are now becoming the norm, but nothing ground breaking has been released on the current best sellers. On the other hand, this has also opened the door for smaller underdogs (in the US) like OnePlus to undercut competitors by offering the same or similar technology, with a smaller price tag, and still leaving room to delight users. Xiaomi is another similar brand, offering unlocked and affordable smartphones, but typically lacks some of the latest features.

Released in November 2016 and now with a proper software update to OxygenOS 3.5 (close to stock Android 7.0), the OnePlus 3T is up against the soon to be released Samsung Galaxy S8+, Google Pixel XL, and iPhone 7 Plus. At nearly half the cost of the current lineup of flagship phones, we put the OnePlus 3T to the test to see how it holds up against both Android and iOS’ best offerings.

Processing and Performance

Holy speed and performance Batman, the OnePlus 3T can really fly! Between its industry topping 6GB of Ram and Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 Quad Core processor, the 3T blows many of the current flagship phones out of the water. Using 3DMark’s most intensive test, Sling Shot Extreme Unlimited, the 3T still ranks in the top 20, but will fall short to the upcoming Samsung Galaxy S8+, as well as the Google Pixel, Xiaomi Mi Note 2, Galaxy S7+, and Lenovo’s Zuk Edge. However, the 3T beats out the Google Pixel XL, iPhone 7, LG G5, and the Xiaomi Mi 5s Plus that we recently reviewed.

Read more reviews about smartphones here

According to AnTuTu’s benchmark though, the OnePlus 3T tops their lineup at number 4, just behind the Mi6, and below the iPhone 7. However, Samsung devices do not appear to have been tested against this benchmark, but Zuk and Xiaomi have.

Tests
  • Ice Storm Unlimited: Average score 31070, physics score 22704, graphics score 34870
  • Ice Storm Extreme: Maxed out
  • Sling Shot Extreme Unlimited: Average score 2609, physics score 1785, graphics score 3085
  • Sling Shot Unlimited: Average score 3140, physics score 1713, graphics score 4117
  • AnTuTu 3D Benchmark: 3D Marooned score 28.32 FPS, 3D Garden score 40.16 FPS
  • AnTuTu Benchmark: Combined score of 160316, 3D score 63126, UX 51763, CPU score 35086, and RAM 10341

We also tested the 3T against several games, work related apps, and video apps. For games such as Mortal Kombat, the graphics are stunning and the game runs smooth. For standard games, you’ll find the same results. Video also looks just as great, with the resolution topping out at 1080. Interestingly the Google Sheets app was also able to quickly load an excessively complex file faster than loading it on Chrome on desktop. Speed? Yeah, the 3T has that covered.

Cameras

Somewhere, at some time, someone said never give a camera to a journalist. Apparently that goes for smartphones with high quality lenses as well.

OnePlus 3T Rear Camera Photo

The timeline between the OnePlus 3 and 3T is relatively short in smartphone years, but one of the major upgrades it brought was on the front facing camera. Making a jump from 8 MP to 16 MP, there is a noticeable shift in quality, and also performs slightly better in low light situations. During a low light test we did still find some of the common graininess on the front facing camera, but less on on the back.

Overall the upgraded front facing camera is great for selfies, works a bit better in lowlight situations, but still faces the common graininess you’d find in a standard point and shoot. Under manual mode, you can reduce some of the grain with a better exposure setting, but most people don’t tinker much with that.

OnePlus 3T Camera Specs
  • Front Camera: 16 MP
  • Rear Aperature: f/2.0
  • Rear Camera: 16 MP
  • Rear Aperture: f/2.0
  • Video: 4k, 720 slowmo
  • RAW image: Supported
Comparisons

iPhone 7+ has a rear 12 MP camera, but with dual lenses with a ƒ/1.8 and ƒ/2.8 aperture

iPhone 7+ has a front facing 7 MP camera with a ƒ/2.2 aperture

Galaxy S8 has a rear 12 MP camera, but wil dual lenses with an ƒ/1.7 aperture

Galaxy S8 has a front facing 8 MP camera with a ƒ/1.7 aperture

Display and Video

The 3T doesn’t quite have groundbreaking resolution, but with it’s 5.5 inch AMOLED screen and 1080 HD resolution, you’ve got yourself one powerful little media center. Sure, it doesn’t have retina quality resolution, but based on the screen size and output, you’re still going to get a high quality mobile video and gaming experience. Due to the cameras, you’ll still be able to film in 4K, and on the front camera 720 HD.

As for editing videos and images, the 3T works great for minor tweaks, but if you’re planning on full production from your phone, you probably won’t get the results you want. The screen also features Gorilla Glass 4, which means when we rubbed our eyes against it there was no notable blemishes.

Read more reviews on Gear and Gadgets here

Overall the OnePlus 3T has a great display, but falls short of where Samsung, Apple, and Google are. However, it’s also nearly half the cost. The one slight disappointment is the lack of a pressure sensitive display, which means just good ole fashion pressing.

  • Display: 5.5 inches, Optic AMOLED
  • Resolution: 1080HD
  • Glass: Gorilla Glass 4
  • Pressure Sensitive Display: No

Battery Life and Charging

If you’ve ever had a battery issue with a smartphone, and we’re pretty sure everyone has, the OnePlus 3T is ahead of practically every flagship phone. It contains an industry topping 3400mAh battery, which between two separate tests, we found that the 3T can easily last a full days use of constant work (7 hours 58 minutes and then 7 hours and 29 minutes).

OnePlus 3T battery test

If the battery life alone doesn’t quite work for you, Dash Charge should do the trick. In about 30 minutes, the phone will go from five percent to about 60 percent, and in an hour it will be fully charged. Fast charging is not new to the Android world, but with OnePlus, the charger heats up instead of the phone, which personally is a bit comforting considering a certain other flagship recently had a few issues with their C4-infused smartphones.

  • Battery: 3400mAh
  • Fast Charge: Included Dash Charger
  • Wireless Charge: None

Software: OxygenOS 3.5

OxygenOS 3.5 is OnePlus’ modified version of Android 7.0, but with their own flavor. For those who have used OnePlus in the past, the Shelf slider received a makeover and now looks similar to that of the iPhone’s widget screen. The update also includes new gesture controls like a three finger swipe down to take a screenshot, drawing a V on the screen when off to turn the flashlight on, or physically flipping the phone over to mute a call.

For apps, OxygenOS 3.5 brings a few customizations and security updates. Now you can lock individual apps using a password or your fingerprint, and on the privacy side the App Locker lets you adjust additional settings. Apps can also be adjusted by size and name.

  • Voice Assistant: Google Now
  • Mobile Pay: Android Pay
General Specs and Features
  • Audio: 3.5 mm jack, no earbuds
  • Processor: Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 Quad Core
  • RAM: 6GB LPDDR4
  • Expandable Memory: None
  • Internal Storage: 64GB or 128GB
  • Network: GSM 4G LTE, no CDMA (Sprint, Verizon)
  • Audio: bottom-facing

Design

All smartphone essentially look the same now. Throw in some Gorilla Glass, an aluminum body, tweak where the camera and finger sensors are, and maybe throw in an extra camera lens, and you’ve got every phone body ever. The OnePlus 3T follows the same path, and features a simple yet elegant aluminum body that weighs a bit less than the other flagship phones. It also features top and bottom bezels, with edge to edge screens along the sides, but not quite curved.

On the right side of the phone, you’ll find a power button and the dual sim port, and on the left you’ll get the audio slider and volume adjuster. Interestingly, OnePlus opted for only a single audio out area, which feels like a bit of a flaw, but conversely leaves room for your coveted 3.5mm earphone port. In the middle, the 3T boasts the latest USB-C port.

Besides your standard power and audio buttons, the 3T has a physical home button with built in finger sensor. Within the same panel you’ll also find the embedded menu and back buttons.

Overall the design is great, and the only real gripe is where the speaker is placed. When playing a game or watching a video, it’s very likely that your hand will be covering up the output, and that means muffled sound. The phone is also not water resistant, which in the past year or so seems to be one of the most in demand and implemented features.

Design Specs
  • VR: None
  • Weight: 158 g
  • Dimensions: 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm
  • Water Resistance: None
  • Sensors: Fingerprint sensor, Hall sensor, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity sensor, Ambient light sensor and Electronic Compass
  • Colors: Gunmetal, Soft Gold, Midnight Black
  • Sim Slots: Dual
  • Port: USB-C

Pros and Cons

Highs
  • Dash charge works beautifully
  • Takes high-quality photos/video
  • Super fast processor and lots of ram
  • Price tag is great
Lows
  • No water resistance
  • No expandable memory
  • Does not support some major US networks

Overall Thoughts

Should you buy the OnePlus 3T? If you’re looking for a top-notch Android phone at almost half the cost, but with just a few less features, absolutely.

OnePlus really knocked it out of the park with the 3T between its design, speed, and of course battery life. As far as Androids go, the OnePlus 3T does have a bit of a bezel, which is less ideal even though they are making a comeback (Pixel), and it would be nice if they included expandable memory. And while a curved display or water resistance would be a nice to have, the screen resolution, photo and video taking quality, and ability to manage heavy apps/processes easily make this a winner. This also comes just on the cusp of a new announcement confirmed by the Verge, where OnePlus will be released their next phone this summer, the OnePlus 5.

We give the OnePlus 3T a 4.3 out of 5 due to its great price point, fast processing speed, camera offering, sleek design, but also due to missing a few important features.

Price: $419 – Unlocked

Where to buy: Gearbest, OnePlus

Review unit provided by Gearbest

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@)elliotvolkman.com or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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