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OnePlus 3T review: Gone but not forgotten

Our Rating 
Price when reviewed 
399
inc VAT

The OnePlus 3T is an excellent smartphone that ticks all the right boxes, but is very hard to find brand-new

Pros 
Incredible value
A superfast handset for the price
High-quality screen
Cons 
It's not as much of a bargain as the OnePlus 3
16-megapixel front facing camera isn't great
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The OnePlus 3 was £329. Well, originally it was £309, but then the pound tanked and the price increased. The OnePlus 3T goes in at £399 for the 64GB model, or £439 for the 128GB model – that’s an important distinction, because unlike other Android smartphones, there is no expandable memory here. What you buy is what you’re stuck with.

So, what do you get for the money? There are three main improvements: processor, battery life and camera. I’ll tackle these one by one. Processing duties in the OnePlus 3T are now handled by the 2.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821. The OnePlus 3 had a 2.15GHz Snapdragon 820 – which was hardly a slowpoke – but this is a welcome upgrade all the same.

Then there’s the battery. The capacity has increased from a 3,000mAh to 3,400mAh, which doesn’t sound a lot, but more significant is how quickly it charges. OnePlus promises a day’s charge in half an hour with the new Dash Charge system – although as this is different from Qualcomm’s Quick Charge feature, you’ll need to use the included plug to benefit.

READ NEXT: Best smartphones to buy in 2018

Finally, there’s the camera, although if you were expecting big improvements to the main camera, you’ll be disappointed. Although the rear camera gets a tougher sapphire lens cover, the main camera improvements I mentioned in the introduction are reserved for the front-facing selfie camera, which captures images now a whopping 16 megapixels in resolution. Impressive, but possibly overkill for most, barring the most vain.

OnePlus 3OnePlus 3T
Processor2.15GHz Snapdragon 8202.35GHz Snapdragon 821
Camera8mp front-facing camera16mp front-facing camera
Battery3,000mAh3,400mAh

Android 7 Nougat

If you're looking to get the OnePlus 3T (or the OnePlus 3), you'll be pleased to know that both now come with Android 7 Nougat. This now features fantastic multitasking support with multiple windows, a notification overhaul over Android 6 Marshmallow, extra security features and increased graphical performance thanks to Vulkan.

Having Android Nougat previously launched on the HTC 10, LG G5 and Sony's Xperia XZ, it's great to see OnePlus offering same treatment. Of course, what this also means is that if you've still got a OnePlus 3, its shelf life just got extended, too.

OnePlus 3T review: Performance

Typically, I’d discuss the design and display at this point, but since they’re the same as the OnePlus 3, I’ll cut straight to the chase and get stuck into performance. (Don’t worry completionists, it’s a postponement rather than an omission.)

Update: Some OnePlus 3T owners have reported latency issues with their new handsets. While this is something we didn’t personally come across when writing this review, the touch latency feedback has been noted. The company’s co-founder, Carl Pei tweeted that they will “look at it soon.”

Along with the processor upgrade, the OnePlus 3T inherits its predecessor’s impressive list of core specifications. Namely, that Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 is backed up by 6GB of RAM and includes Qualcomm’s Adreno 530 graphics processing unit. As you’d imagine, these top-of-the-range specifications result in a smartphone that’s an absolute pleasure to use, and one that comfortably handles anything you throw its way.

But then, so did the OnePlus 3. So how does it compare in our more objective benchmark tests? First up is Geekbench 4, which measures a handset’s single- and multi-core processing performance.

In these benchmarks, we see a clear – if moderate – improvement in the OnePlus 3T over the 3. In single-core it’s 1,903 to 1,689, and in multi-core it’s 4,273 to 4,026. However, it’s only in comparing these scores with the flagship smartphone landscape that you see the true triumph here. Despite retailing for between £100 and £150 cheaper than phones such as the Samsung Galaxy S7 and Google Pixel phone, the OnePlus comfortably holds its own:

Or to put that into more stark perspective, here’s that chart again, only with how many points of the Geekbench scale you get per pound (prices correct at the time of writing):

As you might expect, given both handsets use the Adreno 530 graphics chipset, 3D performance is virtually identical. That is to say, very good, but unchanged.
In other words, despite the price increase, the OnePlus 3T is still extremely good value – it’s just not quite the ridiculous bargain that the OnePlus 3 was.

OnePlus 3T review: Battery life

But what about the extra battery life? Well, the 3,400mAh should indeed give us more life, but weirdly in our standard test (a looped 720p video viewed at 170cd/m2 brightness in airplane mode), it actually fared worse than the original OnePlus 3 – lasting just 13hrs 22mins, compared with the OnePlus 3’s 16hrs 56mins.

Sometimes day-to-day use brings up markedly different results to our battery tests, however, and anecdotally I’m actually experiencing slightly better battery life than with the OnePlus 3. The improved Dash Charge tech is also impressive, although the claims of “a day’s power in half an hour” need a little extra scrutiny. While it’s true we were able to jump from 49% to 92% battery in 30 minutes (it took another 24 minutes to hit 100%), not everyone would find 43% capacity enough to get them through a day – especially if they’re a power user. Your mileage may vary.

READ NEXT: Best phone battery life 2018

OnePlus 3T review: Camera

Briefly, because we’ve already covered the OnePlus 3T’s main camera in the OnePlus 3 review, it’s good. It’s a 16-megapixel snapper with an f/2.0 aperture, phase-detect autofocus and optical image stabilisation. It’s short of laser autofocus for optimal low-light performance, but it’s generally solid.

So, by bringing the front-facing camera up to the same 16 megapixels, you can expect that level of performance from your selfies, right? Wrong.

As the examples below hopefully demonstrate, when compared with the Google Pixel X’s “lowly” 8-megapixel selfie snapper, you can see that the images it produces aren’t great, and have that magic combination of overexposure and unimpressive colour balance, whether they’re taken in or outdoors.

It just goes to show that, while the specifications imply otherwise, there’s much more to a quality camera than megapixels.

OnePlus 3T review: What’s stayed the same?

Now back to the familiar stuff that’s identical to the last model — the design and the display. Technically, there is a minor change to the design – the rear panel is slightly flatter than on the original – but only hardcore fans would likely notice that at a glance. The anodised metal chassis looks the same, and it still feels comfortably secure in the hand, even one-handed. It has support for dual SIMs, meaning this can be your work and home phone, and it still charges via USB Type-C.

At 5.5", it remains a big beast of a phone, albeit one that doesn’t quite feel like a phablet – and that screen is still an AMOLED 1,080 x 1,920 panel. That’s a lower resolution than some of its pricier peers, and undoubtedly where some of the cost savings are made, but unless you plan on using this for virtual reality, then it’s a sacrifice worth making. On a screen this size, anything over 1080p is tough to tell apart from its supposedly sharper QHD and 4K rivals.

And for normal (non-VR) usage, the OnePlus 3T’s screen is just fine. We measured a good maximum brightness of 421cd/m2 and perfect contrast. Switched to sRGB mode and the screen covers 93.2% of the colour space, and it does so while looking sharp and vibrant.

In other words, in this respect, OnePlus has wisely decided that “it ain’t broke, so there’s no need to fix it”.

OnePlus 3T review: Verdict

So here’s the thing: the OnePlus 3T is a brilliant smartphone, and objectively improves upon the amazingly good OnePlus 3 in a couple of small but significant ways. It’s faster, and it has a bigger battery. That’s nice, but neither were complaints about the OnePlus 3 in the first place – and in making those improvements, the price has risen by around 21%.

That’s not to say the OnePlus 3T is a rip-off: it still gives you demonstrably more bang for your buck than anything in and above its price range. It’s just not as big a bargain as once it was.

My advice at this point would be to save £70 and buy the OnePlus 3… or it would be, if you could still buy one SIM-free. The OnePlus 3 can no longer be bought on the official website, and the company had previously stated that the OnePlus 3T will replace it rather than be sold alongside it.

<id="docs-internal-guid-c0311a68-47ab-98c3-afce-11d662dbade5">Which makes the OnePlus 3T an easy endorsement, but not an entirely satisfying one. The King is dead, long live the (slightly more expensive) King.

Hardware
ProcessorQuad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 (2 x 2.35GHz Kryo, 2 x 1.6Hz Kryo
RAM6GB
Screen size5.5in
Screen resolution1,920 x 1,080
Screen typeAMOLED
Front camera16MP
Rear camera16MP
FlashLED
GPSYes
CompassYes
Storage64GB
Memory card slot (supplied)No
Wi-Fi802.11ac
BluetoothYes, 4.2 with LE
NFCYes
Wireless data4G Cat6 (300Mbps dl/ 50Mbps ul)
Dimensions75 x 7.4 x 153mm (WDH)
Weight158g
Features
Operating systemAndroid 6.0
Battery size3,400mAh

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