This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. OK
Review 120 Shares 4 comments

OnePlus 3T review: the flagship killer

Update: Now available in the US

The OnePlus 3 is one of the best smartphones of 2016, but OnePlus has already decided to raise the bar even higher. They wanted to offer users the best possible experience, so they’re now offering even better hardware with the new OnePlus 3T. Check out our review of OnePlus’ latest and greatest to find out if it really beats its predecessor.

Rating

Good

  • Good camera
  • Fluid, customizable interface
  • Quick "Dash Charge" system
  • High performance

Bad

  • No design update since the OnePlus 3
  • No microSD slot
  • Only Full-HD (1920x1080) Screen Resolution
  • No Android Nougat yet

OnePlus 3T release date and price

The OnePlus 3T had its launch event on November 15. It's available in two colors and in two different variants – 64 GB or 128 GB. The Soft Gold 64 GB model is now available in the US for $439, and from November 28 in Europe. The 128 GB model will be available in the Gunmetal color for $479. The OnePlus 3T has also been launched in India, with the 64 GB model selling for ₹29,999 and the 128 GB model for ₹34,999.

It is more expensive than the OnePlus 3 was, which is a shame since there is nothing particularly creative about the 3T. With the OnePlus 3 now off the shelves, the brand probably has good expectations for the smartphone anyway. A phablet of this quality at this price point isn't exactly common.

AndroidPIT oneplus 3t 1334
On the left is the OnePlus 3T in Gunmetal, and on the right, its predecessor, the OnePlus 3. / © AndroidPIT

 

OnePlus 3T design and build quality

My colleague Omar raved about the design of the OnePlus 3 during his test of the device. I find myself in the same situation with the OnePlus 3T today, with one key difference: the OnePlus 3 was the rightful heir to the OnePlus 2, while the OnePlus 3T is just a little brother to the OnePlus 3.

If you liked the design of the OnePlus 3, you'll like the OnePlus 3T. The design is basically the same. OnePlus kept the aluminum unibody, the elegant curved edges, the fingerprint scanner on the front, the sound setting Hotkeys...all the things which made us fall in love with the OnePlus 3. It's not particularly helpful to review all of these features, so I will just share the ones which really make the phone's strengths stand out.

androidpit oneplus 3t screen2
The fingerprint scanner is located under the screen. / © AndroidPIT

OnePlus knows how to make use of space on their phones. Unlike Google, which puts an empty space under the screen of its Pixel phones, OnePlus takes advantage of the space to house its fingerprint reader. Above, we find the speaker and sensors. On the right side, we find the button to turn the display off and on, and trays for two nano SIM cards.

AndroidPIT oneplus 3t 1380
Apart from the new Gunmetal color, the 3T looks the same as a OnePlus 3. / © AndroidPIT

If there's one thing I find handy on an iPhone, it's the ability to switch from ringtone to silent mode with the easily distinguishable side buttons. OnePlus gave the 3T a similar setup, giving the ability to switch to silent mode without having to turn on the screen.

Another advantage is the USB (2.0) Type-C port found on the bottom of the device, between the speaker and the mini-jack (yes, there is a mini-jack!). Having the mini-jack port on the bottom of the device isn't necessarily bad; it just means you have to put your phone in your pocket upside down when you listen to music, so it's right-side-up and ready to use when you take it out that way.

AndroidPIT oneplus 3t 1369
Unfortunately, the camera protrudes a little bit from the back of the phone. / © AndroidPIT

With regard to handling, it is a treat. Of course, you must love screens which are a little bit big, and in certain circumstances it is necessary to use two hands. This device is subjectively large, with the following dimensions: 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm. That being said, it's certainly not too big, as you don't have to worry about it having difficulty sliding into your pocket.

If you want a phone with a premium look and feel, you will be well-served by the OnePlus 3T. The surface and build quality of the 3T is consistent with other metal body phones like the Google Pixel, giving it a truly chic appearance. Of the two colors, Soft Gold and Gunmetal, I really like the Gunmetal which recalls the lighter gray shade of the original OnePlus 3.

OnePlus 3T display

Once again, OnePlus opted for a 5.5-inch display. This is something that was successful on its predecessor, the OnePlus 3. The screen is an Optic AMOLED, which according to OnePlus co-founder Carl Pei, is tweaked specifically for the handset, making contrast and color temperature truer to life and viewing better when outdoors. The OnePlus 3T comes with a Full-HD screen and this choice has advantages and disadvantages. One the one hand, the energy consumption is not too high, particularly with the AMOLED screen. But the downside is that the definition is not ideal for VR.

androidpit oneplus 3t screen1
You can adjust the display settings yourself. / © AndroidPIT

The screen is 5.5 inches, making it one of the smaller phablets. Like that of the OnePlus 3, the pixel density is 401 ppi. The screen is Full-HD (1920x1080), which at the advent of VR, is unfortunate. Some newer phones have Quad-HD (2560x1440) resolution instead. Nevertheless, the screen is quite good, the colors are vivid, and I have no problems with it. You can adjust the display settings yourself by calibrating the screen, setting the color temperature differently or by using the sRGB mode. It is pleasant to use this mode, since it makes it less tiring for the eyes, but the yellow hue may get on your nerves.

Unfortunately, I lack the special equipment to test the screen brightness objectively, but it seems to be pretty good. White on the screen sometimes tends toward yellow or blue hues depending on the angle you hold the device. I couldn't test it in strong sunlight, since the sun isn't strong in Berlin this time of year. The 3T's night mode adapts the colors of the screen so your eyes don't get tired when reading in low light conditions. This is one of the more interesting features of the device for me.

By default, the Gorilla Glass 4 screen comes with a 2.5D screen protector. The protector comes pre-installed since Gorilla Glass 4 is more easily scratched than Gorilla Glass 3.

OnePlus 3T software

Here is where I was really disappointed. On the 3T we find OxygenOS 3.5.1, which is based on...Android 6.0.1! Android Nougat was officially released months ago, and new phones are already being sold running the new version of the OS, but OnePlus opted for the tried and true Marshmallow version anyway. That being said, they already announced that the 3 and 3T would be able to update to Nougat in December.

androidpit oneplus 3t review themes
No Nougat, just good old Marshmallow. Do you prefer the light or dark theme? / © AndroidPIT

In short, the user interface is a lot like stock Android and it isn't built upon the latest version of Android, which is a shame. That said, like with the OnePlus 3, the picture isn't totally black. Some of the the interface elements have changed, like the quick bar settings which look more like Nougat, and the more intuitive options, in addition to a weather app and voice recorder which also appeared.

On one hand, devotees of pure Android will find it agreeable, despite some tiny differences like smaller icons here and there. On the other hand, there is no bloatware. The software provides some useful functions, like accessibility help for the visually impaired (TalkBack, different font sizes, zoom gestures) and the App Locker function which locks certain apps with a code through the "Never Settle" banner on the top left of the home screen.

androidpit oneplus 3t review neversettle
The menu provides quick access to contacts, apps, and widgets. / © AndroidPIT

This mode allows you to quickly access your recent contacts, apps, and a status panel which gives you an idea of your remaining battery life, memory usage, and other widgets. Personally, I don't find this very useful, since I prefer to use Google Now to get weather and news updates, but I'm sure some will like it.

If you want to customize your menus, you have two options: light or dark. Plus, you can set a secondary color, like an all black menu with green text that will really stand out. More black on an AMOLED is always good for battery life. It's not necessarily useful, but some will like having the color options.

OnePlus 3T performance

Before we get too far, let's talk about the technical specs of this device. The processor is a 2.35 GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 821. According to Qualcomm, it's 10 percent more powerful than its predecessor, the 820 with its 2.2 GHz. To complement this, we find the improved Adreno 530 graphics chip, which also boasts at least a 5 percent performance boost and low battery consumption. Along with all of this, we find 6 GB of RAM, plus 64 GB or 128 GB of storage, the latter of which is only available in the Gunmetal color.

oneplus 3t benchmark scores
This device does great on benchmark tests. / © AndroidPIT

On the 3T, we find UFS 2.0 (universal flash storage), which should allow for relatively quick loading of apps. In practice, I've found this to be true. For everyday use, the performance is good: the RAM and processor can handle multitasking and deliver a good experience consistently. I haven't encountered any crashes, slow downs, or bugs. Everything seems to be fluid. The phone seems to get warm after heavy use, but nothing abnormal. The fingerprint reader can unlock the device and take you to the home screen in 0.2 seconds.

You can use both nano SIM trays on the device, but OnePlus unfortunately didn't give us a MicroSD card slot.

A feature which will please many is the dual SIM. You can use both nano SIM trays on the device, but OnePlus unfortunately didn't give us a MicroSD card slot. The North American model sports WCDMA: Bands 1/2/4/5/8, FDD-LTE: Bands 1/2/4/5/7/8/12/17/30, and CDMA EVDO: BC0. The OnePlus 3 has a relatively low SAR.

As far as benchmarks go, the smartphone scores well, even against the OnePlus 3 which sets the bar. You can find the results of the test in the table below. The battery life test was carried out with the screen at maximum brightness, a topic which we will return to in the section on the battery. 

Benchmarks - OnePlus 3T

  3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.1 3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.0

3D Mark Sling Shot ES 2.0

Geekbench 4 - single core Geekbench 4 - multicore PC Mark Work Performance 2.0 PC Mark Storage PC Mark Battery Google Octane 2.0
OnePlus 3T 2358 2983 30610 1884 4394 5759 4688 4h 54m 6566
OnePlus 3 2291 2862 27038 1715 3972 5355 3646 4h 52m 8115

If you're a VR aficionado, I have bad news. I am very pessimistic about this phone's VR potential due to the low resolution of the screen.

The OnePlus 3T has slightly elevated SAR levels from the OnePlus 3, with the highest reported levels being 0.995W/kg (head) and  0.645W/kg (body).

OnePlus 3T audio

Here again, we find a single speaker located on the bottom of the phone, on the left side of the USB port, With regard to sound quality, the mono speaker isn't as good as a stereo speaker you could buy in a store, but the quality is satisfactory for what it is. The max volume is pretty high, but at high volumes, quality is degraded and sounds metallic.

AndroidPIT oneplus 3t 1377
The mono speaker for listening to music. / © AndroidPIT

Unfortunately, the phone doesn't come with headphones. Most manufacturers offer headphones, even if they're not the best quality ones. As you can imagine, the audio experience is better with headphones.

During calls, I haven't experienced any problems. I could hear and be heard clearly with no concerns about audio quality.

OnePlus 3T camera

On the back of the OnePlus 3T, we find the same configuration as that of the OnePlus 3: a Sony IMX 298 16 MP (back) lens with an f/2.0 aperture, and a pixel size of 1.12 microns. That said, the potential is different. Our expert photographer, Robert, has examined the issue and found some differences between the old model and the new one.

The most notable difference is the edge-to-edge sharpness of the OnePlus 3T. Lens quality is often prioritized for maximum sharpness in the center of the image area, since most people will ideally photograph their subjects in that space. The areas around the edge can often be softer due to manufacturing or other implementation issues in a lens. However, the OnePlus 3T is sharper edge-to-edge compared to it's predecessor. This will be most apparent in good shooting conditions, like on a bright sunny day, which is when shutter speeds are fast enough to not diminish image quality with blur.

The camera on the 3T is perhaps not the best on the market, but it does the job quickly with phase detection auto-focus (0.2 seconds) and generally provides good results. Its photos are good quality, even when conditions aren't very bright. Details show up well and there are no saturation issues. That said, if you zoom in a lot, you will see a sort of border or outline between black and white shapes (like branches and the sky).

IMG 20161116 134926
The green leaves show up very well. / © AndroidPIT

On the front, we have another 16 MP camera, but it is not the same as the back one: it is a Samsung 3P8SP. The aperture is f/2.0. The quality is good, more than good enough for selfies. The front camera can also take videos in 1080p at 30 fps, 1080p at 60 fps, 720p, and 4K. You can see the difference in quality between the OnePlus 3 and the 3T: the colors are better and the details are crisper.

The image stabilization is equally good, both optically and electronically. The camera app is the same as the OnePlus 3, both in terms of the interface and its options. Save Location, Shutter Sound, and Save RAW Image are the only possible settings, but rest assured that you will find the manual mode, panorama mode, and the video options, including slow motion and accelerated. The slow motion videos can be shot in 720p. And you can also save your photos in .RAW format.

androidpit oneplus 3t review photo
The regular and manual camera mode interfaces are both simple. / © AndroidPIT

Hint: you can launch the camera app with a double-tap on the camera button, just like the OnePlus 3. It is a shame that there weren't any revolutionary changes to the rear camera, given that the competition doesn't hesitate to up their game with a f/1.7 aperture. For example, Samsung increases their potential during low light conditions and improved the Bokeh effect.

 

OnePlus 3T battery

The OnePlus 3 has a batter capacity of 3000 mAh, but it decided to go a step beyond with the OnePlus 3T by offering 3,400 mAh. A larger battery in the same size device, without making design concessions, is very interesting.

In general, the battery life is good, but I must admit that I didn't use it too heavily: just instant messaging, news, a bit of video, some music...In short, a user like me will have the phone lasting a day and a half easily. I made time to test it in the shoes of a demanding user, and spent time on it watching videos and playing games, and the phone doesn't disappoint. Overall, it is longer lasting than its predecessor.

The Dash Charge system (5 volts 4 amps) allows for quick charging of the phone. The technology provides a stronger current while maintaining a low voltage, which can transfer energy and files quickly. Specifically, I charged the battery from 9 percent to 100 percent in about 75 minutes.

OnePlus has indicated that the system provides a whole day's worth of battery life in just 30 minutes of charging time. In practice, I went from 5 percent to 57 percent in half an hour, with WiFi and mobile data turned on. A heavy user would likely not last a whole day with just 57 percent, realistically.

I went from 5 percent to 57 percent in half an hour.

We hear that fast charging is extraordinary because it avoids heating up the device, and the user may therefore continue to use their phone while charging without any danger. This is maybe true, but we can't assume everything will be cool. The charger itself will heat up as well, and after a while, the phone starts to heat up too. Admittedly the situation is under control, at least according to OnePlus, but a hot charger would panic anyone.

With the PCMark 2.0 benchmark, the phone got a 4h 54m score with maximum brightness and the WiFi turned on. In comparison, the OnePlus 3 got 4h 52m with the same conditions (WiFi on, max brightness, and no SIM card).

OnePlus 3T technical specifications

    • Type:
    • Phone
    • Model:
    • OnePlus 3T
    • Manufacturer:
    • OnePlus
    • Dimensions:
    • 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm
    • Weight:
    • 158 g
    • Battery size:
    • 3400 mAh
    • Screen size:
    • 5.5 in
    • Display technology:
    • AMOLED
    • Screen:
    • 1920 x 1080 pixels (401 ppi)
    • Front camera:
    • 16 megapixels
    • Rear camera:
    • 16 megapixels
    • Flashlight:
    • LED
    • Android version:
    • 6.0.1 - Marshmallow
    • User interface:
    • Oxygen OS
    • RAM:
    • 6 GB
    • Internal storage:
    • 128 GB
      64 GB
    • Removable storage:
    • Not available
    • Chipset:
    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
    • Number of cores:
    • 4
    • Max. clock speed:
    • 2.35 GHz
    • Connectivity:
    • LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 4.2

Final verdict

The OnePlus 3T is the flagship killer. The OnePlus 3's crown is being taken by the 3T. What was best about the OnePlus 3 is now made even better by the 3T: an upgraded Snapdragon 821 processor, a larger battery, an improved front camera and various software adjustments. In short, the OnePlus 3T does a great impression of a OnePlus 3 version 2.0.

That said, if you've already got a OnePlus 3, don't bother to upgrade. The lack of Android Nougat is a mistake on the part of OnePlus, in my opinion. True, the update will be available in December, but a phone with these specs running last year's version of Android just isn't right. The lack of a microSD card slot is also regrettable, but that's not a surprise, since the OnePlus 3 didn't have it either.

In the end, the OnePlus 3 is no longer available and this will motivate people to buy the OnePlus 3T, which is more expensive but also more interesting than the OnePlus3. However, I wonder if it would have been easier to simply wait for the OnePlus 4. Could it be that the young Chinese manufacturer will hold us off with the OnePlus 3T, as a signal that it may be a long while before we get the OnePlus 4? Stay tuned.

4 comments

Write new comment:

This website uses cookies to ensure you get the best experience on our website. More info

Got it!