Review Update: OnePlus 3T

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Highlight – This is as good as it gets under $500.  Period.

It wasn't but a few months ago that OnePlus launched the OnePlus 3, the highly anticipated annual followup to its flagship phones. Last year we saw OnePlus release a second device that was geared towards a crowd who was looking for a less expensive phone, and this year they're doing the opposite with the OnePlus 3T. While the OnePlus 3 broke new ground compared to other OnePlus flagships, introducing not only a top-notch OLED display and an all-metal build, the OnePlus 3T builds upon the skeleton of the OnePlus 3 and improves the internals in every way. Featuring a bigger battery, faster SoC, more internal storage and a new sapphire camera lens, the OnePlus 3T looks to be the ultimate high-end phone with a mid-range price. This review is effectively an update to that review, covering what's new and different between the devices rather than going through everything twice.

Specs

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While the OnePlus 3 launched at $399, the OnePlus 3T gets a slight price bump up to $439 in the US, €439 in Europe and £399 in the UK for the 64GB model. If you're looking for more internal storage you can bump it up to 128GB internal storage for $479 in the US, 479 in Europe and £439 in the UK. OnePlus is shipping the all-metal OnePlus 3T in Gunmetal instead of the silver color the OnePlus 3 came in, and will also be offering the phone in a Soft Gold color in the near future when stock becomes available. Many specs are similar to the OnePlus 3, including the all-metal unibody build and dimensions, which measures in at 152.7mm tall, 74.7mm wide, 7.4mm thin and weighs 158 grams. This means all the current available cases will work with the OnePlus 3T without modification, a great piece of news for future owners.

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Also similar to the OnePlus 3 is the display, which features the same 5.5-inch 1080p Optic AMOLED panel, as well as the optional software button or hardware capacitive button configuration below the screen. Identical too are the cameras, the front-facing a 16-megapixel camera sensor, while a 16-megapixel 1/2.8-inch camera sensor with 1.12-micron sized pixels, f/2.0 sapphire glass lens, phase detection autofocus and a single LED flash sits on the back. You'll also find 6GB of LPDDR4 RAM inside the phone just on the Oneplus 3, but unlike that phone you'll find a larger 3,400mAh battery inside. Also upgraded is the SoC (system-on-a-chip), which is now a Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 with Adreno 530 GPU.

The Differences

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The OnePlus 3T isn't a significant enough upgrade for current OnePlus 3 owners to even consider upgrading, especially when you look at the specs. Qualcomm's Snapdragon 821 is a better SoC, but it's not a generational leap above the Snapdragon 820 found in the OnePlus 3, and given that OnePlus has no plans to utilize Google's Daydream VR platform, the jump to the 821 is a marginal difference at best. You're still getting the same screen, same amount of RAM, same internal storage size and speed, identical build and the same camera on the back. In all honesty the only real difference most people would ever pick up on are two things: front-facing camera, and battery life.

It's no secret that battery life has been a struggle for smartphones since their inception. Asking a mobile device with limited battery capacity to do so many things, and yet still last an entire day borders on crazy, but people do it every single day. As a result manufacturers have learned to stuff larger and larger batteries inside of ever-shrinking frames, all while being asked to charge them faster than ever before. OnePlus has absolutely answered the call to both of these features, and while the Dash Charge feature isn't any different than what you'll already find on the existing OnePlus 3, the battery life absolutely is. Sporting a modest 13% increase in battery size over the OnePlus 3, battery life in general has seen a much more significant increase than 13% would suggest. The OnePlus 3 had average battery life on a good day, but the OnePlus 3T has stellar battery life to say the least.

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Most average use days ended with around 40% or more battery left in my usage, and even heavy days with 5 hours of screen on time and 17 hours off the charger still showed more than 20% left at the end of that day. Dash Charging helps too, with 30 minutes of charging adding 50% to the battery, easily finishing off the day no matter what you do on it. One part that could have helped this is a fix to the RAM issues the OnePlus 3 had, and while it still shares the same massive 6GB RAM that phone had, it manages its usage far better than the OnePlus 3 did at launch. I was able to go all the way to the back of the Android Overview carousel and immediately pull up apps I hadn't opened in hours or even days in some cases, and it's this sort of excellent RAM management that helps keep CPUs from needlessly loading, and therefore batteries from needlessly draining.

What's odd this time around is the complete lack of focus on VR. While OnePlus has updated the chipset to the Snapdragon 821, a chipset quickly becoming known for its excellent VR capabilities, OnePlus is completely ignoring the VR scene this time around.  This is particularly odd because the original OnePlus 3 launch event, as well as the OnePlus 2 launch event, were done entirely in VR. Not focusing on VR also means that OnePlus isn't working on support for Google's fledgeling open VR platform, Daydream, which is a huge miss considering it's not only got the horsepower to run the platform, but could also have been a key part of marketing given the price of the OnePlus 3T with a Daydream headset is still well over $100 less than buying the smallest Google Pixel available.

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OnePlus has upgraded the resolution on the front-facing camera to a rather unusual 16-megapixels, but has failed to add any real meaningful features to it such as front-facing flash or HDR. This means that, while the resolution of your selfies will be off the charts, that harsh backlighting is still going to blow out the scene, and those darker night-time selfies don't get any help either. Aside from the new, more scratch-resistant sapphire lens, the rear-facing 16-megapixel camera is identical to the OnePlus 3.  Check out the gallery below to see what the OnePlus 3T's camera is like.

For owners of the OnePlus 3, the differences listed above will likely not be enough to upgrade from what's already an excellent phone, despite some great strides toward better battery life and a more scratch-resistant camera lens. In fact OnePlus 3 owners get a sneak peak of the company's latest OxygenOS update, featuring a build on top of Android 7.0 Nougat, while OnePlus 3T owners will have to wait for the final version of the update to get it. If nothing else this is a testament to OnePlus trying to manage its releases by not making its current customers mad and offering the latest OS for the latest hardware first, but of course is disappointing for someone buying a brand new phone and expecting the latest and greatest in every way.

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The Good

Significantly improved battery life over the OnePlus 3

Dash Charge is as fast as ever

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Amazing build quality

Hardware priority mode slider is genius

Vibrant and beautiful AMOLED screen

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Top-tier performance

Light Android skin with some nice added features

Unbelievably fast fingerprint scanner

Phenomenal camera

NFC

Great 16-bit sound output

The Bad

No high-res audio or Bluetooth aptX

No Daydream VR support

Launching with Android Marshmallow instead of Nougat

Conclusion

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Looking to pick up a top-end flagship phone without spending in upwards of $600 or more? Want the latest in mobile chipsets and the performance that goes with it, but don't want to break the bank? OnePlus offers this with a bigger battery on top of that, and of course everything we loved about the OnePlus 3. This improves upon essentially everything, and removes all the real negatives behind the OnePlus 3 when it launched earlier this year. OnePlus is still working on its own in many areas, including forgoing higher quality Bluetooth audio through the aptX codec, and those looking for 24-bit high-res audio will certainly have to look elsewhere. Everyone else, especially those that aren't interested in Google's Daydream VR platform, should definitely consider picking this one up as their new phone, because quite simply this value and quality combination is too hard to pass up.

Buy The OnePlus 3T - OnePlus