Pros / The OnePlus 5T has the highest resolution cameras on the market.
Cons / It isn't water-resistant.
Verdict / The OnePlus 5T isn't just one of the most affordable flagship smartphones on the market – it's also one of the best performing. It is a great option for people who want high-end performance without the high-end price.
Editor’s Note: This product has been removed from our side-by-side comparison because it has been discontinued. You can still read our original review below, but Top Ten Reviews is no longer updating this product’s information.
Released on Nov. 16, 2017, the OnePlus 5T replaces the OnePlus 3T as the best value smartphone because of its impressive performance, great specs and low price. At around $500, it's certainly not the most affordable smartphone available, but if you compare the OnePlus 5T's specifications, display, camera and usability to those of other smartphones, it's more comparable to models that cost closer to $1,000 than to phones with similar prices. To put it simply, if you want to experience cutting edge performance at a price that much easier to stomach, then the OnePlus 5T is your best option, so long as you're fine with using T-Mobile and AT&T networks.
The OnePlus 5T received an A for usability in our evaluation. It's bigger than the average smartphone, but it's still small enough to fit comfortably in most hands. The rounded edges feel good in the palm and make it seem slimmer than it is. That said, the design is quite pedestrian, with nothing about it that really makes the phone stand out. In fact, you could easy mistake it for the Samsung Galaxy S8.
Its 6.01-inch display is one of the biggest available and nearly covers the entire phone, though it's not quite an edge-to-edge display – there is about a quarter inch of display-less phone on the top and bottom. While the space at the top houses the front-facing camera and a small speaker, the space at the bottom seems like it's there simply for symmetry.
The 5T comes with Android 7.1.1, which is the latest version of the popular operating system. The biggest advantage of this OS over the iPhone's OS is the control you have over practically everything. The iPhone's OS may be more user-friendly, but this Android OS is ideal for users who want to heavily customize their smartphone. Of course, such customization comes with its own learning curves. In other words, it's a tradeoff.
The OnePlus 5T has a 16MP and 20MP camera. Both megapixel specifications surpass any smartphone cameras on the market. The best iPhones and Samsung Galaxy phones top out at two 12MP cameras. However, the 5T’s higher resolution cameras don't necessarily produce better images. In reality, all these cameras produce very high quality images, which is why they all received A+ grades. One advantage of the 5T is the control it provides. While most camera phones provide automatic settings to get the best picture, the 5T has a Pro Mode that gives you full control over ISO, white balance, focus and other settings.
The front-facing camera’s 16MP resolution is twice as high as that of any other smartphone. However, you can’t use the portrait mode, which creates depth by focusing on the person and blurring the background, when you snap photos with the front-facing camera. This is disappointing because it makes for excellent selfies. Since this mode isn’t available with the front-facing camera, you have to blindly take your selfies with the back-facing camera if you want to use it.
The OnePlus 5T features the 2.45GHz Snapdragon 835 processor, which is the same one used by the Samsung Galaxy S8. This processor, which has eight cores, set records for performance in our benchmark tests when the Galaxy S8 came out. These records were shattered by the iPhone X's A11 Bionic chip, which was released months later.
One of the OnePlus 5T’s advantages over the Galaxy S8 is its RAM. The S8 has 4GB while the 5T comes with either 6GB or 8GB. When we put the OnePlus 5T through the same benchmark performance tests, it consistently scored higher than the S8, though not by much – it received an 80-percent score while the S8 received a 75-percent score. In other words, the performance is better, though it’s probably not significant enough to notice without benchmarking software. That said, this 5-percent difference is significant when you consider that the S8 costs over $200 more than the 5T.
The OnePlus 5T received a B+ overall battery rating. Our sister site, Tom's Guide, performs customized battery life tests on every phone. In these tests, a fully charged phone uses automated software to browse the internet with the display set at a specific brightness until the battery dies. The 5T lasted for 11 hours and three minutes, which is among the longest battery lives we've seen.
However, the 5T only received a B+ for the overall battery grade because you can't replace the battery or charge it using a wireless mat. That said, it is compatible with rapid charging, which means it can reach a 50-percent charge in just 30 minutes.
As with all the flagship smartphones released in 2017, the OnePlus 5T is Bluetooth 5.0 compatible. This latest version of Bluetooth is a significant upgrade over Bluetooth 4.2, which was the previous standard for wireless connections. Version 5.0 has twice the data transfer rate, four times the wireless range and eight times the broadcast capabilities. This means it's much better at streaming audio, provides you with more room to roam from your Bluetooth devices and can connect to more devices.
The OnePlus 5T’s most glaring downside is its lack of water-resistance. Most top-rated smartphones now come with IP67 ratings for dust-resistance and water-resistance. This rating is only given to products that can be submerged under 1 meter of water for up to 30 minutes without incurring damage. Without the rating, you have to be careful using your phone around any water.
Like the Galaxy S8, the fingerprint scanner was moved to the back of the phone to make room for more display. The OnePlus 5T also has a face recognition feature that allows you to unlock your phone just by looking at it. In my experience, the face recognition feature wasn't nearly as effective as the Face ID feature introduced on the iPhone 8 and iPhone X. In fact, it worked only about 85 percent of the time. I preferred using the fingerprint scanner to unlock the phone.
With an octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor and 6 or 8GB of RAM, the OnePlus 5T's performance edges past the Samsung Galaxy S8, making it the best performing Android phone on the market. When you consider that it costs hundreds less than other flagship smartphones while featuring the highest resolution cameras and a 6.01-inch AMOLED display, it's clear why the OnePlus 5T is our pick for best value. We only wish it was water-resistant.