OnePlus stayed active this year — after releasing their excellent OnePlus 3 in June of this year, the smartphone maker kept at it to make sure their phone stayed level with the best out there. That’s why the OnePlus 3T isn’t just a new model with extra storage — it’s an upgrade centered around the move from the Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC to the 821, which we’ve seen in phones like the Google Pixel in the second half of the year.
It’s not a full upgrade — the rear camera is the same as the one on the OnePlus 3, for example — but it’s enough to warrant a separate release and a new price tag. But, that might be the worst change made for the OnePlus 3T. Although it’s only $40 more expensive at $440, low-cost premium alternatives like the ZTE Axon 7 and LeEco Le Pro3 become that much more attractive as a result. But, the lightweight software and excellent performance on the OnePlus 3T work to ensure that the phone remains one of the strongest, if not the strongest, low-cost premium Android phone on the market.
Note: The OnePlus 3T is not a redesign — it has the same build, thickness, and rear camera, for example. This review will point out the differences between the OnePlus 3 and the 3T before discussing how those changes affect the 3T’s value.
One major change in the OnePlus 3T is the chipset. OnePlus has moved from a Qualcomm Snapdragon 820 SoC to the 821 SoC. Like the OnePlus 3, the 3T has 6 GB of RAM, a 1920 x 1080 5.5″ AMOLED display, and a Sony 16 MP rear camera with an f/2.0 lens, phase detect autofocus, single LED flash, and optical image stabilization. The 3T still runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow (with a slightly updated OxygenOS overlay), but a 7.0 update is said to be in the works. The phone still comes with 64 GB of storage and no microSD card slot, but a 128 GB model will be available.
|PC Mark for Android Work 2.0||5507|
|GFXBench GL 3.1 1080p Manhattan Offscreen||2,051 frames|
|3D Mark Sling Shot Extreme||2774|
|PC Mark for Android Work Battery Life||6 hours, 59 minutes|
The 3T fares well against the Google Pixel and the Le Pro3. Processor performance was a bit better on paper, while GPU performance was right about in line with those other 821 phones. It should be noted that the 821 has higher clock speeds on the quad-core CPU, but the same GPU — as we’d expect, graphics performance is only marginally better on the 3T than on the OnePlus 3. In practice, the 3T does seem a little faster than the 3, especially when running several apps or when using the Swype keyboard.
The other big change was an increase in battery capacity. While the OnePlus 3 arrived with a smaller battery than the OnePlus 2, the 3T has a larger battery than both. The 3,400 mAh battery does well with the hardware and the 1080p display, making the phone last a day comfortably with mixed use. It might not make it all the way under heavy use, but OnePlus’s Dash charging once again makes recharging very fast. A half hour of charging is good enough to charge the battery well over 50 percent. It’s unlikely that many who purchased a OnePlus 3 will also purchase a 3T, but just in case — the Dash cable and wall charger from the 3 won’t work with the 3T. They’ll still charge the phone, but you won’t get the same speed boost, and unfortunately, the cable and wall charger cost an extra $35 bundled together.
We noted that the rear camera hasn’t changed. The front camera, however, has gotten a big upgrade. Instead of the 8 MP sensor on the OnePlus 3, the 3T has a 16 MP sensor with 1.0 µm pixels and an f/2.0 lens. Like before, it can take video in 1080p.
Not many changes have been made to the software, which is a good thing. We really like the lightweight OxygenOS, which is almost pure stock Android. One big change OnePlus makes is the addition of the shelf, a pane accessed by swiping right on the home screen. This can be filled with weather updates, widgets, memos, and frequently used apps. I didn’t like it on the OnePlus 3, but I’ve warmed up to using it on the 3T — the presentation is less of a departure from the rest of the UI, and having a widget pane with infinite scroll is pretty handy.
Favorite features like tap to wake and hand wave to wake are here, as well. There’s no always-on low-power display, but the phone can be made to wake in a low-power black and white mode when you receive a notification.
One last note — at launch, the OnePlus 3 did not use the sRGB color space, which resulted in some oversaturated blues and greens. Later, OnePlus pushed out an update that allowed users to enable sRGB color in developer options, usually something reserved for enthusiasts. sRGB is now a basic display option, which is good news if you’re big on color fidelity.