OnePlus usually releases a fresh model when there's a new flagship-class Qualcomm Snapdragon chip to be used, or when it senses a big market shift in terms of design or features. This philosophy has helped the company stay ahead of the curve, even at the cost of annoying its fans who might have spent quite a lot of money only to find their brand new devices outdated in less than six months. In this case, it has been just over four months since the launch of the OnePlus 7, but we already have the OnePlus 7T hitting the stores. What's surprising is that the OnePlus 7T isn't just a minor refresh with a new Snapdragon 855+ processor – it picks up many of the features that set the more premium OnePlus 7 Pro apart from the OnePlus 7, including a third rear camera and a 90Hz display. Unfortunately, it also continues OnePlus' other habit — increasing prices with each generation.
No longer an upstart, OnePlus broke its long-standing philosophy of selling only one phone at a time when it launched the OnePlus 7 (Review) and OnePlus 7 Pro (Review). We noted the many reasons that it made sense for the company to finally divide its attention, but the OnePlus 7 felt a little underwhelming compared to its more premium sibling which got a whole new design as well as better features. The OnePlus 7 was still relatively affordable and powerful, but it felt like a reheated OnePlus 6T (Review), and has recently had to compete with the likes of the Redmi K20 Pro (Review) and Asus 6Z (Review).
Now, the OnePlus 7T bridges that gap after just four and a half months, bringing many of the OnePlus 7 Pro's features to a lower price point. This is a rapid cycle even by this company's standards, and what's more interesting, the OnePlus 7T arrives alone. Does this mean that OnePlus is shaking things up again, or is it trying to let each model shine on its own terms? We're going to see in our review.
OnePlus 7T design
Perhaps the biggest recent design trend that we've seen at all price levels is the erasure of notches, with various companies experimenting with pop-up modules and holes in the screen. OnePlus has stuck with a waterdrop notch for the OnePlus 7T, which is a surprise considering its competition. It looks as though the company is saving this feature for its Pro models.
We have the same elongated earpiece grille, and the same general aesthetic as before. We really like the fact that the screen's corners are much less rounded than we typically see on phones these days, resulting in less of the display getting clipped. The borders around the screen are pretty thin, and there's little else to see on the front.
While the new OnePlus 7T looks a lot like its predecessors from the front, the rear is all new. We have a huge circular camera bump, reminiscent of the Moto Z series, but with three lenses in a horizontal row and the flash beneath them. This is a huge departure from OnePlus' previous designs and we have mixed feelings about it. It's really prominent, and not very slick. The bump also sticks out a lot, which means that this phone rests on any flat surface at an angle.
Surrounding the circular island is a sea of matte-textured glass. The OnePlus 7T is available in Glacier Blue and Frosted Silver, but precedent suggests that more options will be released over time. We noticed a very subtle gradient on the rear of our Glacier Blue review unit.
The combination of metal and frosted glass sets this phone apart from all the mid-range devices with gradients that we've seen over the past year or so. The awkward camera bump aside, the OnePlus 7T looks and feels very premium. The rear does get slightly smudged with fingerprints, but the texture is not slippery at all, making it a little less difficult to shuffle this phone in one hand when trying to reach the upper one-third of the screen.
At 190g and 8.13mm thick, this is a fairly bulky phone, but it isn't too hard to live with. The power button and alert slider on the right are within reach, and so are the volume buttons on the left. OnePlus controversially did away with the 3.5mm headphones socket already, so there isn't one here. The dual SIM tray and USB Type-C port are on the bottom.
OnePlus says it has used Corning Gorilla Glass for the front and rear of the OnePlus 7T, but hasn't specified what version. Our unit came with a pre-applied plastic screen protector which was thankfully quite unobtrusive. We would have really liked to see an IP rating, but the company has made no mention of water or dust resistance anywhere.
The circular module on the rear of the OnePlus 7T holds all three cameras as well as the flash
OnePlus 7T specifications and software
As expected, the OnePlus 7T uses Qualcomm's refreshed Snapdragon 855+ processor, which has a slightly faster 2.96GHz high-performance Kryo 485 CPU core than the Snapdragon 855, while the other seven efficiency cores remain the same. Qualcomm also claims 15 percent better GPU performance thanks to a higher clocked Adreno 640 integrated GPU.
8GB of RAM is now standard across variants. You only need to decide whether to get 128GB or 256GB of storage, which of course uses the fast UFS 3.0 standard. These two variants are priced at Rs. 37,999 and Rs. 39,999 respectively, so we don't expect that anyone will think spending Rs. 2,000 more for double the storage will stretch their budget too far. OnePlus continues to not support microSD cards, though the increased storage on offer means it's now much less of a problem than it used to be. Interestingly, this device's USB Type-C port supports USB 3.1 Gen1 (5Gbps) transfers but the included cable can only handle USB 2.0.
The display is slightly taller, now with a 20:9 aspect ratio and 1080x2400 resolution. It measures 6.55 inches diagonally and has a 90Hz refresh rate, as well as HDR10+. OnePlus says that this screen supports the sRGB and P3 colour gamuts, but not to what extent.
Battery capacity has gone up slightly from 3700mAh to 3800mAh. OnePlus also says that its new Warp Charge 30T standard is quicker than Warp Charge 30. The charger you get in the box is rated for 5V/6A (30W) and is touted to charge the phone from zero to 70 percent in just 30 minutes, a claim we will test in a bit.
There's dual-band Wi-Fi 802.11ac; Bluetooth 5 with aptX HD and LDAC; GPS; NFC; and all the usual sensors. OnePlus also says its haptic vibration motor and in-display fingerprint sensors have been improved compared to previous models. There are a few missing high-end features: Wi-Fi 6, wireless charging, and an IP rating would have been nice, but you can't get them all at this price yet.
The trademark OnePlus alert slider is on the right, above the power button
The OnePlus 7T is also one of the first phones in India with Android 10 out of the box. Rather than the stock experience, you get OnePlus' custom OxygenOS 10 UI which is said to have over 300 tweaks and improvements. Our review unit was running the September 2019 security patch.
UI customisation options include system-wide themes, a dark mode, an optional search interface instead of the usual app drawer, fine-grained notification behaviour control, multiple icon packs, and of course plenty of shortcut gestures. You can also choose between Android navigation buttons and gestures. OnePlus implements the brand new Android 10 gesture scheme but doesn't offer the option of an Android 9-era swipable Home button.
You'll also see many Android 10 features including new privacy and permission notification popups, priority notifications at the top of the pull-down tray, auto-suggested replies in message notifications, and a redesigned share sheet for content. OnePlus's OxygenOS continues to focus on improving and adding customisability to stock Android rather than upstaging and replacing it.
Zen Mode, OnePlus' way of allowing users to force themselves to disconnect, is still available. There are also several other ‘Utilities' including a Quick Launch bar that can pop up when you use the in-display fingerprint sensor, the ability to run two instances of many apps, encrypted secure storage, and experimental OnePlus Labs features. The only Lab feature currently available is DC Dimming, which uses power regulation rather than strobing to reduce screen brightness – this can reduce eye fatigue but can result in some display abnormalities.
Netflix, Amazon Shopping, and Amazon Kindle, and Amazon Prime Video are preloaded, but these can all be removed. You also get Google Pay, Duo, Files, and a few OnePlus apps including Community for participating in the company's forums, and Switch for importing data from an old phone.
L-R: UI appearance customisation options; Android 10 navigation gestures; Settings app with dark theme activated
OnePlus 7T performance and battery life
The OnePlus 7T feels very snappy and responsive, no doubt due to the combination of the Snapdragon 855+ processor and the 90Hz screen. It isn't possible to say how much of a difference each of these factors is responsible for, but the overall effect is that this phone is a pleasure to use and it didn't stumble or keep us waiting at any point during our review.
Although OnePlus says that the notch is nearly one-third smaller than before, it's still mildly annoying when watching full-screen video. Other than that, this display is excellent, delivering top-notch colour reproduction and smooth motion. We played a few HDR videos on YouTube and we could see how much of a difference it made, though it does automatically push the brightness way up. The earpiece works with the speaker on the bottom to deliver stereo audio. The sound can get fairly loud and is reasonably detailed, making videos even more enjoyable.
OxygenOS 10 ran perfectly smoothly. Heavy apps and games opened quickly, and we had no trouble whatsoever with multitasking. Both the in-display fingerprint sensor and face recognition were easy to set up and use. We didn't feel that either security measure was slow. You can allow the screen to brighten to help with face recognition at night, and you can choose from a few animation options for the fingerprint sensor.
The Snapdragon 855+ processor smashed through our benchmark charts, posting astronomical results: 399,656 in AnTuTu, and 10,409 in PCMark Work 2.0. Geekbench 5's single-core and multi-core scores were 789 and 2,736 respectively. The OnePlus 7T maxed out GFXBench's T-rex and Mahnattan 3.1 tests, and posted a blistering 41fps in the Car Chase scene. 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited gave us 76,742 points while Slingshot Extreme managed 6,185 points.
As expected, PUBG Mobile ran flawlessly. Gameplay was smooth and the experience was immersive and enjoyable. We pushed the graphics up to HDR and the frame rate to Extreme, and didn't notice any lag. However, the rear of the phone did get a little warm when using these settings. Asphalt 9: Legends was also a pleasure to play.
With ordinary everyday use, battery life was pretty good and we were able to get through a full day with around 40 percent left. That should be enough to last for one day and a bit of the next if you don't play games or watch a lot of video. Our HD video loop battery test ran for 14 hours, 35 minutes which is good but not especially great, but might be explained by the size of this screen.
Using the bundled charger, we got to 9 percent in five minutes and 43 percent in 20 minutes. As for OnePlus' claim about charging up to 70 percent in half an hour, we came very close to matching that, with 68 percent. This is truly impressive, and is easily one of the most useful features a smartphone today can have.
The OnePlus 7T has its SIM tray, Type-C port, and speaker on the bottom
OnePlus 7T cameras
Very little else about the OnePlus 7T is drastically new, and so the new camera setup on the rear is definitely one of the main attractions. We have a 48-megapixel primary shooter with an unusually wide f/1.6 aperture. This is based on the tried-and-true Sony IMX586 sensor, and offers Hybrid Image Stabilisation which leverages optical as well as electronic stabilisation capabilities.
The second rear camera has a 117-degree wide field of view and a 16-megapixel resolution, while the final one has a 2x telephoto lens for optical zoom, and an f/2.2 aperture. There's no separate depth sensor, but portrait effects are implemented using a combination of these cameras. The front camera has a 16-megapixel sensor.
Tap to see full-sized OnePlus 7T camera samples: Primary camera (top), wide-angle camera (middle), telephoto camera (bottom)
OnePlus' camera app viewfinder has a simple slider letting you switch between the wide-angle (0.6x) camera, the primary one (1x), and the optical zoom (2x) one. Tapping and holding this slider brings up a dial that lets you make finer adjustments to help you frame a shot. We were happy to note that the OnePlus 7T used its optical zoom camera to take shots in low light in our tests. However, it's only possible to use the full 48-megapixel resolution of the main camera in Pro mode, which isn't easy to find. You can slide the shutter button upwards to reveal more modes and settings that aren't in the carousel or row of icons flanking the viewfinder, and we wish these were easier to discover.
When we were out shooting, we found that autofocus occasionally failed to lock on to a subject even if it was clearly in the foreground. This was more likely to happen in low light. We also encountered a strange bug — the viewfinder would fade to grey or just go black several times; usually for a brief flash but sometimes for a few seconds. This seemed to be related to auto HDR detection and switching, but we weren't able to reproduce this consistently. Hopefully this will be refined with future software updates.
We'd also like clearer instructions in the Portrait and Super Macro modes – it wasn't always obvious whether we needed to move closer to or farther away from our subject to allow the effects to kick in. You can shoot portraits with the main as well as the wide-angle cameras, but you can't adjust the intensity either before or after taking a shot. Macros can be shot with all three, and you can take shots from as close to your subject as 2.5cm.
The OnePlus 7T's three cameras mean there's a lot of versatility when it comes to framing shots. Of course, the primary camera took the crispest shots, with loads of detail visible even at a distance and clean, balanced exposures even under harsh direct sunlight. The telephoto camera also delivered surprisingly good results when light was favourable. We found the quality of wide-angle shots a bit lacking. There was definitely some softness as well as fish-eye distortion, but this camera could still be useful for group shots and landscapes.
Tap to see full-sized OnePlus 7T photo samples
Photos taken with the main rear camera in the daytime had great overall definition. The OnePlus 7T was able to capture fine textures such as fur and rust without any trouble. Colours were well balanced and there was great natural depth even without using Portrait mode in many situations. In fact, shots taken in Portrait Mode in the daytime were slightly washed out and weren't exposed as well.
At night, in addition to the autofocus issue we encountered, many shots came out a little blurry. However, noise was generally well under control and details were very well preserved. Once again, the telephoto camera did well enough while the wide-angle camera was quite a bit weaker. Night Mode does make a big difference, bringing out detail in shadowy areas without blowing out the highlights. There's a toggle in the settings that will make night mode use slower speeds, and you can use it if your phone is on a tripod or otherwise stabilised.
You can switch between all three cameras even in the middle of shooting a video clip at 1080p, but the transitions are rough and jarring when watching the video later. Only the primary camera offers stabilisation, and the other two aren't available when the resolution is set to 4K. Stabilisation clearly works very well at 1080p in the daytime, and we were very happy with the quality of video taken when we were walking on an uneven pavement. At night, it causes a bit of jittering and jerkiness. Predictably, the wide and telephoto cameras aren't nearly as good with video at night.
We were happy to see that beautification is not on by default with the selfie camera. Selfies came out looking just as good as we had hoped, with balanced exposures even in the background, and very good detail on our faces. Even at night, the front camera did quite well.
The OnePlus 7T has frosted glass on the rear and is available in grey or blue
OnePlus has delivered a solid update to the OnePlus 7, but we can't help but feel that this is the model that should have been launched four months ago. Anyone who has bought a OnePlus 7 (Review) recently will feel a bit annoyed, and rightly so. Many who paid much more for the OnePlus 7 Pro (Review) might also be miffed. OnePlus would do well to launch its refreshes on a more predictable schedule like other manufacturers in the premium space do.
On the other hand, if you've been holding on to an older model and want to upgrade, this would be a good time. The OnePlus 7T offers loads of high-end features and capabilities, plus great overall specifications and versatile cameras. It's one of the first phones in India with Android 10, and the Snapdragon 855+ has more than enough power for high-end Android games. Those who have been considering a Samsung Galaxy S10e (Review), Google Pixel 3a (Review), or iPhone 11 (Review) have a compelling alternative at a lower cost. Interestingly, the OnePlus 7T is priced right up against the Asus ROG Phone II, which has also just been launched with a Snapdragon 855+ processor, 8GB of RAM, 128GB of storage, and 120Hz screen. Stay tuned to Gadgets 360 for our review of that smartphone.
Speaking of cost, the fact that there's only a Rs. 2,000 difference to go from 128GB of storage to 256GB means that deciding between these two variants is a no-brainer. If you're spending so much anyway, Rs. 2,000 more is well worth it for double the space, since there's no microSD card slot. However, this raises the entry-level cost for a OnePlus phone yet again, leaving the so-called "budget flagship" market behind.