OnePlus 7T review: less like a T upgrade, more like a new phone

Pros:

  • Narrower, more streamlined design
  • Blazing fast as usual
  • The first phone to come with Android 10 out-of-the-box
  • Excellent 90Hz display
  • Superfast charging speeds
  • Wide-angle camera
  • Good battery life

Cons:

  • Camera needs updates
  • Massive camera ring on the rear will polarise opinions
  • No headphone jack or 3.5mm dongle in the box
  • No wireless charging
  • The software was buggy for initial testing

Introduction

By now, you guys probably know everything there is to know about the OnePlus 7T. More than the leaks, the company was very forthcoming with information before the launch this year. So, there’s no point in me wasting time trying to talk up the phone with a fancy introduction. Let’s get down to the full review of the OnePlus 7T, Mr. Phone style.

OnePlus 7T design: not everyone’s cup of T

The OnePlus 7T is drastically different in terms of design and if you’ve seen the images you’ve probably made up your mind about it already. You either love or hate that camera ring that sticks out from the rear. It is not going to be everyone’s cup of T. Well, you now have a circular insert for the triple camera setup on the rear that breaks away from the glass back of the phone. It is s sizeable bump that makes the 7T wobble on a table. However, if you ask me, this gives the phone a distinctive look and unique character as well.

While you might not like the camera ring, I am sure the new taller design thanks to the 20:9 aspect ratio would soften the blow. I mean, this makes the phone easier to grip and use with one hand despite the large display on the phone. I found using it with one hand far easier compared to hulking behemoths such as the OnePlus 7 Pro or the ASUS ROG Phone 2. The curve on the rear further aids the grip. It is a solidly built phone with a reassuring heft. My only concern is the frosted glass matte back feels slippery and therefore I slapped it in a case as soon as I unboxed it.

As for the Glacier Blue color, it is fine but I guess most people will lust after the Frosted Silver. As for the rest of the buttons and ports, it is standard placement really. You have the power button and the Alert Slider on the right edge. The volume rocker sits on the left. There’s the Type-C port at the bottom flanked on either side by the SIM tray and a speaker grille. By the way, you have a dual speaker setup with the earpiece that doubles up as the second speaker. And, there is Dolby Atmos support as well.

I mean, Atmos is not going to be as effective for such tiny drivers but the sound quality from the stereo setup is pretty good for what it is worth. It gets pretty loud and the individual speakers have equal sound levels as well. This is uncommon in a stereo setup where the earpiece doubles up as the speaker. Oh yeah, and there is no headphone jack or a 3.5mm dongle in the box. But, the audio performance using a pair of wired earphones is pretty good and so is the performance of wireless earphones.

Overall though, the design of the OnePlus 7T showcases the company’s relentless commitment towards refinement and perfection.

OnePlus 7T display: 90Hz is the new normal for OnePlus

The biggest new attraction in the OnePlus 7T is the 90Hz Fluid AMOLED panel that has trickled down from the OnePlus 7 Pro. While the & Pro featured a QHD+ display, the one here is a FullHD+ display with the higher refresh rate. And yes, it has a taller 20:9 aspect ratio, Gorilla Glass protection, P3 Colour Gamut, and HDR support. I love the fact that the OnePlus 7T has a flat display. I am not a fan of curved displays, and this is definitely a refreshing change after using the OnePlus 7 Pro and the Note 10+.

But, that’s not it. The bezels and the chin are extremely slim. Plus, the teardrop notch at the top is tinier now, if that was even possible. The curved corners are slightly squared off and that makes it look extremely good. The display is colorful and brighter now. You get a sustained brightness of 800 nits and it can touch 1000 nits when watching HDR videos. If you ask me, I like the display on the 7T more than the one on the 7 Pro. I’ve had a blast consuming episodes of Mindhunter on the phone. Oh, by the way, you also have the optical in-display fingerprint scanner embedded in the display. And, it is one of the fastest ones out there with excellent haptic feedback when you press on the display. I don’t miss the physical scanner anymore. There’s also a very good face unlock if you prefer that. But, I don’t think it is very secure, which is why I’ll be sticking to the fingerprint scanner instead.

It is a pity that the 7T doesn’t have an Always-On display but you can activate the clock that also showcases the notification and can also display the song playing in the background on the ambient display. You can activate the ambient display by touching on the display or tilting it towards you. The best part: it doesn’t affect battery life much.  And, I must talk about vibration feedback. The effect is more accurate and happens at singular touchpoints but it is lighter. This made me feel like typing was a tad more nimble and faster on the OnePlus 7T. I was blazing through lines of text thanks to the elevated typing experience. Again, this is better than the OnePlus 7 Pro for sure. These are tiny but precise refinements that elevate the experience of using a flagship phone.

OnePlus 7T software: the first phone with Android 10 out-of-the-box

The OnePlus 7T is the first phone in the world to ship with Android 10 out-of-the-box, even before the Pixel 4. OnePlus’ commitment towards regular Android updates is commendable. And, the OxygenOS skin on top of OnePlus continues to be my favorite Android skin to date. It has so many useful features under the hood and OnePlus continues to improve upon it.

However, my software experience with this review unit of the 7T was marred by a few bugs. For example, I couldn’t change to a downloaded wallpaper of my choice from the usual wallpaper settings page. I found that odd. Plus, there were a few random crashes too. I am a 100% certain that this is a problem with the pre-release software on our phone and OnePlus has confirmed that retail units will include an upgrade that will have a far superior experience. I will be updating the review once a new update comes in, but right now, I had to be transparent with my review and experience with the device.

Anyway, these issues aside, my experience with the new Android 10-based OxygenOS 10.0.HD65AA software was excellent. I really appreciate the new upgrades that you get with the core Android kernel and of course all the OxygenOS upgrades. For example, you can now change the timings in Zen mode for extended bliss and there is a feature page dedicated to customization with the new option to change the shape of notification tiles. Additionally, there are a few tweaks to the camera app that are super handy. Plus the gallery app has the option to hide pictures now. Although, I would have liked it if it was password protected but I’ll take what I can get. But, the coolest new addition to the software is definitely the one that has changed in the core Android kernel. The quick automated responses that you can action directly from the notification card. In fact, even links open directly from the received notification itself. It is damn useful and intuitive if you ask me.

OnePlus 7T camera: good but could become even better with a software update

Judging a new OnePlus phone’s cameras at launch is now a sin. Because OnePlus keeps sending camera updates that improve the algorithm over time. It just gets way better. Thankfully, for the 7T, OnePlus has the opportunity to learn from the mistakes it made with the OnePlus 7 Pro. Therefore, the pictures do look good. That said, there is still a lot of room for improvement. In terms of specs, the camera setup on the 7T is nearly identical to the one on the 7 Pro. The only difference is the telephoto camera. You now get a 12MP sensor with f/2.2 aperture and 2x optical zoom instead of 3x.

  1. Starting off with the new macro mode. You can go 2.5cm to 8cm close to subject and use all the three cameras to do so. I had a slight trouble focussing but the images did look good. However, I have noticed this problem with shooting macro photos in harsh lighting conditions. You cannot avoid the shadow created by the phone itself. This doesn’t happen on a professional DSLR because of the distance between the lens and the camera body. I don’t know how brands can fix this but until then I find shooting macros with a phone a tad stressful.
  2. With the new Android 10 update, you can switch between the regular wide-angle camera and the telephoto one to take portraits. This is great because you can capture the field-of-view that you prefer. The portraits captured in good lighting conditions look good outdoors and the cutout is good too. 
  3. So, coming to the main 48MP Sony IMX586 sensor, the shots from this camera exhibit excellent dynamic range. The colors are mostly good but the phone does oversaturate the Blues and the Reds for sure. In fact, if you shoot a deep red colour it tends to bleed. But, I like how far OnePlus has come in terms of dynamic range and color science improvements. Having said that, the sensor details are still not as crisp as a few other cameras I have used.  
  4. For some odd reason, Oneplus tends to oversaturate the telephoto shots and the white point is extended. And, the ultra-wide shots exhibit a very warm tint compared to even the OnePlus 7 Pro. OnePlus seriously need to fix the glaring disparity in color science asap. Otherwise, it’ll look like you are taking shots with three different cameras entirely and not one camera with three different lenses. You can use the slider below to compare between the wide and ultra-wide aspect of the camera.
  5. The OnePlus 7T can shoot up to 4K 60fps videos but without stabilization. The video is an oversaturated mess, though. In 1080p 30 fps, you get EIS+OIS kicking in and it is called HIS now. This makes it extremely stable but the footage looks saturated here as well. You can also shoot 1080p ultra-wide video now. Compared to the videos from the primary camera, the ultra-wide is more natural-looking if a tad muted. The sound recording is decent too but it cannot cut out the wind noise. Overall, the 7T could do with better video performance in my opinion.
  6. Lowlight shots and the nightscape mode is now available for both the regular wide and the ultra-wide cameras. It does look good but definitely not Pixel, iPhone 11, P30 Pro, or Note 10+ level. 
  7. The OnePlus 7 Pro is not the fastest shooters out there. There is a perceptible lag while shooting photos and that causes blurry pictures at times. 
  8. Sree and I shot a few images with the OnePlus 7T, 7 Pro and the ROG Phone 2 for his comparison, which should drop soon. I checked a few photos and the 7T takes very similar-looking pictures to the 7 Pro. The primary camera on both the OnePlus phones offer a great dynamic range compared to the ROG Phone 2. But details-wise, there is no difference as such. However, in the close-up shots you can clearly see that the OnePlus phones are far better at the dynamic range and color reproduction as well if a tad saturated. The ROG Phone 2 does offer some crisp details, though. In portraits, the ROG Phone 2 doesn’t stand a chance against the OnePlus phones. And, in selfies, the color tones, the dynamic range, the details, and the portrait mode are definitely far more refined on the OnePlus phones. In fact, OnePlus has fixed the color tones in the 7T and it looks damn nice now. Overall, I think the OnePlus 7T and the 7 Pro are still the better phones for photography compared to the ROG Phone 2. 

I like the OnePlus 7T’s cameras but the color science disparity is an issue. As standalone sensors, they can take good pictures sure. But if you want the best camera phone in this price range, I’d suggest going for the Pixel 3a instead. Maybe, GCam can solve some of the issues with the 7T’s camera?

OnePlus 7T performance: can OnePlus make it any faster now?

The OnePlus 7T has Qualcomm’s latest powerhouse the Snapdragon 855+. It comes in only two variants: one with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage and another with 8GB of RAM and 256GB of storage. And, of course, there is no expandable storage option available. The OnePlus 7T feels slightly faster than the OnePlus 7 and the 7 Pro in day to day use. However, the difference is quite literally imperceptible. That said, now it is also smoother with the 90Hz panel and that’s what makes it way better than the OnePlus 7 for sure. Unfortunately, our OnePlus 7T review unit was locked out of AnTuTu and 3DMark, so I don’t have the benchmark comparison for you guys. Having said that, I do have comparison for the new Geekbench 5 test and you can see the SD855+ is leading the pack. Even in the storage read/write speed comparison for the new UFS 3.0 storage, the OnePlus 7T is blazing fast!

With PUBG, I played at HDR settings with Extreme and Antialiasing on and I got a consistent 60fps with a few dips. That showcases OnePlus’ excellent tuning prowess. In fact, there’s a new Game Space app for you guys to test out as well. Here all the games are bunched in one single app and you can assign individual settings for game performance enhancements. Could be handy for some but mostly useless for others, if you ask me. To sum it up, performance and gaming have never been a problem for OnePlus and the 7T continues to bring its best foot forward.

OnePlus 7T battery life and call quality: improved from the Oneplus 7 Pro

The OnePlus 7T has a 3,800mAh battery and comes with a new and improved Warp Charge 30T. So, OnePlus claims that the new Warp Charge 30T standard, despite being 30W, is 18% faster than the Warp Charge 30 introduced with the OnePlus 6T McLaren Edition. The company claims that it can charge the OnePlus 7T from 0 to 70% in 30 minutes and you know what? I found that to be actually true. However, the trickle charging from 70 to 100 is much slower now. This means that it still takes around 1 hour and 20 minutes to charge from 0 to 100. I really don’t care because this is still plenty fast.

Coming to the battery life, it is pretty good. I got an SoT of over 6 hours and 30 minutes with 90Hz on. This is way better than what I managed to achieve with the OnePlus 7 Pro. I guess the power efficiency of the SD855+ chipset is coming into full effect in here. Trust me, you aren’t going to face any problem with battery life on the OnePlus 7T.

I used an Airtel and Jio SIM with the OnePlus 7T and both the phones could connect to VoLTE networks with ease. There were no call drops and the audio quality in calls, while not very loud, was crystal clear. OnePlus has seriously improved the earpiece and the call quality as well. The 4G performance and the Wi-Fi reception was top notch too. Overall, I have no concerns with the network performance of the OnePlus 7T.

Should you buy the OnePlus 7T?

With the OnePlus 7T, OnePlus isn’t merely upgrading the OnePlus 7. It is creating a separate new phone that can stand on its own. If you ask me, the OnePlus 7T is the middle child. And, I have a soft spot for this one because in more ways than one it is better than even the OnePlus 7 Pro. Yes, I know I spoke about a few software glitches but I have to say OnePlus will solve that for sure. The company has a stellar track record. It is just a pity that we get these units early. I am sure that by the time I publish this review, there is already a patch for the phone fixing all the issues. In fact, OnePlus has promised us that.

So yeah, the OnePlus 7T is a great phone. But there is one other phone that completely took the market by surprise with its super aggressive pricing and that is the ASUS ROG Phone 2. In comparison to the OnePlus 7T, the new ROG Phone is a massive chunk of heavy glass and metal. But, there’s also the 6000mAh battery, Air triggers, extra charging ports, extra cooling vents, and many more hardware additions that we need to take into account here. The ROG Phone 2 is packed to the gills with great specs and if you are a mobile gamer you must buy it. In fact, even if you were faintly considering it just pull the trigger. No pun intended. But, the bigger question is if the ROG Phone 2 is a flagship killer-killer? The answer to that will be no. OnePlus has established itself with its refined products over the years and their 7T lives up to that legacy. The brand is more recognized now and has a wider mass-market appeal.

ASUS probably missed the opportunity to land a resounding blow with the 6Z in my opinion. A niche phone like the ROG Phone 2 is not going to change that. Don’t get me wrong, I love the ROG Phone 2. It is the best gaming phone but is it the best phone in this price range? Probably not. And, I am still rooting for ASUS primarily because it is the underdog and I love a good fight. But, the ROG Phone 2 is not it. Primarily because the target audience is narrow and very defined. The mainstream audience will not buy a 240g phone with angular lines and flashy colors on the back for sure. Minimalism and a seamless flow of design are important to grab the attention of the mainstream audience. Well, that is what I think. If you have a contrarian viewpoint, sound off in the comments below.

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Ershad Kaleebullah
ershad.kaleebullah@u2opiamobile.com

When Ershad isn't writing, he spends time killing virtual zombies on his PS4. Having worked with a slew of renowned publications like PCWorld, Channelworld, CIO, NDTV Gadgets (now Gadgets360), MySmartPrice, The Inquistr, and 91Mobiles, Ershad brings a whole world of experience to Mr. Phone. He is trying hard to convert all the team members into Apple fans but is facing a lot of resistance. Is anyone willing to help?