OnePlus 7T review: blistering performance, bargain price

It’s almost perfect

OnePlus 7T review
Bottom Line
The OnePlus 7T is an outstanding premium flagship that offers blistering performance at a bargain price.
Pros
Sexy design
Gorgeous screen
Unrivaled performance
Excellent battery life
Stock Android
Incredible value
Cons
Telephoto camera lacks OIS
No wireless charging
No headphone jack
4.8

It’s been just four months since I reviewed the awesome OnePlus 7 Pro, so imagine my surprise when OnePlus reached out about a new phone. What? See, the company’s been on a tick tock-like cycle — launching a new handset every six months or so — since the OnePlus 3T back in 2016. New products arrive in the spring, followed by an updated version in the fall. That’s just the way it is™. Yet here’s the OnePlus 7T ($599), prancing around two months early, trying to distract me from Galaxy Notes, iPhones, Pixels, and other hotties. I wasn’t ready for this.

Ok fine, I’ll bite. Hello there, sexy beast. Let’s get to know each other. What are you bringing to the table? Seriously, though, this phone’s place in the lineup is a bit weird. In some ways it’s just a smaller OnePlus 7 Pro with a 1080p display and Qualcomm’s latest chip, the Snapdragon 855+. Based on naming alone, it’s really supposed to be an updated OnePlus 7 (which never came to the US), but compared to that handset, the OnePlus 7T is really more of a new device — complete with a triple-rear camera setup and 90Hz screen.

Confusing, isn’t it? You have questions, I have answers. Let’s try to get to the bottom of this together. Most importantly, with the affordable flagship segment heating up, is the OnePlus 7T the one to beat, once again? Here’s my full review. Enjoy!

Hardware and design

Big circles on the back of smartphones are the thing right now. I’m not kidding. This past ten days alone, the Vivo NEX 3, Huawei Mate 30/30 Pro, and OnePlus 7T were all announced with a bunch of shooters mounted in a large black circular pod. Now before you cry wolf about Moto being first with its round camera bump, (a) those are smaller, and (b) the Nokia Lumia 1020 did it first, unapologetically, like a boss. So there you go, history buffs. And you know what? I like it. A lot. It just looks fantastic, especially on today’s bigger handsets.

Inside that big circular pod are three shooters — a 48MP main sensor, a 16MP ultra-wide camera, and a 12MP telephoto lens — plus a dual-LED flash. The rest of the back is covered in a silky feeling, matte looking “3D” glass panel with discreet OnePlus branding. It’s shaded in a color that’s appropriately called Glacier Blue. Alternatively, the OnePlus 7T is also available in a Frosted Silver hue, but it’s kind of boring. Under that rear cover hides a sizable 3800mAh battery, but still no wireless charging coil, unfortunately.

Unlike the OnePlus 7 Pro, which is really big, the OnePlus 7T is far more manageable and much easier to hold. In front, it looks very much like a OnePlus 7, but if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that the 6.55-inch display has a 20:9 aspect ratio, making the phone narrower than its predecessors. The teardrop notch is also 30% smaller than before, and is home to a 16MP lens. Yes, there’s no pop-up front shooter here — I guess that’s reserved for current (and future?) Pro models. Also missing is a notification LED, which is a bummer.

The shape of the OnePlus 7T is unmistakably OnePlus, and so is the layout of the controls and ports scattered around the aluminum frame sandwiched between the front and rear glass. You’ll find the secondary mic on top, the volume rocker on the left, the SIM tray, primary microphone, USB Type-C port, and speaker grille along the bottom edge, and the power/lock key and mute slider on the right side. No surprises here. As usual for the company, this device is not IP rated, but there’s a seal around the SIM tray, so it’s likely splash-proof.

Overall the OnePlus 7T is attractive and feels great in hand. It also benefits from OnePlus’ usual excellent build quality. Frankly, this might just be the company’s best design to date — that round camera bump really steals the show.

Display

OnePlus 7T review: blistering performance, bargain price 2

If you were hoping for another OnePlus handset with a 1440p screen, this isn’t it. The OnePlus 7T packs an edge-to-edge 6.55-inch FHD+ Fluid AMOLED panel with a 20:9 aspect ratio (2400 x 1080 pixels, 402ppi, HDR10+) and the same incredibly smooth 90Hz refresh rate as the OnePlus 7 Pro. While bezels are minimal, there’s still a tiny chin — but remember, the teardrop notch is 30% smaller now, so that’s gotta count for something, right? I’m also happy to report that this display is bucking the silly curved edge trend that’s sweeping the flagship nation.

Anyway, this is a lovely screen. My eyes aren’t really good enough to tell the difference, so I’m fine with that 1080p resolution. Colors are vivid but not overdone, blacks are inky deep, and with a maximum brightness of 1000nits, it’s easy to read in direct sunlight. Viewing angles are nice too, without any bothersome off-center color shift. As a bonus, this panel blocks 40% of harmful blue light, and there’s an additional chromatic Reading Mode that only partially desaturates colors for better eye comfort. So yeah, forget QUAD HD+ — the OnePlus 7T display delivers.

If anything is missing, it’s a proper always-on screen option. There’s an Ambient Display mode but it requires lifting the OnePlus 7T up or tapping the front glass to see the time, and any outstanding notifications, which defeats the purpose.

Camera

So this is where things get really interesting. It’s easy to assume OnePlus just transplanted the triple rear-camera system from the OnePlus 7 Pro into the OnePlus 7T and called it a day, but that’s not quite the case. The main shooter is identical and features Sony’s popular IMX 586 48MP sensor along with an f/1.6 lens with OIS and phase-detection AF. It’s a Quad Bayer sensor that bins groups of four pixels into 1.6-micron super pixels (12MP) for better low-light performance. This yields excellent results when implemented properly, like it is here.

The 16MP f/2.2 ultra-wide camera is also the same — complete with that fun 117-degree FoV. It’s with the telephoto shooter that things change, and not necessarily for the better. Instead of an 8MP f/2.4 camera (3x zoom) found in the OnePlus 7 Pro, the OnePlus 7T uses a 12MP f/2.2 setup (2x zoom). Resolution and magnification aren’t really that much different. Both sensors have 1.0-micron pixels, and it’s well documented that the OnePlus 7 Pro actually uses a 13MP shooter with 2.2x optics cropped to 8MP to achieve that advertised 3x zoom.

The big problem here is that unlike the OnePlus 7 Pro, the OnePlus 7T’s telephoto lens lacks OIS. Yes, you read that right. The camera that’s the most sensitive to shaky hands doesn’t have optical image stabilization anymore. But wait, I hear you say. Surely Qualcomm’s mighty Snapdragon 855+ has a super mega ISP that enables fancy electronic image stabilization. Also, that new lens gathers more light than the old one (f/2.2 vs. f/2.4). That’s all true, but unfortunately, this new telephoto shooter stumbles in my experience, at least in low light.

At first I was really annoyed by this, but then I decided to compare the two phones side-by-side and found that the results are a wash. Yes, you have to be more steady when using the OnePlus 7T’s telephoto camera, but neither device captures terribly great telephoto pics in low light. Then again, the Huawei P30 Pro and the Honor 20 Pro are my telephoto shooters of choice, so maybe I’m just spoiled. Either way, the OnePlus 7T’s telephoto camera is fine in daylight and indoors — I just think removing OIS was a step in the wrong direction.

In front, the 16MP f/2.0 1.0-micron shooter carries over from the OnePlus 7 Pro unchanged. The resulting selfies and portraits are adequate, but still don’t really shine. What’s more exciting, though, is the OnePlus 7T’s new Super Macro mode. It lets you get as close as 2.5cm (1 inch) from your subject and still focus properly. This opens up even more creative opportunities, and is a welcome addition to an already solid main camera. OnePlus’ NightScape night mode returns, and now also works with the wide-angle lens.

Overall, the OnePlus 7T takes nice photos with proper exposure and enough dynamic range to handle most conditions. While colors are generally accurate, the white balance was off on a couple of my pics — a bug that will hopefully be fixed in a future update. Low light performance is good — at least on the main shooter — and NightScape makes it even better. The ultra-wide camera also benefits from NightScape. Just stay away from that telephoto lens in the dark. Finally, portraits now benefits from two FoVs with the rear camera, which is cool.

The OnePlus 7T records video with stereo audio at up to 4k 60fps stabilized with the main shooter, and up to 1080p 30fps stabilized with the ultra-wide, telephoto, and selfie cameras. It also supports slow motion (up to 720p 480fps, main camera only) and time-lapse (1080p 30fps with all 4 shooters). But what’s really exciting is OnePlus’ new Super Stable mode (1080p 30fps), which combines optical and electronic image stabilization for remarkably shake-free videos. In all, the resulting videos look nice and sound good.

Reception and sound quality

As usual, OnePlus sent me an unlocked dual-SIM review unit (T-Mobile is getting a single SIM variant). I mostly used it on Verizon’s LTE network in San Francisco, and didn’t run into any issues with reception, data speeds, or call quality. Both the earpiece and bottom-firing speaker sounded loud and clear in my tests. Like many other flagships today, the OnePlus 7T combines these two drivers for a decent stereo listening experience. Interestingly, while it sounds louder at max volume than the OnePlus 7 Pro, it’s also slightly tinnier overall.

I know I’m gonna sound like an old lady yelling at the clouds here, but where’s my fricking headphone jack? I know, I know — it left with the OnePlus 6T and it’s not coming back. But I’m still annoyed about this, especially considering OnePlus’ history and customer base. And to make things worse, there’s not even an adapter in the box. That’s just cheap. On the plus side, this handset supports both analog and digital USB Type-C audio accessories, so you have options. Anyway, I’m glad I got this off my chest. Now get off my lawn!

The OnePlus 7T also features Dolby Atmos for both speakers and headphones, and aptX for high-quality Bluetooth audio. When using an analog dongle, I found the built-in DAC and amp to sound pretty good, if somewhat volume-limited when driving larger headphones.

Next Page: Performance, Battery Life, Software, Price & Bottom Line

Performance and battery life

OnePlus phones are always fast — really fast — and once again, the OnePlus 7T delivers. Welcome to the new quick, powered by Qualcomm’s meanest and leanest SoC yet, the Snapdragon 855+ — and enhanced by that 90Hz display. This handset feels incredibly quick no matter what — whether you’re scrolling through social media or drifting around Asphalt 9. And while it’s not obviously faster than the OnePlus 7 Pro, it’s the first time I’ve ever been able to power through Gmail for several minutes without the UI lagging behind my fingers.

And while it’s not obviously faster than the OnePlus 7 Pro, it’s the first time I’ve ever been able to power through Gmail for several minutes without the UI lagging behind my fingers.

Anyway, between the speedy hardware and the new software (Android 10), the OnePlus 7T provides a delightfully fluid user experience that’s unmatched by other flagships. If that’s what you’ve been looking for, then skip the rest of this review and go buy this phone. Just keep in mind that there’s only one configuration available in the US: 8GB of RAM (LPDDR4S) and 128GB of built-in storage (UFS 3.0) with no SD card support. So while you’ll definitely be able to edit 360-degree video like the wind, you might run out of space doing it.

Despite packing a smaller 3800mAh cell and speedier processor, the OnePlus 7T appears to be as efficient as the OnePlus 7 Pro. This probably comes down to the lower 1080p screen resolution and newer OS (Android 10). Regardless, battery life’s been excellent so far. I spent my first two days using the OnePlus 7T on a single charge (turning it off at night), and that included taking most of the photos for this review. As such, I’m pretty confident most people will have no problem getting through an entire busy day on a full charge.

Speaking of charging, the OnePlus 7T support Warp Charge 30T, which is 20% faster than Warp Charge 30 but uses the same power adapter. So yeah, topping off will happen in a flash — as long as you don’t mind wires. Once again, there’s no support for Qi wireless charging here. I don’t want to sound like a broken record, but at this point it’s pretty ridiculous for OnePlus to keep making flagships (no matter how affordable) without wireless charging. The ZTE Axon 10 Pro I recently reviewed offers wireless charging and costs $50 less.

As for the rest of the specs, the OnePlus 7T features a linear vibration motor for better haptics and a speedy third-generation optical in-display fingerprint sensor — just like the OnePlus 7 Pro. In the US, this handset works on T-Mobile (including band 71 / 600MHz / LTE Advanced technology – 4X4 MIMO, 256 QAM, carrier aggregation and LAA), AT&T, Verizon (LTE only), and partners. It packs CAT 18 LTE (global bands), WiFi 802.11ac (2×2 MIMO), Bluetooth 5.0 (with aptX HD), NFC, and A-GPS / GLONASS / BeiDou / Galileo, plus a whole bunch of sensors (accelerometer, gyroscope, ambient light, proximity, and compass). Phew…

Software

The OnePlus 7T runs the company’s Oxygen OS 10.0, a nearly stock build of Android 10 with a custom launcher and some (mostly helpful) customizations — like that aforementioned chromatic Reading Mode. It’s also finely tuned for performance, with over 370 optimizations. For example, RAM Boost — carried over from the OnePlus 7 Pro — caches commonly used apps in memory for quicker launch times. The list goes on, but you get the idea. In all, this is one of the most refined builds of Android available on any flagship today.

Zen Mode — which was introduced with the OnePlus 7 Pro and encourages you to take a break and focus on life by temporarily disabling your phone — is now adjustable between 20 and 60 minutes. OnePlus is even launching a 21-day Zen Mode Challenge — such hippies! That’s nice, and I don’t want to kill the good vibes, but can we talk about this useless thing called Shelf? It replaces the Google Discover page to the left of the home screen. Why does it even exist? It’s crap. Please kill it with fire so I don’t have to install another launcher. Thanks…

And yes, before you run for the pitchforks, I know Shelf can be disabled, and that T-Mobile’s version of the OnePlus 7T offers the Google Discover page as the default. I’m just a cranky tech journalist with high expectations, OK? Also OnePlus — if you’re reading this — why do we need custom Calculator, Contacts, Gallery, and Messages apps? Why not use Google’s apps instead? You already have Google Photos installed, and it’s far superior anyway. I realize I’m nitpicking here, but you know I’m right.

Price and competition

Rejoice! You’ll be able to buy the OnePlus 7T for $599 directly from OnePlus in Glacier Blue or Frosted Silver starting Oct 18. And it goes without saying that if you’re shopping for an affordable flagship, you probably should — few other handsets are this well rounded at this price. If you’re looking for something with the same kind of blazing performance, but want more storage (256GB + microSD) and don’t care about photography, consider the $549 ZTE Axon 10 Pro I recently reviewed — you even get wireless charging.

Other affordable flagship options include the $499 ASUS ZenFone 6 (6GB / 64GB), which packs a headphone jack and quirky flip-up camera, and the $479 Nubia Red Magic 3 gaming phone (8GB / 128 GB), which sadly lacks NFC. If you’re abroad, consider the lovely $600+ Honor 20 Pro and amazing $400+ Xiaomi Mi 9T Pro / Redmi K20 Pro. Then of course, there’s the rest of OnePlus’ lineup, from the OnePlus 7 ($429 on Alibaba, 8GB / 256GB) to the OnePlus 7 Pro ($669 from OnePlus, 6GB / 128GB).

T-Mobile will also sell the OnePlus 7T beginning Oct 18, but I didn’t have pricing information at the time of writing. Until then, you can grab the awesome OnePlus 7 Pro from T-Mobile for $699 (8GB / 256 GB).

Myriam’s bottom line

Look, it’s kind of a no brainer. The OnePlus 7T is an outstanding handset, and at $599 it’s an absolute steal. You’re looking at a premium flagship through and through, with unrivaled performance, plus the kind of design, build quality, display, and battery life usually found on handsets costing hundreds more. It’s not the perfect phone, but it’s close. For me, a better telephoto camera with OIS and wireless charging would seal the deal.

Yes, I’d also love to see a headphone jack, notification LED, and official IP rating, but for better or for worse, the first two are rapidly disappearing from today’s flagships, and the third is OnePlus just being stubborn. It’s pretty clear from various informal tests that the company’s handsets are at least somewhat water-resistant. Ultimately, you can’t go wrong with the OnePlus 7T. It’s coming to T-Mobile, works on AT&T, and supports Verizon’s LTE network — who knows, it might even land on Sprint alongside the OnePlus 7 Pro.

Here’s my advice. If you want unrivaled performance or incredible value, just buy the OnePlus 7T. Otherwise, wait until Google’s Pixel unveiling on Oct 15 to decide — between the rumored 90Hz screen and new multi-camera system, I have good feelings about this one.

Helena’s bottom line

After spending several days with the OnePlus 7T, I’ve discovered that I actually prefer the OnePlus 7T over the OnePlus 7 Pro. This is mostly because I prefer a flat display over a curved edge display. I’ve also been pleasantly surprised to discover that its 1080p resolution display isn’t bothering me. Would I have liked to see a higher resolution display? Hell yes. But thanks to its 1,000 nits brightness and 90Hz refresh rate, the display is still really good. The notch is also minimal and not at all bothersome. And even though the 7T isn’t all that much smaller than the 7 Pro, it’s actually a lot easier to grip and hold.

Unsurprisingly, the performance on the OnePlus 7T is as good as it gets for a smartphone right now, making it an absolute pleasure to use. But like Myriam mentions – the camera is solid but there’s significant room for improvement, especially in low light. That said, I’ve really been enjoying using the new Super Macro Mode.

Overall, OnePlus has yet another winner here with the 7T.

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