News, Review

OnePlus 3T Review: Honey, I killed the Flagship Killer!

“Veni. Vidi. Vici.”
(“I came. I saw. I conquered.)

To those immortal lines of Julius Caesar, uttered after conquering Gaul, the OnePlus 3 might add “Cessi.” In sum:

“Veni. Vidi. Vici. Cessi.”

Roughly translated: “I came. I saw. I conquered. I left.”

For that is exactly what the third flagship – or flagship killer, to use OnePlus speak – did. It arrived in a storm of expectation (not least because its predecessor had stumbled a bit), delivered in spades, earned the sort of reviews that other brand flagships dream of, became the shadow that hung over every flagship released in subsequent months…

And then was quietly consigned to history.

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Yes, a lot of people had predicted the arrival of an “improved” version of the OnePlus 3, but not too many had known that it would also signal the end of the OnePlus 3 (which is why it made our list of products that departed in 2016). And even those who had predicted a new OnePlus device had not expected it to an almost carbon copy of the OnePlus 3 in terms of appearance, even though it did come with better hardware. Yes, as we pointed out, the OnePlus 3T had some big boots to fill and some massive expectations to live up to and “a lot of convincing to do.”

Looks the same, scores on hardware

Let’s get one thing out of the way – if you bought your OnePlus 3 for design and appearance, then you can give the OnePlus 3T a miss. As we discussed in our initial impressions of the device, the OnePlus 3T is an exact copy of the OnePlus 3 in design terms, with exactly the same proportions (152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm) and even tips the scales at the same weight of 158 grammes. It is the same unibody metal design that is pleasantly reminiscent of HTC at its best, although OnePlus has thrown a new shade of grey into the mix, one it calls gunmetal (some might like its slightly darker shade as compared to the lighter graphite on the OnePlus 3 – hey, we did!). All said and done, the OnePlus 3T looks exactly like its T-less predecessor, which is not a bad thing, although the likes of us who expect constant change were a tad disappointed by OnePlus’ decision to not tamper with the appearance of the OnePlus 3. Yes, some would say “why fix what ain’t broken,” but hey, this is a company that claims to Never Settle!

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Where the brand HAS not settled is in the hardware department. Yes, the OnePlus 3T has a similar 5.5 inch full HD AMOLED display, 6 GB RAM and 16.0-megapixel rear camera (albeit with a sapphire glass cover) but also has some pretty significant hardware enhancements – a new Qualcomm Snapdragon 821 processor, a 16.0-megapixel selfie camera, a 128 GB storage edition, and a much larger 3400 mAh battery (quite a feat of engineering when you consider that the phone’s dimensions and weight have not changed a bit from its predecessor which sported a 3000 mAh battery). The big question is: do these changes make a significant difference to what was already quite a mighty device?

A subtly superior performer

Well, the answer is not as quite in your face as some would expect. For, take it from us, the OnePlus 3 was no mug in the performance department. We never really encountered any problems with it in terms of handling high-end tasks like HD gaming and multitasking and the OnePlus 3T follows in its footsteps. Yes, we did notice slightly faster load times in some games like the FIFA and Asphalt series but only those obsessed with counting seconds would notice the difference – the games themselves ran smoothly with no hitches whatsoever (we do think the screen is slightly brighter than the one on the OnePlus 3). Oh yes, this is a high-class performer up there with the best, and it inherits all of the OnePlus 3’s connectivity options as well.

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We also love Oxygen OS’ relative non-invasive UI (a welcome change from some of the cluttered interfaces we have to put up with these days), which ran very smoothly indeed (and is getting a Nougat update even as this is being written). No, we did not witness any of the dreaded latency issues that have affected some units. In terms of benchmarks, the OnePlus 3T is a clear notch above not just the OnePlus 3 but most other smartphones as well, but take it from us, the difference in day to day performance is not very discernible. Which just goes to show how good the OnePlus 3 was!

The camera of the OnePlus 3 was also a very good one and so is the one on the OnePLus 3T. We got some superb shots in daylight conditions and low light performance was also decent, although not on the level to give sleepless nights to the Pixel or the iPhone 7 Plus. We did, however, spot instances when the camera sometimes seemed to lose focus and render slightly blurry images. We also wished it handled glare better. The 16.0-megapixel selfie camera is decent in terms of detail but we have, to be honest, seen better ones in terms of color handling. It is a very good selfie camera but not a deal maker if you love selfies.

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One area where the phone does totally outsprint its predecessor is battery life. With heavy usage too, we found ourselves going past a day on a single charge, which is a welcome change from the OnePlus 3, which used to struggle to get through a day. And with Dash Charge quickly recharging your phone (we got more than 50 percent charge in half an hour and the whole phone was charged in about an hour and a half), the OnePus 3T adds some welcome stamina to its speed. If we had a complaint, it was in the sound department, where we really would have liked higher volumes – a complaint we had about the OnePlus 3 as well, remember.

Conclusion: the OnePlus 3 Plus!

So where does the OnePlus 3T stand? As a rather quick successor of the OnePlus 3, it does a decent job – we would actually feel more comfortable calling it the OnePlus 3 Plus rather than the OnePlus 3T. At its starting price of Rs 29,999 (for the 64 GB storage edition, the 128 GB one costs a more pricey Rs 34,999), we would recommend it without hesitation over the still-available OnePlus 3 (which costs Rs 27,999), just for the better battery life. The other changes are not so apparent, but well, we do not see anyone complaining about getting a better processor or a better selfie camera. Yes, we do think that perhaps more design changes could have been made, that perhaps a quad HD display could have been considered… but that is just us being nitpicky.

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The stark fact is that the OnePlus 3T is a device that is superior to the OnePlus 3, although this superiority is covertly rather than overtly evident. The debate on whether the OnePlus 3 needed to be replaced will go on for a while. We will content ourselves by saying that it has been subtly surpassed rather than overwhelmed by its rather early successor. Those who have purchased a OnePlus 3 might not find a compelling reason to upgrade to it (barring for the battery), but those in the market for a flagship-level device at an affordable price will be hard-pressed to find a better one than this.

For, if OnePlus 3 was the “flagship killer,” then honey, the OnePlus 3T is the phone that killed the flagship killer.

Need we say more?