Right on cue, as summer transitions into autumn, OnePlus has revealed its annual ‘T’ variant of its current phone line-up. The all-new OnePlus 7T slots in beneath the 7 and (five-star) 7 Pro that launched in May, the latter of which we heralded “a serious threat in the Android market” for its delivery of flagship features for midrange money.
The 7T, which naturally replaces last year’s 6T in OnePlus' circle of life, is set to be an even more competitively priced handset to trouble the Google Pixels and Huawei P30s of this mid-market world, while borrowing much of the technology found inside its siblings and building on it with new features and the latest software.
This hands-on review is more than just our initial thoughts from a launch event, though, as we’ve been secretly living with the OnePlus 7T for a week. So why no full review with a star rating? OnePlus may have unveiled the device today at a launch event in the Indian capital, but pricing – crucial in order to rate the value of the phone, and indeed anything we test – won’t be announced until its London-held 7T Series event on 10th October.
One of the 7 Pro’s most impressive and lauded features was its triple-lens camera system, so we’re pleased OnePlus has stuck to a three-pronged attack here to advance on the 6T’s dual-camera configuration.
The main snapper is the same 48MP Sony IMX586 lens (complete with optical image stabilisation), while the 16MP ultra wide-angle lens, capable of capturing a 117-degree field of view, has also been carried over from the 7 Pro. The 7T’s telephoto lens with a 2 x optical zoom has gained in pixels over the 7 Pro (it’s a 12MP lens over an 8MP one), and the front 16MP snapper returns to a notch design rather than be housed in a pop-up camera module.
Tweaked hardware is accompanied by additional software features, with a Macro Mode and new focus sensor allowing you to take close-up portrait snaps from as little as 2.5cm away. It plays out too – unless you're right up against the object you're trying to snap, we find the 7T does well to focus itself for clear close-up capture.
One of the 7 Pro’s most effective camera functions is the Nightscape mode for, as the name suggests, better capture in low-lit environments. Unsurprisingly, it’s a welcome offering on both the main and ultra angle wide lens in an improved guise. It's a true asset when it comes to snapping a gig or nighttime landscape.
That triple-camera arrangement now sits within an unusual spherical notch with a dual-LED flash – the most visually striking part of the design – and it’s not surprising that the front of the handset is almost entirely screen. You have the waterdrop notch for the front camera, but it’s now 31 per cent smaller than the one on the 6T.
While we liked the Nebula Blue finish offered by the 7 Pro, OnePlus customer feedback has led the company to finish the 7T’s matte-frosted glass body in a lighter-hued ‘Glacier Blue’. The similarly smart ‘Frosted Silver’ is the alternative colourway.
Owners will probably find themselves wiping away fingermarks from the back panel, but otherwise, it feels and looks every bit the premium device. The 8mm-thick chassis is sleek and appropriately weighted, and while we're fond of the Pro 7's curvaceous screen edges, we expect the absence of them here won't be missed.
As already confirmed by OnePlus CEO Peter Lau, the 7T will be the first phone preloaded with the forthcoming Android 10 OS – formerly code-named ‘Android Q’ and marking a departure from the usual dessert names. That means goodbye to the three-button navigation (instead, you just swipe the bottom of the screen to get around your windows), official HDR10+ support, a ‘Nuanced Dark Mode’ (a white-on-black display setting), greater control over an app’s access to location info and file sharing, and Face ID screen unlocking. OnePlus promises an even faster in-display fingerprint sensor for unlocking screen in record time, too.
Oxygen 10.0 – OnePlus’s own light skin – is introduced alongside Android 10, bringing a few features on board in its new guise. For example, the Gallery app now has hidden albums, a ‘Smart Album’ that automatically generates video collages from your library, and improved sort and search with scene and facial recognition features. And one for millennials: Zen Mode, which disables notifications and some apps in order to enforce phone-free period, can now be adjusted from 20 minutes to 60. In fact, OnePlus plans to soon launch a 21-day Zen Mode challenge.
Powering the handset is Qualcomm’s Snapdragon 855+ chipset, promising upgraded CPU speeds and 15 per cent faster graphics rendering. To cater for that extra demand, there’s now a bigger battery (3800mAh – slightly up from the 6T but below the 7 Pro’s 4000mAh), which can be replenished faster than any OnePlus phone battery before it courtesy of the all-new supplied Warp Charge 30T charger. Supposedly 18 per cent faster than Warp Charge 30, and arguably one of its most practical features, it charges the 7T to 70 per cent in just half an hour.
The 7T’s Fluid AMOLED display doesn’t sport the 7 Pro’s near-4K resolution screen that’s so “clean it appears to shine” (it’s a reasonably modest 2400 x 1080 instead), nor does it quite match it for size (it’s 6.55in, just shy of its sibling’s 6.67in), but it does carry over the 90Hz refresh rate (good news for phone gamers in particular), HDR10+ support and cinematic 20:9 aspect ratio.
Its 1000-bit maximum brightness promises lucidity even in bright daylight, and that transpires in reality with a peak brightness you’ll rarely need to use. In fact, OnePlus has implemented an internal luminescent material underneath the screen that claims to block 40 per cent of blue light for a more comfortable screen experience in nighttime. A Reading Mode can throw the screen into mono and chromatic tones, which supposedly makes you more immersed in words on the screen.
While you shouldn’t expect the crispness and depth of detail that the top-tier Samsung S10+ and new iPhone 11 Pro are capable of, the 7T provides an impressive screen performance for a mid-market handset. We praised the Pixel 3aXL’s display for its “vivid, punchy” hues, and the 7T is largely on par.
Both have the dynamism to do the colourful production of Strictly Comes Dancing justice, but whereas the Pixel wins for absolute richness, the 7T’s colour reproduction is a little more grounded and natural – reds are deeper, and beiges are less tinged with yellow. As with the 7 Pro, ‘Vivid’ is our screen mode of choice for watching videos, offering a punchier, more compelling watch than the more blanched ‘Natural’ alternative.
The 7T comes second in the head-to-head when it comes to dark detail, though, which makes a difference when you’re watching something like In What We Do In The Shadows where a lot of the shots are in dimly-lit environments. Contrast is excellent – lamp lights punch out against dark corridors as they flicker away – but unfortunately, here the sacrifice of such black depth is, not uncommonly, a lack of insight.
Overall, crispness, cleanliness, non-dark detail and motion performance all falls in the 7T's favour.
Around this time last year was the watershed moment the 6T ditched the 3.5mm jack - and unsurprisingly the brand hasn't looked back since. The 7T promotes the use of wireless headphones (the company would no doubt point you to its own Bullets Wireless 2) or USB-C-ended digital alternatives, and, again like its sibling, offers a competitive performance that sits on the right side of decent where clarity and weight are concerned.
It's perky enough to be labelled an entertaining listen – more so than the flatter-sounding Pixel 3aXL – but space and expression don't get close to the levels offered by the class-leading iPhones of, at least, recent years. Ultimately, it sounds perfectly fine, although those wanting to use their phones as a hi-res streaming source playing, say, Tidal Masters streams may want to look into investing in a portable DAC.
Dolby Atmos support works to create a virtualised surround sound from its built-in speakers, which here translates to a bigger, slightly more spacious delivery when we stream compatible content (as it does on most Atmos phones) but not exactly "surround" sound.
Lastly, the OnePlus 7T has a bigger RAM (8GB over the 6T's 6GB). It's another one-up that represents the progress OnePlus has made in the last year since the arrival of its 6T. The Chinese brand has perhaps made the biggest leaps in camera technology, although smaller upgrades across battery, screen and software all combine to provide a worthy upgrade – if the price is right, of course.
While we expect the 7T to come in a fair bit below the 7 Pro (from-£649) – sub-£500 would be nice, eh? – we’ll have to wait a fortnight for pricing details of the 128GB and 256GB variants to be announced. That's when we'll have our full verdict stamped with an appropriate star rating.