OnePlus has had a bit of a rollercoaster of a history, but one thing they’ve always done well is making a great value smartphone. The Chinese company recently announced a limited refresh of their latest OnePlus 3T. Let’s take a look at the murdered-out black “Midnight Edition” of the phone. I will be covering this as a full review as a user who never picked up the original OnePlus 3T, or the OnePlus 3 either.
Hardware, Design, Display
The design of the Midnight 3T is a refresh of a refresh. You will find very little difference between the 3T and the original 3 from OnePlus. The Midnight is simply a new finish on the same 3T body, but this isn’t a bad thing. The satin black is pretty awesome. If you’ve longed for a monolithic phone that could fade away in a dark alley, then this is it. Midnight is a fitting name for this phone in every way.
The front of the phone is armed with a 5.5 inch AMOLED 1080p HD display. It offers 1920×1080 with a 16:9 aspect ratio and 401ppi. I have little complaints on the screen. It’s bright and colors look good. I had no issues in different environments including outdoors. Top it off with Corning Glass 4 and you have a pretty standard display. I feel the days of bashing displays on even “budget” smartphones is relatively behind us.
Below the screen houses the fingerprint scanner and capacitive navigation buttons. These also function as one would expect, but the scanner is good but not great. I found it to be quick with a few more failed reads than I would like. Samsung, Moto, and HTC have all nailed this over the last few years and 3T seems a slight step behind.
However, I do like the capacitive buttons. While they can be turned off in the settings, it’s a nice use of the potentially wasted bezel space surrounding the fingerprint scanner. Each consists of small LED dots with the left functioning as back and the right as recent apps/multitasking. The orientation of these can be reversed if you are a fan of Samsung’s layout.
You’ll find the 16MP camera on the top rear of the phone. It’s Sony IMX 298 Sensor with optical stabilization, autofocus, and RAW support. The shooter is also capable of shooting full 4k video at 30 frames per second. Covering the lens is a sapphire crystal cover to protect the mechanics. The entire back plate, including the camera and OnePlus logo, are dark black and tend blend into the darkness with the rest of the phone.
Around the sides of the phone are the appropriate buttons we’d expect on a modern smartphone. The power key sits alone on the right side of the device. On the left, is the Alert Slider and volume rocker. I have to say I love the Alert Slider. It allows for a great alternative way to change from sound alerts, do not disturb, or silent vibrate modes. I wish more manufacturers would follow OnePlus’ lead on this. I often find myself unintentionally changing alert modes while the phone is in my pocket and the volume rocker is pressed. The slider prevents this from happening by locking the mode from being changed by other inputs.
The bottom of the frame houses a single down firing speaker, headphone jack, and a USB type C charging port. All three seem predictable with the exception of the USB-C comes with the company’s proprietary Dash Charge. While I normally prefer a universal standard like Qualcomm’s Quick Charge, OnePlus has done a really good job with Dash. I found the claim of 60% in around 30 minutes of charging fairly accurate. The one drawback? Dash Charge is only possible with an official OnePlus charger, which will set you back $35 if you need an extra one.
OnePlus has always leaned towards a “stock” Android experience when it came to software, and the 3T falls right in line with the company’s homegrown Oxygen OS. My first choice for Android software is probably Moto, but OnePlus does an excellent job of letting Android be great on its own with optional tweaks here and there.
The launcher is heavily influenced by previous generations of the Google Launcher. You swipe up to see all your apps. While a swipe to the left from your main home screen presents you with Shelf. Essentially, this is OxygenOS offering a widget-based alternative to the old Google Now screen. It offers a customizable card view of widgets such as recent apps, contacts, and system usage. The cards can then be trashed, resized, rearranged, or added as you see fit.
Most other additions to plain ole Android are found in the Customization section of the Settings menu. Here you’ll find a plethora of toggles and options to make Alert Slider, Buttons, and Status Bar bends to your will. Want to add a percentage to the battery icon? Done. Reverse your capacitive buttons or turn off their LED? Got it. There is even a gestures section that allows for actions like drawing a V on the lock screen will turn on the camera’s flash in flashlight mode. OxygenOS does a great job of adding the feel of an independent custom ROM without going overboard or the hassle.
Let’s start the discussion that I’m not a shutterbug and would never consider myself an expert photographer. With that, I found the camera on the OnePlus 3T to be more than sufficient. The rear camera offers a simple and quick shooting experience that results in some really good photos. The app offers a time-lapse, slow motion, manual, and panoramic modes to cover all the basics you might want to share to social media.
Speaking of social, there’s also a 16MP front facing camera on the 3T. You can easily snap a selfie or shoot a video at 1080p with this thing. It also has a Smile Capture feature that detects when you’re smiling and starts a timer to get that perfect shot.
Simply put, this is one of the fastest Android phones I’ve used. And I’ve used a lot of them. However, one would expect as much from the combination of 6GBs of RAM, Snapdragon 821, and Adreno 530 GPU. I never saw any lag, not even with the occasional game or multitasking among numerous open apps. The 3T should be up for any task users have for it.
My previous two phones have been the Nexus 6P and the Moto Z Play. Coming from these phones to the OnePlus 3T has given me just the right perspective. Its battery life falls somewhere right in the middle. I haven’t seen multiple days per charge like the Z Play, but I haven’t been searching for a charger after 12 hours of use like I did with the 6P. I work in a huge warehouse that’s fairly hard on reception, and therefore battery, but I consistently saw about 16 hours of real world usage per charge on the 3T. Again, not stellar, but well on the higher end of today’s offerings.
All things considered, the OnePlus 3T is an awesome value at its price point. You get a solid metal construction, great camera, and better than average battery life. And it does all this for well under $500. Top that off with a really cool limited edition Midnight color and OnePlus has cashed in on the hype train again with its most complete smartphone yet.Buy the OnePlus 3T