100 days with the OnePlus 7T: the best premium phone for the money
OneLove, OneLife, OnePlus. Yes, I can already hear you screaming, what am I saying? This is fanboyism. "OnePlus is a brand for techno-geeks that has betrayed its flagship-killer philosophy," is often the cry. That's true, but it was worth it.
I've been using the OnePlus 7T since its release in October 2019 and I'm savoring every moment with it: the feeling of moving up in the range and having one of the most advanced models in my hands, the versatility and control conferred by OxygenOS, monumental power and ultra-fast charging... the recipe still works, even in 2020.
While it's far from perfect, especially in terms of taking photos, I'll explain in good faith why I believe the OnePlus 7T is the best premium smartphone on Android in terms of value for money.
What I still love after 100 days
- A real feeling of moving upmarket
- Gaming performance
- Oxygen OS, take a deep breath
- Quick charging is your friend
What I don't like after 100 days...
What I still love after 100 days
A real feeling of moving up-market
You have to dot the i's and cross the t's: the OnePlus 7T is a high-end smartphone, not a flagship killer. The Chinese manufacturer, known for its aggressive pricing, has moved to the dark side and increased the price of its latest product lines. The choice has been seen as a betrayal by early followers but which reflects a new ambition that OnePlus wants to inflate to its brand image.
OnePlus has become so high-end that the brand is playing Apple's game by releasing its T models, which, like the iPhone S, have been incrementally improved versions of its last generation like we saw with the OnePlus 7 and OnePlus 7 Pro. Personally, I can't blame OnePlus for this price increase because it goes hand in hand with a clear move upscale.
I can only appreciate a smartphone that offers, at the time of its release, the best Android hardware, all for €200 less than an iPhone 11. The configuration still holds up very well, even in 2020 in an era where smartphones fold in two, or even three (hello, TCL) to attract attention.
I prefer the OnePlus 7T to its Pro version. At €759, the OnePlus 7T Pro offers a Snapdragon 855+, 8GB of RAM, Warp Charge 30T quick charging, and a 90Hz AMOLED display. The recipe seems almost perfect, except that the basic OnePlus 7T also offers all of that, but at a lower price. Even the triple camera embedded in the basic version and is essentially identical to the Pro version.
It is therefore difficult to justify this price difference, as the feeling of moving up the range is much more palpable on the OnePlus 7T basic version than on its Pro version. In my opinion, a slightly more powerful camera, the absence of a notch on a 6.67-inch larger screen (compared to 6.55 for the OnePlus 7T), a lower battery life and the fact that the OnePlus 7T Pro has a larger screen size than the OnePlus 7T, are the main reasons for this price difference A larger battery (4,085 mAh versus 3,800 mAh for the OnePlus 7T) and more internal storage (256GB versus 128GB) are not worth spending €160 more for the Pro version for me.
I've just moved to Berlin from Paris, my PS4, unfortunately, did not come with me. I also don't want to spend the €129 for the Premiere edition of Google Stadia and I'm even less inclined to use a Pixel 4 for anything other than taking pictures. So I play Call of Duty Mobile extensively and exclusively on my OnePlus 7T.
And how well the game runs! Sure, it has a pretty good optimization, but the game experience is really one of the smoothest I've seen on a smartphone. Even the iPhone 11 and its super-chip, the Bionic A13, slowed down on Oceanhorn 2, a game that was developed exclusively for Apple Arcade. The impressive performance of the OnePlus 7T was made possible thanks to the power of its Snapdragon 855+ processor, which up until then had only equipped gaming smartphones such as the ROG Phone 2 from Asus or the Black Shark 2.
No need to have a 5kg brick with green or RGB neon lights everywhere to enjoy a premium gaming experience! Not only does the 7T run all the games in the Google Play Store on maximum graphics settings, the OnePlus 7T Pro screen, and its 90Hz refresh rate, make gaming sessions much smoother.
OnePlus activates its Game mode as soon as a title is launched, which is supposed to maximize the performance of the smartphone for an optimal experience. To go even further, you can switch to Fnatic mode, which blocks all notifications (even calls), prioritizes your 4G or Wi-Fi data to improve the in-game connection, and allocates as much computing power to the game as possible.
You can mock this feature and think it's just a placebo effect, but the simple fact is that you're no longer bothered by a Twitter ping or text notification without having to disable stuff via the settings. It is quite enjoyable. The only snag is that the OnePlus 7T is working so hard that after a gaming session lasting more than an hour, you can feel it starting to heat up quite noticeably. The overheating that doesn't bother me too much (it won't burn your hands, don't worry) but it must seriously hurt the battery in the long run.
Oxygen OS, take a deep breath
OnePlus has always worked hard to optimize its software. If purists swear by the stock version of Android, OxygenOS is, in my opinion, one of the best, if not the best Android offering in terms of versatility, simplicity, and efficiency.
Well, I'll grant you, only a tiny minority of consumers really care about those kinds of details. But the fluidity of the system animations (almost as good as on iOS), the complete and much clearer settings than at Samsung, and especially the speed at which Android updates arrive make the user experience particularly enjoyable.
Everything runs smoothly. You really feel like you have a good grip on your phone and you're not overwhelmed by the machine. Another detail, the haptic feedback is quite impressive on the OnePlus 7 line. Once again, we're into technical details here and I don't even notice it after 100 days. But I've only found comparably good haptic feedback at Apple and Google, nowhere else.
Quick charging is your friend
The OnePlus 7T launched with version 2.0, or rather a T version, of the Warp Charge 30, the in-house quick charger. Thus, the Warp Charge 30T allows the OnePlus 7T's large battery to be recharged 23 percent faster, and the manufacturer guarantees to be able to go from 0 to 70 percent of battery life in 30 minutes. And it is clear that these figures are anything but an empty promise.
During my first tests in October, it took the OnePlus 7T less than 10 minutes to recover 20 percent of its battery, and barely one hour (58 minutes) to fully recharge. And almost five months later, my enthusiasm as a somewhat zealous technophile is still there. The Warp Charge 30T has saved my ass in many more situations than you might imagine, like ordering an Uber when arriving at Paris Orly Airport with no battery left and having to pay €60 in taxi fares.
The lack of wireless charging didn't bother me at all and I never really felt the need for it. But I understand and find perfectly legitimate the complaints of those who regret not having this feature on a high-end smartphone in 2020.
What I don't like after 100 days...
Battery life: fortunately there is the Warp Charge 30T
The OnePlus 7T has a large 3,800 mAh battery that I didn't think would suffer from that AMOLED display, which is very energy-intensive with its 90Hz refresh rate. But that was before. My first tests of the smartphone gave it a battery life of between 15 and 20 hours, depending on the intensity of use. That's enough to easily last a day and a half without the need to plug it into the mains.
But after several months of fairly intensive use of the OnePlus 7T, which I use as a personal and professional phone at the same time, as well as a games console in the evening, I can no longer go beyond a day's use without having to connect it to the power cable. It lasts more than enough, but I have to recharge it when I get home at the end of the day to be able to use it with peace of mind the next morning.
The camera is the OnePlus 7T's only real flaw...
On the back, the OnePus 7T's photo module is composed of a 48-megapixel wide-angle main sensor, a 12-megapixel telephoto lens and, new, a 16-megapixel wide-angle sensor. I really don't mind the layout of the lenses in a circular island and I prefer it to the squares or even rectangles chosen by Apple and Samsung that make the smartphone wobbly when laid flat.
But I have to admit that after 100 days of testing photophones like Google's Pixel 4 XL or the Huawei P30 Pro, the OnePlus 7T's camera is not up to the industry's best, but by day, the wide-angle and ultra-wide-angle sensor duo is doing quite well. The white balance is slightly cooler than on an iPhone 11 Pro Max and the exposure is sometimes capricious. Overall, I still feel that the dynamic range (the ratio between the darkest and lightest areas of a scene) is unbalanced.
The level of detail is quite satisfying but the colors are far too bland. The responsiveness of the photo module is not the best either. During a guided tour last weekend, I wanted to take a few pictures on the sly despite my guide's ban. It took so long for the camera to go off that I had a hard time taking steady shots before I had to hide my smartphone to avoid being caught red-handed.
On the zoom side, the OnePlus 7T can't touch the Huawei P30 Pro, but the shots are still good quality. I rarely used it anyway, during my 100 days with the smartphone. The night mode isn't as good as the one on a Pixel 4 or a P30 Pro or even an iPhone 11 Pro either. But the shots have the merit of being very well exposed with a well-lit scene, without being drowned out by digital noise.
Overall, I really regret not having a Pixel 4 on hand to take pictures. The OnePlus offers a correct rendering but I feel a real shift in the range - downwards - every time I compare my pictures taken with the OnePlus to those of other premium photophones. This is really the only thing the brand still needs to work on in order to offer a complete high-end smartphone.
After more than 100 days together, the OnePlus 7T and I have been getting along very well. It is, in my opinion, the best smartphone of the brand so far and one of the best premium smartphones in terms of value for money. Understandably, there are better value for money options on Android, but in the premium segment, no model can offer as much as the OnePlus 7T for so 'little' money.
Certainly, OnePlus has abandoned its flagship-killer philosophy and no longer really breaks the price barrier on its new models. But I don't see this new direction taken by OnePlus as a betrayal. The manufacturer has given itself the means to achieve its ambitions with the OnePlus 7T and the experience offered is worth its weight in gold.
Even after all this time and in the age of foldable smartphones with five cameras 108-megapixel sensors, I still feel like I have a premium smartphone in my hands. I still love the customization possibilities that OxygenOS allows, which makes me feel like I'm really in control of my device and not a slave to it by being forced to bend to the way it works.
At its release, the OnePlus 7T was almost universally considered one of the most powerful Android smartphones on the market. The configuration is still very competitive in 2020, and it's still very competitive on the greediest games, which run smoothly.
In short, because we must conclude this sooner or later, I would finally say that the OnePlus 7T is a very complete smartphone that has everything a high-end phone should. It marks a transition in the OnePlus strategy that I see rather positively (for now).
Its very average camera and its battery life slightly below the market leaders do not allow it to be fully dominant on the market. But for less than €600, I still haven't found a better high-end smartphone.
Thanks for sharing the experience
They were running a deal when I got mine and they threw in the $100 OnePlus Wireless Bullets 2 for free! Its a great phone! I sold my Pixel 3XL and got the 7T! So happy I did!
Price came down... Ordered one a few days ago. With fast shipping still around $500.