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Review: OnePlus 3T

Hardware Software Wrap-Up Comments  

Lock Screen

The 3T includes a wide selection of options for managing the lock screen and notifications.

First, you can set the Ambient Display to on or off. OnePlus' Ambient Display, like many others, wakes the screen with simple notifications when messages or emails arrive. The screen is on for perhaps three seconds before it blinks off again. Missed the notification? Wave your hand over the screen to see the simple notification again, or double-tap the screen to fully wake the lock screen.

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The full lock screen includes the time, date, and list of notifications. You can get rid of notifications one at a time or en masse. Double-tapping a notification opens the associated app, such as email or Facebook Messenger. As always, you can define which apps are allowed to push notifications to the lock screen, as well as how much information is shared on the lock screen. The notification screen also includes shortcuts to the phone and camera apps. You cannot customize these shortcuts.

As far as security goes, the 3T includes PIN, pattern, password, and fingerprint. The fingerprint reader works flawlessly. I was able to set up several fingers and the phone recognized them each quickly and accurately. The fingerprint reader is top notch.

Remember the profile switcher I mentioned? It's called the Alert Slider, and is meant to help control notifications that would vibrate, make noise, or both. As noted, it's easy to set the phone to fully silent (even alarms) or full volume for everything. There are menu settings that allow users to specify just which apps fall into which profiles and what sort of sound/vibrate patterns they are allowed to use. This is incredibly useful.

Last, you can customize the LED indicator light to blink specific colors for specific types of messages.

Lock Screen  

Menus

All of OnePlus' handsets run “OxygenOS”, which is really just a skin for Android. The OnePlus 3T runs Android 6 at its core and the latest version of OxygenOS from OnePlus. This mostly means the 3T has some aesthetic changes that give the UI a smoother look when compared to what's on the OnePlus 3. OnePlus is working to update both the 3 and the 3T to Android 7 Nougat in the next month or so. Once the devices are on Nougat, the UI experience will be identical.

Anyone familiar with Android will know exactly how to use the OnePlus 3T. In fact, the device offers a near-to-stock Android experience. OxygenOS does, however, add a wide range of extra tools for tweaking how the OnePlus 3T operates.

Out of the box, the phone has two home screen panels up and running with a third, called the Shelf, off to the left. The home screen panels function as they would on any other Marshmallow handset. That means they accommodate wallpapers, shortcuts, widgets, and so on. The Shelf is its own story.

Home Screen  

The Shelf is a customizable space where you'll find what matters most or what you use most. By default, it shows the local weather, a shortcut for writing a note, and several app suggestions that change over time. You can also add in your favorite contacts and a couple of app widgets. It's more like the suggested apps/search tool in iOS 10 than Google Now. Honestly, I have no use for it and thankfully you can turn it off completely if you want.

OxygenOS relies on Android's standard full app menu, Quick Settings shade, and settings menu. This is good news, since they function as you'd expect, which is very well.

OxygenOS  

Then there are the extras. First, dark mode. You can set the OnePlus 3T to switch to Dark Mode, which is meant for use at night. Dark Mode changes what are normally white screens to black, and black text to white. It primarily impacts menus and other system screens; it does not change apps. I like that you can adjust the accent colors. Second, you may customize the status bar. OxygenOS allows you to choose which app icons are displayed in the status bar and which are not. Third, you can adjust the software buttons so they run back-home-switch, or switch-home-back (if you're used to the Samsung arrangement.) Even better, you can assign actions for long-presses of these buttons (voice search, open last app, recent apps, etc.) Fourth, the fingerprint reader doubles as a home button if you want, or not. When it is active as a home button, you can customize long press and double-tap actions. Fifth, there are plenty of gestures, such as drawing an "O" on the lockscreen to open the camera, or drawing a "V" to turn on the flashlight. You can also launch playlists and even go forward and backward tracks.

Dark Mode  

These extras are not only neat, but also useful. They help make the OnePlus 3T a more personal device that responds to more intimate input.

The processor is among the 3T's improved specs. It jumps from the Snapdragon 820 to the Snapdragon 821. The 3T carries over the 6 GB of RAM found in the 3. This is currently among the best processor/memory combos available in the market. The OnePlus 3T absolutely flies. It's incredibly quick. There is no lag anywhere in the user interface. This handset does everything in the blink of an eye.

Camera

There are multiple ways to launch the camera; it's up to you to pick which works the best. For example, you can set the camera to launch when you double-press the screen lock button or double-tap the fingerprint sensor. You can open the camera from the lock screen, or with a long-press of the back, home, or recent apps buttons. I favor a double-press of the screen lock button. Whichever way you choose, the camera opens in about 1 second.

The camera app is rather simple and I appreciate that. You'll see controls sprinkled down the left and ride sides of the viewfinder: on the left are toggles for HDR, HQ (ehivh is RAW), and the flash, while on the right are buttons for the selfie cam, shutter button, and timer/grid controls. I like that the HDR and flash functions both include an “auto” option; even better, the camera warns you ahead of time when it will use HDR or fire the flash, as you point and shoot.

Swipe the screen up or down to switch between still and video modes. Other modes are accessed by swiping the screen to the right. Those modes include: time-lapse, slow motion, auto, video, manual, and panorama. Swipe the screen to the left to see your most recent shot.

The shooting modes behave as you'd expect them to are are fairly simple to use. When in manual mode, you can set exposure (up to 30 seconds), focus, white balance, and ISO. Easy-to-decipher dials help you select what's best, and the screen previews the type of exposure you may get with those settings.

The Snapdragon 821 helps resolve some of the lag I saw in the camera app on the OnePlus 3. The 3T's camera performs all tasks perfectly and is speedy.

Camera  

Photos/Video

The OnePlus 3T carries over the same 16-megapixel sensor with both optical and electronic image stabilization, and phase detection autofocus from the 3. The camera boasts an aperture of f/2.0, and those 16 million pixels are each 1.12 microns in size. OnePlus also boasts about its Dynamic De-Noise technology to get rid of grain.

The sensor and software may be the same, but the processor is not. The Snapdragon 821 has a fresh Image Signal Processor on board that speeds up and improves how the software handles the information captured by the sensor. It makes a difference.

Where the OnePlus 3 took adequate pictures, the OnePlus 3T takes good ones. Core aspects — including focus, exposure, and white balance — were on point most of the time. The phone did a commendable job in brightly lit environments and dim environments without grain or other noise that might have ruined the shots. The 3T still doesn't match the iPhone 7 Plus or Pixel XL, but it's not that far behind. The 3T certainly bests the competition in its price class, such as the Alcatel Idol 4S and ZTE Axon 7.

OnePlus decided the 8-megapixel selfie camera of the 3 wasn't enough and gave the 3T a 16-megapixel front camera with an aperture of f/2.0. It, too, benefits from the Snapdragon 821's ISP tech to produce significantly better selfies than what I saw from the OnePlus 3. The 3T also gains a self-beautification tool for eliminating skin blemishes in your self portraits. There is still no user-facing flash. People who like photographing themselves will be very happy with the 3T.

The phone shoots video at resolutions up to 4K. I think most people will be more than satisfied with the 1080p full HD resolution video they capture. The phone handles focus, exposure, and color very well, with minimal grain.

The OnePlus 3T is a fine camera for this class of phone. It can serve as most people's main, everday imaging and video device.

Photos  

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