OnePlus 3T Mini Review: Victory lap

The Pros

  • Superb performance & improved battery life
  • Near stock Android with smart additions
  • Handsome new Graphite colour

The Cons

  • $100 more expensive
  • OnePlus 3 is still a great smartphone
  • Not water or dust proof like other flagships

Several weeks after the OnePlus 3 came out, Ian Hardy, MobileSyrup‘s publisher, asked me whether the website should run a “three months later” feature on the device.

“Bossman,” I said, “shouldn’t we wait until the phone is at least six months old?” My reasoning was that most publications, should they decide to revisit a device, wait about half a year after release to publish that type of feature.

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In hindsight, we should have probably done the retrospective then, because, as it stands now, OnePlus no longer sells the OP3.

In an unusual move, the Chinese startup announced a mid-year upgrade to its 2016 flagship on November 15th. Dubbed the OnePlus 3T (because ‘T’ follows ‘S’ in the English alphabet and there’s one company in particular that has a fondness for the letter ‘S’ when naming its incremental hardware updates), the phone features three major upgrades over its predecessor. 

Specs

    • Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
    • Adreno 530 GPU
    • 6GB of RAM
    • 64GB of internal storage (128GB also available for $40 more)
    • Lithium polymer 3,400mAh battery
    • Android 6.0.1 Marshmallow with Oxygen OS 3.5.3 (Android 7.0 upgrade planned)
    • 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.4 mm
    • 158 grams
    • 5.5-inch 1080p Optic AMOLED display
    • 16-megapixel rear-facing camera with f/2.0 aperture, phase detection auto-focus and optical image stablization
    • 16-megapixel front-facing camera with f/2.0 aperture
    • Not water resistant
    • USB-C port with Dash Charge
    • 3.5mm headphone jack
    • front-facing fingerprint sensor

    To start, it replaces the OnePlus 3’s Snapdragon 820 SoC with Qualcomm’s current top-of-the-line silicon, the Snapdragon 821. According to Qualcomm, the Snapdragon 821 chipset is designed to deliver a 10 percent performance increase over its immediate predecessor. While that’s not an insubstantial improvement, it’s not the kind of increase you spend an additional $600 to acquire. In any case, the OP3 was already one of the snappiest phones available to Canadian consumers when it came out, and the same goes for the 3T.

    one-plus-3t-review-1

    If you’re in the market for a new phone, then the inclusion of the 821 becomes more attractive. Between its 6GB of RAM and processor, the 3T should stay relevant for two to three years. In my mind, it’s for this reason that it’s worth it to buy the 3T today, even if next year’s crop of high-end smartphones are three months away.

    The next major difference between the two devices is the higher capacity 3,400mAh battery found on the 3T. Compared to the OnePlus 3’s battery, the 3T’s power cell is 12.5 percent bigger. During my time with the 3T, I was routinely able to go a full day on a single charge. In case I forgot to top off the phone at the end of the day, the 3T always had enough remaining power in the morning to get me through until about midday, which is about the same experience I had with the OnePlus 3. Put another way, battery life on the OnePlus 3T is excellent for a phone with the 3T’s internal components, and the included Dash Charger will get the phone up and running again in short order.

    Lastly, the 3T features a 16 megapixel front-facing camera. At best, this is something of a lateral upgrade. Due to the smaller size of its sensor pixels, in less than ideal lighting conditions the 3T takes noisier photos. The trade off is that shots are more detailed when there’s ample light.

    In terms of more minor changes, the 3T drops the ‘Graphite’ of the original OnePlus 3 in favour of a darker ‘Gunmetal’ grey paint job, which, due to its similarity to Apple’s ‘Space Gray’ colour, I found easy to like (it’s also available in an attractive ‘Soft Gold’ finish). For a reasonable $40, consumers can also upgrade to the 128GB ROM model.

    one-plus-3t-review-4

    Perhaps the most pleasant surprise I found upon returning to the OnePlus 3 was the latest version of OxygenOS, the company’s Android skin. When I first reviewed the OP3, I gave the skin a lot of praise for its simplicity and adherence to stock Android.

    In the six months since I reviewed the OnePlus 3, OnePlus has done an excellent job of polishing what was already a great operating system into an even better one. The most notable difference is a new sRGB colour space option that completely transforms the look of the OnePlus 3’s screen (I wrote a guide on how to enable the option). Without getting into too much technical detail, when the OP3 first came out, it had poor colour reproduction. Post update, it’s now one of the most accurate displays on the market.

    Other software subtle software improvements like this abound. One of my favourites is the new Shelf users can access by navigating to the left-most page of the home screen. It’s been slightly redesigned to include widgets with access to the user’s recent contacts, apps, as well as one that provides a status update on the phone’s battery and the user’s data usage.

    oneplus-3t-3

    However, the best part of all these software improvements is that you don’t need to buy the 3T to take advantage of them. They’re all available on the OnePlus 3. In a Reddit AMA, OnePlus confirmed the OP3 and 3T are now on the same software update schedule. Save the company drastically changing its mind between now and next few months, both devices should continue to get updated into 2017 and beyond. We’ll revisit the two devices when OnePlus updates them to Nougat.

    If you already own the OnePlus 3, then you can safely skip the 3T. It’s a worthwhile update to the OnePlus 3, but as said earlier in the review, it’s not worth paying an additional $600 to replace an existing OnePlus 3 with the 3T.

    More complicated is the question of whether a person should buy the 3T as an upgrade to an older device. Some may point to devices like the ZTE Axon 7, Huawei Honor 8, Le Eco Pro 3 as better, more affordable alternatives to the 3T.

    And if cost is your only consideration, then, sure, get one of those phones, but if I was in the same situation and had the extra money to spend, then I would buy the OnePlus 3T. The moment-to-moment experience of using this phone is truly excellent, so much so that I continue to prefer this phone over some of the more expensive high-end phones available to Canadian consumers.

Comments

  • TomsDisqusted

    The OP3 was already a good phone – they just needed to work on support and manufacturing quality/consistency. Instead they opted for a new model. Marketing always seems to take precedence with them.

    • ChrisPollard77

      I have to agree with your there. Hanging out in the forums, there are many threads on support nightmares, but it isn’t all bad. In some ways they’re pretty good, others … big fail. I’d have liked to have seen them focus on getting their shipping times down instead of pushing a new SKU – but adding the 128GB option was a good move on their part. Especially without microSD support.

  • J. W.

    At first I thought they released a Oneplus 3T Mini….turns out it’s just a mini-review =)

    • georgejia

      My thought exactly.

    • Hello Moto

      Same 😛

    • heynow00

      Definitely disappointed when I found there to be no OnePlus 3T mini

  • HonkeyTonking

    Having never owned a One Plus phone, how are they with monthly Android security updates? Most people don’t care about security but this is something that I look for when buying a phone. Thanks.

    • ChrisPollard77

      It’s a two-sided question. The official “stable” channel on the OP3 tends to be slightly behind the latest patch. I’ve been running the Community Build – now “Open Beta” – for months now, and in two of the last three months they’ve actually had the security patch released BEFORE Google pushed it to the Nexus/Pixel. So if you want to stay on the bleeding edge, and are willing to deal with the occasional ‘beta’ bugs, they’ve really been top notch with updates and security patches. The stable release track is always a little bit behind. Still better than most of the big OEMs though.

      The big, unanswered question is how this will continue when the OP4 (or OP5, depending on the rumour mill’s accuracy) comes out next year. And if you really like staying on top of software on your phone, the bootloader is unlockable, TWRP is supported, and there is a very healthy ROM community around these phones – because they don’t void your warranty for unlocking the bootloader and flashing ROMs, like just about all other OEMs. It’s one of the things that holds back development for the ZTE Axon 7. You can unlock it, but you lose your warranty if you do.

    • HonkeyTonking

      Thanks for info. I am considering buying this phone. For the specs and price it’s hard to find anything better.

    • TheFloppyBeaver

      Given what you said, I think I personally would go with the BB DTEK 60 instead, stupid name and all.

  • FTR_Part_deux

    I would have considered naming it the 3R. Why choose the letter “T” to “follow” the letter “S”, when you can be ahead and be the letter “R”?

    • feliciasbeard

      It’s the same thing as alpha and beta, the T is better, more refined.

  • Jean-Mouloud

    Just to clarify: it’s not a useful review after 3 months of use of the phone but just a 3-month later repeat of the original review, right?

  • Balls O’Steele

    Biggest downside is this phone is just too big. They need to make a 5″ version with a 4000mah battery like the Xiaomi Redmi 4 prime.

    • 5.5″ is the perfect size. Fits in the palm of your hand, great screen real estate, still fits in your pocket.

    • Antimatter

      *YOUR hand 😉

    • You’re so funny that I would like to subscribe to your newsletter.

    • Antimatter

      O.o hilarious mikey

    • I would buy a 5 inch one too. Perfect size.

    • brent

      5 inches is too damn small for any normal man sized hand… If you are are female it may be perfect however

  • TomCodGOLD

    Just had my 3T delivered couple days ago and it’s one slick phone. $680 all in is well worth over $1000 for anything else comparable

  • Croc Ography

    Yep looked at this one for 599 and the ZTE Axon 7 for 449 and bought the Axon 7. Glad I did.

  • NexGen

    I bought the 3T, considered all other SD821 rivals, and I love the phone. I really thought I was compromising by buying0 an this over the name brands……. It isn’t a compromise at all, I am not a power user, but I travel a lot, use the phone as a game and music device in the air, and the battery is exceptional, easily for me 2 days or more. The anxiety that you will lose power to the device is not even a consideration, thanks to that amazing dash charge system, it charges from 6% to 100% in an hour, and 6% to about 77% in 30 minutes, the whole time without any temperature change! The Oxygen OS is very stock, smooth and the improvements over the stock, were very well thought out. I am very surprised, I was going Google phones, but the new prices totally threw me off. The Dual SIM card a total must have as well, so far used 3 weeks, and really happy with the purchase, bought a second one for the wife! Worth the extra money too for the 128Gb version. Only negative, gotta buy the dash charge accessories because it is proprietary, but they aren’t crazy expensive anyway!

  • Sanjay Kumar

    When I read ” OnePlus 3T mini review”, I thought that OnePlus launched a smaller version of the phone.

    It may be a better phone, what prevents me from getting it is their online return system.

    • Reaz

      LOL.. I thought the same. ;D

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