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OnePlus 3T review: The best midprice phone

Our favorite mid-price phone gets revamped with a faster processor and a bigger battery.

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Lynn La
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Lynn La

Senior Editor / Reviews - Phones

Lynn La covers mobile reviews and news. She previously wrote for The Sacramento Bee, Macworld and The Global Post.

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5 min read

Editors' Note: Since the June 2017 release of the OnePlus 5, OnePlus is phasing out 3T production and will no longer actively sell the phone. You can read CNET's OnePlus 5 review here.

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9.0

OnePlus 3T

The Good

The OnePlus 3T's battery lasts way longer, takes sharper selfies and has a 128GB storage option.

The Bad

Pricier than the OnePlus 3, the 3T now directly competes with better phones.

The Bottom Line

This is our new favorite budget Android, but if you have the OnePlus 3, you don't need to upgrade.

If it ain't broke... make it slightly better.

At least, that's what OnePlus is saying with the OnePlus 3T -- a phone that comes just five months after the company launched its OnePlus 3 flagship in June.

The OnePlus 3 was our favorite mid-price phone until this 3T came along. I have no idea why the company is in such a rush to replace its already excellent phone so soon after its launch, but there you have it. And here you have a phone that's the new standout in its category. Oh and don't worry -- the 3 is far from obsolete.

Compared to the 3, the 3T has a darker grey color and a new 128GB storage option (there's also a special-edition black version too). It's got a faster processor, a bigger battery and a better front-facing camera. It's also a smidge more expensive at $439 or £399 for the 64GB variant and $479 or £439 for the 128GB model. (OnePlus isn't available in Australia, but that converts to about AU$580 and AU$632.)

For OnePlus 3 owners, don't panic. You're only missing out on a couple hours of extra battery life and better selfies. Plus, all the 3T's new software goodies will soon roll out to 3 owners too. Read on for more details about how the 3T is different (including our spec and price comparison chart at the end), and check out our full OnePlus 3 review for an even deeper dive.

The OnePlus 3T's darker shade of grey

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Still as fast, and now lasts longer

The earlier OnePlus 3 was fast -- it outpaced the Samsung Galaxy S7, LG G5 and HTC 10 in diagnostic benchmark testing scores. This time around, the 3T beats the 3 in the same benchmarks and is just as fast as the Google Pixel and LeEco LePro 3 -- two newer phones that have the same Snapdragon 821 processor as the 3T.

When it comes to real-world use, the camera opens and snaps a shot in seconds. You'll scroll through a webpage and navigate the phone without lag. The keyboard is as quick and responsive as you'd expect. If you plan to download a lot of apps and fill up storage with photos and video, you may want to get the 128GB version to give yourself some breathing room. A nearly full 64GB phone could slow down operations later on.

OnePlus 3T Benchmark Scores

OnePlus 3T 1923 4372 32143LeEco LePro 3 1878 4372 32304Motorola Moto Z Play 810 2640 14168Alcatel Idol 4S 1459 3415 17627Google Pixel XL 1556 5201 28256
  • Geekbench 4 Single-Core
  • Geekbench 4 Multi-Core
  • 3DMark Ice Storm Unlimited
Note: Longer bars indicate better performance

OnePlus gave the 3T a bigger battery than the 3: 3,400mAh instead of 3,000mAh. As expected, it lasts longer. In our lab tests for continuous video playback on Airplane mode, the 3T lasted an average of 16 hours and 56 -- a notable 2.5 hours longer than the 3.

The battery still uses OnePlus' proprietary Dash Charging technology, which charges the battery quickly without overheating. In 30 minutes, the phone charged up to 57 percent, and after an hour, reserves were at 93 percent. A full charge took about 1 hour and 35 minutes. This is about 20 minutes longer than the 3, but that makes sense given the increase in size.

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On paper, the 3T (left) is faster than the 3 (right) when it comes to benchmark scores.

James Martin/CNET

It takes better selfies

The front-facing camera on the OnePlus 3T jumps from 8 to 16 megapixels, and it's supposed to perform better in low light too. The selfies I took looked smoother and sharper than the ones on the 3, and this was extra noticeable when I zoomed in or cropped the photo. Though neither OnePlus phone nails it in dimmer lighting, I did notice less graininess and digital artifacts on the 3T compared to the 3. You can check out the differences in the images below. (Both photos are unedited, but the 3T on the left had to be resized to fit.)

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The 3T's front-facing camera (left) takes higher resolution photos than the 3 (right).

Lynn La/CNET

As for the rear camera, it's pretty much unchanged as far as photo quality is concerned. OnePlus said it improved its image stabilization capabilities for video, but when I tested it out and watched videos side-by-side, I didn't see any big difference between the two as far as "steadiness" goes.

Software tweaks for everybody

OnePlus wanted to give the 3T a little something more in the software department, so we get more gesture controls. You can now turn the phone over to mute a call and take screenshots by sliding three fingers downward. You can also change the shape of your icons and assign a password to individual apps for extra security. The file manager app, usually a clumsy app on Android phones, got a facelift and it's easier to navigate. All these changes will soon come to the OnePlus 3 too.

OnePlus diehards will notice that the Shelf page for quick-access apps and contacts got a makeover too. There's no more banner image and it now reminds me of Apple's iOS 10 widget panel with its white background widgets. I'm not a fan of either look, but the change won't slow you down.

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The phone's Shelf home screen page (left) and the file manager (right) get a facelift.

Lynn La/CNET

The 3T runs Android 6.0 Marshmallow, but OnePlus said that both the 3 and 3T will upgrade to 7.0 Nougat in the near future.

There's one other feature that isn't out yet, but will be coming soon. It's called "extended screenshots" and it lets you capture a full-page screenshot of webpages or text messages, even if you only see a portion of that on the screen. I'll be excited to see this when it launches.

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You can now switch up the shape of your icons in OnePlus' OxygenOS.

James Martin/CNET

Should I get the OnePlus 3T if I...?

  • Already own the OnePlus 3: No. Aside from the battery boost and some slightly better selfies, the 3T isn't a phenomenal upgrade. And remember, you're going to get those software updates too. Rest assured, the 3 isn't an obsolete device that you need to run out and replace.
  • Already wanted to buy the OnePlus 3: Yes. Its updates are worth the extra money. And if you have room in the budget, go with the 128GB variant.
  • Didn't want to buy either, but want a phone in this price range: Yes. The 3T has all the things we already love about the 3, plus all those goodies I mentioned. I strongly recommended the 3 when it came out and feel the same way about this iteration. Compared to other $400 phones that have been recently released, it has a better user experience and camera than the LePro 3, and it's faster than both the Motorola Moto Z Play and Alcatel Idol 4S.
  • Didn't want to buy either, but can spend a bit more: Depends. Even if money's no object, you really wouldn't be "compromising" much if you got the 3T. That said, the Google Pixel has a way better camera. It's deeply integrated with Google's ecosystem too, so you'll get faster Android updates and Google's nifty Assistant AI. But again, it's pricey. The Pixel XL (which has a 5.5-inch display like the 3T) with 128GB costs $869 or £819 -- that's almost twice as much as the 3T.

OnePlus 3T suits up in special-edition black

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OnePlus 3T Spec Comparison


OnePlus 3TOnePlus 3LeEco LePro 3Motorola Moto Z PlayAlcatel Idol 4SGoogle Pixel XL
Display size, resolution 5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920x1,080 pixels5.5-inch; 1,920X1,080 pixels5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels5.5-inch; 2,560x1,440 pixels
Pixel density 401ppi401ppi403 ppi403 ppi534 ppi534 ppi
Dimensions (Inches) 6.01x2.94x0.29 in6.01x2.94x0.29 in5.96x2.90x0.29 in6.16x3x0.28 in6.06x2.97x0.28 in6.1x2.98x0.34 in (at its thickest)
Dimensions (Millimeters) 152.7x74.7x7.35 mm152.7x74.7x7.35 mm151.4x73.9x7.5 mm156.4x76.4x6.99 mm153.9x75.4x6.99 mm154.7x75.74x8.58 mm (at its thickest)
Weight (Ounces, Grams) 5.57 oz; 158 g5.57 oz; 158 g6.24 oz; 177 g5.82 oz; 165 g5.26 oz; 149 g5.92 oz; 168 g
Mobile software Android 6.0.1 MarshmallowAndroid 6.0.1 MarshmallowAndroid 6.0.1 MarshmallowAndroid 6.0.1 MarshmallowAndroid 6.0.1 MarshmallowAndroid 7.1 Nougat
Camera 16-megapixel16-megapixel16-megapixel16-megapixel16-megapixel12.3-megapixel
Front-facing camera 16-megapixel8-megapixel8-megapixel5-megapixel8-megapixel8-megapixel
Video capture 4K4K4K4K4K4K
Processor 2.35GHz Qualcomm Snapdragon 8212.2GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 820Qualcomm Snapdragon 8212.0GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 6251.8GHz + 1.4GHz octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 6522.15GHz + 1.6GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 821
Storage 64GB, 128GB64GB64GB32GB32GB32GB, 128GB
RAM 6GB6GB4GB3GB3GB4GB
Expandable storage NoneNoneNoneUp to 2TBUp to 200GBNone
Battery 3,400mAh (nonremovable)3,000mAh (nonremovable)4,070mAh (nonremovable)3,510 mAh (nonremovable)3,000mAh (nonremovable)3,450mAh (nonremovable)
Fingerprint sensor Home buttonHome buttonBack coverHome buttonBack coverBack cover
Connector USB-CUSB-CUSB-CUSB-CMicro-USBUSB-C
Special features Notifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash ChargingNotifications toggle, dual-SIM, Dash ChargingAccess to LeEco's streaming platform with Live buttonMoto Mods connector, NFC, Turbo ChargingBoom Key (programable key), reversible OS, dual-SIMGoogle Assistant built-in, unlimited cloud storage, Daydream VR ready
Price off-contract (USD) $439 (64GB), $479 (128GB)$399$399$450$400$769 (32GB), $869 (128GB)
Price (GBP) £399 (64GB), £439 (128GB)£329Converts to £325£344£385£719 (32GB), £819 (128GB)
Price (AUD) Converts to AU$590 (64GB), AU$652 (128GB) Converts to AU$530Converts to AU$520AU$594AU$470AU$1,269 (32GB), AU$1,419 (128GB)
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9.0

OnePlus 3T

Score Breakdown

Design 9Features 9Performance 9Camera 8Battery 10