The OnePlus 7T competes with the best Android phones at a fraction of the price

Jason Cipriani, CNN Underscored
Wed October 16, 2019

The official release of the newest OnePlus phone, the 7T, is just a few days away. I've been trying one out for a couple of weeks, and it's a great smartphone package at the price, with an excellent display, fast charging and overall fine performance.

You can order the OnePlus 7T from OnePlus.com for $599 starting Friday. It's available in frosted silver or glacier blue. T-Mobile customers can pick up the phone for $25 a month on that day.

Design and performance

The OnePlus 7T has 128GB of storage and 8GB of memory and is powered by Qualcomm's Snapdragon 855+ processor. The 855+ processor offers slightly improved performance over the Snapdragon 855, but I've yet to notice any significant gains. It's as fast as the Galaxy Note 10+ or the Galaxy S10+, released earlier this year.

The first thing I noticed about the OnePlus 7T is how narrow and tall it feels. The display measures 6.55 inches with an aspect ratio of 20:9, which means that the phone is narrow, with extra height to achieve the overall display's size. It also means that holding and using the OnePlus 7T with one hand can be awkward.

It took some time before I fully adjusted to stretching and shuffling the phone in my hand so my thumb could reach the top of the display. Now, I don't even notice.

The 7T's display is impressive and a joy to use. The spec sheet reads like this: 6.55-inch Fluid AMOLED with a 2,400x1,080 resolution and a 90Hz refresh rate. That translates into a screen that's sharp and has vivid colors, with incredibly smooth scrolling.

Centered at the top of the display is a teardrop cutout that drips ever so slightly into the screen. The cutout makes room for the 16-megapixel front-facing camera. On the right side of the phone is the power button, along with an alert slider. That slider has long been one of my favorite features of OnePlus phones. Adjusting the ring volume on an Android device typically requires unlocking the phone or visually verifying the volume buttons are changing your sound profile to vibrate right before a meeting starts. With the alert slider, I can easily switch between ring, vibrate and silent when my phone is in my pocket or sitting on my desk.

On the left side of the phone is the volume rocker. On the bottom is a USB-C port for charging, next to the SIM card tray. You won't find a headphone jack on the OnePlus 7T, but that's pretty much standard across most high-end smartphones.

OnePlus has its own fast-charging tech, called Warp Charge. With the 7T, OnePlus says that the Warp Charge 30T will charge the phone from zero to 70% in 30 minutes. I admit, I was somewhat skeptical, but after testing it myself, I'm a believer.

With the 7T's battery completely empty, I connected it to the charger and set a timer for 30 minutes. After the timer went off, I checked and the 7T's battery was at 70%. I kept monitoring the phone until it fully charged, which took a total of 65 minutes. At 45 minutes the battery was at 91%.

The 7T had an all-day battery life in my testing, but if you run into issues, it's reassuring to know that it takes only 30 minutes for a decent charge.

The fingerprint sensor is part of the display, an inch or so off the bottom of the phone. My experience with the sensor has been mixed. Most of the time it works without any issues, quickly unlocking the phone after I place my thumb on it. But if it fails to recognize my thumbprint on the first attempt, it's almost guaranteed it won't recognize it at all, and I have to enter my PIN to unlock the phone.

The 7T is the first Android phone to ship with Android 10, customized with OnePlus Oxygen OS. For the most part, OnePlus takes a light hand when tweaking Android. Oxygen OS includes useful features like Zen Mode, which reminds you to take breaks if you've been using your phone for an extended amount of time, and the ability to install app icon packs and adjust highlight colors without installing a third-party launcher.

Solid camera, fun features

There are three rear-facing cameras on the 7T: the 48-megapixel main camera, a 12-megapixel telephoto camera and a 16-megapixel ultra-wide-angle camera.

There's also a new super macro mode for really close shots, as well as an improved nightscape mode for taking photos at night. I had a lot of fun using and experimenting with super macro.

Here's a photo I took of a basketball with the camera just a few millimeters from the tread:

The camera app suggests placing the camera 2.5 to 8 centimeters (1 to 3 inches) from your subject. I found the closer I got, the better the result — and most importantly, there was no fuss. After tapping on the macro button, I didn't have to figure out the best distance or mess with any focus controls. I could get close to the object, snap the photo, and I was done.

Overall photo quality on the 7T is great. Photos with the main camera are crisp and have accurate colors, without being too saturated or overexposed. Ultra wide shots have distortion at the edges, depending on the situation, something the OnePlus 7 Pro also had.

When I was recording my first impressions a couple of weeks ago, I mentioned that I was having issues with nightscape photos. Shortly after the 7T announcement, a software update was pushed out that fixed the night mode issues I experienced.

The above photo was taken in a dark environment, and the OnePlus 7T handled it well. I took this same photo with the iPhone 11 Pro Max, which captured a similar shot. The biggest thing I noticed when comparing the two phones is that the 7T takes slightly longer to capture the shot than the iPhone 11 Pro Max.

The OnePlus 7T is a fine Android phone

If you're in the market for a new Android phone but don't want to spend a ton of money on one, consider the OnePlus 7T.

It's the complete smartphone package. It has a sweet display, a capable camera, long-lasting battery life and solid performance. It's also a package that costs only $599. With the price of smartphones continuing to pass $1,000, the OnePlus 7T proves that you don't have to spend four figures for a high-quality experience.

Note: The price above reflects the retailer's listed price at the time of publication.