The Pixel 2 XL is easily one of, if not the best, Android device to launch last year. This is simple truth has carried over into 2018 as new Android devices begin to pop up around the globe. Both the camera and software support on the Pixel 2 are unrivaled and for many enthusiasts, it’s the only choice for those looking for the most “stock” Android experience possible.
These were just a few of the benefits that wooed me away from my beloved OnePlus 5T. The Pixel 2 XL, although much more costly, seemed like a no-brainer, especially if I wanted to stay on top of the latest Android updates. So I pulled the trigger, bought the white “panda” Pixel 2 XL and my OnePlus 5T was laid to rest inside a desk drawer to be forgotten… Or so I thought.
Turns out the grass wasn’t as green as I thought it would be over at #TeamPixel. I ended up missing my OnePlus 5T and after a few long months, I finally switched back. I’ve been using the 5T as my daily driver ever since if you’re curious about the exact reasons why I returned, here are a few of the reasons I much prefer the OnePlus 5T over the Pixel 2 XL. Enjoy.
What I love
Speed, speed, SPEED ?
The OnePlus 5T is one of the few Android phones I’ve owned that has absolutely no trouble keeping up with the Pixel 2/2 XL. And not just when it comes to opening apps, but the overall smoothness and fluidity of the UI as well.
Those with a careful eye may notice a few dropped frames when opening apps but when it comes to scrolling through menus or feeds, it’s right up there with Pixel 2 XL. Even touch screen lag is virtually non-existent with the UI always following closely behind your finger. It makes the speed and responsiveness of the OnePlus 5T some of the best you’ll find on an Android device to date.
When comparing the 5T against devices with the exact same Snapdragon 835 processor, they simply can”t keep up. The Essential Phone had choppy UI and awful touch screen lag, while the Galaxy S8 stuttered and hanged when opening apps or navigating the UI. Although the Pixel 2 matches most of the speed, smoothness, and responsiveness of the OnePlus 5T, it fell short in another key area…
More RAM = better Android experience
The OnePlus 5T comes in two different RAM configurations: a ton, and so-much-it’s-stupid. I prefer the latter, found on the 128GB model. With a whopping 8GB of RAM, it’s absolutely unheard of and something you probably wont even see on 2018 flagships coming around the bend. To say that OnePlus is ahead of the curve here is an understatement.
So what’s the big deal? Well, RAM matters a lot on Android devices. For me, it’s absolutely essential to the user experience and plays a big part in the “speed” you feel on a device. Keeping apps open in the background means you can return to them instantly and not have to wait for them to reload. The more RAM you have, the more apps you can have waiting for you to return.
The OnePlus 5T delivers here in spades, allowing you to pick up right where you left off. I know this doesn’t sound very exciting but coming from the Pixel 2 XL where apps were closing much more quick, reloads were just a normal part of life. In fact, there were times where I’d leave an app/game, respond to a message, and quickly switch back to the original app only to have it reload from scratch.
After returning to the OnePlus 5T, I was almost floored to find even games like Pokémon GO — known for its god-awful slow startup time — would remain in the background nearly all day, even after hours of checking messages, web browsing, watching videos, or visiting social media. I could fire up the game in an instant after a full day of work, picking up where I left off. It was borderline absurd.
Now before you dismiss RAM as just another unessential hardware feature, just imagine having a desktop computer that closed applications the moment you left, forcing you to lose your progress and waiting for them to load up again from scratch. That’s no way to live. So why should your Android device be any different?
Fastest fingerprint and face unlock — hands down ?
Quickly unlocking your phone is one of the most highly underrated smartphone features out there. Today, we’re pretty much spoiled with fingerprint sensors — even face unlock — being available on even lower-end Androids. It’s just standard now, so why is it so great?
Well, the OnePlus 5T gives you the choice of using your fingerprint or face to unlock your device and while you’ll find face unlock on devices like the Galaxy S9 or iPhone X, they in no way match the speed of the OnePlus 5T. It’s literally instantaneous. Just press the power button and if your face is anywhere near the phone, it will recognize it and unlock.
What’s that? You don’t like less secure face unlock and prefer using your fingerprint? Well, the fingerprint sensor on the 5T is the best I’ve tested in both speedy and accuracy. Not only does it read your fingerprint in an instant, but it turns on the display and takes you to your home screen faster than any device out there — even the Pixel 2.
I know, we’re only talking milliseconds here but it’s yet another handful of reasons why the 5T delivers the fastest smartphone experience out there. After awhile, everything else just feels needlessly slow.
Less downtime with Dash Charge ?
I’ve already talked in depth about the battery life I’ve received on my Pixel 2 XL (great at first, but now pretty average). In that post, I also talked about charging times. They weren’t good. Awful in fact. I’m not sure what was up with my Pixel 2 XL, but the phone charges slower than molasses. It seems to be a weird bug that affects a handful of users, myself included.
Of course moving back to the OnePlus 5T was like a breath of fresh air, with the phone going from 0-100% quicker than most any other flagship device to date. Having to constantly worry about keeping your phone plugged in at all times wasn’t fun.
With the 5T, I don’t have to stress when it comes to charging because I know it’s going to be hella quick. Just prepare a sandwich, drop the kids off at the pool and by the time you’re done, the phone is topped off.
A more reasonably sized phone ?
When I’m not raving about the speed of the OnePlus 5T, I’m enjoying the size of the device. This is arguably the most subjective area of this post, but that’s okay.
For many, the Pixel 2 XL is simply too big. The OnePlus 5T on the other hand isn’t too tall, fits perfectly in my palm so I can easily use the device with one hand. It’s not too big, not too small but juuuuuust right.
The Pixel 2 XL just feels clunky in comparison and while I’d still much prefer smaller-sized devices like the Samsung Galaxy S9, the OnePlus 5T is the perfect compromise.
It looks freaking great ?
It’s not easy to find high-end phones that aren’t fully covered in glass, let alone those in a matte white finish. Go ahead and look. I’ll wait. You back? Cool.
When it comes to premium, the only Android devices to come in matte white are the Pixel 2/2XL and the OnePlus 5T. That’s about it. Even though the OnePlus 5T is technically no longer available in eggshell white, I was able to find one for a great price on Swappa and wasted no time in picking it up. I can now die happy.
The best value in Android ?
After all is said and done, the OnePlus 5T is the only premium, high-end Android smartphone that actually respects your wallet. It’s a great phone at an honest price and simply put, you wont find a better value in Android — hands down.
So while you bust your ass at your 9-to-5, ask yourself why you’re paying nearly double for a smartphone that still doesn’t match the raw speed or performance of the OnePlus 5T. After forking over $950 for the Pixel 2 XL — the most I’ve ever spent on a brand new smartphone — this is something I had to come to terms with.
In the end, I just couldn’t justify Google’s high asking price, not with the OnePlus 5T staring me in the face. It just wasn’t worth it to me, no matter how quick those Android updates rolled out.
For now, it seems the OnePlus 5T has officially been discontinued, so your only chance to find one now is Craigslist, Swappa, or sites like eBay. If you’re looking for a great deal on one of the best Android devices around, it’s a not a bad idea.
What I miss
Google’s magical HDR+ ?
Of course, the Pixel 2’s biggest selling point is that wonderful camera. Not so much the hardware (it’s pretty similar to everything else on the market) but Google’s own in-house HDR+ software backing it up. It’s the best quality shooter you’ll find on just about any Android device. It really does live up to the hype, leaving the OnePlus 5T and its stock camera app in the dust.
Out of the box, there is no HDR+ on the OnePlus 5T — as this is an exclusive Google device specific feature — but there are workarounds. Installing a hacked version of the PIxel’s app onto the 5T brings some of those HDR+ benefits and while it helps a lot with low light photography, it’s far from ideal. The app is all around unstable, glitchy, and a little hard to setup.
Even on a good day with everything working properly, you still lose out on the Pixel 2’s OIS — something that’s sorely missing from OnePlus 5T — and it’s painfully obvious when attempting to shoot video inside 3rd party apps like Instagram.
Motion photos ?
Motion photos are a new development, something that was introduced on the Pixel 2/2 XL. It’s a great feature, one I’ve been using since the iPhone 6S and even Android devices like the Galaxy S8. Motion photos allow you to record short video clips while snapping photos with your camera, giving you the option to view either inside your gallery.
These can later be shared as video clips or GIFs and are a fun way to get an almost “behind the scenes” look at what happened before/after snapping a photo. This feature sadly doesn’t exist on the OnePlus 5T for no other reason than OnePlus doesn’t seem to think anybody really wants it. It’s a damn shame really.
Front facing speakers ?
Front facing speakers is one of those things you don’t really realize you’ll miss until it’s gone. Not every device has them, but even those that don’t put some effort into simulating the effect by blasting media through the earpiece as well as the primary speaker (the iPhone X or Galaxy S9 for instance). The OnePlus 5T only features a single, bottom firing speaker that forces you to cup your hand over it like an animal in order to watching YouTube videos in louder environments. Thanks, OnePlus.
Water resistance for shower watching ?
Apparently I’m the only weirdo that incorporates cartoon watching in their daily shower routine but hey, that’s okay. It’s something I’ve enjoyed ever since water resistant phones starting becoming more commonplace and miss this morning ritual with my Pixel 2 XL.
The OnePlus 5T, unfortunately, isn’t one of these new water resistant devices and because of that, shower-time is now a much more lonely experience.
Always-on Display ?
The Pixel 2’s Ambient display — aka “Always-on Display” — is one of the best features to come to Android in a quite some time. When enabled, the feature constantly shows you the time and notification icons, even while your phone is sleeping. To help prevent burn-in, the dimly lit clock will slightly change position around the screen and has a minimal impact on battery life thanks to the phone’s AMOLED display panel.
The Ambient display gives you quick information at a glance (without having to full activate the display) and it’s just one of those modern day conveniences I miss having on my phone. It’s a small but important feature, one I’m disappointed doesn’t have an equivalent on the OnePlus 5T.
Always listening to music ?
The Pixel 2 has a very helpful feature called “Now Playing.” This is an always-listening feature that scans for music playing in your surroundings, displaying the artist/song title right on your lockscreen. It’s a lot like Shazam except you don’t have to think about it — it’s always working, always listening.
I honestly didn’t think I’d get much use out of this feature but 3rd party apps, allowing you to keep a history of the tagged music, made this feature into something truly useful and something I really miss on my 5T.
Streaming Netflix in full HD ?
This is more of gripe with the OnePlus 5T than anything. The phone can’t take full advantage of its HD+ display while streaming Netflix or Amazon Prime Video. It’s a weird DRM issue that prevents full HD video on these services, one that requires sending the phone back to OnePlus for a fix.
Not very many people have time for that and probably even less of them know there’s even the issue in the first place. Still, this is a uniquely OnePlus 5/5T problem. The Pixel 2 on the other hand has no problem streaming everything in its native display resolution. You know, like any other phone on the market.