Sandstone White OnePlus 5T Hands On: An Iconic Stormtrooper Variant that’s Perfect for OnePlus One Fans
By now, Android enthusiasts are probably used to OnePlus’ release strategy: Launch a phone, release limited edition variants and a revision with a spec bump, and offer more colors along the way. These tactics have kept the company’s flagships fresh, and secured OnePlus an ongoing spot in the headlines… though sometimes at the expense of its fans, who often become frustrated because they cannot buy the variant they don’t or couldn’t know they wanted.
The OnePlus 3T came in a Colette edition, for example, which preempted the release of the Midnight Black OnePlus 3T. At that point, the design was available in four colors, including the grey (OnePlus 3), Gunmetal, and Soft Gold options. The OnePlus 5 had a special Castelbajac variant as well as a Soft Gold version, but it wasn’t until the OnePlus 5T Star Wars Edition that we saw a proper new model with brand new colors and a new backplate texture.
Now, OnePlus is announcing a OnePlus 5T variant in sandstone white, which inherits the new aesthetic that the company introduced with its Star Wars cross-branding partnership. We already took a look at this design in our Star Wars edition hands on by Idrees Patel, but I’d like to give some of my thoughts on it and go over some of the very small differences between both releases.
Meet the New Boss, same as the Old Boss
The changes made in the Sandstone White OnePlus 5T are mostly superficial — they amount to a fresh coat of paint (almost literally), a few different accents, and very little else. But surprisingly, that’s all OnePlus needed to make the device’s design stand out like new without sacrificing its primordial aesthetic.
First things first, though: The new OnePlus 5T’s main attraction is the new back texture, which OnePlus is marketing as “sandstone”. In my opinion, this is an inaccurate descriptor — the texture doesn’t begin to resemble either OnePlus’s Sandstone covers for the OnePlus 3/3T and 5/5T, the original OnePlus’s backplate, or the OnePlus One’s Sandstone rear cover. It lacks the roughness of the “sandstone” or “sandpaper” that OnePlus crafted from polymer in previous incarnations, in part because the company worked the new texture onto the metal chassis of the OnePlus 5T.
The result feels like drywall paint in some ways, and while that might sound odd, the texture doesn’t feel at all bad in the hand. The new backplate adds a lot of grip that previous OnePlus 5 and OnePlus 5T variants lacked — their matte metal backs feel almost like slippery glass in comparison.
To achieve the new finish, OnePlus applied four processes to the chassis. The bottom layer is a primer that safeguards the metal body, which is why it feels not quite like metal and not quite like sandstone. The outer layer consists of “a blend of natural minerals and white oil paint”, according to OnePlus, which is treated for additional hardness and refinement. The company claims that the manufacturing process is the most expensive they’ve ever developed, in part due to low yield but also because of the time it takes to make each unit — a total of 75 minutes per device, allegedly. This partially explains the higher price tag.
In my opinion, though, it’s not just the new texture that gives the Sandstone White OnePlus 5T a different look. There are other changes that give it much-needed character, and help further differentiate it from previous OnePlus releases (barring the OnePlus One). Perhaps unintentionally, OnePlus channeled the OnePlus One’s aesthetic in opting for a white back with a black-slab front, separated by a metal band. The aforementioned silver band around the phone’s frame features shiny chamfered edges that neither the Midnight Black OnePlus 5 or 5T had, and that we haven’t seen in this fashion since the Grey and Gunmetal OnePlus 3/3T. The frame clearly clearly delineates the phone’s white back from the black front, and, coupled with the dark buttons and accents, isn’t unlike the white “panda” or “Stormtrooper” designs of OnePlus’ first device.
The red alert slider first seen in the Star Wars Edition OnePlus 5T makes a comeback as well, and adds a funky touch of color to the design. It’s quite vibrant, and shines under direct sunlight alongside the metal band around the phone. The top-left portion in particular looks quite good — it contains a multitude of colors and textures, among them red and silver metal, a rough white texture, and slick glassy black.
Better Design at a Worse Price
Overall, the Sandstone White OnePlus 5T is my favorite OnePlus design to date. It is quite different than previous models, and the metal backplate of the company’s past four major releases was starting to become stale — especially if we take into account that OnePlus’s first two devices had unique textures. Sure, each color variant of OnePlus 5T features a distinct finish, like the smooth matte in the black variants and the sand-blasting of the Soft Gold models. But this one feels substantially different. It’s far grippier, it doesn’t feel much like metal, and it certainly doesn’t get as cold as metal, which is something I noticed quickly in Minnesota’s low temperatures.
The Sandstone White OnePlus 5T brings an iconic color and texture to a design that was originally criticized for being too “samey”; the new finish ultimately does more for the phone than I expected. It hides the antennae bands, it complements the black front, it makes the red alert slider shine (literally), and it brings attention to the polished chamfers in the machined holes around the speakers and USB Type-C port. And perhaps most importantly, it’s a design that’s perfectly suited to OnePlus One fans looking to upgrade.
At a hefty $560, though, it becomes harder to recommend the Sandstone White OnePlus 5T over the base OnePlus 5T. As I said, I think it looks better, but the OnePlus 5T’s design is not what makes it such a good value proposition. The cheaper Midnight Black 5T and the even-cheaper OnePlus 5 deliver a nearly identical user experience in pretty good (if unspectacular) designs. However, if you are looking for a more original design with some added glint, or if you are feeling nostalgic, the Sandstone White OnePlus 5T is an excellent candidate as long as you can stomach the price difference.
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