OnePlus 5T Sandstone White Hands-On: Pretty Meets Gritty

With its 6-inch extra-wide OLED display, portrait-mode-capable dual cameras, premium processor and headphone jack, the OnePlus 5T mashes up our favorite characteristics of the current crop of Android flagships into one reasonably priced package.

Unfortunately, it also pulls its design inspiration from a multitude of other phones, leading to a look that's tasteful but hardly trailblazing. The OnePlus 5T is no doubt an improvement over the OnePlus 5, thanks mostly to those slimmed-down bezels on the new model. Its Midnight Black finish paints a silky and stealthy form, and its aluminum chassis feels as cool to the touch as ever. But it's still derivative, not daring.

Enter Sandstone White. OnePlus announced a new, limited-edition colorway for its latest product today (Jan. 4), adding a badly needed stroke of flair to one of our favorite phones of the year. This variant resembles OnePlus' recently released Star Wars model exclusive to India, Finland, Sweden and Denmark, only without the movie franchise's logo on the back.  

What You Get

The Sandstone White 5T comes packed with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage, putting it on equal terms with the more expensive configuration of the black OnePlus 5T. Like that device, this limited-edition 5T retails for $559, and it will go on sale Tuesday, Jan. 9 at 10 a.m. ET exclusively through the OnePlus store.

The name of the new model gives clues to the finish OnePlus has crafted for this device, but it doesn't change the fact that I've never held a phone in my hand that feels quite like the Sandstone White 5T. The company is proud to tell you that this particular version of the handset is the most expensive it's ever produced in its short history. The aluminum body is primed, sprayed and baked before being coated in a mixture of white oil paint and minerals. The end result has the granular composition, tone and texture of an eggshell, only a little coarser.

MORE: Galaxy S8 vs. OnePlus 5T

To be honest, I'm not sure if I prefer it to traditional anodized aluminum. I'm all for cloaking smartphones in more exotic materials — it's part of why I instantly fell for the Essential Phone and its mirrored ceramic back the first time I saw it in the flesh. Ask my co-workers about how I'm still mourning Nokia's death (no, not that Nokia), partially for its artisanal approach to polycarbonate.

In a parade of samely smartphones, offbeat materials can go a long way toward cultivating some sense of personality. But the Sandstone White 5T has a slight grittiness to it that I suspect will remind some people of that irritating sensation you get upon caressing a chalkboard. In fairness, it's not quite that off-putting, but it definitely falls into love-it-or-hate-it territory.

Fortunately, I think the texture is growing on me. And while I question the durability of the finish over the long term, many users will inevitably stuff the phone in a case, where its texture — and, for that matter, color — won't really matter.

Other Changes

Aside from the back, OnePlus has lavished the trim of the Sandstone White model with other little touches. The band that joins the glass to the top of the phone is now chrome, as are the accents that surround the fingerprint sensor, USB Type-C port and drilled speaker holes. The dual rear cameras are enclosed in a darker shade of polished metal, just like on the black 5T. Likewise, many of the buttons have remained black as well, except for OnePlus' signature notifications slider, which is now finished in a metallic ruby red.

Interestingly, the antenna lines that previously flanked the top and bottom of the 5T's backside are missing on the new variant, although the breaks in the chrome band are still present. But overall, the contrast between the bright Sandstone finish, black buttons and OnePlus logo, red slider and reflective accents is reminiscent of Google's panda-themed Pixel 2 XL, and makes the newest 5T the most attractive of the bunch.

MORE: OnePlus 5T Can't Stream Netflix in HD, Fix Promised

As it turns out, black and white aren't the only colors for the 5T. A Lava Red version of the phone arrived in China in December and will launch in India at the end of January. As with the Sandstone White model, you'll have to upgrade to the more expensive, higher-spec configuration to get a 5T in Lava Red. However, it's unknown if the company intends to make the color available in other markets, like the U.S., in the future.

The Outlook

Personally, I'd rather have the Sandstone White OnePlus 5T. The gritty finish surely won't be to everyone's taste, but it's a look you so rarely see (and feel) on a smartphone. I love the chrome and red accents, as they lift the design just enough to stoke interest, without being too loud or obnoxious. And while the additional RAM and storage aren't strictly necessary — the 6GB OnePlus 5T is powerful enough as it is — I won't complain about a little extra oomph and a lot more storage for an extra $60.

Photo Credits: Jef Castro/Tom's Guide

Adam Ismail is a staff writer at Jalopnik and previously worked on Tom's Guide covering smartphones, car tech and gaming. His love for all things mobile began with the original Motorola Droid; since then he’s owned a variety of Android and iOS-powered handsets, refusing to stay loyal to one platform. His work has also appeared on Digital Trends and GTPlanet. When he’s not fiddling with the latest devices, he’s at an indie pop show, recording a podcast or playing Sega Dreamcast.