Over the years, OnePlus has created an impressive niche in the smartphone market. The company, which started with the motto ‘Never Settle’, has surely come a long way with its high-end budget friendly phones eventually earning it the tag of ‘flagship killer.’ However, 2017 seems to be the year when OnePlus moves ahead of this self-professed tag and establishes itself as a flagship, with the release of the OnePlus 5.
The new OnePlus 5 is a powerful device with ample storage, speed and an advanced processor — a feat that has been associated with OnePlus since inception. But what sets it apart is its price.
Make no mistake, the OnePlus 5 is way cheaper than the big guys it is pitted against (read, Samsung Galaxy S8 or the Google Pixel).
But the price of a new OnePlus phone has increased steadily with every new model, and coupled with all the heavy marketing spend, it’s clear that the company wants to soon shed its tag of budget flagship or flagship killer.
At the end of the day though, the consumers are more interested in knowing if OnePlus can remain true to its promise of offering the best bang-for-the-buck Android phone in the market. And so are we. Let’s find out.
If you have been following the recent hype around the OnePlus 5, you must have heard about its resemblance to the iPhone 7 Plus. The OnePlus 5 borrows a few design elements from the iPhone 7 Plus — the dual camera placement at the rear and the placement of the antenna lines at the perimeter — but that’s about it. Other than that, the OnePlus 5 looks like an evolved version of the OnePlus 3T.
Thankfully the OnePlus 5 didn’t go all out in copying the iPhone 7 Plus design, as we still have the good ol’ headphone jack fully intact.
Speaking of the evolutionary tweaks, the OnePlus 5 sports a metallic body, only this time it’s much thinner at 7.25 mm. With svelte edges, rounded corners and a slimmer profile, the OnePlus 5 looks like a refined version of its older cousin.
If you are familiar with the older handsets, you’d find no difference in the button placements of the OnePlus 5. At the right, you’ll find the power button and the dual nano sim tray while the volume rockers and the alert slider is on the left. Thanks to the slim profile, the buttons are easier to reach and operate.
The same holds true for the fingerprint sensor at the front and the headphone jack and charging port at the bottom edge.
But when it comes to addressing minute details, you’ll find that in the charging port. Unlike a few of pricier models like the Pixel or the Galaxy S8 (again), the USB C-type charging port has been painted black and you’d find no sharp ends jutting out. Along with that, the edges of the speaker grills have been beveled giving off a smooth edge to the bottom.
The build quality of the OnePlus 5 is sturdy. Thanks to the Gorilla Glass protection, it handles falls and drops gracefully. It suffered no scratches or scruffs when it accidentally fell from a height of around 2.5-3 meters.
Overall, the OnePlus 5 is a step in the right direction with a phone that is comfortable to hold and makes operations easier.
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When most of the high players in the smartphone market are playing with QHD panels and 4K display, the OnePlus 5 is holding fast to the same 1080p Optic AMOLED display.
However, let not the ‘1080p’ tag deter you from buying it. The 5.5-inch display is rich, bright and crisp with the color reproduction just about perfect.
The OnePlus 5 takes full advantage of its thin bezels, producing an illusion of a wide screen in this overall slim phone.
But when it comes to sunlight legibility, the display takes a serious hit. Most of the times, I found myself trying hard to get a decent reading.
This is not a new issue though. The sunlight legibility was poor even in OnePlus 3/3T.
Hardware, Performance and Battery Life
For a company which has been known for producing smartphones with high-end hardware specs, OnePlus pushes the line with the OnePlus 5.
It’s one of the few phones to host the advanced Octacore 10-nm design Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 chipset. With the eight cores capable of clocking up to 2.45Ghz, it doesn’t take a novice to conclude that operating the OnePlus 5 is buttery soft and fast.
The OnePlus didn’t break a sweat when rendering graphics for the Asphalt 8, even on the highest settings. What’s more, jumping between apps is fast and lightning quick — something you’d come to expect from a OnePlus device.
When it comes to measuring the performance of the OnePlus 5, the AnTuTu benchmarking tool clocked a score of 181425, which is quite obvious for a device with this specs. But then, let’s not go into benchmarks, as we know how companies play on these numbers.
Another area where the OnePlus 5 makes a significant improvement is the battery life. Thanks to the battery efficient SoC and DDR 4 RAM, the 3300 mAh battery of the OnePlus 5 packs in an impressive battery life.
It’ll easily see you through a full day with a screen on time of 2.5 hours — a feat which is unthinkable in the Galaxy S8.
Adding to it, we have the Dash Charge advantage. Dash Charge, which made its debut along with the OnePlus 3 redefines charging speed. It only takes 30 minutes to get it charged from 0% to 60% and that’s more than impressive, I’d say.
The OnePlus 5 sports its own Android skin — Oxygen OS 4.5.0 — on top of Android Nougat. Much like its older version, the new OS is slick and refined with a handful of features and tweaks thrown in.
Most of the additions are in the settings section. For instance, the gestures department has overhauled itself. Not only does it let you add more gestures, you can even customize them now. The same holds true for the capacitive hardware buttons, which can be changed at will.
So what’s new? Well, it’s in the form of the Reading Mode. The Reading Mode limits the Blue light emitting from the screen, giving an illusion of a Kindle screen. Plus, there’s customizing the incoming call patterns, detailed app management or the DND gaming mode.
One of the latest phone to jump abroad the dual-camera bandwagon, the OnePlus 5 boasts of the “biggest” dual camera megapixel count and bokeh effect.
The bokeh effect, in question, is achieved through a combination of a standard 16-MP lens and a 20-MP telephoto lens. These two combine to give a greater field of depth, with the background softly blurring away.
The end product of the bokeh effect is admirable in the OnePlus 5, with the subject standing out in sharp focus. It makes the everyday pictures stand out starkly among the rest (only in sufficient light, though).
However, the effect isn’t always up to the marks. At times, the blur between the object and the background is too much that it gives a superimposed illusion to the image. Aforesaid, the bokeh effect ideally works when you have ample light.
Unfortunately, in low light, it can’t create the depth effect which is a dealbreaker.
Speaking of light, the OnePlus 5 camera whips up impressive pictures in the natural or artificial light. Even with a few behind-the-scene software tweaks, the photos are realistically reproduced with accurate colors.
In addition, the macros shot from the OnePlus 5 are impressive. All the pictures are incredibly detailed with every tiny feature in the image standing out.
When it comes to the getting the focus right, the OnePlus 5 is a tad finicky, meaning that it’s not “OnePlus fast”. And if you are in a hurry, you might just end up with a blurred foreground.
Things started getting weird when we switched on the HDR mode. We ended up with yellow hued pictures, which can be attributed to the fact that the white balance is a bit off in the OnePlus 5. But this is something which can be fixed in a software update.
The OnePlus 5 takes excellent close up shots, thanks to the 20MP secondary telephoto lens. This lens has a fixed optical zoom of 1.6x and it borrows the rest 0.4x from the SmartCapture multiframe technology.
Though OnePlus has significantly raised the camera specs, it took a few steps back with the image stabilization techniques. Both the rear and front cameras lack optical image stabilization (OIS) which gives the video shot with the OnePlus 5 a wobbly effect.
Moving to the last category, the OnePlus 5 packs in Wi-Fi 802.11, Wi-Fi Direct and NFC. Keeping with the theme of speed in the OnePlus 5, Bluetooth pairing and transfer rates are fast, thanks to Bluetooth 5.
But when it comes to playing songs on the speaker, the sound is a bit on the sharp side. So, you might want to get a decent pair of earphones to make the most of the audio system in the OnePlus 5.
Another feature missing is USB-C 3.0. While most of the players like the Pixel has moved on to the USB-C 3.0, the OnePlus 5 is still stuck in version 2.0.
Overall, the OnePlus 5 is a quite a stellar phone with an impressive design, powerful processor & RAM, sufficient storage and a decent battery life. But where it was pushing for a phone with an extraordinary camera, the camera results aren’t that impressive. More often than not, I struggled to pull off the bokeh effect or a digital zoom beyond 1.6x without altering the colors.
But then, it’s one of the few phones to have been compared to the Galaxy S8 or even the Apple iPhone 7 Plus at almost half the price. Plus, the slick and fast OxygenOS adds value to this phone.
If you ask me, buy the OnePlus 5 for its impressive and fast performance and not for its over-hyped camera specs. You’d disappointedted. But if you can look past it, it’s an incredible fluid phone.
Hopefully, over time, the company will continue to send security updates or better, announce an official update policy.