Can you live without QHD?
The main area where this creeps in is the screen. Whether you say it’s to save a few grand or to make battery life better, the OnePlus 2 has a 1080p Full HD screen rather than the QHD type Samsung and LG fit into their top-end phones.
Across the 5.5in display that provides 400ppi density, which is obviously much lower than the QHD competition. But does it matter?
The OnePlus 2 screen is still very sharp, and the tone of it is lovely. It has none of the try-hard colour oversaturation of the LG G4, or the skewed palette of the price rival HTC One M8S.
For the price this is a pretty terrific screen. And it’s a very strong one at any price. Outdoors visibility is great (if not quite Galaxy S6-level), top brightness is very good and it looks right from any angle.
For the tech heads out there, the OnePlus 2 uses an LTPS IPS LCD screen. Too many acronymns? That means it’ll get you great viewing angles and improved power efficiency.
Thanks to the awesome contrast and colour of Samsung’s OLED phones like the Galaxy S6 and S6 Edge, it’s not a contender for the best screen out there. But I don’t miss the extra pixels of QHD. Size is important too: 5.5in is a good size for a bit of Netflix action, and doesn’t leave you with a phone that feels ridiculously big.
An O2 injection
Despite being unusual in some important ways, the OnePlus 2 still feels like a normal phone in most respects. It’s the same case with the phone’s software.
On the surface, it looks like the OnePlus 2 uses a totally vanilla version of Android 5.1 Lollipop. Its top layer looks just the same, but it actually runs OxygenOS, a custom version of Android made by OnePlus.
This is one of the most important ‘political’ changes since the OnePlus One, which used CyanogenMod at launch, an indie dev scene version of Android. The idea of OxygenOS is that it doesn’t radically alter the look or feel of Android, but gives you tools to fiddle with lots of different bits under the hood.
Nothing really overhauls Lollipop all that much, but you can do things such as switch the soft keys around, flip between using hardware and software soft keys and add loads of gestures. Want a double tap of the back button to load the camera? Sure. Want a long-press of the Home button to launch the last-used app? Fine.
You can also switch to a UI that’s mostly-black rather than mostly-white. However, the OnePlus 2’s OxygenOS avoids loading you down with millions of custom options and drastic UI themes. It’s meant to be ‘Android+’, not ‘Android Turbo XL Platinum Edition’.
Performance is generally excellent too. The OnePlus 2 has the Snapdragon 810 CPU, an eight-core processor with four 1.8GHz Cortex-A57 cores and four lower-power Cortex-A53 ones.
This is the cheapest phone we’ve seen use such a high-end CPU, and while the Snapdragon 810 has received some flak, seeing it in a ₹22,999 feels like a real achievement. So, what’s the Snapdragon 810 hate about?
It’s a bit slower and less efficient than the Exynos chipset used by the Galaxy S6. However, the big problem is overheating. It has caused some pretty big problems in the Sony Xperia Z3+, and slightly smaller ones in the HTC One M9.
The OnePlus 2 does get a bit warm without all that much provoking, such as heating up around the top of the phone just from browsing. But I've never found it getting flat-out hot. Even when gaming. And with scores of around 4460 in the Geekbench 3 benchmark, performance is very similar to the other Snapdragon 810 phones.
Where the OnePlus 2 strays from the pack a bit is with its camera. What’s not always talked-about is that virtually every higher-end phone uses a Sony camera sensor. There are some exceptions, of course, such as the Toshiba-toting HTC One M9. But Sony’s models are generally the top contenders.
Solid sensor but not the sharpest photography brain
But both Sony and Toshiba have been rejected here in favour of an Omnivision sensor. "Omniwhatnow?", you may well say, but we've actually had some great experiences with Omnivision sensors in phones such as the Oppo N3. Guess what: OnePlus was actually formed by folks from Oppo. It all’s a big circle.
It’s not about resolution (both of those phones have 16-megapixel cameras). It’s not necessarily even about sensor quality. It’s more to do with the software and processing OnePlus puts into the OnePlus 2’s camera brain.
First off, it could be faster. Given the OnePlus 2 offers laser-assisted focusing you might assume it’s going to be one the of the fastest cameras around. It isn’t. It’s not pig-slow either, but it’s not as snappy as the Galaxy S6 or HTC One M9, and there’s a bit of shot-to-shot processing delay when you shoot using the Clear Shot or HDR modes. More on those later.
This is a slight disappointment, but no great surprise. Laser focusing just uses an IR laser to tell the OnePlus 2 roughly how far away the subject is. It doesn’t help with speeding-up what happens after that, and the phone still actually uses contrast detection focusing like almost every other phone.