Would you rather have a lesser processor, lesser RAM, lesser camera, a design that was just okay on the new OnePlus 5 for a lower price?
Well, we wouldn’t.
It wouldn’t be the flagship-killer it has always been had OnePlus not put in the top-notch specs we all have come to expect from it. The OnePlus 5 is a fantastic all-rounder that improves on its predecessor in just about every way. OK, so the price might have spiked, but you’re getting a better-looking, better-made device that’s still a whole lot less cash than the high-end competition.
The point is, you are getting an absolute cracker of a phone even though you pay slightly more than what we all have been used to. So, get over the price already and focus on what matters.
OnePlus 5 design & build: a touch of class
The first thing you notice about the OnePlus 5’s design is that it looks like a twin of the iPhone 7 Plus. Is that a bad thing? Well, those who have siblings might understand that if you were younger, you always looked up to your elder bro/sis and wanted to dress up like them and be cool. Yes, your elder bro and others might get annoyed at first and fight with you a bit, but let some time pass and they start to think it is cute and adorable (doesn’t work if you have siblings with issues).
Jokes apart, even though the design is a blatant copy of the iPhone 7 Plus and some other devices from the Oppo stable, it is not a bad one. It looks good! Fancy, bezel-busting displays might be grabbing everyone’s attention elsewhere, but when the OnePlus 5 costs a whopping galaxy less than a Galaxy S8. That extra bit of wedge around the sides of the screen can be forgiven. It’s got 2.5D glass that curves slightly at each edge, which is a classy touch.
What we feel, is that the feel of the phone is more important here than the actual design of it. Think of it. How many times do you turn your phone around and admire the design? Not too often, right? Unless, you’re slightly weird, but that’s understandable. And most of us slap on some fancy cover on our devices.
But you might not be inclined to do that on the OnePlus 5. Why? That’s because the aluminium unibody has been refined and reformed from last year’s OnePlus 3T, slimming down to just 7.25mm at its thickest point. Rounded edges and corners feel smooth and sit comfortably in your hand - it’s like holding a high-tech pebble. It feels just perfect. And we aren’t over exaggerating.
There’s some real attention to detail here. The antenna lines are colour-matched and blend in beautifully with the body. They have also been moved to the upper and lower edges of the phone and you won’t notice them much because the dual-cam setup steals the show here. The cams bulge out the back ever so slightly and are pretty unobtrusive.
So it might look like an iPhone, but it feels better to hold and touch and caress even with one-handed use (yes, we are slightly weird) and specially so when you pay a good chunk less than the iPhone for it. The other charming thing that the OnePlus has that the iPhone doesn’t is that beautiful and glorious (insert drum roll) headphone jack. It’s also great that the Alert slider is still a thing on the OnePlus 5 and it is useful too, allowing to switch between Silent, Loud and Vibrate profiles.
On the front, you get the same fingerprint sensor that looks like a pill, but is as fast as a bullet, or probably even faster - 0.2 seconds to be precise. It has the reflexes of a freaking water boatman. There’s hardware buttons on either side, but you get the option of turning them off and use the on-screen navigation bar.
So, one small step for us, but a giant leap ahead for OnePlus over the 3T. However, that giant leap misses out on one of the features we were hoping we would see on the 5 - waterproofing. We really wish OnePlus had added that into the bag. It’s like having chicken tikka biryani, but there’s no lime to squeeze over it, so you just have to eat it plain.
OnePlus 5 screen & sound: High-def hero
Yes, it is a very very 2K world out there. Most of the flagships have bid goodbye to the good old 1080p and moved on, but not OnePlus. The OnePlus 5 doesn’t pack in the pixels - it sticks with a tried-and-tested 1080p panel. Stretched over 5.5in, you end up with a 401ppi pixel density.
It may seem to be a weak link on paper, but when you actually get to using the phone, the display doesn’t seem bad at all. Even if you smudge the 5.5 incher with your nose, you wouldn’t spot the individual pixels here. Yes, your photos and videos might look spit-shined on the Galaxy S8 or the current resolution king - the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, but the display on here is more than enough for most of the people, specially when you consider the price. Oh, and it also means that the OnePlus 5 will consume lesser battery while using everyday apps like Instagram or Facebook.
There’s also customization options if the out-of-the-box settings don’t suit your eyes. You get to choose from sRGB and DCI-P3 colour profiles, or adjust things manually for a more personal look. Whatever the case may be, the superb AMOLED panel on here is a winner. The black levels are as deep as poems from Thomas Gray and colours are vibrant but not oversaturated, which really makes your photos and videos pop. The contrast on offer here is simply impeccable.
The viewing angles are splendid too and the display gets bright enough to use on a bright summer’s day.
The OnePlus 5 has won our ears too. Although a single speaker set up, there’s loads of definition and composure that it maintains. It gets loud enough too and doesn’t sound clattery or thin one bit. Bass lovers might be slightly disappointed, but hey, you can use your favourite headphones (looking at you iPhone.)
OnePlus 5 camera hardware: Double Vision
The OnePlus 3T’s camera was, ummm, let’s just say decent. Okay, it wasn’t that great. But that’s not the case here thanks to the dual-cam setup OnePlus has hyped with all its might.
Does it live up to the hype? Yeah, it does. The main 16MP, f/1.7 sensor is partnered with a 20MP, f/2.6 secondary one, which together add up to the highest raw pixel count of any dual-camera smartphone.
Let’s forget about the pixel war for a second and throw some light on the custom algorithm used by the phone after the sensors have taken the pictures. This is developed in partnership with imaging experts DxO and in the right light, the OnePlus 5 takes fantastic photos.
There’s a great amount of detail in the shots you take and none of them look artificially bumped up when it comes to colour and contrast. What really caught us by surprise was how quick the HDR mode is. Generally, there’s a second or half of delay when you click in this mode on other phones, but not the OnePlus 5 and that’s amazing. It does a great job of balancing highlights and areas of shadow in a single image.
However, switch to portrait mode and things are not the absolute best. The subject in focus sometimes has this halo effect that creeps in ever so slightly. It feels like someone has airbrushed the edges, but that’s only prominent when the lighting is poor. In proper lighting, there’s hardly any hint of this and we are sure it will be corrected by future updates. Overall, the results don’t look at all fake or digitally enhanced, regularly going toe-to-toe with the iPhone 7 Plus. It sometimes even comes out on top for detail and convincing bokeh.
The new kid on the camera app, which has been ‘borrowed’ directly from the iPhone, is the Pro mode, which offers RAW shooting. That’s the ticket to always getting the right exposure, the right ISO and the right white balance, shutter speed and focus.
You absolutely want to use the PRO mode when it gets shady, well, quite literally. The only time you find the auto mode lacking is in lowlight situations. But that’s not to say it is perfect. The white balance and clarity are not the best if there’s multiple sources of light involved and it doesn’t match up to the shots taken on the Pixel or the Galaxy S8.
Another plus point about combining two cameras is the fact that you can now zoom into space. Okay, not space, since it only allows zoom up to 2x without the dip in resolution you’d get with traditional digital zoom. It does dip in quality sometimes, but it isn’t as prominent as it is in the 1x and 2x of the iPhone.
Video quality is great too and shooting in 1080p 60fps is an absolute joy thanks to the electronic image stabilisation tech on the OnePlus 5. Footage is reasonably stable and smooth, but not with the same refinement you would get on a Pixel. This is more prominent when you shoot in 4K, but still nothing that will put you off.
OnePlus 5 software: a breath of fresh air
Is there even Oxygen on this?
That’s the question you’ll be asking once you set your eyes on the simple yet amazing spin OnePlus has given on Google’s operating system. It just feels like the stock version of Android 7.1 and that’s our favourite bit about the OnePlus 5 - the simplicity of it.
The app drawer now requires you to swipe up just like you would on the Pixel and the notifications tray and the Settings screen is the exact same too. It is so easy to use, even a neanderthal would get his/her way around it. You can also customize certain status bar icons to appear or disappear, which might help you calm your OCD.
Talking about customization, you also get something called the Shelf. A quick swipe right lets you access your recent contacts, your most used recent apps and there’s some information provided that includes how much data you’ve used, available storage space and battery life left. You can also add your favourite widgets to this and can take quick memos too. Pretty handy and you will end up using it for sure.
Some of the favourite features from the OnePlus 3T have been tweaked a little like the Night Mode that now you have the option to turn on automatically and select the mode’s strength. This perfectly dials down the amount of blue light and is easy on the eyes. Then there’s the absolutely brilliant Reading Mode included too which turns the display into a Kindle-like grayscale and is perfect for reading.
Yes, it sounds too positive to be true, but it is. Hold up though, the best is yet to come. OnePlus has thrown in a gallery app and the OnePlus community app along with a ton of nothing else! Yes, those two apps are the only ‘bloatware’ you get. The rest are the regular suite of Google apps.
This is the perfect Android experience we’ve ever had from a device. Are you listening, bigger phone brands?
OnePlus 5 performance & battery life: Leading the charge
Big power at a small price has always been what OnePlus is all about and it isn’t any different this time around.
The sweet baby Jesus of processors - the Snapdragon 835, takes centre stage here and has more than enough juice to run Android 7.1 to make you believe in miracles. It is super-smooth. We don’t want to get into benchmarks much but just for the record Geekbench 4 scores for the OnePlus 5 are 6754 in the multi-core test and 1951 in the single core test.
The OnePlus 5 laughs at words like stutter and lag while sprinting away to glory no matter what you throw at it. The case is helped further thanks to the barebones OxygenOS that we spoke of earlier and tweaks to the touch-sensitive screen make everything feel even more responsive than the spec sheet suggests it should be. There’s also a frankly ridiculous 8GB of RAM on board, which makes sure you’re never left waiting when opening apps or multitasking.
The OnePlus 5 also loads up games in a few blinks of your eyes and it can do that because OnePlus has upgraded the storage to what they call UFS 2.1. Oh, and the top-end model that we have has 128GBs of storage that is enough to hold photos till the end of time. Okay, we may be exaggerating a bit, but c’mon! 128GBs along with 8GB RAM and that processor at that price. You get the idea, right?
So, does all that Hulk power translate to a sloppy battery life? No, no, no, no it doesn’t. You see, the OnePlus is a tad smarter than that. When you’re not using it, the CPU speed scales right down and some of the RAM is disabled, eking out as much juice from the 3300mAh battery as possible between charges.
OnePlus also claims that the 5 will last about 20% longer than the outgoing 3T and they’re not kidding. We could easily get through the day and the night only to charge the device in the morning. This was the case with seriously heavy use. With regular to light usage, the OnePlus 5 still had about 20% of juice left the next evening. So, a two day battery life between charges is very much possible. And that means it also pips the Galaxy S8 when it comes to staying up and running for a longer time.
When you do have to charge the device, the Dash charger does an incredible job of it too. We got up to about 60% in a charge time of just 15 minutes and that we think is amazing. It also works while you’re actually using the phone unlike some other quick charge systems.
OnePlus 5 competition
OnePlus has been fighting almost every major phone manufacturer since the beginning of time. However, this year, the price has gone up and the competition portfolio is a polished one to beat.
That puts the OnePlus 5 squarely in the sights of Samsung, Apple, Google and the rest of the high-end crowd.
The Pixel retails for ₹57,000 for a 32GB model on Flipkart and while we agree that the camera is better, there’s hardly anything else that impresses about it when you compare it to the OnePlus 5. In fact, with just 32GBs of storage, you might even feel shortchanged. Plus that Snapdragon 821 processor isn’t going to be faster than the brilliant 835 chip you get on the OnePlus.
Then there’s the mighty Galaxy S8, which is a cool ₹900 more than the Pixel. But it’s got looks to die for thanks to those slim bezels and a few good features like waterproofing, wireless charging capabilities and HDR video support. But then again you get just 64GBs of storage at that price and it doesn’t have the same repertoire of effects and camera features as the OnePlus.
Last but not the least is the iPhone 7 Plus.The basic 32GB model starts from ₹72,000 and that should be the only argument you ever need. But if you still consider it, switching from Android to iOS can be a big leap, but there’s no question Apple knows how to make a fantastic phone.
So, despite the hike in price, the OnePlus still undercuts much of its competition and offers quite a lot of phone for not much money. Like tradition.
OnePlus 5 verdict
OnePlus has done it again. They have managed to keep the price relatively low, yet offer maximum phone for the money. They have created a cracker of a phone that’s a more grown-up version of the 3T. There’s noteworthy refinements, performance upgrades and a tweaked design that once again let OnePlus give the big boys a run for their money.
The dual cameras are a big step up from the previous versions and are dangerously close if not on par with the Pixels, Galaxy S8s and the iPhone7s of the world all at that tempting price point.
Yes, it does not get waterproofing or a 2k screen or wireless charging and such, but once again, look at that price and the OnePlus 5 will still make you smile.