OnePlus 5 vs Samsung Galaxy S8: Which is best?

Can the latest OnePlus really match wits with Samsung's powerhouse?

Flagship smartphones are, by their nature, not particularly affordable – but the OnePlus One changed all that, and the company has been refining its approach ever since.

And the OnePlus 5 is the company's most accomplished device to date, albeit at a higher price point than ever before. You'll pay more for it than past OnePlus models, but you'll also skimp less on components than in past models – it's closer than ever to being a full-bodied, top-of-the-line handset. 

However, the competition is stiffer than ever, and it's led by the stunning Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8 Plus. Samsung's dual devices offer up the most beautiful flagship design on the market, and given the price tag, it's appropriately loaded with high-end tech and plenty of perks.

But once you factor value in, does Samsung retain the throne? Now that we've reviewed the OnePlus 5, here's how this battle shakes out.

Design: Samsung is unrivaled

Have you seen the Galaxy S8? For our money, it's the best-looking phone on the market today, and the S8 Plus is identical aside from slightly larger dimensions to handle the additional screen size.

The extra-tall design is atypical, but what really shines on the Galaxy S8 is the way the minimal bezel just seamlessly blends with the curved screen. All glass and metal, it's the most premium-looking and premium-feeling handset on the market today.

And the OnePlus 5? Well, it's definitely a step up from the OnePlus 3T. It's super-slim and refined, with antenna lines that blend in nicely with the phone colour, but otherwise the look is fairly common: it's iPhone 7-esque, with a fingerprint sensor on the front bottom and a little more bezel on the sides than the Galaxy S8. It's a nice-looking phone, but it's not the most surprising or original approach.

Sadly, the OnePlus 5 still doesn't have waterproofing, which most of the other big flagship phones have adopted over the last year or two. That's one compromise that you might regret when you find your phone face-down in a puddle… or dropped into the loo. The Galaxy S8 is IP68-rated water and dust resistant, meanwhile.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Screen: Different classes

While most of the pricier Android flagships these days have embraced sterling Quad HD (2,560x1,440) panels, OnePlus has resisted the urge in order to save on both money and power consumption – and that holds true with the OnePlus 5.

Still, even for a 1080p panel, this AMOLED display is a looker. At 5.5in, it's plenty large, and the 401ppi (pixels per inch) is still incredibly sharp. It's vivid and has great viewing angles, and you won't find a better screen at that resolution.

But you will find a slightly better screen on the Galaxy S8, which is indeed a Quad HD panel (at 2,960x1,440 due to the larger display) and a real looker through and through. Not only does it continue Samsung's trend of really beautiful Super AMOLED flagship panels, but it also has mobile HDR (high dynamic range) support, which better differentiates the colours and makes compatible content look pretty phenomenal.

And because the screen is extra tall, the dimensions may seem deceiving: it's 5.8in tall for the standard model, but it doesn't feel huge in our hands. The 6.2in Galaxy S8+ is a bit wider, though. In any case, paying more here gives you the slightly crisper display on a Galaxy.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8

Camera: Closer than expected

Likewise, OnePlus cameras are typically a couple steps behind Samsung, but the OnePlus 5 very nearly closes the gap. Here, you'll find a dual-camera setup like the Apple iPhone 7 Plus or Huawei P10 Plus, featuring a 16-megapixel main sensor at f/1.7 flanked by a 20MP sensor at f/2.6. That setup pumps out a huge amount of pixels.

And you'll see it in the results, which are largely crisp and clear, with realistic colours and contrast plus a speedy HDR shooting mode. Low light results aren't great in auto mode, but shift to the RAW-shooting pro mode and you can tweak for better images.

Samsung's hardware might not seem as impressive at a glance, with the single back camera rated at 12MP (f/1.7), but it benefits from an array of smart camera tweaks that really do pump out better images than the Galaxy S7. The Galaxy S8 takes three images every time you tap the shutter button, and then cleans up blur and noise to give you one oft-brilliant result.

Nearly everything looks amazing with great lighting, but even the low-light shots are pretty good. The OnePlus 5 is close, and perks like electronic image stabilsation and blurred-backdrop portrait images are great – but everyday shots are a little less sharp than on the Galaxy S8.

Only the most die-hard mobile shooters will probably see enough benefit from spending another £200+ on the Galaxy S8 just for the camera, but we do say that Samsung has a slight, slight edge here all the same.

Winner: Samsung Galaxy S8