It’s tough to see how OnePlus could have made its latest and greatest flagship-killer any cheaper, without also making sacrifices to performance, design or camera quality.
I’m glad it didn’t.
The result 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.
This really is all the phone you need. Even if you do have to pay a bit more than before to bag one.
OnePlus 5 design & build: a touch of class
Fancy, bezel-busting displays might be grabbing everyone’s attention elsewhere, but when the OnePlus 5 costs a whopping S$360 less than a Galaxy S8, I can forgive a bit of extra wedge around the sides of the screen. It’s got 2.5D glass that curves slightly at each edge, which is a classy touch.
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.
There are signs of real attention to detail, too, like the colour-matched antenna lines that have been bumped as close to the edges of the rear as possible. They disappear into the background, with those headline-grabbing dual cameras taking all the attention. They bulge out slightly from the phone body, but not so much that you’ll be snagging it on your trouser pocket every time.
You can’t deny it looks an awful lot like an iPhone 7 Plus, either. Skinnier top and bottom bezels help keep the overall size down, though - it’s easier to use one-handed than Apple’s behemoth.
The dual cameras might give it an iPhone-esque vibe, but there’s one thing you get here that’s missing on Apple’s latest and greatest - the good ol’ 3.5mm headphone port. Other fan favourites like the Alert slider return, for quickly switching between loud, vibrate and silent profiles.
On the front, the pill-shaped fingerprint sensor is stupidly fast, unlocking the phone in less than 0.2 seconds - that’s quicker than you can blink. It’s flanked by hardware buttons, but you can turn ‘em off and use onscreen keys if you prefer.
The differences might be minor, but it’s amazing how much more premium the OnePlus 5 feels compared to last year’s 3T. It’s a shame OnePlus couldn’t make it waterproof, though - that’s pretty much the one missing feature we were hoping would make the cut.
going for gold
Let’s be honest: Midnight Black and Slate Grey sound fancy, but you’d need a Pantone colour chart to spot the difference between the two. Not great if you’re not a fan of dark phones, as there wasn’t an alternative - until now.
OnePlus has just added a limited-edition Soft Gold variant to the range, which - dare I say it - looks even better than the dark originals.
The glass front swaps black for white, and the all-metal body makes the switch to champagne gold. It’s a subtle hue, though, looking more like silver from certain angles.
OnePlus has even added a few flourishes, with gold edging around the fingerprint sensor up front and camera module on the back. You still get that same spiffy horizon line all the way around the sides as well.
Inside, you get the same specs as the Slate Grey model, meaning 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage.
The price stays the same too, but once they’re gone, they’re gone. Fingers crossed it’ll join the line-up on a more permanent basis, though - having a choice of colours could make all the difference to would-be customers that might otherwise buy a Samsung Galaxy.
OnePlus 5 screen & sound: High-def hero
Unlike its more expensive rivals, 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.
On paper, that might seem like a weak link - after all, most other flagship phones have made the leap to 1440p and beyond. But honestly, even with your nose right up to the glass, you’re not going to be able to spot the individual pixels here.
Sure, your photos might look a bit sharper on a Galaxy S8, and Sony’s 4K-toting Xperia XZ Premium is still the resolution king, but the OnePlus 5’s Full HD screen is more than enough for most people. It’s perfect for streaming 1080p video, and means the battery isn’t being blitzed when you’re just scrolling through social media.
It impresses in other ways, most notably the AMOLED panel. It produces brilliantly vibrant colours and has impeccable contrast, with deep, inky blacks that make photos and videos really pop. You can switch between sRGB and DCI-P3 colour profiles if things feel a bit too vivid out of the box, or adjust things manually for a more personal look.
Viewing angles are fantastic, and the brightness cranks up high enough that you’ll still be able to see what’s onscreen on bright, sunny days.
There’s great sound to match the screen, too. It might only have a single speaker, but the OnePlus 5 can pump out music to impressive volumes. Want to catch up on a podcast while you’re making dinner? Not a problem.
OnePlus 5 camera hardware: Double Vision
If last year’s OnePlus 3T had an Achilles heel, it was camera quality. That’s absolutely not the case here, thanks to an all-new dual camera setup.
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.
Megapixels aren’t everything, but the pics these sensors take are then processed by a custom algorithm developed in partnership with imaging experts DxO. In the right light, the OnePlus 5 takes fantastic photos.
Every shot is packed with detail, with realistic colours and accurate contrast. The automatic HDR mode is incredibly quick, too, doing a great job of balancing highlights and areas of shadow in a single image.
The edges of the frame can be a little soft at times, but you’ve got to zoom in and really peek at the pixels to spot any issues.
The camera app has a Pro mode, which steps things up a notch with RAW shooting, a reference line for perfectly lining up the horizon every time, a histogram for getting exposures perfect, and manual control over ISO, white balance, shutter speed and focus.
It’s useful in low-light, because this is where the auto mode shows its only real weakness.
There’s a general lack of sharpness, and the white balance settings are easily thrown off by multiple light sources. More expensive shooters like the Google Pixel, Galaxy S8 and HTC U11 take the edge here, but in just about every other situation, the OnePlus 5 excels.