THE PRICE KEEPS CREEPING UP, BUT ONEPLUS STILL UNDERCUTS RIVALS TO PRODUCE THE BEST VALUE HIGH END PHONE
O nePlus has demonstrated over the past few years that it has a keen eye for what consumers want from a smartphone – a fast, no-frills device for a reasonable cost – and despite a big rise in price compared to the OnePlus 3T, the OnePlus 5 delivers once again.
The company builds everything around Qualcomm’s new 2.45GHz/1.9GHz Snapdragon 835 chip and supplements it with a generous dollop of “more ecient” LPDDR4x RAM. If you choose the 128GB model you’ll get 8GB of RAM; the 64GB model includes 6GB. Just note there’s no microSD slot for storage expansion.
You also forgo the long, tall screen of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6; instead, OnePlus sticks with its eminently sensible 1080p, 5.5in AMOLED panel and has focused instead on improving the camera. Indeed, OnePlus has evidently spent all its R&D yuan this year on the new dual-lens rear camera, which has also been repositioned to the top-left corner of the rear panel.
As before, the finish is high quality and practical. This is the slimmest OnePlus yet, at 7.3mm, and it feels lovely. It’s not glass, so doesn’t look as slinky as the Sony Xperia XZ Premium (see p56), but the anodised aluminium unibody (available in Midnight Black and Slate Grey colours), coupled with the new curves and crescent-shaped antenna strips at the top and bottom, makes for a very smart look indeed. The fact that it’s aluminium means it should also resist breakage better than its rivals.
Nothing else has changed about the design. The OnePlus 5 continues with the three-position do-not-disturb switch on the left side, which I and so many other OnePlus fans love. That sits just above the volume rocker, while the power button is directly opposite on the right-hand edge of the handset; everything else sits on the bottom edge. The 3.5mm headphone jack is retained, as is the USB-C port and the single speaker grille, while the fingerprint reader is, as ever, on the front – but now it’s covered in tough ceramic and will unlock your phone in a quoted 0.2 seconds.
And boy this phone unlocks fast. You only have to touch the sensor with your thumb or index finger and you’re into the homescreen. It emphatically adds to the feeling that you’re using one of the fastest smartphones available.
SPLASH OF COLOUR
As with last year, the display is a 5.5in AMOLED unit and the resolution remains resolutely Full HD. You might think that OnePlus would have left things as is, but there are a few changes afoot here. The main one is that OnePlus gives users a choice of colour profiles – Default, sRGB, DCI P3 and Custom – following criticism of the OnePlus 3’s somewhat lurid Default colour profile.
I think most users will end up sticking with the Default settings. In this mode, onscreen colours are bright and vibrant and don’t look nearly as candy-coloured as last year’s OnePlus 3. Yes, the colours are still bright and a touch over the top, but they’re no longer downright horrid.
That’s just as well because the sRGB mode isn’t as good as it should be. It covers only 89.8% of the sRGB colour space and red tones look dull. My colour accuracy measurements reflect that impression precisely. Overall, the average Delta E in sRGB mode isn’t bad, hitting 1.76, but it struggles with red tones.
The Samsung Galaxy S8’s display is better –and goes brighter than the OnePlus 5 in automatic brightness mode – but again the OnePlus 5 is no slouch. Its peak brightness figure reaches 419cd/ m2 and a polarising filter applied between the glass and AMOLED panel means it’s readable in most conditions.
Thankfully, that polarising layer has been arranged so if you’re wearing polarising sunglasses it doesn’t black out when you’re holding it vertically or horizontally, unlike the HTC U11, where the polarising filter blacks out your view entirely when you hold the phone in landscape orientation.
BUCKETS OF SPEED
One of the main reasons behind OnePlus’ continuing success has been its ability to include the latest flagship Qualcomm chipset while keeping a lid on the price, and that continues with the OnePlus 5. The octa-core Snapdragon 835 coupled with 6GB of RAM in our sample produced stonking benchmark results.
As the graphs opposite show, the OnePlus 5 matches the Samsung S8 and the HTC U11 across the board in Geekbench. Graphics performance is similarly strong: the OnePlus 5 is fast enough that it will handle anything the Google Play Store can throw at it and then some.
Perhaps a more significant performance indicator, though, is the
speed of the OnePlus 5’s integrated flash storage, which dictates how fast apps launch and large files load. Just like the Samsung Galaxy S8, the OnePlus 5 uses two-lane UFS 2.1 flash and it’s super quick. In raw numbers, it delivers sequential read and write speeds of 731MB/sec and 213MB/sec, which is far faster than the OnePlus 3T (420MB/sec and 168MB/sec) and around the same as the S8 (763MB/ sec and 180MB/sec).
The final aspect of performance, but possibly the most important one, is battery life. In our test, where we set the screen to a brightness of 170cd/ m2, engage Flight mode and ensure no background tasks are taking place, the OnePlus 5 lasted an incredible 20hrs 40mins. That’s more than twice as long as the Sony XZ Premium in the same test and better still than the excellent Samsung Galaxy S8 Plus.
When the phone does run dry, it charges incredibly quickly if you use the boxed Dash Charge 3 charger. I plugged it in at 0% and in 12 minutes it had reached 21%; after 39 minutes it had charged to 75%. If you need to give your phone a quick boost before you go home, the OnePlus 5 will oblige. So far, so good, but the OnePlus 5’s biggest main new feature is its new duallens rear camera. The specifications look suitably strong, with one 16-megapixel f/1.7 main camera and another, dimmer, 20-megapixel f/2.6 telephoto camera completing the duo. There’s phasedetect autofocus, so it should lock onto your subject superfast, but you don’t get optical image stabilisation.
As with the iPhone 7 Plus, the regular camera is your main shooter, with the 20-megapixel camera oering a 2x zoom for when you need to get closer to your subject and, again like the iPhone 7 Plus, they can work together to produce portrait photos with a blurry bokeh eect in the background. I found this feature worked well, so long as I was careful to shoot my subject against a background a good distance away.
The OnePlus 5 also features improved HDR algorithms, but this is considerably less successful. Not only is the eect subtle to the point of being • nigh-on invisible, it’s also prone • to doublevision eects. If your hands, or your subject, move even a little you’ll see fringing around the edges of objects in your photographs. I’d go so far as to recommend you don’t use HDR at all; it’s no match for • the Google Pixel’s stupendous HDR+ mode, which rarely produces such artefacts.
Otherwise, the OnePlus 5 produces decent-looking photographs that are well exposed and reasonably crisp. Close inspection reveals a touch more unnatural processing than the equivalent Google Pixel shot, while in low light the OnePlus’ shots exhibit a grainier, oversharpened look, but the results are still strong.
What’s perhaps most impressive about the OnePlus 5’s camera is the Pro mode, which allows you to manually adjust focus, ISO sensitivity, shutter speed and white balance and handily displays a live histogram and levelling gauge onscreen. You can also shoot in RAW.
As for the front-facing camera, that’s an impressive 16-megapixel snapper with an aperture of f/2. Surely more than detailed enough for pouty Instagram selfies.
Manufacturers always seem to add an extra feature or two via software, whether or not they’re needed, and that’s very
much the case this year with the OnePlus 5. As usual, the phone runs the firm’s own Oxygen launcher, this time on top of Android • 7.
The most interesting feature is Reading mode, which is similar to Apple’s True Tone. This uses an ambient light sensor to tune the white balance of the screen to match that of the surrounding light, which is great news for people (like me) who use their smartphones to read ebooks late at night.
Elsewhere, the app drawer is now semitransparent, which has the advantage that it feel less separate from the rest of the UI than previously.
One final change is that OnePlus has changed the phone’s vibration component so that it delivers a stronger, shorter buzz. This is a subtle improvement, but a welcome one nonetheless.
SHOULD YOU BUY IT?
There are plenty of people looking to knock the OnePlus 5, principally due to the price rise. And, yes, it’s disappointing the OnePlus is now more of a mid-range than a budget handset. However, if there’s a better phone for under $800 then I haven’t seen it.
The OnePlus 5 is beautifully designed; it’s fast and battery life is fantastic. The camera isn’t a match for the very best smartphones but it still takes cracking photographs most of the time. The display is spot on, with OnePlus eschewing unnecessary pixels and instead providing perfectly sharp images with excellent colour rendition and low power consumption. You only need to look at the $900 - $1,000 phones from Sony and HTC to appreciate that the OnePlus 5 oers amazing value for money. Nothing can touch it at this price.
“The OnePlus 5 continues with the three-position do-not-disturb switch on the left side that I and so many OnePlus fans love”
The biggest upgrade, compared to the OnePlus 3T, is the new dual-lens camera
With a Dash Charge 3 charger in the box, the OnePlus 5 hits 75% in 39 minutes
You can buy the OnePlus 5 in Midnight Black or Slate Grey