£449 inc VAT from tinyurl.com/ybk58nn5
OnePlus just graduated – it’s no longer in the second division, pushing for the big time. The OnePlus 5 is technically brilliant and is the natural product of the past three years for the company. From 2014’s OnePlus One to today, these phones have shown mobile tech’s natural progression to where it is now. The only thing is, when you release a phone every few months there is
only so much you can change. The OnePlus 5 is an exquisitely designed, high-spec flagship phone with outstanding cameras, a decent display and a sense of individualism. But so were the OnePlus 3 and its successor just five months later, the 3T.
Just 12 months after the OnePlus 3, it is no longer an out-and-out bargain. It has joined the top table of smartphone royalty and still undercuts the price of most of them, but not by quite the distance it once did a long time ago. With only one network partner in the UK, OnePlus might find it hard to find a wider audience who are willing to spend £449 outright rather than get a similar phone on contract.
Ignoring past phones for a moment, the OnePlus 5 is a brilliantly well thought out and designed premium slab of phone. I reviewed the Midnight Black model (8GB RAM, 128GB) and it is impressively thin yet sturdy – just 153g.
The aluminium rear of the phone is slick and clean, with no aerial lines breaking the design, but rather hugging the top and bottom of the phone. This means it now looks akin to an iPhone 7 Plus with its dual cameras and clean back, broken only by cameras, flash and logo.
The front of the phone has a forehead with a camera, ambient light sensor and earpiece and a chin with the excellent ceramic fingerprint sensor, but very slight side bezels. The bezels have an ever so slight dip to them, not an edge, but it only adds to the exceptional feel. The display remains 16:9
and even with my small mitts I was able to do a few things with one hand.
The right edge is clean save for a power/lock button with the Alert Slider and volume rocker on the left. The top edge is clean while the bottom houses a single down firing speaker, USB-C port and 3.5mm headphone jack.
OnePlus describes the ridge that runs all around the edges of the phone as the ‘horizon line’, showing dark on one ridge and light on the other in the right light. More simply, it makes the phone look and feel premium while allowing for a better grip on what is undoubtedly a fairly slippery phone. You may want to invest in one of the attractive cases OnePlus sells (I like the carbon-fibre one).
Attention to detail has always been a strong point for OnePlus. Marketing descriptions can be overblown; the OnePlus 5 speaks for itself. It’s a revision of the 3, and feels like an end point. It’s an excellent place to be, but it’s hard to see where the OnePlus goes from here without completely renovating its design language.
The handy Alert Slider remains a key design feature but there’s still no waterproofing here.
It’s a company that understands better than many that how a device feels and how the customer relates to that is what strengthens a brand. However, it does bear almost exactly the same design as the Oppo R11.
OnePlus was borne out of Oppo, one of China’s biggest phone companies and on this evidence the two still share some designers. The R11 has exactly the same design as the OnePlus 5 bar the different style of aerial lines and the Alert Slider. This is, it would seem, perfectly legal, and shows more obviously than before what the two companies still obviously share. But it takes away from the power of OnePlus’ marketing clout once you realise a doppelgänger is available from another company.
Despite this the OnePlus 5 is one of the best specified phone on the market right now. It has more RAM than any of its direct competitors. Who needs 8GB RAM? You do, apparently. Or, you will do, in a year or two as the phone naturally slows and apps become more demanding. But you’ll upgrade in two years, won’t you?
The Snapdragon 835 (a la HTC U11 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium) is a phenomenal chip, and the OnePlus 5 has not so much as stuttered in my time with it. It is the fastest phone I have ever used, and I’ve used all the main flagships of the last year to some extent.
You can hop between apps with absolutely no slowdown, while games such as the graphically intense Asphalt 8 run seamlessly. This is helped by the Adreno 540 GPU, which makes a great
processor run even smoother, swatting away difficult tasks with ease.
The phone also has a silent feature called App Priority that supposedly learns your behaviour over time and stops rarely used apps taking up memory space. Not that you’ll need to worry about that.
Even if you get the cheaper model you still have 6GB RAM to keep you ticking over. 8GB is overkill for the average user, but won’t find another phone with that much RAM at £499.
As mentioned earlier you get either 64- or 128GB of internal storage and it’s worth noting there’s not microSD card slot like the iPhone.
Benchmarking the phone against others with the Snapdragon 835 shows the 5 is no slouch. In fact, it matches and sometimes outdoes its nearest rivals, particularly notably in the Geekbench 4 test.
It’s worth noting however reports that OnePlus has set up the phone to ‘cheat’ benchmarks by purposefully over-performing when using such software. OnePlus has countered this claim, but aside from the reports, I can confirm that this phone is stupidly fast and it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things.
The display is AMOLED like in Samsung’s Galaxy S8. The 5.5in screen displays colours very vividly and brightly, even in direct sunlight. OnePlus has stuck with a 16:9 aspect ratio so video won’t display with black bars in most instances like on taller phones such as the S8 and LG G6.
The screen uses 2.5D Gorilla Glass, a version of the drop and scratch resistant material that allows for
slight curvature. OnePlus has noticeably improved the touch response and latency of the display, one of the main complaints held against the last generation. Touch input is near flawless.
We finally find something on the spec sheet to warrant the cheaper price compared to rivals and that’s the display resolution. The OnePlus 5 is still Full HD (1920x1080) with most Quad HD or even higher.
That said, it still looks crisp and in our experience the average user can’t tell the difference.
While the handset packs in NFC, 11ac Wi-Fi, Bluetooth 5.0 with aptX and a headphone jack, it noticeably leaves out wireless charging and waterproofing. Sure, it’s splashproof (I tried it) but with no IP rating, the 5 has a clear couple of features missing considering it’s going head to head against phones that have one or both.
That’s two more reasons why it’s cheaper than the other 2017 flagships.
OnePlus has run the ‘Shot on OnePlus’ social media campaign for a while now and it hopes it can inspire another raft of fans to get involved with the improved camera set up on the 5. With dual cameras it looks a hell of a lot like the aforementioned Oppo R11 and, in black, the iPhone 7 Plus. Its headline bokeh feature is snatched straight from the latter.
It works incredibly well though, better I feel than on the Huawei P10. The effect doesn’t
feel gimmicky but is instead well integrated into the camera app, and you can get amazing results without using pro mode.
There is a 16Mp sensor supported by a 20Mp telephoto lens with an aperture of just f/1.7 on the main one. The second sensor means the phone can also perform a handy optical zoom, bringing better quality images than the digital zoomed alternative. OnePlus confirmed though that it is not the 2x optical zoom like on the iPhone 7 Plus, but a 2x lossless zoom – the difference being optical zoom is 1.6x, with a further 0.4x achieved digitally.
The front-facing camera is also 16Mp and feels like an upgrade to the one on the 3T which struggled
Camera sample at 1x on auto mode