OnePlus 5

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£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.

De­sign

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.

Per­for­mance

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

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