OnePlus, it seems, has suffered from a severe case of tetraphobia. That is, the superstitious fear of using the number 4. The Chinese manufacturer’s latest isn’t called the OnePlus 4, as you’d expect the phone succeeding the OnePlus 3T to be called. No, this is the OnePlus 5, and it’s the best (if most expensive) smartphone the firm has ever produced.
OnePlus may have been overly cautious with its name, but not so much when keeping key details under wraps prior to the official unveiling. Again, and not uncommon for 2017, little was left to the imagination ahead of Tuesday’s launch – we knew everything. Don’t let that stop your excitement, though: there’s plenty on offer that makes the OnePlus 5 a worthy contender for phone of the year.
OnePlus 5 review
The OnePlus 5 is a flagship killer. Designed to undercut the likes of Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and Apple’s iPhone 7 by a considerable margin, without sacrificing neither looks nor performance. Launched in June: the OnePlus 5 is a 5.5in smartphone with an AMOLED Full HD screen and a dual-lens camera that doesn’t look out of place on the shelf next to those other, top-dollar smartphones launched in 2017.
OnePlus 5 review: Price and competition
Essential to the OnePlus 5’s lasting appeal lies in its more wallet-pleasing asking price. At £449, OnePlus’ sixth smartphone undermines the mortgage-inducing price tag of its flagship competitors.
However, 2017 has already been a phenomenal year for flagship-killing alternatives. There’s Samsung’s Galaxy A5 mid-ranger, complete with a 22-hour battery life for just £293. The Honor 8 is still kicking about, too, with its brilliant low-light camera at £370. That, and the OnePlus 3T can be picked up for £400.
OnePlus 5 review: Design
At first glance, the OnePlus 5 looks like typical smartphone fare. You can’t veer too far from a black rectangle after all, and it looks eerily similar to Huawei’s P10 (and the iPhone 7 it imitates).
It’s a bold new look for OnePlus nonetheless. In keeping with Apple’s minimalism, there’s the aluminium unibody design, with just a handful of distinguishing features, including a dual-lens camera protrusion on the back. Rest assured – that beloved “do not disturb” switch makes another appearance on the left edge, too.
Next to it, you’ll find the volume rocker, and on the opposite side, the power button. A 3.5mm headset jack is at the bottom (phew) sitting next to a solitary USB Type-C with Dash Charge support and a central fingerprint scanner as before. This is the skinniest OnePlus yet, measuring just 7.25mm, and it feels phenomenal in the hand.
OnePlus 5 review: Performance and battery life
As the leaks suggested, the OnePlus 5’s internal architecture comes from Qualcomm’s latest 2.45GHz Snapdragon 835 chip, up from the 2.35GHz Snapdragon 831 inside the 3T. It will be a near-perfect multi-tasker with a generous 6- or 8GB of RAM, with storage options starting at 64GB.
It’s no surprise then, that the OnePlus 5 is one of the best performers we’ve seen thus far. In short, as you can see by the graph below, the OnePlus 5 is near-identical to Samsung’s Galaxy S8 and the HTC U11 in both single-core and multi-core performance, with the OnePlus edging slightly ahead. Fantastic then, considering the OnePlus 5 is almost £200 cheaper than its identical performers.
Likewise, the OnePlus’ graphics performance is more than good enough to handle anything Google Play throws at it. Again, as the below chart proves, the OnePlus 5’s on-screen result is identical to the iPhone 7 Plus’, and beats the Galaxy S8 by a considerable margin. Why’s this? Well, the S8’s added screen resolution plays a massive part, having to render at 2,960 x 1,440 resolution rather than the OnePlus’ 1,920 x 1,080 – i.e double the amount of pixels.
The last thing to test, and crucially the most important, is the OnePlus’ battery life. Longevity is the biggest thing people look for when making their smartphone buying decision these days, and the OnePlus 5 doesn’t disappoint.
In our battery life test, with the screen set to our standard 170cd/m2 brightness and flight mode turned on, the OnePlus 5 lasted a near-perfect 20hrs and 40mins. In reference: that’s over twice as long as Sony’s XZ Premium, and near-identical to Samsung’s similarly impressive Galaxy S8 Plus.
And should battery levels fall flat, the phone charges incredibly fast thanks to the Dash Charge 3 charger bundled in the box. After 12 minutes of charging from zero, battery levels had reached 21%, and after just 39 minutes there was 75% worth of juice. It’s not so fast after that, taking another 15 minutes or so to reach 100%.
OnePlus 5 review: Display
Rather than going the big-screened approach like with LG’s G6 and Samsung’s Galaxy S8, OnePlus is keeping things simple, with a 5.5in 1,920 x 1080 display. It’s the same as last year’s offering I hear you cry, but there are a handful of changes worthy of your attention.
The biggest, and welcome, change is a DCI-P3 colour profile, along with the standard sRGB and a custom profile. The latter, I expect, will be most user’s go-to setting, with overly-bright, punchy images that are perhaps a touch too oversaturated for my tastes.
That brings us to the issue of sRGB. The panel on this year’s OnePlus isn’t as nice as I’d want it to be, only covering 89.8% of the sRGB colour space profile, with particularly dull-looking reds. An average delta E of 1.76 is hardly apocalyptic, but I’ve seen much better.
The DCI-P3’s pre-calibrated mode fared much better, with the OnePlus hitting 95.3% of the sRGB colour gamut. It’s a perfectly readable display in bright sunlight too, reaching 419cd/m2 at top brightness.
Where the firm has quite obviously poured all its money into, is the OnePlus 5’s dual-lens camera.
OnePlus 5 review: Camera
The rear snapper, manufactured in collaboration with DxO Labs, incorporates one 16-megapixel, f/1.7 main camera and another, 20-megapixel f/2.6 telephoto camera right beside it. Both work hand in hand to produce fantastic-quality snaps and some of the best I’ve seen on a device at this price point.
That 16-megapixel camera is your main snapper, but just like with the iPhone 7 Plus, the 20-megapixel camera works as a 2X zoom for getting closer to objects in the distance. It’ll also help with producing an iPhone-like Bokeh effect, blurring the background without sacrificing subject quality.
One of the OnePlus 5’s biggest features is its HDR algorithm improvements, although there’s little evidence of that in my test shots. Not only are the effects of HDR basically non-existent, in some shots colours looked completely off. One of my tests shots below highlights this well: the no-smoking sign should be red, rather than the grey it seems to be showing. Don’t flick on the HDR mode, ever.
Don’t let that put you off, though: the OnePlus 5 still produces some wonderfully detail-rich and perfectly exposed shots. While low light snaps seemed to suffer a little from oversharpening and a touch of unnatural processing, the results were incredibly crisp, still looking remarkable compared to the Pixel’s top-quality snapper.
The front-facing camera has seen a boost to 16-megapixels, with a f/2.0 aperture – perfect for your Instagram-worthy vanity shots.
OnePlus 5 review: Verdict
OnePlus has a solid flagship killer with its OnePlus 5. This is the best smartphone the firm has ever produced, and I’m thoroughly impressed with what the Chinese firm has been up to since the 3T’s launch.
As with all smartphones, its success rests on the OnePlus 5’s asking price. With the cost rising from £399 to £449, the OnePlus 5 is in danger of falling by the wayside, and its mid-range dominance could be at an end. Pride comes before the fall – OnePlus seems to hold its flagship-killing lineup in such a high regard that it may have killed itself off in the process. I’d like to be proved otherwise.