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 HANDSET REVIEW

OnePlus 5 review

Maximum bangs for your buck
 
 Handset: Android 
by Jon Mundy
In this time of £1000 flagship efforts from Apple and Samsung, we arguably need OnePlus more than ever. For several years now, the upstart Chinese manufacturer has provided viable, cost-effective alternatives to the Android (and iOS) elite.

Yet when the OnePlus 5 launched back in June, it was notably pricier than its predecessors. With prices starting from £450/$479, it seemed as if OnePlus might have priced itself out of the market.

We needn't have worried. The OnePlus 5 is not only a fine phone, but for mobile gamers unwilling to compromise on performance it's a bit of a bargain.

Design

OnePlus isn't exactly renowned for its daring design, but you could always forgive that in a £330 phone. In a £450 phone, however, you might expect a little more finesse.

A little more finesse is precisely what you get, with a svelte all-metal body. Yes, the OnePlus 5 seems to borrow a few design tricks from the iPhone 7 Plus. But held in the hand it feels like a more svelte, manageable device even though it's exactly the same thickness (7.3mm) as Apple's super-sizer

That's largely because it's a massive 35g lighter, but the subtle ridge that sweeps around its edge also makes it feel leaner.



You get a choice of Slate Gray or Midnight Black, but these are tied directly to the 64GB and 128GB storage options. There isn't a massive difference between the two shades though, so your decision really shouldn't be an aesthetic one.

Of course, 2017 marks the turning point where high-end smartphones started doing away with bezels for an all-screen approach. If you look back on the OnePlus 5 this time next year, it might well look a little dated. But right now it looks just fine.

One thing that instantly seems a little behind the times is the fact that the OnePlus 5 isn't waterproof, unlike top-end rivals like the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6.

Features

Just like every OnePlus phone before it, the OnePlus 5 includes an iPhone-like physical alert slider button, which lets you mechanically silence the device. It's a genuinely useful feature, and I can't for the life of me think why more Android manufacturers don't go for it.

While we're on the subject of controls, a special mention should go out to the OnePlus 5's superb fingerprint sensor. It sits under a capacitive home button on the front of the device, rather than on the back - another way in which this design is more iPhone than Android.



Regardless of your preference, this is a blisteringly quick and impressively accurate biometric sensor - handy for both speedy and secure access and Android Pay mobile payments.

Mercifully, OnePlus hasn't been slavish in its devotion to Apple's design philosophy. There is still a 3.5mm headphone jack here, which suggests that the company listens to its users above all else.

Screen & Sound

OnePlus has resisted the general Android trend towards QHD (2560 x 1440) resolutions by including a 5.5-inch Full HD (1920 x 1080) display here.

That's the same resolution and pixel count as the iPhone 8 Plus, which spec fanatics will decry as sub-standard. It really isn't.

QHD is a clear advantage for virtual reality apps and... that's about it really. The OnePlus 5 display looks plenty sharp enough for all the things that matter like photos, web browsing, and of course games.



It's also a particularly vibrant display, thanks to the use of OLED technology. Yep, that's the same display tech that Apple has just 'discovered' with the iPhone X.

Basically it means that games and other media content really pop, with vibrant colours and inky-black blacks. Thankfully, OnePlus also provides several different presets depending on how warm or cool you like your screen tones.

Sound isn't quite so accomplished on the OnePlus 5. Its solitary speaker is mounted on the bottom of the device - or the side when you're playing games in landscape. This is far too easy to cover up in such situations.

In terms of output, it's plenty clear enough, but it lacks the punch and stereo separation of the best efforts from Apple and HTC.

Gaming & Performance

As far as Android gaming performance goes, you can't get get any better right now than the OnePlus 5. That's thanks to the presence of a Snapdragon 835 CPU, which is the leading off-the-shelf mobile CPU for 2017.

This is helped by an unusually capacious 6GB of speedy LPDDR4X RAM - and that's just in the entry-level 64GB model. Go with the top-end 128GB model (for £500/$539) and you get a quite frankly ridiculous 8GB.

No, you don't need that much RAM in a smartphone. But along with that top-end CPU and sensible display resolution, it should ensure a degree of future-proofing. Games will be flying on the OnePlus 5 for years to come, making it a great investment for pocket gamers.



Games certainly fly on the OnePlus 5 in the here and now. I've been playing the likes of Gear.Club, Guns of Boom, Oceanhorn, Implosion, and Xenowerk since the phone launched, and it hasn't missed a beat.

Needless to say, 2D content such as Wayward Souls, Punch Quest, and ReRunners posed no problem whatsoever, and looked particularly gorgeous on that AMOLED display.

Camera & Battery Life

OnePlus has really focused on the camera with the OnePlus 5, pretty much above all other components. That's because this has become a key differentiating element at the very top end of the smartphone market.

To that end, the company has gone for a dual-sensor approach with a 16MP 24mm camera paired with a 20MP 36mm. This allows you to effectively zoom in on subjects for real, without any software tricks.

It also means that you capture sharp portrait shots with highly blurred backgrounds in Portrait Mode - though this effect can be a little hit and miss.

Most of the time you'll be using the OnePlus 5 camera in typical 'fire and forget' situations, or for sharing on social media. For these everyday purposes, the OnePlus 5 camera is great. It's fast and reliable, and can produce nice balanced shots in decent lighting.

No, it's not up there with the very best phone cameras from Samsung, Apple, Google and HTC. But it's good enough for most people - and particularly for this price.



In terms of battery life, the OnePlus 5 is exemplary. Its 3300mAh battery is a little larger than many 2017 flagship phones, and combined with the handset's efficient components you'll be clearing a day of moderate to heavy usage with plenty to spare.

Indeed, OnePlus's conscientious software updates seem to have boosted the phone's stamina since its launch, to the point where I've managed to last through two days on several occasions - though obviously if you're playing games regularly you're unlikely to manage that.

When things do get a little low on the battery front, the OnePlus 5 is one of the best splash-and-dash phones on the market. Using the bundled Dash Charge charger, I was able to get 50 percent of a full charge in just 30 minutes.

Conclusion

OnePlus might be charging more for its latest phone, but the result is the same - an impressively specced smartphone that costs hundreds of pounds or dollars less than other so-called flagship phones.

If anything, OnePlus has closed the quality gap with its rivals. The OnePlus 5 has a premium design, an attractive display, and a decent dual-camera.

Most importantly for gamers, it's as powerful as any other Android phone available on the market - even phones that cost twice as much such as the Galaxy Note 8.

If you're looking for a high-end phone that will play the latest Google Play Store games for years to come, there's no better choice right now - at any price point.
 

Reviewer photo
Jon Mundy 27 September 2017
A brilliantly balanced, well-specced phone that gives you top gaming performance for less money than its rivals
  ONEPLUS 5
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 [READERS' RATING] N/A 
Specs Available inUK, Europe, US, Worldwide
ModesGSM, GPRS, 3G
Band typedual
3Gyes
Built In Memory64GB
Removable Memory TypeMicroSD,
Primary screencolour
Number of coloursn/a
Screen size5.5-inches
Secondary screennone
Camerayes
Polyphonic ringtonesn/a
Camera Resolution16.0 megapixels
Music formatsn/a
Infrared portno
Messaging Optionsn/a
MMS supportyes
Bluetoothyes
Speakerphoneyes
Voice controlyes
Predictive textyes
SAR ratingn/a
Phonebook entriesn/a
Number of included ringtonesn/a
Downloadable extrasyes
Weight153g
Size154.2 x 74.1 x 7.3mm
Talk timen/a
Standby timen/a
BrowserxHTML
Other featuresn/a
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