The new OnePlus 5 has big shoes to fill following, as it does, the excellent OnePlus 3 and 3T, which managed to undercut the competition on price and beat them on design.
So, more expensive than ever, can OnePlus’s latest smartphone pull off the same trick in 2017?
The OnePlus 5 continues the company’s refined metal smartphone design. From the front it doesn’t look that different from last year’s OnePlus 3 and 3T (there was no OnePlus 4). The corners are slightly more rounded, but that’s about it. The screen is of similar quality, with deep blacks and good colour saturation, which you can tweak to fit a series of profiles including sRGB and DCI-P3. It’s not quite as pin-sharp as some rivals, with only a full HD resolution, not QHD, but most will not care. The fingerprint scanner is just as good, reliably unlocking the device almost instantly, while the optional capacitive back and overview buttons work well and can be swapped over.
To say the back of the OnePlus 5 looks like an iPhone 7 Plus would be an understatement. It’s not a carbon copy; the back is curved and the edges tapered, which makes the phone more ergonomic and feel really nice in the hand. But OnePlus has used the same technique for hiding the antenna strips, moving the plastic inlays to almost the edge of the top and bottom, as was introduced with the iPhone 6 in 2014.
It also has a dual camera on the back placed horizontally in the top left corner with a LED flash to its right, which Apple did in 2016 with the iPhone 7 Plus. It even has the OnePlus logo in about the same place as the Apple logo is on an iPhone 7 Plus. The OnePlus 5 is slightly shorter and narrower than the iPhone 7 Plus, but about the same thickness.
Apple comparisons aside, it’s a well built phone that feels great, with good ergonomics for a device with a large 5.5in screen in the traditional 16:9 aspect ratio. But it certainly doesn’t look and feel like the new breed of minimal bezel phones that launched in 2017, such as the Galaxy S8 and LG G6. The top and bottom feature large bezels, which makes the device considerably larger than its screen – like a smartphone from 2016, and therefore firmly in the “phablet” category of harder to handle devices.
For a well machined device, there were also some unusually sharp edges around the camera lump (a small raised bezel holding the lens glass), the edge of the USB-C port nearest the back of the phone and the backside of the volume button. These are small nitpicks but were obvious when the rest of the device feels so smooth. It also isn’t water resistant, so try not to drop it in the toilet.
- Screen: 5.5in full HD AMOLED (401ppi)
- Processor: octa-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
- RAM: 6 or 8GB of RAM
- Storage: 64 or 128GB
- Operating system: Oxygen OS based on Android 7.1.1
- Camera: 16MP + 20MP rear dual camera, 16MP front-facing camera
- Connectivity: LTE, dual sim, Wi-Fiac, NFC, Bluetooth 5 and GPS
- Dimensions: 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25mm
- Weight: 153g
The OnePlus 5 has the same (or better) specifications as most of the current top-of-the-line smartphones available. It has the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 processor found in the US Galaxy S8, the HTC U11 and others.
It has either 6 or 8GB of RAM, which is frankly overkill, and has either 64 or 128GB of storage, which should be plenty of space for almost everyone.
In gaming and when using demanding apps it performs as well or better than the competition. In fact, OnePlus has gone to great lengths to try and provide the smoothest, most consistently high-performing Android experience possible, and it really shows.
It is the most fluid, fast and reliable Android smartphone I’ve ever used, arguably smoother than Google’s Pixel smartphones, which is an achievement.
Using the OnePlus 5 as my primary device, browsing and using apps for three hours with hundreds of push emails, 60 minutes of gaming, and listening to around five hours of music via Bluetooth earbuds, it lasted just over 28 hours between charges with no power-saving modes activated, which is very good.
Less demanding users will likely see two-days battery life, while OnePlus’s proprietary Dash Charge lives up to its name, charging the device even when in use faster than almost any other charging technology. A full charge takes around an hour, but it still takes about that when the phone is actively being used, including as a GPS device in a car with a 12v Dash Charge adapter, which is the most impressive bit.
The downside of Dash Charge is that you need special chargers and cables to make use of it, but the OnePlus 5 charges at a normal rate using any other USB charger.
The OnePlus 5 is the second smartphone this year to ship with the latest version of Bluetooth 5.0, rather than a 4.0 or 4.1. While there aren’t many Bluetooth 5.0 headphones or other devices available yet it will become the new standard and so the OnePlus 5 is future-proofed. I also found Bluetooth performance was better than almost any other smartphone for using truly wireless earbuds, matching the Galaxy S8 in maintaining a consistent, interruption-free connection.
OnePlus loads its devices with a custom version of Android 7.1.1 called Oxygen OS. The company’s philosophy is not to radically change the appearance and operation of Android, but to optimise it and add small tweaks for extra functionality.
Such changes include gesture support for launching apps and performing actions by drawing on the screen, the excellent alert slider that sets different sound and do not disturb modes, and a new reading mode that makes reading books and other texts easier on the eyes.
Overall Oxygen OS is a slightly refined version of the standard Android look, avoiding bloat and generally adding to the experience. The big question is whether OnePlus will keep up with Android version and security updates, which the company has a hit-and-miss track record over with its previous devices.
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The OnePlus 5 has the company’s first dual-camera setup on the back. A primary 16-megapixel camera is joined by a secondary 20-megapixel camera and together they offer up to 2x lossless zoom in a similar way to Apple’s dual-camera setup on the iPhone 7 Plus.
The primary 16-megapixel camera is capable of some really good shots, and while shots taken at 2x zoom aren’t quite as good, used in the right scenarios you can produce some excellent pictures. They produce pretty, colour-accurate shots, but I found photos could be a little washed out in bright sunshine and they fall down a little on fine detail compared to the best smartphone cameras available, such as the Google Pixel and HTC U11.
The rear camera also has the obligatory portrait mode, which blows out the background using depth-sensing software and works as well as the best of the competition, but still struggles with mistakenly blurring the edges of rounded objects and fine details like hair. The large f/1.7 aperture of the 16-megapixel camera naturally creates an excellent bokeh effect if used correctly, so in most instances software blurring isn’t necessary.
The 16-megapixel selfie camera is one of the best I have used, capturing a lot of fine detail and offering beautification modes to smooth skin to your liking.
The camera app is vastly improved since the OnePlus 3, with an easy to use automatic mode but also plenty of options and settings for a new Pro mode to keep even the most keen photographer happy. There’s even a level tool that uses the phone’s gyroscope to help shoot straight photos and RAW output.
Overall the OnePlus 5 has the best camera the company has fitted to a smartphone as is right up there as a contender with the the likes of Samsung and Apple.
- Dual sim support means you can have two phone numbers and two plans in one phone, handy for travelling or juggling a work phone and a personal phone in one
- You can customise which icons are shown in the status bar as well as how some of them look, such as the battery percentage
- OnePlus has kept the handy notification LED for the 5, but there’s also an ambient display option
- The OnePlus 5 used for testing did not have Google Assistant only Google Now, and it is unclear when it will gain it
The OnePlus 5 comes in two variants. A slate grey version with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of storage costing £449 and a midnight black version with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of storage costing £590.
For comparison, Samsung’s Galaxy S8 costs costs £689 with 64GB of storage and the S8+ costs £779 with 64GB of storage. Google’s Pixel XL costs £719 with 32GB of storage, Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus costs £719 with 32GB of storage, the LG G6 costs £649 with 32GB of storage and the Huawei P10 Plus costs £649 with 128GB of storage.
The OnePlus is a great phone. But thanks to its large top and bottom bezels, it looks and feels dated compare to the likes of the Galaxy S8 and LG G6. Its similarity to an iPhone 7 Plus is remarkable, and in many ways it is like an iPhone running Android.
The OnePlus 3 was an absolute bargain, but the OnePlus 5 is less so. It is every bit as good as many of the top-end phones from much bigger manufacturers currently on the market, but its large advantage on price has been eroded. Soon you will be able to buy the likes of the Galaxy S8 at similar money.
The camera is great, the metal body feels good, dual-sim support is hard to find in rivals available in the UK, Dash Charge does just that, plus the battery lasts over a day and Bluetooth 5 support boosts wireless performance and makes it more future-proofed. But it’s not waterproof and doesn’t have any stand-out features compared to the top-end competition.
So while it isn’t terribly innovative for a top-end 2017 phone, if you’re looking for the smoothest Android experience currently available outside of a Google Pixel, the OnePlus 5 is it.Pros: great camera, super-smooth performance, plenty of storage, Dash Charge, good screen, dual-sim, good battery life, Bluetooth 5
Cons: not water resistant, dated bezel-heavy design, no expandable storage, 5.5in screen only FHD, no wireless charging
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