Not long ago, OnePlus, a Chinese startup, launched the OnePlus One, which shook the entire smartphone market with its high-end hardware on an affordable price point. Offering flagship specifications at a mid-range price, OnePlus quickly became popular among those who drooled over stellar specifications at a price that did not burn a large hole in the consumer's pocket.
Building itself on a business model which primarily meant selling the smartphones at near-manufacturing costs, word-of-mouth publicity, and exclusive online selling, OnePlus was able to provide flagship specs to customers at a cheaper price point.
With all the hype that had been going around with the OnePlus 5 (dual-camera, Snapdragon 835, 8GB RAM and blah blah!) we were excited to get our hands on the flagship of 2017. And we could tell the OnePlus 5 was destined for greatness, or so we thought.
One of the first things we noticed with the OnePlus 5 was the design. In the smartphone oriented technology scenarios of today, design occupies a major factor of how the smartphone will gel with consumers. In the case of OnePlus 5, the design fits perfectly into the slipstream of various other smartphones. Particularly one smartphone — the iPhone 7 Plus.
The OnePlus 5 is encased in a 2.5D curved glass panel which seamlessly flows to the edges. The rear of the smartphone sports an anodized aluminium with curved edges, but though smooth, its slippery. We would advise buying a protective cover if you are planning to buy the OnePlus 5.
As usual, the front panel houses the home button and the fingerprint sensor along with the two capacitive buttons for menu and back on the bottom, and the earpiece, front camera, and ambient light sensor towards the top.
The design factor is pretty similar to the OP3T. The volume rockers, power button and the alert slider are all in the same locations around the edges. We couldn’t find any major design changes other than slightly curved edges and the camera placement (single to dual-camera). Also, the OnePlus 5 is slightly slimmer than the OP3T (7.3mm versus 7.4mm on the OnePlus 5).
We loved the design of the OP3T and were expecting for a design overhaul, especially from the traditional unibody smartphone design with a large screen and a home button. Don’t get us wrong, but in a time when Samsung Galaxy S8 is riding the wave with bezel-less displays, Apple looking to climb onto it this fall, and Xiaomi already ahead of everyone with its Mi MIX — we hoped OnePlus would indulge in something on the same lines. But nevertheless, you won't be disappointed.
The phone feels happy to hold and is a pleasure to use. User experience is lightning fast and the 6GB RAM variant with the SD835 processor makes sure nothing lags, absolutely.
The display is a 5.5-inch Optic AMOLED panel sporting a resolution of 1080 x 1920 pixels (~401 ppi) — we did expect OnePlus to go with a 2K panel this time, but they didn't. The colours look vibrant and makes watching movies on it bliss.
Performance is brutally delicate. Brutal because of the added power of the 6GB of RAM and the Snapdragon 835 processor with a 10nm FinFET architecture. Delicate because you never feel you have to grit your teeth when running a resource-hungry application, because it always runs as smooth as silk.
Our test unit was the 6GB RAM with 64GB memory variant. The OnePlus 5 blazed through our benchmark tests (AnTuTu - 180902) leaving it slightly behind the iPhone 7 Plus (AnTuTu - 181807), but we are not complaining. There were various reports on OnePlus tweaking its benchmark results, but we did not find anything corresponding to that issue. On the contrary, the OnePlus posted a record breaking benchmark and is now one of the top performers of 2017.
During our daily use, unlocking the phone with the fingerprint and placing a call was blazingly fast (around 2 seconds). The focusing and firing the shutter action has also been made quicker. OnePlus claims the whole focusing and firing the shutter is about 40 per cent faster than the 3T.
Now we arrive on the most major part of this review, the USP — the dual-camera. Stepping onto the scene with two massive shooters, OnePlus 5 has still managed to stay unique on the dual lens segment. Unlike other dual shooter smartphones which have two sensors for wide-angle and monochrome each, the OnePlus 5 has a 16-megapixel primary camera and a secondary 20-megapixel telephoto lens. This translates into shooting portrait images with blurred backgrounds as easy as a DSLR (called bokeh). Check out some of the sample shots (below) taken from the rear camera.
Coming back to the ‘bokeh’ effect, this feature turns any subject photo dramatic and more pronounced. The idea is the same as an iPhone 7 Plus mode — you are required to stand at least 1 - 6 feet away from your subject to effectively use this feature. Because the telephoto lens has a longer focal length, the zoom is fixed at an optical 1.6x. For more zoom, OnePlus used additional “multi-frame technology” to bring it up to 2x. However, this is digitally done. Check out some more photos below.
The bokeh effect does not work perfectly every time with results showing us few patches where the bokeh did not work. The camera sometimes failed to capture the subject thoroughly or the blurred background looked way too harsh in comparison to the foreground subject.
The area where the OnePlus 5’s camera shines out is during low-light photography. Interestingly, this is because of the wider aperture (f1.7) which lets in more light and superior processing technology from OnePlus. The photos captured by the OnePlus 5 were clear and vibrant. Colors appear less washed out with near-accurate white balance and happy subjects. Check out some photos below that show a samples from night mode and Pro mode.
All in all, we found the camera excellent with a combination of landscape, macro, bokeh, and low light modes. We are still not giving it the best smartphone camera mantle yet; however, when it comes to everyday use, we could state that the OnePlus 5 can give a serious competition to the Samsung Galaxy S8, and the Apple iPhone 7 Plus.
But do note — the OnePlus 5 can be a winner since it offers a great performance at mere Rs 32,999, if compared to rival flagships — the iPhone 7 Plus starts at a whopping Rs 62,000 and the S8 costs at Rs 58,000. This means you get superior specs with an excellent camera at a price of Rs 20,000 lower than its nearest rival. However, the rivals cannot be considered overpriced since they offer a lot more features than the OnePlus here. These include a waterproof body, display technology, design, security, and a lot more. However, the OnePlus 5 does stand out in its battery compartment with the Dash charge technology.
Speaking on battery, the OnePlus 5 is equipped with a non-removable 3300mAh battery, 100mAh lower than the 3T (3400mAh). However, the battery gives an astounding run time of over a day and a half — all thanks to the power saving features by the Qualcomm Snapdragon 10nm chipset. Coupled with OnePlus’ proprietary Dash Charging technology you can topup your smartphone in under 80 minutes.
The OS is near-stock is simple — a smooth UI and minimal bloatware. The smartphone is powered by OxygenOS v4.5.3, based on Android Nougat. OnePlus decided this time to give its customers a stock Android experience, which also helps in upscaling the overall performance of the smartphone.
Other minor features include Night Mode, which is similar to that on the iPhone variant. It tints the display for better viewing at night and also has a ambient light sensor which automatically adjusts the brightness levels depending on the surrounding light. What is even better is that you can select the brightness levels for individual apps to suite your taste.
Another unique feature is the Reading mode. This effectively switches the screen from colour to black / white, making it comfortable to read text in low light conditions — similar to a Kindle e-reader.
All-in-all, the OnePlus 5 is a refreshing change from the mundane smartphone tech, giving blisteringly fast speeds and almost zero lag. However, when it comes to design, there are some shortfalls — a waterproof body would have been an added advantage here. So would we recommend this device? Absolutely!
A premium device, the OnePlus 5, is like the cool kid in the class, amidst the rich ones. We definitely recommend opting for the OnePlus 5 if you want the best in power, but are on a strict budget. However, if design is your choice and budget is no bar, you could opt for the expensive rivals — you know which.