- Fantastic software
- Not as cheap as previous models, but still great value
- Dash Charge is great
- Dual cameras work well
- Missing some higher-end features
- Poor Wi-Fi and audio performance
- 5.5-inch 1080p screen
- Snapdragon 835
- 6 or 8GB RAM
- 64 or 128GB storage
- Dash Charge
- Bluetooth 5
- 3300mAh battery
- Android 7.1
- Manufacturer: OnePlus
- Review Price: £449/$479
WHAT IS THE ONEPLUS 5?
With the OnePlus 3, the Chinese ‘start-up’ finally made a phone that was nearly perfect. There’s no OnePlus 4 this year, but instead the OnePlus 5 takes things up another level with a seriously packed spec sheet – and a higher price.
The headline feature here is an interesting dual-camera setup on the back, but in typical OnePlus fashion there’s a serious amount of power and the option of a frankly ridiculous 8GB of RAM.
For £449/$479, the OnePlus 5 is a fantastic deal, but the higher price necessitates a more critical look at some of its shortcomings. There are a few missing features and some odd omissions, but this is still one of the best tech bargains.
The OnePlus 5 is a really good-looking phone, but it’s not the most original. The back reminds me of an slightly curvier matte-black iPhone 7 Plus, right down to the camera arrangement, the blended antenna lines and even the flash. The front is pretty much the same as those of the outgoing OnePlus 3 and 3T, which is no bad thing, but in a world of the Essential Phone and LG G6 it feels a bit old-fashioned.
Old-fashioned is acceptable in this case, though, because OnePlus has managed to make this phone so comfortable to hold and a pleasure to use. The curved back fits perfectly in your palm, while the 3D Gorilla Glass 5 on the front also curves slightly. This multitude of curves make it super-slim, but also easy to fish up from a table.
The OnePlus 5 with its 5.5-inch display is a larger phone than the 5.8-inch Samsung Galaxy S8, but it’s smaller in all dimensions than the same-screen-size iPhone 7 Plus. It doesn’t feel big, although I have become used to this size of phone now, and I can reach all the elements of the screen with one hand.
Previous OnePlus devices have felt great for their price, which tended to be below £350/$443, but even though the OnePlus starts at £449/$569 it still feels better built than anything else in that price range. Everything is precisely cut, it feels sturdy and there are really neat touches like the alert slider that sits above the volume rocker. I know this has been a OnePlus staple, but I’m appreciating being able to quickly flip the phone into silent mode when it’s still in my pocket more and more.
There’s a headphone jack and Dash Charge-capable USB-C port on the bottom, along with a microphone and mono speaker, plus a dual-Nano SIM tray on the side. I’d have preferred a microSD slot, or a hybrid slot, but at least there’s a decent amount of base storage here.
The OnePlus 5 comes in two colours, though to be honest they look almost exactly the same. The 64GB model has 6GB RAM and comes in ‘Slate Grey’ while the 128GB/8GB RAM version takes the ‘Midnight Black’ hue that was briefly available on the OnePlus 3T. Both colours are deep, dark and matte, and it feels odd to have two options so similar.
The lack of any sort of water-resistance rating is slightly disappointing, but not a deal beaker yet.
OnePlus has stepped up the game in the vast majority of areas this year, but on paper at least the screen feels very much the same. It’s still a 5.5-inch AMOLED panel, which is still 1080p as opposed to the more common quad-HD resolution.
The OnePlus 3 (and 3T) suffered from a few annoying screen issues, including poor calibration and laggy scrolling, but the OnePlus 5 sorts these out. So that’s a bonus straight away.
The display now covers the wide DCI-P3 colour gamut, like the iPhone 7 and Galaxy S8, and this is my preferred colour profile. It gives colours more of a punch, without oversaturating, and there’s more variety in the shades. There’s an sRGB mode too that removes a bit of the punch, and a Default mode that feels to me a bit too colourful.
I would have liked to see a resolution bump, but in all honestly it’s tough to pick out individual pixels unless you get really close. It’s not as sharp as the HTC U11, nor is it as sharp as a 5-inch 1080p device, but colours are nice and because it’s AMOLED there’s that extra depth to blacks that you don’t get with LCD.
Gorilla Glass 5 covers the panel and that should help prevent scratches, but I have still found small hairline scratches appear on the display after a week of use.
The OnePlus 5 could very well be the fastest phone I have ever used, and it certainly has the most drool-worthy spec sheet of any phone out there.
I’m not entirely convinced it needs all the power it has, and I’d love to see Android app devs actually try and put some of the power to good use, but people love specs and OnePlus is certainly giving them that.
The Snapdragon 835 runs the show, and it’s a very good SoC. Along with being speedy, it’s efficient and each phone that’s powered by it does get better battery life. There’s the Adreno 540 GPU, which can comfortably handle any 3D game on Google Play, and there’s super-fast UFS 2.1 storage that helps load times. You can choose between a 64GB and 128GB model, but pick wisely as there’s no expandable storage.
Then there’s probably the biggest point of overkill in this phone: the RAM. My review unit has 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM, which is double that of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and the same as a £2000/$2537 MacBook Pro. Frankly, it’s complete overkill and 4GB of RAM is more than enough for an Android phone. Apps do stay in memory longer, but sometimes it doesn’t feel like it’s really using all that RAM. It’s a nice spec to boast about, but really you won’t notice it that much.
OnePlus didn’t state this, but it makes sense for some of that RAM to be dedicated to the camera. Especially with the dual sensors and intensive portrait mode available.
Specs are one thing, but actual performance is far more important. And thankfully the OnePlus 5 uses its components effectively. There’s no lag, apps open instantly and the common Android judder – that even rears its annoying head on the Galaxy S8 – is nowhere to be seen.
In more synthetic benchmark tests, the OnePlus 5 not surprisingly also impresses. It picked up 6719 in Geekbench’s multi-core test, which puts it at the top of the pile above the Sony Xperia XZ Premium (6492), and the single-core score is about the same as the Samsung Galaxy S8’s at 2000. The iPhone 7 still rules the roost in single-core performance, which is arguably far more important for day-to-day tasks, but Android is slowly getting better.
The fingerprint sensor sits below the display and is fast and accurate, unlocking instantly every time I tested it.
I’m a little less happy with other parts of the performance. OnePlus says it’s upgraded the Wi-Fi module, but it’s still downright poor and loses connection to my router constantly. I tend to get poor reception in my kitchen anyway, but the OnePlus 5 drops out way before any other device.
The downward-facing speaker too is poor; it’s loud, but gets blocked so easily that I have to juggle the phone when I’m watching a video without headphones. Considering there’s a sizeable bezel around the display, I’m slightly disappointed there isn’t some better audio output here.
A nice touch is Bluetooth 5.0, which improves connection strength over distances, but unlike on the Galaxy S8 there doesn’t seem to be a way to split connection over two wireless devices.
The OnePlus 5 is an absolute winner for speed, then, but I would’ve preferred to see more reliable Wi-Fi and a better speaker rather than that extra RAM.
Some in the TrustedReviews office disagree, but in my eyes Oxygen OS is the best Android skin on any phone, and in some ways it’s even better than the version you get on the Pixel and Pixel XL.
It takes all the bits that make those so slick – swipe-up navigation drawer, long-pressing icons for extra shortcuts, fantastic notifications – but adds in extra bits that make it better. I love being able to switch between capacitive and on-screen navigational buttons, while the Night theme and customisable accent colours give some nice variety. I’m not a huge fan of the ‘Shelf’ – the Google Now page replacement – but it can easily be turned off and is certainly less annoying that the Bixby screen.
None of those features are new, but that’s not to say the software experience here is the same as on the OnePlus 3 or 3T. A new ‘Reading’ mode filters out blue light and uses grey-scale mapping to make reading easier on your eyes, and this takes the usual blue-light filter mode and turns it up a notch. It’s odd at first, but it does make reading text easier in the dark.
A new Gaming mode turns off pestering notifications when you’re in battle and there’s a Secure Folder for hiding away those important documents (or candid snaps). Neither of these are unique, but they’re nice additions.
‘Less is more’ is the software approach OnePlus has taken, and it works. There’s barely any needless bloatware and the apps that are pre-installed are designed within Google’s Material Design guidelines, so they look and work really nicely. It feels like OnePlus has only tinkered when it needed to, instead of redoing everything for the sake of it.
One strange omission, and I believe this was the case with the OnePlus 3 too, is that there isn’t the correct DRM on this phone to allow streaming of Netflix, Google Play Movies or Amazon Prime in HD resolution. Instead, it caps you at standard definition and forces you to manually switch from 480p on YouTube. It’s strange, and while it might not be annoying for everyone, I know it will be for those who want to use this as a media machine.
My only concern is how long it’ll take for this phone to be updated to Android O, when that’s released later in the year.
All the hype from OnePlus in the run-up to this launch has surrounded the camera. The tagline ‘Dual Camera. Clearer Photos’ is plastered across the box, plus all of the marketing materials, but does it really improve on an already great camera in the OnePlus 3T?
The biggest change here is obvious: there are now two lenses instead of one. They’re laid out on the back just like those on the iPhone 7 Plus, slightly raised from the body, and they even function in a similar way to the cameras on Apple’s flagship.
One is your regular sensor, which here is a Sony IMX 398 sensor with 16 megapixels and an f/1.7 lens. Next to it sits the telephoto lens, for 2x zoom, which is 20-megapixel with a much narrower f/2.6 aperture. It’s certainly an interesting setup, and I much prefer a dual-camera arrangement like this over Huawei’s monochrome and RGB pairing.
There’s so much packed into this camera, and while some bits aren’t great, there’s a lot to like.
The high megapixel count captures very detailed shots that are full of colour and vibrancy, while the wide aperture on the main lens allows for more light to hit the sensor when it’s dark.
Both low-light and daytime pictures look really good, though it can struggle with glare when it’s really sunny. The auto-HDR mode does help here, levelling out the exposure and contrast without making it too obvious.
The Portrait mode gives a nice bokeh, but can struggle around details
Colours are bright, and detail is strong
There’s a nice depth to landscape shots, though not quite as much as from the Google Pixel
And the 2x zoom gives you more freedom
Using the 2x zoom in low light does leave you with noisy results
The Portrait mode looks OK with people shots, but the processed blurring does look a bit too heavy
I also love the variety of shots you’re able to get when using the zoomed-in telephoto lens, especially in portrait shots. The narrow aperture does diminish its returns in low light, though.
The lack of optical image stabilisation also becomes apparent when really pushing the telephoto lens, as it can become hard to hold steady and avoid a blurry and noisy shot. The EIS (electronic image stabilisation) does a good job most of the time, but it sometimes lacks consistency.
OnePlus says autofocus has been made 40% faster than on the OnePlus 3T and it is very fast most of the time. It’ll latch on to target without stutter when using the main sensor, but struggles sometimes in macro situations and when using the telephoto camera. There’s also a new Portrait mode that blurs the background and leaves the subject in sharp detail, which works well but takes a few attempts to avoid it looking super-fake.
4K video is supported and the 16-megapixel front-facing camera is very good, capturing plenty of detail. There’s a front-facing flash that comes from the screen and the auto-HDR mode extends to the front too.
2017 flagships have been pushing the boundaries in lots of areas, but battery life isn’t really one of them. Ever since the Note 7 started combusting, it seems that advances in battery tech and capacity have taken a back seat.
It’s a similar story for the OnePlus 5. The non-removable 3300mAh battery is bigger than that of the OnePlus 3, but 100mAh smaller than the one in the OnePlus 3T. Thanks to the improved efficiency of the Snapdragon 835 processor, though, battery life is about on par with its predecessor.
I can comfortably get through the day with mixed-to-heavy use, and normally I have about 10% spare come bedtime. An hour of SD Netflix streaming eats up 7-8%, and it’s about half that for music streaming with the screen off.
Considering the 1080p screen, I would have liked to possibly make it two days without reaching for the charger, but that hasn’t been the case so far.
But I can forgive OnePlus for this, as the battery life has never worried me because of how fast it charges. Dash Charge is the fastest charging method I’ve used, and the OnePlus charges from dead to full in little over an hour. It also charges super-fast when you’re actually using the phone – without getting hot – and this just isn’t the case with the competition.
There are downsides to Dash Charge – notably you have to use the supplied USB-C cable and power adaptor – but it’s useful enough to live with.
SHOULD I BUY THE ONEPLUS 5?
Even though at £449/$479 the OnePlus 5 is the most expensive entry in the series yet, it still is undeniably one of the biggest bargains in tech. Considering varieties of the iPhone 7 and Samsung Galaxy S8 can cost up to £400/$507 more, it really does feel like OnePlus is onto another winner.
It’s not quite the revolutionary step forward that the OnePlus 3 was, but there are solid improvements across the board. I can’t see anyone picking up this phone and feeling short-changed or disappointed.
I do think the higher price does make some of its shortcoming more noteworthy, though, and I feel some areas have been improved that were sufficient anyway – such as the RAM – while more vital but less glamorous bits like Wi-Fi and audio were left unimproved. I’d also have liked to see some form of water-resistance here, as that’s becoming almost a prerequisite in 2017.
Still, no phone is perfect and the benefits here are easy to see. Dash Charging is great, the improved P3 colour gamut is welcome and OxygenOS is fantastic. Plus the camera is fast and reliable.
At a similar price point you’ve got the Honor 8 Pro – a great phone, but one that lacks some of the more high-end features here – and then the upcoming Moto Z2 Play which again lacks flagship components but will likely have a better battery life.
Not as cheap as previous OnePlus devices, but you still get a lot for your money here.