Having lived with the new OnePlus 5 for a month now, I feel I’m ready to give it a proper no holds barred review. Like many others, for years I’ve been a slave to two mobile devices; one for work, one for personal use. Working in the telecoms industry for the last 19 years and the nature of the roles I’ve held meant that more often than not I’m carrying around two mobile phones, bringing two phones on holidays and up until more recent times, carrying two chargers.
I had heard of OnePlus before but no one I knew had one. The OnePlus range in Ireland is a pretty rare commodity, as the Chinese brand is slowly breaking into new markets. The idea of dual SIM has always intrigued me but the idea of a non-flagship smartphone has not. A couple my colleagues had Oneplus 3T handsets that they picked up in India. Having seen them I thought I’d take the plunge on the Oneplus 5.
So here’s an equation for you:
OnePlus 5 – Galaxy S6 – HTC M8 = An easier life!
Performance and Software
I’ve always been an Android fan. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve had iPhones and liked them, but as a bit of a PC nerd, Android always offered a level of freedom not available on an iPhone. The OnePlus 5 offers two variants; a 64GB version with 6GB RAM and a 128GB version with 8GB RAM – mine being the former. Both are powered by the same processor, a Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 and an independent Adreno 540 GPU. All this makes this phone is super fast! The OnePlus 5 can easily keep pace with any other flagship, if not outperform them. It’s more than capable of doing whatever you’ll need it to do with some power to spare. Apps and games open quickly and the phone stays responsive even with tonnes of apps open – something I’m often guilty of.
The performance of the OnePlus 5 is aided by the noticeable lack of ‘bloatware’ installed on the device. It runs the latest version of OnePlus’ own OxygenOS based on Android Nougat 7.1.1 with some small customisations to take the raw feel from it. When you look at the file manager, there isn’t an unexplained 18GB of software uninstalled out of the box that you can’t shift – very refreshing. It will feel a little ‘naked’ to the hardened Samsung or HTC user but trust me, after a few days you’ll really appreciate it when you’re just looking at apps you want.
Some of the useful features OnePlus have added include a ‘Reading Mode’, which turns your screen to greyscale. Combine this with a blue light filter and it’s effectively an e-reader. There’s a ‘Do not disturb’ mode designed with the gamer in mind and the app drawer swipes up from the bottom of the screen, like the Google Pixel launcher.
All of the OnePlus 5’s high-performance innards are wrapped in a full metal jacket, only adding to the quality feel. Something I hadn’t expected was how thin the phone is; just 7.25mm and the sharp taper around the edges only serves to accentuate its thickness – lack thereof. Rounded corners make it easy to hold and look all the sexier. Let’s call a spade a spade though, it’s the image of an iPhone 7 Plus.
It even has the dual camera in the same location although OnePlus had the good sense to retain the headphone jack.
This is not a poser phone, the colour choices are slate grey and midnight black. Something that could discourage the ‘playas’ out there from purchasing. The style is sleek and understated, none of yer bling here folks. In more standard smartphone fashion, the OnePlus 5 has its volume control on the left side. You’ll find the power button on the right and the home button right where you’d expect it. That’s below the screen flanked by an integrated back key on the left and recent apps key on the right – the opposite to the Samsung I’ve had for some time now. Luckily, you can flip the buttons around in the phone settings if you wish; a clever touch.
Smartphone marketing has conditioned us to expect QHD, 4K ultra-docious screens. In this respect, the OnePlus 5 has gone ‘Old School’ with a 1080p 5.5 inch AMOLED display operating at a 16:9 resolution. Now believe me when I say, this is one of the richest, brightest screen I’ve seen on a smartphone. Sunlight does not bother it in the slightest and the colours are truly vibrant with deep blacks and great contrast. A joy to behold.
I would wager that if the spec sheet said QHD, most people wouldn’t doubt it.
In my life, this phone is under pressure, doing the work of not one but two phones. Originally when I’d heard that the OnePlus 5 was actually fitted with a smaller capacity battery than it’s predecessor (3300mAh vs 3400mAh in the 3T model) I was concerned. Once again though the OnePlus 5 shines through with exceptionally good battery life. Thus far it has lasted comfortably through a full day of use with conference calls, personal calls, camera use, YouTube videos, Spotify, social media and email reading.
After all that, I’m left with about 20% battery at the end of the day. I would point out that I have a bad habit of leaving apps open in the background and the Facebook app is a harsh mistress on the juice. Swapping over to the likes of Metal instead of the official app would probably add a few hours to my battery life alone. Over the weekend, with fewer calls, I can get maybe a day and a half out the phone until I need to charge it. Which leads me nicely onto the charger itself. The Dash Charge that comes with the phone can give a 60% charge in a little over 30 minutes. You’ll get a full charge (from empty) in about an hour and twenty minutes – amazing stuff!
The USB-C Dash Charge that comes with the phone can give a 60% charge in a little over 30 minutes. You’ll get a full charge, from dead, in about an hour and twenty minutes – amazing stuff!
One of the bigger marketed features of the OnePlus 5 is its new dual camera setup. Of course, to keep up with the other industry flagships, this was a must have with each of the smartphone kings sporting a slightly different set of dual camera features to make it unique. The OnePlus 5 is thankfully no exception to this standard.
The main sensor on the OnePlus 5 is 16 megapixels with a f/1.7 aperture and image stabilisation feature. The secondary sensor has a 20-megapixel resolution with telephoto lens technology, a smaller f/2.6 aperture and no image stabilisation. The telephoto feature is a combined effort of optical zoom and software with the optical zoom at 1.6x and the remaining 0.4x achieved through a SmartCapture multi-frame technology software system, blah, blah, blah. But what does that mean exactly?
Well, if you’re not into specs, head on over to OnePlus’ image gallery, showing stunning shots snapped with their latest flagship. You’ll get shots like this cracker:
If you are into your specs, you’ll have a fair idea that while the OnePlus 5 sports a great camera, it’s really a bit of a close-up specialist. The photos are detailed and sharp while the colour reproduction looks natural with no bleed. The addition of the secondary telephoto lens allows you to get better close ups than you would with a digital zoom, retaining a high level of detail. Macro shots work particularly well. In lower light conditions, stick to the main 16MP lens. The lack of image stabilisation and smaller aperture can result in highlight blurs and some lens flaring and noise with the secondary lens. The main lens achieves much better stability and colour reproduction.
If video is your thing. The OnePlus 5 is capable of recording 4K video and has a handy electronic image stabilisation feature, perfect for ironing out the shakes. You can choose between the sensors but again I would recommend the primary for video because of the lack of stabilisation on the secondary unit.
I couldn’t finish a OnePlus 5 review without going into a little detail on the dual sim functionality on the phone. This is the icing on the cake for me. The phone has a dual nano sim tray as standard and operates on a dual sim LTE standby basis. So what’s that then?
Well, both sim receivers are capable of 4G and you do not need to switch between sims to receive calls. So here’s a quick run down of features:
Incoming Calls: receive a call from either sim but not at the same time. If you receive a call on one sim while on another call, the second call will go straight to voice mail.
Outgoing calls: Choose which sim to use at the point of dialling.
Incoming SMS: works with both sims.
Outgoing SMS: you can choose a default at set up or switch while typing your message.
Data: You choose which sim to use for data and you can switch between them in the settings. If you’re really clever, you can use your work sim for data during the day and use Tasker rules to switch to your personal sim after work.
Of course, if you’re even smarter you’ll just use your work sim for data all the time.
You can use a cool app like Parallel Space to run two simultaneous WhatsApp accounts on the phone, one for each number, maintaining separation of work and personal life.
OnePlus 5 Review: The Verdict
I’ve not been this happy with a new smartphone for a long time. Sure, every new phone has a novelty factor, but after a week or two, you realise it does more or less the same as the last one, just a little bit better. The OnePlus 5 has managed to combine my two smartphones into one while delivering faster performance, better battery life and as good a spec as any other flagship smart phone on the market today. Couple that with a price that’s cheaper than any of its big brand competitors and you’ve got a flyweight competing as a heavy weight and winning.
It may lack some features like expandable storage, wireless charging and water resistance but with prices starting at €479, you’ll get a top of the line phone that packs faster processing than any of its premium brand rivals and on that basis, I think this phone is awesome. Well done OnePlus. Well done.
Bonus: Check out my unboxing to get a sneak peek at the toys you get with the phone
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