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Review

OnePlus 5 Review: Feel the power

The OnePlus 5 is the powerhouse successor to the OnePlus 3T, and we’ve put it through the paces in one of our most comprehensive reviews ever

oneplus 5 both camera

4.5 5
BGR Rating :
4.5/5

The OnePlus 5. We’re finally here. After weeks of speculation, days of wondering what to expect and finally getting our hands on the OnePlus 5, it’s been a long ride. The company’s latest flagship smartphone comes in two variants with prices starting at Rs 32,999 for the variant with 6GB of RAM and 64GB of internal storage, and going up to Rs 37,999 for the variant with 8GB of RAM and 128GB of internal storage.

As has been the case with all of OnePlus’ launches, the phone has been the subject of numerous rumors, leaks and speculation. Some of it turned out false, some of it was part-true, and a lot of it was exactly as we were expecting. But above all else and needless to say, the OnePlus 5 has built up the hype like no other smartphone can. It’s a powerhouse on paper, and we have put it through the paces to see if it lives up to the high standards set by the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T. Here is BGR India’s full review of the OnePlus 5.

OnePlus 5: Design and Display

A lot of comparisons have been drawn between the OnePlus 5 and the iPhone 7 Plus, and while the similarities certainly do exist, it’s unfair to say that the OnePlus is a copy or replica of the iPhone. At the front, bottom and top, there’s very little to differentiate between the OnePlus 5 and the OnePlus 3T. The position of the fingerprint sensor, the screen size and bezels, the speaker, USB type-C port and 3.5mm jack, alert slider, SIM tray and buttons are all positioned exactly the same way in both devices.

Differences do show and can be felt at the sides and back, as well as in the weight and hand-feel of the two phones. The OnePlus 5 is a bit slimmer and is lighter than the OnePlus 3T, with gentle curves at the sides and off-set curved antenna lines. The logo can be found in the same place, but the position of the camera has changed. The OnePlus 5’s dual-camera setup is near the top-left corner, with the flash sitting alongside. Sure, there are similarities in this approach to both the iPhone 7 Plus, but the phone truly resembles the Oppo R11. This might be due to the fact that both OnePlus and Oppo are owned by the same parent company, which would explain the similarities in specifications and cooperation in design as well.oneplus 5 gray front

The continued use of quality anodized aluminum means that the OnePlus 5 remains beautifully built, feeling solid and made to last. The two color options are excellent, and while I do prefer the slate gray option for its muted sophistication, the midnight black option feels no less classy.

What hasn’t changed at all is the screen of the phone, with the OnePlus 5 sporting the same 5.5-inch full-HD AMOLED screen as its predecessor. Unlike the OnePlus 3 though, the phone comes with multiple screen calibration modes that let you set up the colors and accuracy levels as per your liking. The default mode remains somewhat over-adjusted and promoting of bright, blown-out colors, but there is a significant set of users (I count myself among this set) that prefers the exaggerated colors that the default AMOLED tuning offers. If you prefer more muted and accurate colors, that can be arranged as well, by setting the color calibration to either sRGB, DCI-P3 or a custom color temperature.oneplus 5 both back

The AMOLED screen continues to offer a couple of big advantages: the always-on screen mode and better black levels. By allowing the pixels to switch off entirely, the AMOLED screen on the OnePlus 5 produces better black levels and good contrast between colors. The always-on mode is somewhat limited in its function and doesn’t always work well, but it’s nice to have the option available. Finally, the screen gestures that we saw on the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T are seen on the OnePlus 5, and work as reliably as before.

Perhaps the only shortcoming is in the ambient light sensor, which often gets the optimum brightness level wrong and has to be overridden. Although the phone can get extremely bright and extremely dull at the two extremes, it often takes intervention to get the level right depending on the ambient light conditions you’re in. Also, let’s not forget, there’s no water-resistance, which continues to be one department where OnePlus is lagging behind the competition.oneplus 5 gray back

OnePlus 5: Specifications, Software and Performance

Since the OnePlus One, the Chinese company has placed its focus on ensuring that specifications and software is up to the mark. With the Qualcomm Snapdragon 801 SoC, 3GB of RAM and CyanogenMod on top of Android Kit Kat, the One was ahead of its time in many ways. Although it wasn’t as wholesome a device as subsequent OnePlus phones have been, it still set the tone for the company’s approach to phone making; focus on offering more and better.

Sticking to tradition, the OnePlus 5 is a huge step-up in terms of specifications, bringing the phone to the absolute peak of what an Android smartphone can be in 2017. Powered by the flagship Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC, the phone features either 6GB or 8GB of RAM, depending on the variant you opt for. If you buy the 8GB variant, rest assured you’ve got more RAM on your phone than any other smartphone around today.

Now, what exactly are you to do with 8GB of RAM? For that matter, what would you even do with 6GB of RAM? Well, nothing for now. On the higher-end variant, at any given point with a reasonably high amount of apps open and running in the background, there is no less than 2.8GB of RAM free to use. Naturally, this keeps the phone running smooth and unaffected by any amount of load. Coupled with the Snapdragon 835 SoC, this is arguably the most powerful Android smartphone you can buy in India today. While the performance of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and S8+ do come close, there’s really nothing else that comes close to the OnePlus 5 on pure performance in the Android space today.oneplus 5 left

A simple test of RAM management shows just how effective the phone is with performance. After opening every single app on the phone (yes, every single one), there is still about 1.4GB of RAM left to use. Additionally, the phone’s software gains a sense of what apps you tend to use more often, and will exclude them from typical RAM management guidelines. As a result, apps such as Whatsapp, Google Chrome and Facebook always stayed loaded up and weren’t cleared out of the cache. Although even 6GB is realistically enough for top-notch performance, the OnePlus 5 properly and cleverly utilizes all of its oodles of RAM and processing power to immediately load up apps, keep the ones you need running, keep lag and stutter out and offer you a seamless experience like no other. Without a doubt, the OnePlus 5 is a proven and unmatched powerhouse.

As has been the case since OnePlus’ discontinuation of the use of CyanogenMod and CyanogenOS on its devices, the OnePlus 5 comes with the company’s own OxygenOS 4.5.0 on top of Android Nougat 7.1.1. While early versions of OxygenOS may have come across as half-baked and crude, the user interface has seen its best times since the OnePlus 3. This latest version of the software is as close to stock Android Nougat as a custom UI can get, and this is excellent.

While there are definite differences and tweaks, the focus on these is on user-friendly customizability and usefulness. Options such as gesture controls, status bar customization and screen calibration all help in achieving a muted and sophisticated interface that effectively does its job, maintaining efficiency while offering enough control over the phone. There are a couple of new features as well, including reading mode, which makes the screen a bit easier for reading. The changes are simple are often not even noticeable between the version of OxygenOS on the OnePlus 3T till now and the one on the OnePlus 5, but this simple sophistication is enough to keep things running smoothly.oneplus 5 side

OnePlus 5: Battery Life

The OnePlus 5 comes with a 3,300mAh battery, which is a bit smaller than the 3,400mAh battery on the OnePlus 3T. This negative difference in battery size has no negative effect on battery life at all, thanks to the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835 SoC powering the phone. Fabricated on the 10nm process and running on custom cores, the SoC is touted to make a significant difference to battery life while improving performance. Indeed, this is the case, and battery life is extremely good for a flagship-grade powerhouse of a phone.

I didn’t have any trouble getting through the day on a single charge, despite heavy usage that included about four to five hours of screen-on time, with gaming, 4G data and Wi-Fi connectivity, Bluetooth audio streaming to the audio system in my car and frequent use of various productivity and communication apps. While there is likely to be some deterioration to battery life in the long run, it’s effective enough now to not pose too much concern going forward.

Charging continues to use the Dash Charge technology which is proprietary to OnePlus. Provided you’re using a Dash Charger and Dash Charging USB cable, it’s possible to completely top up the phone in just about an hour. This allows for quick bursts of charging, with even 10-15 minutes giving you enough charge to get you through up to five hours of usage time. It’s the same standard as before and using the same specification charger as well, with a 5V-4A charger in the box. Indeed, the charger that comes with the OnePlus 3 and 3T, as well as an Oppo VOOC charger (built on the same technology) will give the OnePlus 5 Dash charging.oneplus 5 gray camera

OnePlus 5: Camera

The most talked about feature of the OnePlus 5 is its camera, which has been the subject of much speculation and chatter over the past few weeks. While the dual-camera setup was confirmed some time ago, it’s now clear that the phone uses a 16-megapixel primary sensor and a 20-megapixel secondary telephoto sensor, along with a 16-megapixel camera at the front. The primary rear sensor has an aperture of f/1.7, while the telephoto sensor has an f/2.6 aperture. Video recording is possible at up to 30fps at 4K, 60fps at full-HD and 120fps at 720p, and the rear has a dual-tone LED flash. Although the front camera doesn’t have a dedicated flash, on-screen flash is present to light up selfies a bit.

While other smartphones use dual-camera setups in different ways, the OnePlus 5 uses its dual-camera system for two primary purposes; you get up to 2X lossless zoom, and you can also shoot in ‘portrait’ mode, which creates depth-of-field effects for hyper-focused shots of a subject.

(Auto mode camera samples shot on the OnePlus 5)IMG_20170608_025517 IMG_20170608_103604

When it comes to plain vanilla photography on the standard auto camera mode, the OnePlus 5 usually gets things right. It’s quick to focus, has an excellent Auto HDR mode than adds a bit of drama to shots and makes them better, and produces colors that have enough ‘pop’ in them. There’s also a tendency of the camera to produce pictures with an artistic effect. This is something that you’ll see when you zoom in a bit; there’s very little noise and grain, and detail is adequately maintained, but there’s just a bit of blur effect to the shots which helps give pictures a watercolor painting-like effect. Just as is the case with the screen, images aren’t necessarily accurate, but that hint of flavor isn’t a bad thing.

Low-light photography is also fairly decent, capturing enough detail in darkness without too much grain or disturbance in the shots. Although there are hints of oversaturation, the majority of the shots retain their color and composition even in low light.

(Portrait mode camera samples shot on the OnePlus 5)

 

IMG_20170612_134059_Bokeh IMG_20170608_173415_Bokeh

The first big advantage of using two cameras at the rear is lossless zoom, and the OnePlus 5 can offer up to 2X zoom without any loss in detail or sharpness. It’s possible to zoom further in up to 8X, but this uses digital zoom methods that will result in a loss in image sharpness and quality, although the use of a telephoto lens means the loss will be less than with an ordinary sensor. At 2X zoom, images indeed retain most of their sharpness, although you’ll need a steady hand to avoid blurring.

The portrait mode is the biggest advantage to the dual-camera system, which uses its two sensors to create a depth-of-field effect. This maintains focus on the subject matter with the primary 16-megapixel camera by widening the aperture, while the 20-megapixel camera gets a sense of what’s in the background and uses its narrow aperture to blur out the background and keep the focus on the subject.

Naturally, this produces dramatic images that use the science of aperture to perfection, getting a proper sense of what is in the foreground and what is in the background. We’ve seen some other phones try this with software algorithms, but this effect is best achieved using true hardware methods, and just like the iPhone 7 Plus, the OnePlus 5 pulls this off.

(HDR and low-light camera samples shot on the OnePlus 5)IMG_20170607_182044 IMG_20170605_231957

Finally, coming to video, the OnePlus 5 gets the specifications right with support for smooth 60fps video at 1080p, standard 4K recording and 120fps at 720p. Although 240fps recording would have been a great addition, the rest of the phone’s video recording abilities are up to the mark. Video is clean, detailed and sharp enough, although video recording at 4K is limited to 10 minutes to avoid too much strain on the SoC and storage.

Let’s be clear though: while the OnePlus 5 has an excellent camera, it still isn’t quite what the Samsung Galaxy S8, Apple iPhone 7 Plus and Google Pixel are known to achieve. However, the difference in performance is marginal at best, so you won’t find yourself disappointed with the OnePlus 5’s camera at all, not only in terms of ordinary photography performance, but also in the added abilities that you get, such as better low-light photography, 2X lossless zoom and portrait mode.

(2X zoom and auto mode camera samples shot on the OnePlus 5)

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Verdict

The OnePlus 5 doesn’t come with too many changes, and remains similar to the OnePlus 3T in many ways. However, those small changes are all it takes to bring it a step closer to being the ultimate Android smartphone. With small improvements in performance, camera and design, the OnePlus 5 comes a bit closer to the level of quality that Samsung and Apple have already achieved in the minds of buyers, and that’s really all it takes.

While the camera is certainly excellent and much-improved, what continues to appeal to me about the flagship OnePlus phone is its class-leading performance. You will not find a better performing Android smartphone today, and if top-level smartphone performance is what you seek, the OnePlus 5 should be the obvious choice for you. While smartphones such as the Samsung Galaxy S8, Sony Xperia XZ Premium and HTC U11 might come close, it’s important to remember that these phones all cost significantly more than the asking price of the OnePlus 5.

And speaking of the price, the OnePlus 5 is the company’s most expensive phone to date. And while it might still be touted as the ‘flagship killer’ the narrowing price difference between the OnePlus 5 and its key competitors makes it harder to consider it a ‘killer’ anymore. This isn’t a complaint about pricing; the OnePlus 5 is truly worth its asking price. I’m simply making the point that OnePlus is ready to move on from the renegade start-up philosophy that has driven it for the last three years, to being a mature, top-level brand that sits at the same table as the established players. OnePlus has gone from flagship killer to plain flagship with the OnePlus 5, and it’s a device that has earned its reputation.

Pros Cons
Blazing fast performance, monster specs Looks a bit like another smartphone
Good camera setup; dual-camera works well No storage expansion
Excellent value despite the price rise No water resistance
Built well
Dash Charge is awesome
  • Published Date: June 22, 2017 4:10 PM IST
  • Updated Date: June 22, 2017 4:11 PM IST