SPECS ARE USELESS UNLESS THEY TRANSLATE TO REAL- WORLD PERFORMANCE BOOSTS BUT, THANKFULLY, THE ONEPLUS DELIVERS. FROM OUR EXTENSIVE DAY-TO-DAY USAGE, WE NEVER WITNESSED A STUTTER, FREEZE OR ANY SIGN OF HESITATION — WHETHER IT WAS GAMING, WATCHING VIDEOS OR JUST FLICKING THROUGH APPS AND BROWSING THE WEB, THE ACTION WAS SNAPPY AND RESPONSIVE.
Android 7.1.1; 5.5-inch AMOLED display @1080p (401ppi); Snapdragon 835 octa-core; Adreno 540 GPU; 8GB RAM; 128GB internal storage (non-expandable); dual 16MP + 20MP rear cameras and 16MP front camera; 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac Wi-Fi; USB-C port; 3,300mAh non-removable Li-Po battery with fast charge; 15.4 x 7.4 x 0.7cm; 153g
AUSSIES HAVE LONG clamoured to get their hands on OnePlus’ phones — the self-described “flagship killers” have only been available via grey import thus far and experienced issues with sketchy support for local networks and 4G. Now, the Chinese manufacturer responsible for these monster-specced and well-built units is bringing its most recent handset to our shores. The OnePlus 5 is a powerhouse of a handset that’s managed to survive the currency-conversion relatively unscathed, landing it in the mid-range price bracket and looking to dominate the competition in doing so.
While it technically hasn’t quite launched in Australia yet, we managed to get hold of a OnePlus 5 as part of the company’s local ‘soft launch’ (basically, a trial run for its retail local ordering, fulfilment and shipping capabilities). Pricing hasn’t been finalised in Australia, but at the soft launch, the 128GB model we tested sold for $699 — but note that this may not be representative of the final price.
CREATIVITY ISN’T ALWAYS KEY
This latest OnePlus handset’s design certainly won’t win any awards for originality, however. Both the face and back of the OnePlus 5 look near identical to the R11 from Oppo (also reviewed in this issue — see page 50), which is OnePlus’ sister company. On top of that, there are some glaring similarities to the likes of the Huawei P10 Plus and, of course, Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus. That isn’t to suggest the design is bad. The spartan rear is stylishly simple and the face offers a 73% screen-to-body ratio, which is on par with the aforementioned phones, although doesn’t compete with the bezel-free sleekness of the latest Samsungs, which sit around the 83% mark.
The body is tapered at the sides — subtly on the front and more noticeably on the rear — and this makes the already-slim dimensions feel even slimmer in the hand. This can take a little getting used to, but is generally a pleasant effect, although the anodised aluminium rear along with these tapered edges can make for a slippery combination, particularly when adjusting your grip to reach a top corner on the large display.
Otherwise, the material choice and construction seem just as sturdy as any handset twice its price, sporting the aforementioned aluminium rear, which is both pretty and tough, and robust Corning Gorilla Glass 5 gracing the face of the device.
Like a number of Chinese-manufacturers’ handsets, you’ll get a factory-applied screen protector out of the box, too, although we’d suggest buying a case with a more grippy material so you can simultaneously save against future phone drops and protect the slightly protruding camera against any rough surface you may place it on.
As for buttons, there’s a power button and volume rocker on opposing edges of the phone, and a three-way toggle to switch between loud, silent and do-not-disturb modes, akin to Apple’s designs. The fingerprint reader is exceptionally quick and doubles as a soft Home button, along with capacitive Back and Recent buttons, all of which you can customise to perform different functions when long- or double-pressed.
A FINE DISPLAY
Perhaps the least convincing element of the OnePlus package is its display. It’s an OLED affair, but only a 1080p one and although that lack of resolution isn’t a major detraction, with competitors like the HTC U11 and Nokia 8 (more on that later) both featuring 1440p displays, only having 1080p is a minor disappointment given the OnePlus’ larger 5.5-inch size. Thankfully, images and text still appear sharp, and the contrasts are particularly striking thanks to the AMOLED design. The only time you’ll notice the resolution shortcomings is if you’re trying to watch anything in a higher native resolution, but even then, the difference isn’t considerable.
THE BRAINS AND THE BRAUN
The OnePlus 5 comes with the company’s Oxygen OS, which is pretty damn close to stock Android and offers many of the same perks and pitfalls as Google’s own handsets. While it may not receive future Android updates as quickly as the pure stock OS, it still has the same relatively customisable simplicity and relies heavily on some of Google’s app suite. This is obviously a matter of taste, but if you do like Android’s stock OS, then there’s very little to dislike with the OnePlus 5.
As we mentioned earlier, one of the most compelling features of the OnePlus 5 handset is its hardware. With the latest Snapdragon 835 chipset from Qualcomm, an Adreno 540 GPU and either 6GB or 8GB of RAM (depending on the model), it’s a beastly little machine that matches the best on the market. For some context, the brand new Nokia 8 (also reviewed in this issue — see page 49), as well as the HTC U11 (see TechLife 66, page 17) both feature an identical processor and GPU, but have only half the RAM of the top-tier OnePlus 5, yet they retail for an extra $200 and $300, respectively.
As we all well know, specs are useless unless they translate to real-world performance boosts but, thankfully, the OnePlus delivers. From our extensive day-to-day usage, we never witnessed a stutter, freeze or any sign of hesitation — whether it was gaming, watching videos or just flicking through apps and browsing the web, the action was snappy and responsive.
Our benchmark testing backs this up, too, with processor and graphic-intensive tests (such as Geekbench 4, 3DMark and GFXBench 3) performing exceptionally well, on par and often slightly better than the Nokia 8 and HTC U11. Although there’s no microSD card slot for adding more storage, the 6GB RAM model comes with 64GB of internal memory, and the 8GB RAM version boasts 128GB, both of which are quite generous by today’s standards.
The 3,300mAh battery performs well and with regular usage will comfortably last you a full day and then some. Based on the PCMark benchmark we ran, the battery life isn’t in exceptional territory, but it performs above par considering the handset’s beefy specs.
DOUBLING-DOWN ON PHOTOGRAPHY
OnePlus’ previous flagship, the OnePlus 3, had a single-sensor rear 20MP camera, but the company has followed the likes of Huawei, LG and Apple and incorporated a dual-camera setup in the latest handset. The 20MP and 16MP rear shooters allow the phone to take portrait-mode shots that introduce the kind of bokeh and depth-of-field effects that are only really made possible on smartphones with twin cameras. Although the settings aren’t as in-depth as Leica-branded Huawei handsets, the interface is simple and the results are excellent, if not top-of-the-line.
AN AFFORDABLE POWERHOUSE
The OnePlus 5 performs spectacularly in both everyday activity and high-performance tasks and it’s absolutely worth the $600 to $700 asking price. Even though it lacks the heavy waterproofing and grandiose display resolutions of some other company’s flagships, these sacrifices pale in comparison to the hundreds of dollars you’ll be saving.