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OnePlus 5 review: A clear title contender

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Already in our preliminary review we were able to gather some good experiences with the OnePlus 5. Two weeks and several patches later, our review of the strongest OnePlus 5 variant with 128 GB of memory and 8 GB of RAM goes to the next round. The software has been updated and optimized regarding some critical points, so we take a second look at the device with the potential to be the smartphone of the year.

OnePlus 5 release date and price

The 64GB internal memory and 6GB RAM version of the OnePlus 5 costs $479, while the 128GB internal memory and 8GB RAM version costs $539. The price jump between the two different memory variants is surprisingly low, especially when compared to other manufacturers. The OnePlus 5 will be available in two colors: Midnight Black and Slate Gray. The 128GB version is only available in Midnight Black and the 64GB version only in Slate Gray. The OnePlus 5 became available on June 27, 2017.

OnePlus 5 global prices

Country 64GB version 128GB version
US $479 $539
UK  £449  £499
India ₹32,999 ₹37,999

OnePlus 5 design and build quality

When you see photos of the OnePlus 5, it looks extremely similar to iPhone 7. But the moment you hold the OnePlus 5 in your hand, you can feel the difference. The OnePlus 5 feels significantly more ergonomic as the back and the edges are more curved than the iPhone 7. The OnePlus 5 also lacks the massive camera bulge that the iPhone 7 Plus has, but the device still has a slight wobble when it rests flat on a surface thanks to its slightly curved back.

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The back of the OnePlus 5 with its slight curve  / © AndroidPIT

The display is made of Gorilla Glass 5, which is meant to protect it from scratches and potential dropping. The soft aluminium frame, on the other hand, will likely show signs of age relatively quickly. Our review device came with a protective case, which did a great job protecting the aluminium surface as well as the 2.5D edges of the display.

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The design similarities between the OnePlus 5 and the iPhone 7 Plus / © AndroidPIT

OnePlus puts some OnePlus 5 devices from the production line in water, and they need to withstand it for 20 seconds. Although it doesn’t have IP certification, the OnePlus 5 should still be well-protected against water ingress accordingly. An independently made YouTube video shows how the OnePlus 5 can survive in water for a minute without being damaged.

Romain Heuillard from the French website Frandroid is even sure of it: “The OnePlus 5 is waterproof.” He claims to have exclusively learned that the OnePlus 5 would comply with IP67 certification, but OnePlus “refuses to take responsibility if the device were exposed to harmful quantities of water.”

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The flatter camera bump of the OnePlus 5 / © AndroidPIT

OnePlus 5 display

The Full-HD display continues to rely on an AMOLED panel. The color brilliance is increased by sRGB or DCI-P3 profiles. OnePlus enhances the display settings with additional features such an Auto Night Mode and a Reading Mode.

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The Oxygen skin is quite similar to stock Android / © AndroidPIT

While other smartphone manufacturers already offer significantly higher resolutions, OnePlus still relies on relatively simple display technology. Instead, they opted to optimize the software-side of display. As mentioned above, a Reading Mode has been integrated, which uses gray-scale mapping (this switches the display to black and white), filters out blue light and adjusts the sharpness and brightness of the display with the help of an ambient sensor. We’ve noticed that the minimum display brightness of the Huawei Mate 9 or the Xiaomi Mi 6 was noticeably lower than that of the OnePlus 5.

The display of the OnePlus 5 has excellent automatic brightness control. It works quickly and gives the impression that the display always has the same brightness; Whether in dark interior spaces or in the sunny outdoors.

Tom’s Guide measures the OnePlus 5 display’s brightness at 394 cd/m² and the color reproduction is 220% of the sRGB gamut. The maximum brightness is therefore below that of the Galaxy S8 (437 cd/m²) or the Google Pixel XLs (396 cd/m²). On the other hand, color reproduction is more accurate than on the Galaxy S8 (183 percent) or the Google Pixel XLs (191 percent).

OnePlus 5 special features

The OnePlus 2 already had a slider to mute the smartphone and the OnePlus 5 continues with this trend. It’s an unusual feature to see on Android smartphones, and is more than just a nod to Apple. The Alert Slider lets you set your phone to Silent, Do Not Disturb, and Ring. You can also individually customize the settings as well.

The OnePlus 5 has room for two nano SIM cards and apparently supports all available LTE (4G) frequency bands. If you are Verizon or Sprint customer, your going to have a little bit of an issue as it seems the OnePlus 5 does not support CDMA. The OnePlus 5 will also be shipped carrier-unlocked, so you won’t be bound to any one carrier.

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The Alert Slider has three settings on the OnePlus 5 / © AndroidPIT
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The OnePlus 5 has space for two nano SIM cards / © AndroidPIT

OnePlus 5 software

The OnePlus 5 currently runs on Oxygen OS 4.5.0 which is based in Android 7.1.1. When we were testing the device, it seemed like the Software wasn’t 100% final, so I would like to hold back my final verdict. I encountered several bugs, which caused unreliable Bluetooth and Wi-Fi connections, battery performance issues due to ongoing background services as well as multiple other issues which were difficult to consistently reproduce.

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The OnePlus 5 running on Oxygen OS 4.5.0, which is based in Android 7.1.1. / © AndroidPIT

When the final software version is released, Oxygen will be one of the most beautiful and thought-out Android flavors on the market. There is a dark mode that wraps the menus in a white-on-black theme. There is a Do not disturb mode for gaming where you can turn off notifications from certain apps (never be disturbed again by annoying pop-up notifications), There is a locker for apps and files, and the familiar Gestures – which you can use to open apps from a locked or deactivated screen. Another useful feature is the ability to natively take full page screenshots. More features can also be expected to roll out with the next updates.

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The Google Assistant is waiting for your command on the OnePlus 5 / © AndroidPIT

As with previous OnePlus devices, unlocking the Bootloader (rooting) and installing Custom ROMs will not void the warranty. For more information on this topic, head to the OnePlus warranty page.

The software interface comes across as quite pure and feels relatively faithful to Google. The OnePlus Launcher is in large extent quite similar to the Pixel Launcher and the Google Assistant is also ready out of the box. The pre-installed apps are limited to Google Apps and a OnePlus Community app.

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With OnePlus 5 updates, the security patch falls under the table. / © AndroidPIT

Unfortunately, the unwelcome news is that OnePlus only concentrated on functional improvements, at least in the initial patches. As a result, security updates are all but forgotten, which leaves known security holes open longer than necessary.

OnePlus 5 performance

Performance and camera quality were the development focus of the OnePlus engineers. As a result, the OnePlus 5 is one of the fastest smartphones on the market. Both synthetic benchmarks and real-world performance show that OnePlus really did its homework. But, of course, you can always find something wrong with anything.

Even after it received four patches, which arrived within the first two weeks, little has changed. The kernel still carries the ominous designation 4.4.21-perf+. However, the benchmark results have been three percent slower on average compared to those with the first software version. This does not change the fact that the results are incredibly good and everyday performance is fantastic.

Benchmarks: OnePlus 5 vs Galaxy S8

3D Mark Sling Shot Extrme ES 3.1 3D Mark Sling Shot ES 3.0 3D Mark Ice Storm Unlimited ES 2.0 Geek Bench Single Core Geek Bench Multi Core PC Mark Work 2.0 PC Mark Storage
OnePlus 5 3068 3932 38684 1944 6603 6592 4975
Samsung Galaxy S8 3174 3217 27330 1983 6402 6135 4644

However, it can be said that thanks to the 8GB LPDDR4x RAM and 128GB of UFS 2.1 memory, all load times are shorter than on most other smartphones. In combination with the new Wi-Fi and LTE antennas in the Snapdragon chip set, the data transmission speed is the fastest you can get in any currently available smartphone. In practice, I was able to download a 50 MB app within three seconds via Wi-Fi (5 GHz) and install and run it in another four seconds. For everything else, there is still Bluetooth 5.0.

The huge memory makes sure that once started, apps can remain in the RAM. This means that they do not have to be reloaded when they are called up again. In theory, this should reduce the power consumption, as it’s very rare that an app has to be loaded a second time. It must be said though, that we didn’t see the promised energy-saving effect in our tests yet. On the other hand, we did notice the performance improvement, especially when we were multitasking with multiple apps.

Slight lag is only visible in animations. Semi-professional YouTube smartphone reviewer and faultfinder Damir Franc alerted the community to a visible lag when scrolling, which we also detect on our test device (Oxygen OS 4.5.3) and cannot fix, even with a number of tweaks in the developer’s settings. See for yourself the part where Franc demonstrates it at 17 minutes in.

Even if this lag is visible, it has neither bothered nor interested me in the least in day-to-day life. Otherwise, performance was spectacular and I thought it was more important that it didn’t jerk or stutter under any circumstance. Since this is the case with the OnePlus 5, I won’t take away any points in the performance department.

OnePlus 5 audio

OnePlus didn’t jump on the stereo train, so the OnePlus 5 only has mono-sound from a single loudspeaker at the bottom of the phone. The call quality is assisted by noise suppression, which helps you understand conversations even in noisy environments. The OnePlus 5 also retains its headphone jack, which is something the rumors ahead of the launch had speculated would be dropped. The OnePlus 5 delivers good sound thanks to the equalizer and Dirac HD. If you opt for Bluetooth headphones, you’ll be pleased to know that your music and calls will sound equally good thanks to aptX HD.

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The call quality on the OnePlus 5 is good thanks to the noise suppression / © AndroidPIT
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The headphone jack has survived on the OnePlus 5 / © AndroidPIT

OnePlus 5 camera

The second development focus of the OnePlus 5 was the cameras. The new model has a dual camera as its main camera. One of them has 20MP, while the other shoots with 16MP. This allows for a real 2x zoom, and some interesting depth of field effects in the focus mode.

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Using the manual focus mode on the OnePlus 5 / © AndroidPIT

Technically speaking, the rear camera is a Sony IMX 398 with 16MP, 1.12 μm pixels, f / 1.7 aperture and electronic image stabilization, and a Sony IMX 350 with 20MP with 1.0 μm and f / 2.6 aperture. The rear camera also has a two-color LED flash, but no laser focus. Instead of the laser focus, the camera uses a manual focus and/or phase detection.

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The pro mode allows you to shoot in RAW on the OnePlus 5 / © AndroidPIT

Photos can also be saved in RAW format, however this slows down the saving process noticeably. Videos can be recorded in 4k 30 fps, 1080p 60 or 30 fps as well as in 720p 30 fps. You can take Slow Motion videos in 720p with 120 fps, as well as Time lapse videos in HD or Full-HD. In our test, the electronic stabilization only worked up to 1080p with 30 fps. The Google Pixel manages to do considerably better here.

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A double camera and lossless zoom on the OnePlus 5  / © AndroidPIT

For selfie fans, the front facing camera is a Sony IMX 371 with 16MP, 1.0 μm with a  f / 2.0 aperture. The front facing camera also has the Qualcomm electronic stabilization and can shoot videos in 1080p and 30 fps. For reasons that may be, you can now also take time lapse videos with the front facing camera, though I haven’t found an appropriate use for that yet. The videos are encoded in h.264; for the Audio OnePlus uses AAC at 96 kbit/s, and everything ends up in a MP4 container.

The default camera app of the OnePlus 5 is is simple and easy to understand. When you open it (which can also be done through a double tap of the power button), you end up in the automatic mode. If you then press the shutter button or half the volume rocker, an image is shot. This feature shoots photos lightning fast and almost always works on the first try.

If you’re using basic photo mode, you can tap the 1x button to switch the zoom level to 2x. In doing so, you switch from one lens to the other. A bonus: the gained zoom is lossless. Carl Pei later clarifies that the optical zoom is at 1.6x, while the remaining 0.4x is realized through SmartCapture multiframe technology.

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OnePlus has yet to improve the bokeh effect / © AndroidPIT

Many phones have a bokeh filter in their so-called portrait modes, and the OnePlus 5 isn’t an exception here. The OnePlus 5 tries to directly compete with the Huawei P10 / Plus and the iPhone 7 with its portrait mode but unfortunately, it’s not better than its competition. As you can see in the photo above, portrait mode seems to have problems with the edges of objects with a similar color palette. The bokeh effect also leaves much to be desired.

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No noise, but no sharpness at night. (Crop to 100 percent) / © AndroidPIT

Image noise is superbly suppressed on the OnePlus 5. However, occasional Renoir-style spots of color are still detectable. But, it is not noticeable in the overall picture, but rather when you go into detail and zoom to 100 percent, as shown in the example above. The selfie cam provides similarly satisfactory results in low light as the rear camera.

Our camera expert, Stefan Möllenhoff, gives his two cents on the OnePlus 5 camera:

The OnePlus 5 takes very beautiful photos in daylight with minute details and attractive colors. The automatic HDR performs excellently in high-contrast shooting situations. It increases the dynamic range, therefore preventing faded details in bright image areas, and provides a pleasant amount of detail in darker areas – two very common trouble spots for the small image sensors in smartphones.

The automatic white balance provides reliably good results, thankfully in troublesome situations as well, such as in mixed light.

However, the missing image stabilizer is noticeable under poor lighting conditions. The shortest shutter speed that OnePlus uses is 1/17 of a second. Competitors with an optical image stabilizer manage 1/4 seconds – and can reduce the corresponding ISO sensitivity by two apertures. The difference, for instance, can be clearly seen when compared directly to an iPhone 7 Plus, though admittedly, the Apple smartphone costs almost twice as much.

Finally, the double camera has brought about mixed feelings. One the one hand, Bokeh mode delivers attractive portrait photos with beautiful, blurred backgrounds.

However, using the zoom feature is very unorthodox: Both of the OnePlus 5’s lenses namely have focal lengths of 24 and 36 millimeters. When zooming the image with the “2x” button in the app, it jumps to a focal length range where the smartphone performs heavy interpolation, which is also noticeable in the results: pictures taken with 2x zoom are very grainy and often show unpleasant artifacts. Anyone who wishes to take native-resolution pictures with the two sensors must set the zoom to 1.6x using pinch-to-zoom, although the focal length gain is limited, too.

OnePlus 5 battery

As already mentioned in the performance section, I would like to hold back from forming a final verdict here. Some wakelocks in the background caused an increased battery consumption in stand-by. On a different day of testing, the display somehow managed to switch itself on and burnt through the battery power.

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The Dash Charger for the OnePlus 5 is quick – but irreplaceable  / © AndroidPIT

What I can say is that Dash Charge is amazing. Unfortunately, the fast-charging technology is as proprietary as a technology can be. Both the oversized Dash Charger and the thick red cable are not interchangeable with products from other manufacturers, unless you want to forgo the Dash Charging effect. Luckily, you can obtain affordable chargers at OnePlus.net. So, you should order two additional ones, one for your workplace and another for your car.

In a separate test that we undertook, Dash Charging was by far the quickest of all charging technologies. Half an hour of charging was enough to bring the OnePlus 5 up to 60% of its battery. The charging speed did slow down noticeably when it hit the last 20% but no other phone could match the charging speed.

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OnePlus’ quick charging technology is the best / © AndroidPIT

In PC Mark’s Work 2.0 battery benchmark, the OnePlus 5 lasted 6:32 hours, placing it mid-field with competitors such as the Honor 9 (6:58), although it is better than the Galaxy S8 (5:37).

OnePlus 5 technical specifications

Dimensions: 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm
Weight: 153 g
Battery size: 3300 mAh
Screen size: 5.5 in
Front camera: 16 megapixels
Rear camera: 16 megapixels
Flashlight: Dual-LED
Android version: 7.1.1 – Nougat
User interface: Oxygen OS
Removable storage: Not available
Chipset: Qualcomm Snapdragon 835
Number of cores: 8
Max. clock speed: 2.45 GHz
Connectivity: HSPA, LTE, NFC, Dual-SIM , Bluetooth 5.0

Final verdict

The OnePlus 5 has the potential to become a legend. It looks great, it’s lightning fast, takes good pictures, and can offer relatively good battery life. The manufacturer strives to improve the user experiences and optimize the flagship killer’s features using numerous patches. If they keep going at the pace that I have seen over the past two weeks, then I will have no problem giving the OnePlus 5 the title of “2017 Smartphone of the Year”.

Its predecessors were enthusiast devices, but the OnePlus 5 has the potential to be the device for the common man. Because its camera is finally competitive, the young manufacturer has mastered the last great hurdle to mainstream success. The compromises that had to be made with predecessors to date are now gone.

Unless you rely on provider features with as WiFi calling or find the remediable lack of security to be a dealbreaker, the OnePlus 5 is my current suggestion for your next smartphone purchase.

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