Update: It may only be five months old, but the OnePlus 5 is no longer the Chinese company’s top-of-the-range model. Announced at an event in New York, the OnePlus 5T is now on sale and it’s an even better phone.
While the innards remain largely the same – chiefly because the Snapdragon 835 powering the OnePlus 5 remains unbeaten – on the outside it’s all change. The S8-style edge-to-edge display is joining, making the 6in display virtually bezel-less, and despite the added pixels, no extra bulk has been added to the mix. On top of this there are improvements to the software and camera that you can read in our hands-on review here.
Should you hold off buying a OnePlus 5? Well, you don’t really have a choice. The OnePlus website only mentions contract deals with O2 now – there doesn’t seem to be a way of buying SIM-free. If you can find a good pre-owned deal on eBay or the like, then the OnePlus 5 will remain a good phone for years to come. But it won’t hurt to wait for the full OnePlus 5T review, when we get our hands on our test model.
Jon’s original OnePlus 5 review continues below
OnePlus 5 review: In depth
The OnePlus 5 is one hell of a smartphone but then you’re not really surprised about that are, you? After all, if there’s one thing OnePlus has demonstrated over the past few years it’s that it has a keen eye for what consumers want from a smartphone. It’s a pretty simple recipe when you think about it: people want the fastest phone they can afford with the best camera they can get without necessarily having to fork out the premium prices that Samsung and Apple charge.
The OnePlus 5 doubles down on that, delivering everything previous OnePlus phones have and then some.
And that means, at its core, the OnePlus 5 is a fast, reasonably priced smartphone that builds everything around the latest, greatest silicon from Qualcomm – the Snapdragon 835. This is an octa-core chip comprising a pair of quad-core CPUs – one running at 2.45GHz, the other at 1.8GHz – and OnePlus supplements it with a generous dollop of RAM and storage. Depending on which model you buy, the OnePlus 5 has a huge 6GB or 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM, while storage options start at 64GB and rise to 128GB.
There are only two disappointing things about the core specification: first that OnePlus continues to eschew microSD storage expansion, although since you start with 64GB that’s not too much of a problem; second, that the phone doesn’t have any kind of dust- or water-resistance like the Samsung Galaxy S8 or most of its flagship rivals.
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What you also don’t get with the OnePlus 5 is the long, tall screen of the Samsung Galaxy S8 and LG G6; instead, the Chinese manufacturer is sticking with its eminently sensible 1080p, 5.5in AMOLED panel (which is fine as long as you don’t plan on using your phone to play VR games all the time) and has focused on improving the camera.
And that’s where OnePlus has spent all of its R&D yuan this year: on a new dual-lens rear camera, which it has also repositioned from the centre at the rear to the top-left corner of the rear panel.
OnePlus 5 review: Key features and design
I’ve become used to the symmetrical design of previous OnePlus handsets, so this change of look is quite a wrench. It looks much less like a OnePlus phone now, and more like something Huawei or Honor might produce, except that the camera module isn’t flush with the back of the phone.
As usual, though, the finish is high quality and sensibly practical. This is the slimmest OnePlus yet, at 7.25mm, and it feels jolly lovely. It doesn’t have glass on the rear, so doesn’t look quite as slinky as the Galaxy S8 or even the Sony Xperia XZ Premium, but the anodised aluminium unibody design (available in Midnight Black and Slate Grey), coupled with the new curves and crescent-shaped antenna strips at the top and bottom, makes for a very smart look indeed. The fact that it’s aluminium means it should resist breakage a little better than its flagship rivals as well.
Nothing else has changed about the physical design, though. The OnePlus 5 continues with the three-position do-not-disturb switch on the left side that I and so many other OnePlus fans love.
That sits just above the volume rocker, while the power button is directly opposite on the right-hand edge of the handset and everything else sits on the bottom edge. The 3.5mm headphone jack is retained, as is the USB Type-C port and the single speaker grille, while the fingerprint reader is, as ever, on the front – but now it’s covered in tough ceramic and will unlock your phone in a quoted 0.2 seconds.
And boy this phone unlocks fast. You only have to touch the sensor with your thumb or index finger and you’re into the home screen instantly. It’s the fastest fingerprint reader I’ve used on any phone and it really does add to the feeling that you’re using one of the fastest smartphones on the planet.
OnePlus 5 review: Display
As with last year, the display is a 5.5in AMOLED unit and the resolution remains resolutely Full HD. You might think that OnePlus would have left things as is, but there are a few changes afoot here. The main thing is that OnePlus is giving users a choice of colour profiles – Default, sRGB, DCI P3 and Custom – following criticism of the OnePlus 3 for its somewhat lurid default colour profile.
As with the OnePlus 3 and 3T, I think most users will probably end up sticking with the Default settings. In this mode, onscreen colours are bright and vibrant and don’t look nearly as candy coloured as on last year’s OnePlus 3. Yes, the colours are still bright and a touch over the top, but they’re not downright horrid.
That’s just as well because the sRGB mode isn’t quite as good as I’d like it to be. It covers only 89.8% of the sRGB colour space and red tones, in particular, look dull. My colour accuracy measurements, for what it’s worth, reflect that impression precisely. Overall, the average delta E in sRGB mode isn’t bad, hitting 1.76 – not the best result we’ve seen but far from the worse – but there’s a problem in the red tones as you can see from the graph below.
^ The coloured line represents the OnePlus 5’s attempt at matching the sRGB colour space; the dotted line is what it should be
The DCI-P3 pre-calibrated mode is better, with the phone reproducing 95.3% of that colour space, while the Default mode is more vibrant still, extending the displayed colours beyond even DCI P3. Despite this, it’s not distractingly garish.
^ Here, the coloured line here represents the OnePlus 5’s attempt at reproducing the DCI P3 colour space; the dotted line is what it should be
The Samsung Galaxy S8’s display is better and goes brighter than the OnePlus 5 in automatic brightness mode, but again the OnePlus 5 is no slouch. At maximum brightness, the display beams out at an impressive 419cd/m2 and with a polarising filter applied between the glass and AMOLED panel it’s readable in most conditions.
Thankfully, that polarising layer has been arranged so if you’re wearing polarising sunglasses it doesn’t black out when you’re holding it vertically or horizontally – unlike the HTC U11. HTC positions its polarising layer so that the screen blacks out your view entirely when the phone is held in landscape orientation.
All-in-all, the OnePlus’ screen is a very good one – a little off the pace in sRGB mode, perhaps, and not a match overall for the Samsung Galaxy S8’s – but I can’t think that anyone is going to complain too much about that.
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