It has been just over three months since the OnePlus 5 was released. Many were left impressed and others less so. But after the initial hype has subdued, how does this high-end “budget” smartphone stack up? Should you pick one up now?
Design and build
When I saw pictures of the OnePlus 5, there was no doubt the design was heavily inspired by other manufacturers. The phone is constructed of high-grade aluminium, which gives a premium feel in the hand. It is robust yet has subtle curves about it, making for a very comfortable user experience.
However, at 7.3mm and 153g it is a bit too thin and lightweight for my liking. When combined with the metal construction, it’s easy for the phone to slip out of your hands and pockets. I’ve seen it drop a few times, but fortunately the damage was not too severe. The screen of the phone stayed intact because of the Gorilla Glass 5 protection and I got away with only a scuff in the corner.
Despite the OnePlus 5’s capability to exhibit rugged characteristics, one of the disappointments is the lack of official water or dust resistance. This has become a necessity in the modern day and especially in this region. We see dusty weather a lot here and I think it would have been a nice safety cushion.
We expected OnePlus to take on a bezel-less design with the OnePlus 5 but that is not the case here. Huge bits of bezel are seen on the top and bottom of the screen, which doesn’t make for an immersive viewing experience.
The display by itself is a Full HD resolution panel. But its clarity and colours are among the best if not the best in my opinion. You can see vibrant tones and deep blacks thanks to the AMOLED panel in use and a number of user profiles are available to tweak colours to your liking. Some reviewers have complained about a jelly-scrolling effect on the display but I observed none in my testing.
Even outdoors, the OnePlus 5’s panel becomes plenty bright and using it under the glaring sun is no trouble. But where the experience falls short is in the speaker department. The company has opted for a mono bottom-firing speaker, which just does not cut it.
It’s capable of being loud, but at high volumes sound quality takes a massive hit. The speaker’s placement too makes the phone a bit awkward to hold, with the user constantly making sure you do not cover the speaker in the process. Fortunately, the provision of a headphone jack is a nice touch.
Every year, the performance on a OnePlus device is outstanding. This flagship is no different. Even after its launch three months ago, it remains the highest end Android phone in the market. With an octa-core Snapdragon 835 processor and up to 8GB of RAM, it is no surprise how well the OnePlus 5 performed in our speed test.
Right from rapid fast fingerprint unlock times to using multiple heavy applications at once, there is no sense of lag whatsoever. There’s a taboo on the performance of Snapchat on Android phones and I can say that on the OnePlus 5, it is buttery smooth. It rivals many flagship Android phones and even the iPhone 7 Plus on this front.
For graphics processing, you will find the latest Adreno 540 GPU on board. Once again, many high-end 3D games run well showing no frame drops with the phone remaining relatively cool to the touch. Although, a few 2D games show frame drops for some reason. This is most likely a software issue and should be patched in a future update.
But there is more to just hardware power that delivers this experience. The Oxygen OS skin the phone runs over Android Nougat is very much a contributor to this. It is bloatware-free and offers some great customisation tweaks. A dark theme mode, gesture support and a reading mode are just some of the many useful functions to choose from.
I said the company cut the most corners in my OnePlus 3T review. On the OnePlus 5, that’s where the focus has been, no pun intended. The phone adopts a dual-camera 16MP and 20MP set-up with a telephoto lens. This gives you features like 2x lossless zoom and Portrait Mode.
The general trend with pictures is that they are quite detailed but lack dynamic range. Most photos snapped during the day have the subject exposed well and do bring out detail in the shadows but the backgrounds are fuzzy. Even the Portrait Mode effect is great when you have a clearly defined subject in good lighting. However, I wasn’t very impressed by the 2x zoom capability of the device. It seemed a bit unpolished and wouldn’t be something I would use often.
In low light, picture quality is noticeably weaker. The phone seems to struggle a bit when capturing detail and images come out a bit noisier than you would expect. Shutter speed drops as well, though I was impressed how the exposure of light was handled by the phone in these situations.
Moving over to the front camera, it definitely stood out. Again, you find a 16MP sensor here which performs well both in the day and night. It is wide enough to capture much of the detail around and the colours it produces look natural. I would go as far as to recommend the selfie camera for vlogging. Unfortunately, I cannot say the same for primary video.
Due to no optical image stabilisation (OIS), footage captured from the back camera of the OnePlus 5 is quite shaky and lacks detail. There is electronic image stabilisation for Full HD video but its quality is not comparable to phones that have OIS. On the other hand, 4K video without any stabilisation is the shakiest of them all, but there is a software patch bringing electronic stabilisation for this mode. Unfortunately at the time of testing, I hadn’t received that update. For samples, click here.
The core element to complete the smartphone experience is battery life. The OnePlus 5’s 3300mAh cell is smaller than the previous OnePlus 3T, so I had my fair share of doubts about its performance.
Over my daily usage on both Wi-Fi and cellular data, I got close to four hours of screen on time on average. For a Full HD display, this is below par in my opinion. I found myself charging the phone late in the afternoon or during the evening.
However, thanks to Dash Charging that process was simple. Going from 0-50 per cent took around 25 minutes, which is quite impressive. That said, I feel the battery resilience should have been much better than what I found because at times, you may find yourself in a situation where you do not have the charger handy. Of course, due to the metallic frame of the phone, wireless charging support is absent here.
From a pure performance perspective, the OnePlus 5 is unrivaled. The experience is unparalleled and for this, I would definitely recommend the device to anyone in the market currently.
However, its pricing puts potential buyers in a tricky situation. With the likes of the LG G6 and the Huawei P10 selling for similar prices here, the choice is down to personal preference. If you prefer a better camera, maybe LG’s offering may tempt you or if you’re looking for added features, the Huawei phone.
One thing is for sure, though. The OnePlus 5 is definitely up there with the flagships. Just, if it were priced a few hundred dirhams cheaper, the phone would be seen as an instant buy in the budget category as opposed to a tricky buy it is seen as currently.