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OnePlus 5: the coolest Android phone you can buy

T3 logo T3 27-07-2017 Spencer Hart

Courtesy of T3: T3 image © Courtesy of T3 T3 image It's hard to believe that OnePlus has only existed for four years, morphing from a plucky startup where you needed an invitation to buy its phone into a major player in the Android market with adverts on the London Underground and Emily Ratajkowski as a brand ambassador.

OnePlus originally labeled itself the 'flagship killer', defined by premium specs at mid-range prices, but that has changed with the OnePlus 5, because with prices starting at £449, and ranging up to £499, this is an Android flagship through and through. 

Obviously, though, it's still far more affordable than the likes of the Google Pixel and Samsung Galaxy S8, but those phones are OnePlus' main rivals now, and they're pretty formidable rivals too.

It's good news, then, that OnePlus has stepped up its game, because the OnePlus 5 is the Chinese brand's best smartphone to date, but I think it also has something Google, Samsung, LG et. al. can't buy, and that's a certain culty cool-ness.

© Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. Just like the buying process, the design of the OnePlus 5 is now more refined. It's more rounded and smoother than its predecessors, yet still contains familiar design queues, such as the button and switch layout.

It comes in two colourways - grey or black - both of which look great.

It's comfortable to hold as well despite being on the large side, it's pleasingly thin at 7.25mm, and the rear aluminium casing has a reassuringly grippy texture.

You don't get the same brilliant ergonomics that you do with the near-bezeless Galaxy S8 or LG G6, and it doesn't look as visually striking, either, but for the price you really can't complain. It'll be interesting to see if the cost of the technology will fall enough for OnePlus to adopt this technology in the next iteration. 

Perhaps, the only criticism that you could hurl at the OnePlus 5 is that it bears more than a passing resemblance to the iPhone 7 Plus, especially around the antenna lines and camera placement. This doesn't really bother us (and it should bother you, either), but it is slightly jarring for a brand that tries to separate itself from the mainstream manufacturers. 

The OnePlus 5 features a 5.5-inch HD OLED display. This may be the weakest link in an otherwise brilliant phone. Most of its rivals have moved onto Quad HD (2560 x 1440 pixels) resolution, which are noticeably sharper, but even the devices which have stuck with HD, such as the Pixel and Huawei P10, have noticeably brighter and more vibrant displays.

It's a shame OnePlus has chosen the screen as an area to cut costs, as it's the component users spend the most time looking and interacting with.

© Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. One area that has received a bit upgrade is the camera. The OnePlus 5 includes a impressive dual sensor set up, with a 16MP f/1.7 wide angle lens and a 20MP f/2.6 telephoto lens.

This is similar to the iPhone 7 Plus system, allowing for 2x optical zoom and a dedicated Portrait Mode, which blurs the background behind the subject.

At the time of review, I felt a little disappointed with the camera, especially considering the hype given to it at the launch, it clearly lags behind the Google Pixel (our current favourite) when it comes to quick snaps, and its Portrait Mode lacks finesse compared to the iPhone 7 Plus.

I'll start with the bad points. Neither sensors feature optical image stabilisation (OIS) and sharpness can suffer as a result, especially in low light.  

There also seems to be a problem with the new HDR mode, where the slightest movement can cause a 'seeing double' effect between the stitched images, again, this makes images look soft.

The telephoto lens is very poor in low light, producing soft, grainy, and noisy images.

I'm hopeful OnePlus will be able to fix most of these issues with software updates, and I'll update this review when they do.

That may seem like I'm being overly negative about the OnePlus 5's camera, but the good news is that when the camera's software does get it right, the OnePlus 5 is capable of taking some amazing images, and despite our problems, I really enjoyed using the camera.

In particular I was very impressed with the Portrait Mode. It's accurate when determining what's background and what's foreground, and the resulting images look pleasingly natural. 

I think OnePlus sits between Apple and Huawei here, being better than P10 but not quite as good as the iPhone 7 Plus. Although, it's worth noting I've spoken to some reviewers who have found the Portrait Mode to be really unreliable.

© Provided by Future Publishing Ltd. It's not just the big things that make the OnePlus 5 a proper Android Flagship, it's the small details as well. There's sapphire glass covering the camera lens, The home button is ceramic, and when the screen off, it border between it, the bezels and the capacitive touch buttons are invisible. All of these small details really make the phone a pleasure to use and look at.

But the thing that really hits you when using this phone is just how insanely fast it is.

Everything from taking a picture, to navigating Oxygen OS, to multitasking is near instant. This is partially thanks to the Snapdragon 835 chip and 8GB RAM, but it's also down to the UI, which has next to no pointless animations. It's very impressive.

Elsewhere in the specs department you have the choice of 64GB or 128GB storage, and 3,300mAh battery, which easily lasts a day of heavy use.

When the battery does die, providing you're using the bundled Dash Charge plug, you'll be able to replenish almost a days power in half an hour.

Verdict

The OnePlus 5 is a very impressive phone. It's got a sleek, premium design, a great dual camera setup, and it's unbelievably fast. It's also go something which no other Android manufacturer has, and that's a certain street cred.

It will benefit from some software updates to iron out a few bugs, and it's a shame the screen didn't get an upgrade from the previous generation.

But I don't think you'll be disappointed if you buy this phone, but it's worth looking at some of its rivals - it's no longer the plucky flagship killer, it's now part of the Android Elite, and both needs to look out for more affordable rivals, such as the Honor 9, as well as the more premium Google Pixels.

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