OnePlus 5 Packs a Lot of Punch, A Bit of Controversy [Review]

October 17, 2017

10:50 am

In the world of smartphones, crazy price tags are becoming the norm. However, one Chinese company continues to push back against the fold while still having some of the top specs available. OnePlus the brand with a motto of never settling, constantly offers the best bang for your buck, so it’s needless to say, but getting our hands on the new OnePlus 5 was at the top of our list.

However, there is a bit of a snag here. In recent weeks, the company has been under fire due to the amount of data that they have been collecting, some of which includes rather personal tidbits that have not been anonymized. Of course, always a catch. You can turn this off, and we’ll dig into that in a bit, but for now let’s tear this thing down and see what’s under the hood, which frankly, there is a lot of. Right off, if you’re looking for the most bang for your buck, this easily fits the bill. If you already have the OnePlus 3T, which we gave high marks, this won’t offer a huge upgrade, but does include a battery camera offering and overall better performance.

OnePlus 5 First Look and Review

Performance

If you’ve ever used a memory hungry app and noticed your phone starting to lag, the OnePlus 5 should cure what ails you. With the Qualcomm Snapdragon 835, an optional 6GB or 8GB of RAM, Adreno 540, and 3300 mAh battery, this thing is packing some serious performance specs. From filming in 4K to playing the latest mobile games, OnePlus 5 can handle these heavy processing apps with the greatest of ease.

Performance Specs
  • Processor: Qualcomm® Snapdragon™ 835 (Octa-core, 10nm, up to 2.45GHz)
  • Computing: Adreno 540
  • 6/8GB LPDDR4X

When it comes to storage, unfortunately the world of expandable SD cards are simply just not a thing anymore. While you get the option of either 64GB or 128GB, once you’ve maxed it out you’re going to be playing the memory delete game.

Basic Specs
  • Storage: 64GB or 128GB
  • Expandable Storage: No
  • Battery: smaller – 3300 mAh – 3,400 mAh
  • Fast charge: Yes with Dash Charger
  • Ports: USB-C, Dual Nano Sim, 3.5mm headphone jack
  • Sensors: Fingerprint, Hall, Accelerometer, Gyroscope, Proximity, RGB Ambient Light Sensor, Electronic Compass, Sensor Hub
  • Connectivity: Bluetooth 5.0, 2×2 MIMO, Wi-Fi 802.11 a/b/g/n/ac, 2.4G/5G

Performance Tests

OnePlus 5

There are several ways we put the OnePlus 5 to the test, starting with the basics like gaming. While using apps give you a bit of a subjective feel for how well it works and how much the phone reacts to process and memory hungry needs, we also use several benchmark systems.

AnTuTu OnePlus 5 Results
  • 3D Marooned: 33.56 FPS
  • 3D Garden: 47.32 FPS
AnTuTu OnePlus 3T Results
  • 3D Marooned score 28.32 FPS
  • 3D Garden score 40.16 FPS

As expected, the newer model both handles processes better and produces a better resolution with higher frames per second.

AnTuTu Benchmark
  • 3D: 73848
  • UX: 49725
  • CPU: 38685
  • RAM: 10199
  • Total: 172457

Based on these rankings the OnePlus 5 has better performance results than the iPhone 7 Plus, Galaxy S8+ (rank 6). However, some Galaxy S8 received higher higher ranks, which is likely due in part to them being fresh units with full battery charges. With that said said, the Nubia Z17, HTC U11 beat out the OnePlus 5 we tested, though another model with 8GB of RAM sits at the number one spot.

PCMark Battery Life Test

For regular work related use, the benchmark showed that the OnePlus 5 would last about 11 and a half hours of continuous use, which is up from the 8 hours from the OnePlus 3T. It’s important to note that these are estimated results based on PCMark; however, with the better processor it should in fact result in a better battery life. It’s also worth noting that the Dash Charger has returned once again, and you’ll get to about 60 percent battery life from a 30 minute charge.

Gaming

If you play a lot of mobile games, then the OnePlus 5 can handle the most intensive of them. The phone does tend to get a bit warm when playing things like Dynasty Warriors, which is a memory hungry game, but otherwise you’re going to have fast load times, no lag, and a quality experience. If audio is a big thing in your games though, consider using earbuds as your hands will likely cover up the speaker.

What sets the OnePlus 5 apart though is that it has two specific features designed for the mobile gamer: fast charge while plugged in and the Do Not Disturb mode. The latter simply turns off notification popups and reduces accidental key presses, and the fast or Dash charge will keep your device topped off. In the previous 3T model and most smartphones with fast charging, you can’t use the device at all if you want it to kick in. Combine this with the included 6 or 8GBs of RAM and you’ve got one beast of a smartphone.

Photos and 4K Video

One of the biggest wins for the OnePlus comes down to the camera. The 3T had a pretty decent one, but the latest model now includes dual lenses so that you can have a 2x zoom (using optical zoom and software), use things like portrait mode, and take manual photos in Pro mode. Looking at megapixels alone is not exactly a good indicator of how good a camera is; however, the OnePlus 5 beats out both the Pixel 2 and iPhone X.

  • Primary Lens: 16MP
  • Telephoto Lens: 20MP
  • Aperture: f/1.7 + f/2.6
  • Front Facing Camera: 16MP
  • Front Facing Aperture: f/2.0
  • 4K resolution video at 30fps
  • 1080P resolution video at 60fps
  • 1080P resolution video at 30fps
  • 720P resolution video at 30fps
  • Slow Motion: 720p videos at 120fps
  • Photo Modes: Portrait, Pro Mode, Panorama, HDR, HQ, Dynamic Denoise, Clear Image, RAW Image
Photos from OnePlus 5

These have been scaled down for the web

OnePlus 5 photo Gizmo OnePlus 5 photo Gizmo

If you want some examples of the 4K quality from the phone, just check out the review which had the initial opening scenes filmed on it. As you can see the color schemes are not quite as good as the Sony Alpha, but that shouldn’t be a surprise either.

Software and Operating System

One part simple, two parts controversy. While we’ll dig into the data collection issue in a bit, OnePlus uses their own version of Android called OxygenOS. The latest version is based on Android 7.1.1 Nougat, but includes some of their own customizations thrown in. At first launch you’ll be presented with OnePlus’ default theming, but thanks to OxygenOS you’ll have more control over things like accent colors and quick swapping between light and dark themes. It continues to boast on-screen gestures to access things like your flashlight and camera as well.

While there is not a great deal of newness, besides maybe taking some extra personal information, there are a few screen updates to improve content readability. Much like that of the Kindle, now you can easily swap into a grayscale mode for easier reading, an updated do not disturb mode for gaming and videos, a new app file system that mimics the Pixel launcher, and a few other minor visual changes. There are some updates to the camera app as well. One of the big things about OxygenOS is that it’s design to be a bit more snappy than stock Android, which is what we’ve found in both the OnePlus 5 and 3T.

Design and Durability

OnePlus 5

Oh hey, it’s a smartphone, and it looks pretty much like every other high-end smartphone on the market. It’s crazy, we know. Nowadays the physical look of smartphones don’t really differ all that much, and the OnePlus 5 is not immune to this. It retains the 3.5mm headphone jack, has a physical home button and ID sensor, as well as your basic front and back cameras and a few control buttons on the sides of the phone. OnePlus is a notorious fingerprint collector, which is also the norm for most touch displays, and the new version certainly has this as well. Fortunately on the back that uses an aluminum body, that’s not a concern.

As far as Androids go, the OnePlus 5 doesn’t your standard look (think Galaxy line or Pixel). While it may not have much bezel on the sides, on the top and bottom it certainly does. However, if you want to mentally visualize it, just look over at the iphone 7 or 8. The touch and unlock button is part of the bottom bezel, it features a dual camera on the back, and all the physical buttons are in the same place. In fact the only real differences OnePlus 5’s design come down to thinner side bezels, a pill shaped home button, and the silence switch goes up and down rather than side to side (do they open like this – strong language). So if you’d prefer the Samsung or Pixel style, you may not be as impressed or comfortable one handing this. With that said, much of their latest design, including the removal of the headphone jack, is due to their water resistance level rating, which this has none.

With that said, the changes between the OnePlus 3T and OnePlus 5 are not drastic in the design compartment. The screen on the front is very similar, and on the back you’re still going to get a bit of a protruding camera. The weight is almost exactly the same, so you won’t feel the difference at 153 grams, which is lighter than the iphone 7 Plus but slightly heavier than the original Google Pixel. It’s a wee bit taller, slightly thinner, and less than a millimeter tighter in the waist than the original, and it still uses the same Anodized aluminum. The screen is still the same size at 5.5”, which is also the same as the iphone 7 Plus. It’s almost like they built this with converting iPhone users in mind, maybe.

Dimensions
  • OnePlus 5: 154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25 mm
  • OnePlus 3T: 152.7 x 74.7 x 7.35 mm

While the display and resolution between the phones are the same 1080p AMOLED, the glass did get a slight upgrade to Gorilla Glass 5.

Display and Resolution
  • Resolution: 1080P Full HD (1920 x 1080 pixels) 401ppi
  • Aspect Ratio: 16:9
  • Type: Optic AMOLED
  • Glass: Corning® Gorilla® Glass 5

Overall the screen looks great, especially with streaming videos and higher-end games, but you’re not going to be getting crazy resolution like the Pixel of iPhone. For durability, it will be able to get a beating and will survive being in your pocket with your keys. And as far as features go, it’s unfortunate that it’s not water resistant, but at least you all still have your headphone jack. Don’t rely on this for long though, my bets are on this going away in the next model. The only other gripe on the design is that they use the good ole fashion speaker in the base of the device, which means if you hold it sideways for games/video, you’re going to impact the audio quality.

Privacy Concerns

Here’s the thing about technology. Basically every action, inaction, or thing you do creates some form of paper trail, and in many cases this is being tracked by the hardware you use, the operating system on it, the apps you’ve downloaded, and then there are those piles of cookies that allow marketers and brands retarget ads and see what you do on their sites. Because of this everyone needs to be keenly aware that this data can reveal some very personal things about you, including your address and phone number, and as such, one of the first things you should look into with new technology is how the data is secured and if you can adjust settings to anonymize or opt yourself out of things.

The brands and manufacturers who create our favorite devices all typically opt you into information gathering in some capacity. The nice brands ask you up front, but many opt you in automatically. In many cases it’s a dance with legality, but you need to be aware of your actions. The primary concern in OnePlus’s case is that while the data that they collect is sent and secured via Amazon’s servers, data breaches happen all the time. It will continue to happen, and they will only get worse. So the issue here is that OnePlus opted users into collecting more than the basics, and if this data is picked up by someone with malicious intent, it good be bad news bears.

“We’d like to emphasize that at no point have we shared this information with outside parties. The analytics we’re discussing in this post, which we only look at in aggregate, are collected with the intention of improving our product and service offerings,” OnePlus said in a company statement.

While their intentions are that of what most tech companies mirror, a better user experience of us, it should simply be more clear that our data was and is being collected. In response to this any new user signing up for a new OnePlus will be prompted to opt in or out by the end of October. For those who already have the phone, you’ll need to manually opt out if you choose to do so. Yes, it would be wonderful if companies were more clear and put our data at a higher priority, but we are each responsible for what we put out there, so some of that is on us. Make good choices, people. You can’t rely on companies to do it for you.

Pros and Cons

Highs
  • Amazing price point
  • Great camera and video output
  • Super fast processor and RAM
Lows
  • Just a few privacy concerns…
  • Display resolution not top tier

Overall Thoughts

Should you buy the OnePlus 5? If you’re not looking to drop $1K on an Android with top specs, and personally love the headphone jack, yeah, absolutely. Yes, there are some privacy concerns at hand, but between the CEO’s statements, the ability to opt-out, and being aware of the situation makes much of the hubbub means most of the torches can be put out (a few pitchforks may be worth keeping around).

With that said the specs alone make this a superb content compared to the likes of the Pixel and Galaxy phones, however, you will be lacking some of the bells and whistles like water resistance or squeezing it for Google Assistant. If you want to spend another $500 for that though….your call.

Price: $480 6GB / $540 8GB

Where to buy: Gearbest, OnePlus (currently unavailable)

Read more reviews of gadgets and gear on TechCo

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Elliot is an award winning journalist deeply ingrained in the startup world and is often digging into emerging technology and data. When not writing, he's likely either running or training for a triathlon. You can contact him by email at elliot(@)elliotvolkman.com or follow him on Twitter @thejournalizer.

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