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printed December 16, 2017
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Review: OnePlus 5

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Jun 23, 2017, 2:30 PM   by Eric M. Zeman   @phonescooper

The OnePlus 5 is the latest flagship from OnePlus. This Android smartphone boasts an appealing design, top specs, and solid performance in most respects. For those who prefer unlocked handsets and want to spend less than $500 on a top-tier phone, the OnePlus 5 might be worth your while. Here is Phone Scoop's full review.

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Hardware 

Intro

The OnePlus 5 is what we call an affordable flagship. It has all the hallmarks of a top-tier device — classy design, high-performance specs — and yet it sells for hundreds less than what's offered by the industry leaders. If you want top performance for the dollar, the OnePlus 5 is a good place to start.

Body

OnePlus has come a long way in just a few short years. When it launched the original OnePlus smartphone, the company was hardly more than a scrappy China-based startup. It had an awkward reservation system, limited supply, and didn't really seem cut out for the competitive smartphone market. The OnePlus 2 and OnePlus X followed and the company picked up some fans along the way. By the time the mid-2016 OnePlus 3 arrived, we saw a company hitting its stride thanks to the phone's appealing design and excellent performance. The OnePlus 5 is the firm's 2017 flagship smartphone and it's great to see just how much progress OnePlus has made.

The OnePlus 5 is a metal-and-glass slab that comes in black or dark gray. It has softer corners than the OnePlus 3 and a smoother overall shape. The front is 2.5D curved glass and it sits in an aluminum chassis that wraps around the back and all four sides. The 5 isn't the most unique design you'll ever see (some have likened it to the iPhone 7), and yet the simple lines are still pleasing in their own way. Antenna lines appear along the top and bottom edges, but they are hardly noticeable. I like the matte finish on our review unit.

1+5  

The phone is a fine size and is what most would consider "average" today. The 5 shares almost identical dimensions with the OnePlus 3. It's larger than the LG G6 and Samsung Galaxy S8, but smaller than an iPhone 7 Plus. It's slim at just 7.25mm thick, so it fits in pockets with ease. But I was just barely able to use it one-handed, and even then only when I stretched my thumb uncomfortably to reach the top of the screen. Most people will find the OnePlus 5 is a two-handed phone. The weight is nice. I had no trouble carrying it around and using it.

What it comes to materials and build quality, the OnePlay 5 is right up there with some of the best I've seen from Huawei and ZTE, though it's not quite as impressive what Apple and Samsung are capable of. There's no question the curved Gorilla Glass 5 is flawless, and the aluminum chassis feels strong and sturdy. The pieces are fitted together with clean precision. It's truly assembled in fine fashion. I have absolutely no complaints about the 5's quality.

The OnePlus 5 has a plain black face with no branding. The metal grille of the earpiece speaker is practically invisible. The shape and positioning of the fingerprint sensor and home button is identical to that of the OnePlus 3; it's really easy to find and use with your thumb. This capacitive key is indented a bit and offers haptic feedback when pressed. Invisible capacitive keys flank the home/fingerprint button to interact with the "back" and "app switcher" functions of the user interface. I wish these buttons lit up, as they can be hard to find. OnePlus kept the side bezels in check, but the black strips above and below the screen are a bit much.

One hardware control that sets OnePlus' handsets apart is the ringer switch. The 5 has a three-position switch tucked into the left side that lets you control the phone's sound (on, vibrate, silent). This is a great throwback feature. The switch has a ribbed texture that makes it easy to find, and the action is practically perfect. The baked-in software tools allow you to customize all three positions, which makes it even better.

The volume toggle is just below the ringer switch. It's a bit small for my tastes, which makes it hard to find and use. The travel and feedback is quite good. You'll find the screen lock / power button on the right edge of the phone. It is a decent size and delivers good feedback. The SIM card tray is tucked above the screen lock button. The strong, metal tray supports up to two SIM cards, but it does not accommodate memory cards of any sort. Shame, that.

The layout of the bottom edge is typical of a modern smartphone. A USB-C port is flanked by the 3.5mm headphone jack and the speakerphone. It's worth pointing out that the USB-C port supports audio-out for digital music; not all USB-C ports do. The top edge of the phone is completely smooth.

The all-metal rear panel is mostly flat, though it curves just as it reached the side edges of the phone. It's a bit plain. The 1+ logo is stamped into the metal about two-thirds of the way up from the bottom. I prefer this to paint. The dual camera array is in the upper-left corner. The entire camera module, which is rather small, is raised 1mm or so from the metal surface. The angled side of the module catches the light fairly often. A two-tone flash is located to the right of the camera module.

Thanks to the all-metal chassis, you cannot open up the OnePlus 5. The battery is inaccessible.

OnePlus made one major goof with the 5's hardware: it's not waterproof, nor even water resistant. Many other phones in this class offers at least some protection against liquid damage. The OnePlus 5 does not. If you drop it in the pool this summer, it's a goner.

Other than that, the OnePlus 5 is a fine piece of hardware that I think most anyone should be confident to carry around. It's a well-built slab that looks good and feels good.

Screen

OnePlus carried over the 5.5-inch, full HD screen from its past models. The AMOLED screen makes use of the standard 16:9 aspect ratio, so it's the same shape as most other screens right now. The pixel count and size work together well enough, though I am sorely disappointed OnePlus didn't improve the resolution to quad HD, which would be better for virtual reality. The display does put out plenty of light. I had no trouble reading the phone outdoors when the brightness was cranked up, though you'll notice the automatic brightness control is slow to react to huge swings in ambient light (like when you transition from dark indoors to bright outdoor.) Colors are a bit oversaturated, but blacks look fantastic. The phone has a night mode that reduces blue light in order to reduce eye strain. It's a fine screen.

Signal

OnePlus sells the 5 unlocked with wide support for GSM/LTE networks around the world. It supports many of the major LTE bands used by U.S. carriers, including good support for AT&T, T-Mobile, and their prepaid subsidiaries. (The phone lacks CDMA 1900 and LTE band 13, so it won't work well — if at all — with Verizon and Sprint.) You'll find speedy technologies such as Cat. 12 LTE, three-channel carrier aggregation and 256QAM.

I tested the phone on both AT&T and T-Mobile and came away impressed. The phone handily latched onto AT&T and T-Mobile's 4G networks and remained there throughout testing. I saw the phone dip down to 3.5G on AT&T's network once, in a known weak spot. Other than that, it was clear sailing for LTE connectivity. Data speeds were robust, but didn't reach the peaks I've seen from today's best phones. In real world terms, the OnePlus 5 was able to stream video via YouTube and music via Spotify with no trouble. I saw little to no buffering and didn't experience any dropouts or pauses. Social networks like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all loaded content via LTE swiftly. It's a good data phone.

As for making phone calls, the handset was able to patch through on the first dial each time I made a call. The phone kept calls connected over miles of highway driving with no effort.

Sound

I'd rate call quality as very good, but short of "excellent". The earpiece produces clean calls that are free of distortion and noise. I wish volume were just a bit better. I had to keep the volume set to the max. in order to hear calls at home, in the car, in coffee shops, and so on. Voices sound nice and crisp, even if they're not quite loud enough for my tastes. People I spoke to through the OnePlus 5 said I sounded excellent.

The speakerphone is more prone to distortion when cranked up, and — like the earpiece — needs to be set all the way up most of the time. The speakerphone was hard to hear in moving cars and other noisy spaces, but it sufficed for use at home.

Ringers and alerts could be louder. The vibrating alert is amazing.

Battery

The OnePlus 5 has a 3,300 mAh battery tucked inside. After several days of testing it's clear to me that this battery size is well-matched to the rest of the hardware. The result is a phone that I couldn't kill in a day of rigorous testing. Most people should be pleased with the battery life they get from the OnePlus 5.

The handset include the base Android power-management tool. It can help a bit if you suddenly find yourself at 10%. The OnePlus 5 also includes a new tool called App Priority. The phone's software will close or put into low-power mode apps that it thinks aren't being used.

More importantly, the 5 supports OnePlus' Dash Charge technology (5 volts at 4 amps) for rapid powerups. The company has a catchy slogan: "A day's power in half an hour." In other words, OnePlus claims plugging your phone into the included charger for just 30 minutes will give you an entire day's worth of battery life. I don't know about that, but the phone does charge up crazy fast.

Bluetooth, GPS, NFC, WiFi

The 5 has a good selection of secondary radios and they all perform really well. For example, you'll find Bluetooth 5.0 aboard. When it came to connecting to headsets, speakers, cars, and other devices, the OnePlus 5 got the job done. The phone paired with little effort. Phone calls passed through my car's hands-free system were just adequate. Music, on the other hand, sounded amazing when streamed to my favorite headphones. The phone supports aptX HD, which is the newest high-resolution stereo Bluetooth codec. As long as you have a compatible piece of audio gear, expect to be impressed.

The GPS radio interacted well with Google Maps. The OnePlus 5 was able to pinpoint my location within just a few seconds of opening the app, and accuracy was as good as about 20 feet. The phone managed real-time navigation with no trouble at all.

The NFC radio that's aboard the OnePlus 5 helps it pair with Bluetooth accessories and also supports Android Pay.

The dual-band WiFi radio supports 2x2 MIMO for faster throughput if you have a solid WiFi router. At home, the WiFi worked amazingly well. I didn't have trouble using the OnePlus on Starbucks' WiFi, either.

Software 

Lock Screen

The phone includes Ambient Display, which wakes the screen with simple notifications when messages or emails arrive.

The screen is on for a couple of seconds before it blinks off again. You can double-tap the screen to wake the phone. The lock screen includes the time, date, and list of notifications. It's basically the stock Android lock screen experience. You can get rid of notifications one at a time or en masse. Double-tapping a notification opens the associated app. The notification screen also includes shortcuts to the phone and camera apps. You can't customize these shortcuts, which is a shame.

As for security, the 5 includes PIN, pattern, password, and fingerprint. The front-mounted fingerprint reader works flawlessly. I was able to set up several fingers and the phone recognized them each quickly and accurately. The fingerprint reader is top notch and is the quickest way to unlock your phone.

The ringer switch works together with software to help manage notifications. I like that you can map certain types of notifications to certain positions of the switch, such as whether text messaging creates an audio alert or a vibration. You can also select from a wide array of vibration patterns.

OnePlus gives 5 owners control over the LED indicator light, too, which can be set to blink specific colors for specific types of messages or other notifications. I dig this.

Menus

OnePlus calls its Android interface skin OxygenOS. The OnePlus 5 basically runs a near stock version of Android 7.1 Nougat with small OnePlus flairs here and there. If you've used any Android handset before, you'll know exactly what you're doing on the OnePlus 5. The benefit of OxygenOS is that it tosses in a huge number of settings for customizing the phone's behavior that goes above and beyond stock Android.

Home Screens  

The phone has two home screen panels up and running when you first boot the phone with a third, called the Shelf, off to the left. The home screen panels function as they would on any other Android phone. That means they accommodate wallpapers, shortcuts, widgets, and so on.

The Shelf, which OnePlus seems to be downplaying a bit, is a customizable space where you'll find what matters most or what you use most. LG and HTC have similar tools built into their Android skins. It's sort of like Google Now. By default, it shows the local weather, a shortcut for writing a note, and several app suggestions that change over time. You can turn it off completely if you want.

Core interface functions, including the app drawer, Quick Settings shade, and main settings menus all look and work as they do on any stock Android phone.

Quick Settings And Settings  

There are gobs of extras. For example: Dark Mode. You can set the OnePlus 5 to switch to Dark Mode, which is meant for use at night. Dark Mode changes what are normally white screens to black, and black text to white. It primarily impacts menus and other system screens; it does not change apps. I like that you can adjust the accent colors.

OxygenOS provides OnePlus 5 owners with plenty of control over the status bar. You can select exactly which app icons are displayed in the status bar and which are not and even do things like tweak the shape of the battery meter.

Like LG handsets, the OnePlus 5 lets you choose the orientation of the Android controls. You can pick back-home-switch, or switch-home-back. The home button / fingerprint reader and two flanking capacitive keys support long-press and double-tap shortcuts for opening select apps. You can even elect to turn on support for drawn gestures. For example, using your finger to draw a "V" on the screen will turn on the flashlight. The possibilities for customization are nearly endless.

Tweaking  

You simply can't ask for better performance. The OnePlus 5 has a Snapdragon 835 processor on board with either 6 GB or 8 GB of RAM. This is the best combination available right now, and is found in more expensive phones like the HTC U11 and Samsung Galaxy S8. The OnePlus 5 absolutely screams. It's lightning quick. I couldn't find any activities that caused the phone to break a sweat, let alone lose its breath.

Camera

OnePlus has redesigned the look of its camera application, but the functionality remains mostly the same.

There are a handful of ways to start the camera. The fastest will always be to double-press the power button or fingerprint sensor. You may also use on-screen shortcuts from the lock screen or home screens. The app opens in a flash.

You'll notice controls lined up on the sides of the viewfinder, including toggles for the flash, aspect radio, HDR, timer, and selfie cam. I like that the HDR and flash functions both include an “auto” option. Aspect ratio options include 4:3, 16:9, and 1:1. You'll need to shoot in 4:3 to access the full pixel count of the camera sensor.

Three shooting modes are available by swiping up/down on the home screen: auto, video, and portrait. There are other modes buried in the settings menu, which is accessed by pressing a button in the corner of the viewfinder. These modes include time-lapse, slow motion, pro, and panorama.

Camera  

The portrait mode is the new, fancy tool and is meant to help you capture great shots of people's faces. Portrait mode relies on the dual camera lenses to provide sharp focus on the subject while heavily blurring the background so the subject pops. The mode is simple to use; just point the OnePlus 5 at your family/friends and hope for the best.

The pro mode is the advanced manual mode for taking full control over the camera's individual behaviors. When in pro mode, you can set exposure (up to 30 seconds), focus, white balance, brightness, and ISO. Easy-to-decipher dials help you select what's best, and the screen previews the type of exposure you should get with those settings.

OnePlus's optical zoom tool is nearly identical to the one in the camera of the iPhone 7 Plus. A button marked "1X" is just to one side of the shutter button. Press it, and it'll jump to "2X". This means you've switched from one camera to the other in order to achieve the 2x zoom. It's straightforward to jump back and forth. Press-and-hold the "1X" button to manually adjust zoom.

Zoom Tool  

In all, it's a fairly straightforward camera application to use. Perhaps most importantly, it's quick and light on its feet. I didn't notice any sluggish behavior from the camera and that makes me happy. It's quick.

It does, however, make the phone crazy hot.

Photos/Video

OnePlus jumped to a dual-camera array for the 5 in order to add features to the phone. The main wide-angle camera has a 16-megapixel Sony IMX 398 sensor at f/1.7 with electronic image stabilization, while the secondary telephoto camera has a 20-megapixel Sony IMX 350 sensor at f/2.6. There's no optical image stabilization. I think it's fair to say the OnePlus 5 takes just okay pictures; it falls far short of what's possible from more expensive handsets like the G6 and S8.

OnePlus 5 Photo Samples  

To start, I noticed an unpleasant amount of grain and noise on nearly every shot I took, whether it was indoors or out, telephoto or wide angle, regular or portrait mode. Grain, grain, grain. Focus is acceptable, but not great. I saw lots of jagged edges to subjects that should have been smooth. Everything tended to be underexposed a bit, too, which is just odd. At least white balance was on point most of the time. Honestly, I was expecting much more from the camera.

Zoomed shots are sodden with grain. See the clock and gray house examples below. The grain is inescapable. The portrait shots turned out as they should with a focused subject and blurred background, but even then exposure was a bit dark for my tastes. Exposure can be corrected somewhat after the fact, but grain cannot.

Telephoto  

The OnePlus 5 is right on the edge of true "vacation worthiness" for me. Would I trust it to capture the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, or Sacre Coeur while on a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Paris? Probably not. Is it fine for a weekend down the Jersey shore with my kids? Sure, it will suffice. Everyday shooting? Yeah, it gets the job done.

The 16-megapixel selfie camera delivers results that will make most people happy. It does suffer from some of the same problems as the main camera, but the shots are more on par with competing phones.

The video camera, which captures footage up to 4K, does a decent job. Like the regular camera, however, video is full of grain, exposure is a bit dark, and focus is a touch soft. On a bright sunny day outdoors, you'll get good, clean footage. Most every other time your results will be average at best.

Bokeh  

Maybe OnePlus can correct some of these issues with a software update?

Wrap-Up 

OnePlus has done a commendable effort with its fifth-generation flagship. The handset carries over fan favorites from earlier OnePlus models while taking some of the right steps forward.

The OnePlus 5 features a clean metal-and-glass design that is assembled tightly. The ringer switch is a great tool to have on board, and I appreciate the speed and accuracy of the fingerprint reader. Some will be happy about the 3.5mm headset jack. The screen is good for this class of device, though I would have prefered to see a higher resolution display. Data performance, call quality, and battery life are all where they need to be. It's too bad it's not waterproof.

OxygenOS takes the core Android Nougat platform and adds tons of useful tools for customizing the experience. I like that everything about the software is straightforward and simple to adjust. The camera application, in particular, is a step up from the OnePlus 3/3T and makes the new portrait and zoom modes a cinch to put to work. I only wish the camera produced better results.

The OnePlus 5 is available unlocked online for between $480 and $540, depending on the RAM/storage option you pick. It's significantly pricier than earlier OnePlus models, and that's a shame, and yet there aren't many phones that fill the $500 space. If you want an affordable flagship handset that delivers an experience that's almost as good as today's best, the OnePlus 5 is a solid option. If you want the best-possible camera, however, you're going to have to pony up the extra cash for a U11, G6, or S8.

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Comments

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Crunchy Frog

Jul 6, 2017, 7:13 AM

One glaring ommission

So I finally received my OP5 and couldn't wait to get it setup. I did the firmware and restored my apps and data to it. I was busy testing it out (so far so good) when I discovered something that was missing that no reviews have mentioned to date that I read and that is an always on mic.
This may seem minor but for me it is very important. Without this you cannot activate the Google Assistant with your voice when the screen is off. This seemed like something all good phones would have today and I assumed it would have this being a near flagship phone. I also checked settings and even tried attaching the charger but when the screen is off it stops listening. Doing research online I confirmed that this feature is missing.
Problem is that I d...
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sirluke

Jun 28, 2017, 1:45 AM

Got this in the Early Pre-Sale event.

I got this phone during the "early" pre-sale event. So it was at my doorstep last Friday. My old Moto X 2013 had served me well but was long in the tooth. This was quite a bit of money for me to spend... but. I also bought some extra chargers and car charger for the 5volt 4amp charging capability. It's just stupid fast at charging!

I have had 4 System Updates from OnePlus since Friday.. That's commendable considering I didn't know anything was wrong. They list the "bug" fixes and the apps and phone features that were tweaked also. This phone is blazing fast. I am not a gamer so the 1080P screen was okay for me. In direct sunlight a bit dim. The phone is plain... so its not for the "image" snobs out there. I think I got...
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Crunchy Frog

Jun 25, 2017, 9:06 AM

Looking forward to having one

I've almost always opted for the "flagship" branded phones, mainly due to their better performance, camera and battery life. With the phone industry maturing rapidly, I have really started considering some of the alternate brands now over my high priced choices so far.
As much as I love my Pixel, It's not paid off yet and won't be when the next iteration comes around in the fall. If I do opt for the bigger one this time, it'll set me back another $800-$1000 if I get the damage plan again. This is a lot of money to drop on a new phone each year and it seems there's a growing amount of people like me beginning to question these high prices.
The OnePlus 5 looks amazing so far and your article is much appreciated in that it actually reviews wh...
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