Our OnePlus 5 review reveals our inner thoughts on the much-anticipated 2017 flagship phone, from the new dual-lens camera through to performance, battery life and the everyday user experience.
The OnePlus 5 is the natural successor to last year’s OnePlus 3T handset, which just happened to be Recombu’s favourite phone of 2016. So as you’d expect, when I finally got my hands on this shiny new device, said hands were clammy with anticipation (or perhaps just because of that muggy London air).
Take a look at our long-term OnePlus 3T review to see how the previous handset holds up in 2017.
OnePlus has updated the specs to bring them bang up to date with other premium rivals, such as the HTC U11 and Huawei P10 Plus. At least, in most respects. You get an all-new dual lens camera (a first for the family), as well as the super-powered Snapdragon 835 platform, delivering impeccable performance. Not to mention upgraded software and a slimmer, streamlined design.
So, is the OnePlus 5 an essential upgrade for fans of these phones, or a worthy purchase for anyone after a premium Android handset? Here’s my full OnePlus 5 review, after using it as my full-time personal mobile.
Check out our OnePlus hub for all you need to know about the new 2017 flagship phone.
OnePlus 5 review: Design
Although this is the most slender OnePlus handset to date, at a shade over 7mm, that sleek metal frame hasn’t changed too much.
This latest mobile is more or less the same size as the OnePlus 3 and 3T before it, with a build that’s comfortable to grip and use with a single hand. You won’t struggle to reach up to the top of the screen to drag down the notifications bar, thanks to OnePlus’ one-handed mode – just swipe your thumb down the screen at any point and the tab is pulled down automatically, saving you some unnecessary strain.
Those edges are pleasingly curved, so no sharp bits should ever dig into your flesh. It’s a pleasingly clean finish too, especially now that the camera is housed in the top corner rather than centrally positioned. Plus, that aluminium finish is tough enough to resist scratches and hides greasy prints well.
On the bottom edge of the OnePlus 5 you’ll find the Type-C USB charging port, alongside the speaker grille and headphone jack. Flip to the right edge and there’s a SIM tray (supporting dual SIM cards) as well as the power button. Over on the left edge, the volume rocker and alert slider are housed.
That alert slider is a switch with three positions, which can be flicked up and down at any time. This toggles between the ring, do not disturb and silent modes, which is particularly handy if you’re heading into a work meeting or somewhere that demands quiet. You can also edit the precise settings of each mode, to suit your personal preferences.
Beneath the OnePlus 5’s display, the ceramic fingerprint sensor is housed. Like before, this is impressively responsive and quick to unlock your handset. Just tap your recorded digit to the sunken surface and you’ll be straight into your desktops, in a fraction of a second.
We’re pleased to see a Midnight Black model available from launch, as this was our favourite version of the 3T. On that phone, the dark finish was a limited edition effort. Here, it’s one of two launch choices (the other being a typical slate grey).
In fact, one of our only complaints is the lack of water resistance. Definitely don’t go taking the OnePlus 5 into the shower, as the thing really won’t appreciate it.
OnePlus 5 review: Screen and media
One feature that hasn’t really changed over older models is the 5.5-inch AMOLED display.
Despite rumours that OnePlus would boost the resolution to Quad HD, we once again have a Full HD 1920×1080 panel. That’s fine by me, because visuals are still pleasingly crisp, whether you’re surfing the web or kicking back with some Netflix.
You don’t get HDR support and there is a difference in image reproduction when you compare with the Xperia XZ Premium or other compatible handsets. Contrast levels can’t quite compete, although colour reproduction still impresses. Basically, if you aren’t demanding the absolute best possible picture quality, the OnePlus 5 is an enjoyable enough way to take in a show on the go.
We’re happy enough with the other aspects of the screen as well. Viewing angles are solid and on top brightness, the OnePlus is positively retina-searing.
Unfortunately once again there’s no microSD memory card expandability, so you’re stuck with the storage built into the OnePlus 5. You have a choice of 64GB (in the slate grey model) or 128GB (with the midnight black version). At least that’s plenty for lots of apps, a hefty media collection and lots of camera use. Still, here’s hoping the OnePlus 6 finally gives us memory card support.
You also get Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity, for beaming your music to a compatible speaker or ‘phones.
OnePlus 5 review: Features and OS
On top of Android 7.1.1 you get OnePlus’ OxygenOS 4.5.1 overlay. This hasn’t changed a significant amount compared with earlier versions, although there are a few new bits thrown in there.
Customisation and control are the two major components of OnePlus’ Android tinkering. You can tweak pretty much every part of the interface and even swap around the physical touch buttons beneath the screen, or add your own shortcuts for when they’re long-pressed or double-tapped.
Jumping into apps with ease is one of the OnePlus 5’s strong points. You can open the camera with a double-tap of the power button, even when the phone is hibernating. You can also load up anything you like by tracing a letter on the display, which is clever stuff indeed.
OnePlus fans will recognise a lot of the handset’s software features, including the Shelf screen – essentially a scrollable selection of nifty widgets. However, the OnePlus 5 adds some new bits too, including the ability to tweak the vibration intensity for a small number of functions. You also get a Gaming Do Not Disturb mode, which blocks notifications when you’re getting your game on.
The new Reading Mode is a partner to the Night Mode, this time adjusting the screen’s colour temperature for specific apps such as the Kindle app. It’s supposed to use the ambient light sensor to scale this adjustment, although every time I tested it, the result always seemed the same, no matter where I was: the display simply turned monochrome.
For details on the new OxygenOS features as well as some of the customisation options, check out our full OnePlus 5 tips and tricks guide.
OnePlus 5 review: Performance and battery life
When it comes to performance, the OnePlus 5 is up there with the very best of them. Unsurprising, really, as every single OnePlus handset has boasted the latest processing tech as well as plenty of memory to spare.
With the mighty Snapdragon 835 platform on board, this device is a clear match for the likes of the Galaxy S8, HTC U11 and Sony Xperia XZ Premium. You get a choice of 6GB or 8GB of RAM, with the more generous measure packed inside the Midnight Black model.
Everyday performance is stupendously quick. Apps load up so fast, you’ll swear they popped on-screen before you even tapped the icon. You can happily multitask with two apps side-by-side, with no signs of fatigue. Meanwhile the latest games play with a perfect frame rate.
The 835 chipset is pleasingly energy efficient, while both Android Nougat and the latest OxygenOS offer plenty of battery-saving features to extend the OnePlus 5’s longevity. For instance, the battery optimisation feature automatically restricts the background activity of any apps, unless you otherwise specify. You of course have a battery saver mode on board as well, for those tough times when you need to wring out a bit more life before charging.
With typical everyday use, I got well over a day of use per charge, once the battery had settled. Even with quite intensive use (media streaming, regular camera use, some Skype video calling and a little bit of gaming), the OnePlus 5 should still last you the full day.
Dash Charge is once again on board, and as awesome as ever. This fast-charging tech powers up the OnePlus 5 to near full capacity in just an hour, while the handset remains ice cool. No worries about long-term damage here.
OnePlus 5 review: Cameras
So, onto the biggest change compared with the OnePlus 3T: that fresh new dual-lens snapper, tucked away in the far corner.
OnePlus teased this upgraded shooter well before the phone’s actual launch, revealing its collaboration with optics experts DxO Labs to produce a seriously competitive mobile camera. You get a 16-megapixel f/1.7 aperture lens and a 20-megapixel f/2.6 aperture lens, which combine to capture crisp, detailed photos. Thanks to that dual-lens setup and the new portrait mode, you can also expect some great-looking bokeh in your snaps.
Video can be shot at up to 4K resolution, with the option to record timelapse and slow-mo footage as well. However, there’s no Optical Image Stabilisation, so things get a little bit shaky on anything above Full HD resolution at 30 frames-per-second.
Want to see some OnePlus 5 photo and video samples, as well as our full analysis of the handset’s photography chops? Check out our in-depth OnePlus 5 camera review. We’ve even compared the OnePlus 5’s camera tech against some of the very best mobile snappers out there, including the Galaxy S8, HTC U11 and the iPhone 7 Plus. So head over to our OnePlus 5 camera comparison to see the side-by-side results.
OnePlus 5 review: Verdict
While the OnePlus 5 isn’t quite perfect, it does offer a competitive flagship experience for less cash than the competition. Killer performance, slick software, dependable photo quality and plenty of extra smarts make for a great handset, as well as impressive value for money.
Check out our OnePlus 5 vs the best Android phones comparison to see how this handset stacks up against the competition.
You can grab the OnePlus 5 exclusively from O2 here in the UK, from £34 per month (or £36 for the Midnight Black version). Pre-order now and you will receive the phone from June 22.