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OnePlus X Review: In Depth

The Good

  • Thin and light
  • Strong value
  • Vibrant screen
  • Expandable storage
  • Decent battery life

The Bad

  • Last year's hardware
  • Fingerprint and scratch magnet
  • No NFC
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OnePlus X Review: We review the third OnePlus phone, a more compact and cheaper version of the OnePlus 2 that still boasts plenty of solid features.

Last year’s OnePlus One was one of the stand-out mobiles of the year, offering incredible value for money, which meant that the OnePlus 2 had some serious clown-sized shoes to fill when it landed back in August 2015. Thankfully the sequel was another solid handset despite a lack of NFC and expandable storage, and it’s just a shame that many fans won’t get a chance to check it out thanks to the clunky invitation system for buying the damn thing.

Less than three months on, OnePlus is already back in action with its third handset, the OnePlus X. From the name you’d be forgiven for thinking this was some super-sexed ultimate edition phone, but it’s actually a wee bit cheaper and smaller than the OnePlus Two, trimming away some of the big features to achieve that reduced £199 price. So, is the OnePlus X a worthy rival to the likes of the Moto X Play and Wileyfox Storm?

Design

For a start, it’s worth noting that the OnePlus X comes in two different flavours: Onyx and Ceramic.

Our review sample was the Onyx version, which boasts a finely milled metal frame with distinct detailing and a glossy front and back. It’s unquestionably a looker and beautifully thin and light, proving very easy to operate with just one hand. However it’s also a total fingerprint magnet, with that rear surface covered in fingerprint grease almost as soon as you pick the thing up. Disappointingly, the OnePlus X’s frame was also decorated with light scratches after just a few days of use, without any tumbles or rough handling to excuse it away. If you want the phone to look its best, you’ll want to wrap it in the transparent bumper that comes bundled in the box.

The alternative X swaps out the Onyx’s glass for ceramic, which is equally as reflective and fingerprint-prone. The cosmetic differences are incredibly subtle – a hard chamfered edge along the ceramic back in place of the soft rounding of the pillowed glass. The material swap also makes this more exclusive version a touch heavier too – 160 grams in place of 136 grams. However, the ceramic version is also reportedly tougher, so should resist scratching more successfully.

If you fancy the ceramic version of the OnePlus X, you’ll have a job on your hands. Only 10,000 of the buggers are being made, available once again via the invite system.

Beneath the screen, OnePlus has included touch-sensitive home, back and recent apps buttons. These don’t light up at all, which makes the exact positioning quite tricky to see pretty much all of the time, but your thumb will automatically find them after a few days of use. You also have the option of turning on screen buttons instead, if you’d prefer.

On the left edge of the OnePlus X you’ll spot the same notifications slider button as the OnePlus Two. This allows you to quickly and easily switch between no, priority only and full notifications alerts, handy when you’re about to slip into a meeting. Over on the right edge there’s a power button and volume rocker, as well as the SIM tray (which holds two separate SIM cards plus a microSD memory card).

Down below you’ll spot an old school USB port, not the new and fully-reversible Type C port found on the OnePlus 2. That means charging and data transfer is sadly slower, but it’s just one of the many changes designed to cut costs.

Screen and media

Another notable change is the OnePlus X’s smaller screen, now a 5-inch AMOLED panel. The good news is that it still boasts a Full HD resolution, which gives the greatest visual fidelity (441ppi) of all of OnePlus’ phones to date. That AMOLED tech means that colours leap off the screen too, as with Blackberry’s Priv display, while contrast levels are very strong. Blacks actually look black, instead of a sort of murky grey.

If you’re not a fan of earphones, the built-in speakers (positioned along the bottom edge of the handset) are fine for watching video and the like, with a more powerful top volume than expected. However, the audio is also quite tinny, so it’s far from ideal for listening to music.

Thankfully there’s microSD support to expand the 16GB of internal storage (11GB of which is usable), so you’ll have plenty of space to carry around a huge collection of movies and music.

Features and OS

The OnePlus X unfortunately loses the fingerprint sensor found on the OnePlus 2, which made unlocking the phone quick and easy as well as reassuringly secure. However, while it is a miss, you can always use Android’s Trusted Devices feature to bypass the usual PIN security if your time is money.

OnePlus’ Oxygen OS is once again the star of the show, a mostly vanilla version of Android Lollipop with one key difference. Flick across from your home screen and you’ll find your virtual shelf, which is a hub to all of your favourite stuff. The shelf automatically fills with your most-used apps and contacts and you can add in widgets of your own choosing, which makes this very similar to the Blackberry Priv’s Productivity Tab and just as helpful.

You’ve got plenty of customisation options buried in the settings too, such as the ability to set up shortcuts to a handful of features by long-pressing or double-tapping the below-screen buttons. Gestures such as double-tap to wake are supported and you can trace symbols on the screen to perform quick actions such as pausing your music or opening the camera, which works surprisingly well.

However, like the OnePlus 2 there’s no NFC support, which is an issue if you’re hoping to use your phone to make virtual payments.

Performance and battery life

The OnePlus X is powered by a quad-core Snapdragon 801 processor, backed by 3GB of RAM for reliable mid-range performance. Dancing quickly from app to app is almost always a smooth experience, with only the occasional little stutter to spoil the parade. The latest games such as Unkilled also play with a respectable frame rate and no game-ruining crashes.

Battery life is solid for a mid-range mobile, with a longer life expectancy than rivals such as the Wileyfox Storm. On a single charge you should happily last the day, unless you hammer the OnePlus X with media streaming and gaming. If you do want to watch video on YouTube, you can still expect a very impressive nine hours of non-stop kitten vids per charge, which is far better than average for a modern mobile.

Cameras

The OnePlus X has a 13-megapixel camera around the back and a 8-megapixel snapper at the front, and they’re both solid cameras considering the low cost of this handset.

Check out our full OnePlus X camera review for our in-depth look.

Verdict

The OnePlus X may lose some of the OnePlus 2’s glamour with no fingerprint scanner and cut-back performance, but it’s still a smooth operator that’s impressively slim and light, with a sharp, seriously good AMOLED display and a dependable 13-megapixel camera proving highlights.

Read next: Best smartphone for under £200 in 2015

Specification

Screen size5-inches
Screen resolutionFull HD (1920x1080)
Weight136 grams (Onyx)/160 grams (ceramic)
OSAndroid 5.1.1 w/ OxygenOS
Rear Camera13-megapixel
Front camera8-megapixel
Processor2.3GHz quad-core Qualcomm Snapdragon 801
Memory3GB
Storage16GB. Expandable via microSD up to 128GB
4G LTEYes
Bonus featuresTextured cases, dual nanoSIM

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