OnePlus 5 XDA First Impressions: A Thorough Upgrade Addresses Previous Shortcomings and Leaves Few Stones Unturned
The OnePlus 5 has big shoes to fill; being the successor to the remarkably popular OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, it needs to be better than its predecessors to gather the attention of OnePlus’ niche fan base, while also patching up compromises and broadening the phone’s appeal to capture new customers.
It’s near impossible to not take into account every aspect of the OnePlus 3T when evaluating this new device. After all, there’s only a little over half a year of a gap between them. While the OnePlus 3T improved upon the original OnePlus 3 in minor but surgical ways, this new offering from OnePlus is far broader in its changelog — luckily, almost every single relevant specification has been revised, with most (excluding some bullet points like battery capacity) being thoroughly modified for the better. This is most evident in OnePlus’ newfound focus on image quality, forged through a collaboration with DxOMark and by borrowing key components from its parent company, Oppo. With a faster processor, copious amounts of power-efficient memory, minute changes all over internal hardware and, of course, a radical new and familiar design… has OnePlus been able to hit the mark? Or is the OnePlus 5 going to be living under the shadow of its successful predecessors?
|Device Name:||OnePlus 5||Price||U$D 479|
|Android Version||7.1.1 (Oxygen OS ROM)||Display||5.5 inch 1080p AMOLED (401 ppi)|
|Chipset||Snapdragon 835: 10nm, Octa Core|
4x 2.45GHz Kryo, 4x 1.9GHz Kryo, Adreno 540 GPU
|Sensors||Fingerprint, Hail, Accelerometer, Gyroscope,|
Proximity, Ambient Light, Electronic Compass, Sensor Hub
|RAM||6GB/8GB LPDDR4X||Battery||3,300mAh; Dash Charge (5V 4A)|
|Storage||64GB/128GB UFS 2.1||Connectivity||USB 2.0 Type C, Dual nano-SIM slot, 3.5mm audio jack|
|Rear Camera||Dual Rear Camera:|
16MP Sony IMX398, f/1.7, EIS
20MP Sony IMX350, f/2.6, Telephoto;
RAW support, 4K 30FPS / 720p 120FPS video
|Front Camera||16MP Sony IMX371, f/2.0, EIS, 1080p 30FPS video|
|154.2 x 74.1 x 7.25|
|Bands||FDD LTE: Bands 1/2/3/4/5/7/8/12/17/18/|
TDD-LTE: Bands 38/39/40/41
TD-SCDMA: Bands 34/39
UMTS (WCDMA): Bands 1/2/4/5/8
CDMA: BC0GSM: 850/900/1800/1900 MHz
The OnePlus 5’s design is, of course, a controversial point of discussion given the reported similarity between this device and Apple’s iPhone 7 Plus. You wouldn’t be wrong in asserting that there is clear borrowing of Apple’s design elements, most noticeable in the camera layout and the antennae arrangement. The location of and spacing between the cameras, middle hole and flash are near-identical to Apple’s, and OnePlus also cleverly hid the antennae lines by integrating them into the top and bottom of the design, just like Apple did. The trick ultimately works out quite well, with the bands being of different color for different color options in order to best mask them. My only complaint is the diferrent resistance of the metal and the band can lead to scuffs and scratches not after too long, but that’s a small nitpick considering most people protect their devices.
OnePlus’ “hard edge” has been refined generation after generation, and while the device does look like an iPhone when looking at it directly from the back, the similarity quickly fades when rotating the device. Measuring at just 7.25mm, the OnePlus 5 is an extremely thin phone with the edges of the device sporting a curious curve into the back that is unconventional, but does help with overall comfort and grip. It’s worth noting that the device is narrower than the OnePlus 3T, as well as thinner, but it’s actually slightly taller, and that’s strengthened by the fact that its top and bottom bezels are also not as sharp and more rounded. Other than that, the front of device looks about the same, and while press material might make it seem like there are no side bezels, that’s just a clever illusion achieved through strategic use of 2.5D glass.
This phone’s design is ultimately not a risk-taker, it’s conservative in the sense that it keeps much of the company’s design language while also imitating the back of a massively-imitated flagship. In fact, it doesn’t take a genius to realise that the OnePlus 5’s back plate is identical to that of the Oppo R11, suggesting it was Oppo’s component sourcing and borrowed manufacturing techniques that ultimately had the most influence on the phone’s design. OnePlus claims they did experiment with various arrangements of the back of the device, including attempts at centering the dual camera setup, and a recent feature by The Verge showed prototypes with different, more-original approaches to design. Ultimately they arrived to a look that’s not very inventive, though also not bad looking at all. Considering that some of OnePlus’ strongest markets also have customers that look up to the iPhone as a status symbol, it might not be a bad idea for them to go down this route. In the end, the device looks quite good and the array of official cases also give it a little more character, should you be willing to spend some additional money.
This is actually one of my favorites aspects of the OnePlus 5 — as frequent readers probably know by now, I am a performance fiend and it’s one of the aspects of a phone I value the most. The OnePlus 3T was wicked-fast with a slew of optimizations in both hardware, software and even aesthetic designs to arrive at a speedy device. The OnePlus 5 comes with the inherent advantage that its specifications are just better in every way: a Snapdragon 835 at the right reference frequencies, 8GB of LPDDR4X RAM for the higher-end model (with this memory being 17% more power efficient over the previous package), and even UFS 2.1 storage that further aids app-opening speeds. We still have to do a full performance analysis, which you can expect sometime this week. It’s worth reminding readers that the OnePlus 5 was caught manipulating benchmarks, so we are abstaining from publishing misleading results in this First Impressions, and doing any analysis from synthetic benchmarks until OnePlus addresses this issue.
The result is a very fast and smooth device that keeps some of the better strategies previous devices employed. For example, despite not using a Qualcomm-provided implementation for boosting frequencies while launching apps, the phone keeps maxing out clockspeeds in such occasions to ensure there are no bottlenecks (I was led to believe we wouldn’t see this on the 8-core 835). The filesystem is still F2FS, which we showed to result in improved app opening speeds last year, especially benefiting heavier apps and 3D games where the improvements were shown to be up to twice as fast. Finally, the device is still designed with speed at the level of the user interface, with the same transitions making use of transparencies, and some other additions throughout the OS such as homescreen scrolling lowering the alpha of the app icons near the end of the page sidescroll. All of this come together to create a phone that not only feel fast, but that’s also objectively smooth in day-to-day operation.
That was reportedly something OnePlus focused on, making use of high-speed cameras and other tools to minimize touch latency and maximize responsiveness. I was assured that these improvements are ultimately related to software changes, though, and not a different digitizer implementation, but the result is very noticeable in general usage. Finally, the device does skip very few frames while scrolling through lists, putting ahead of the OnePlus 3T and remarkably close to the Pixel XL. Just like we saw last year, the 8GB of RAM aren’t fully utilized on this device as the background process limit remains at 32, the same value they arrived to in an update to fix the OnePlus 3’s memory management woes. So this device won’t be much better at holding regular apps, though it’ll be able to keep heavier services and games in RAM at once. OnePlus claims that the additional RAM is not necessarily something they expect users to make use of at this moment in time, and they see it as a way for developers to extend the potential of this device.
In the past, we’ve commended OnePlus for providing a remarkable user experience with OxygenOS (once you look past the bugs and vulnerabilities), and that hasn’t changed with the OnePlus 5. That’s actually simply because OxygenOS itself hasn’t really changed that much — it’s the same ROM you’ll find on the latest stable builds for the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, with some features from beta builds, and a handful but very minor exclusive features. All in all, it’s the same experience with just a tiny couple of cosmetic changes (mostly relegated to the launcher) and a few additional features that not only can you live without, but you’ll likely find on your device anyway, one way or another (more on that below).
So what are these new features, exactly? First things first, we find a revamped launcher that you’ll undoubtedly be able to use, officially or not, on your OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T should you have one. For the most part, nothing changes here You can still swipe down to access notifications/quick settings, the OnePlus Shelf is still there and works like it always has, and you can choose different icon packs as well. With the OnePlus 5 coming with Android 7.1.1 by default, we see shortcut menus when long-pressing icons and the ability to drag menu entries and create shortcut icons as well. The ability to swipe up to quick search is gone, though, and for a very good reason: the app drawer has been replaced from the traditional icon to one that’s hidden behind a swipe-up motion, like on the Pixel Launcher. There’s a subtle transparency to the app drawer as well. Other than the launcher and some tiny adjustments to icon proportions around the UI, OxygenOS looks and feels the same.
Then there’s Gaming Do Not Disturb Mode from the OxygenOS betas, which you can enable on specific apps (and not just games) to disable hardware keys to prevent accidental input, as well as heads-up notifications that might distract you from your activity. You can control it through the notification menu and also set it to trigger automatically in the apps you chose. With the OnePlus 3T, the company had introduced app locking, and now they expand that functionality with Secure Box, with is a specific folder found in the File Manager that’s encrypted and is only accessible by a 6-digit PIN or fingerprint, and it’s hidden from the phone storage. Finally, there are some small changes here and there, like three new gestures (‘S’, ‘M’, ‘W’’) and the ability to tie them to any app/activity, customizable vibration with three intensity settings and different vibration patterns, and expanded screenshots (well, this isn’t actually new, but still cool and worth mentioning).
I am still assessing the camera capabilities of the OnePlus 5 and I’ll be saving my complete judgment for the full review coming in the next few weeks. As I learned in an interview with Carl Pei, camera quality was a focus point of OnePlus’ ongoing efforts and we see this fully materialize with the OnePlus 5, which sports a dual-camera setup of 16MP+20MP with the main sensor being the Sony IMX 398, a piece of hardware developed by Sony exclusively for Oppo that has now made it to the OnePlus 5. To go alongside the dual camera setup that aims to provide better optical zoom and improved bokeh shots, the company has added some exclusive camera features and revamped the camera UI as well. Below you can see a comparison between devices.
Portrait mode allows you to take “professional looking” pictures with a solid bokeh effect, not unlike what many companies have been offering recently but specially not too different from Apple’s solution in their dual-camera iPhone 7 Plus. It works quite well and there are other adjustments made besides the background blurring, as lighting and color temperature are adjusted as well to make a nicer-looking portrait picture. It’s not done simply through software like on other devices, and as such there is no odd blurring of the edges. Then there’s Pro Mode, now more intuitive and feature-packed than the “manual” mode of previous OxygenOS offerings. It can do everything you expect such mode to do, including adjusting ISO, white balance, shutter speed, focus points, exposure, it can capture in RAW, it features a nifty histogram and you can save your settings too in different presets.
All photos taken with auto mode, auto-HDR enabled, same focus point in every picture.
|OnePlus 3T||OnePlus 5||Pixel XL|
Going past the features, image quality is quite a hit or miss still, but it produces very beautiful results when it does hit. Now OnePlus assured me camera will be improved upon in future updates and, given the strides the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T cameras made with various OTAs and beta-builds, I have no reason to doubt that’ll be the case. But while I’ve taken some great shots with the OnePlus 5, some are unreasonably noisy in indoors environments, and this makes little sense to me given the camera’s f/1.7 aperture and the overall strength of the sensor — it’s most definitely an issue with image processing, that should get resolved. Luckily, macro shots are easy to set up, focus speeds are quite excellent, opening the camera is remarkably quick and color reproduction is very appealing, with great detail preservation outdoors, even though it tends to saturate pictures more than something like a Pixel XL. In low-light, outdoors scenarios it can take some pretty great shots, though indoors the story quickly changes, and I was disappointed by its performance as my only camera at a recent wedding party. There are also some odd bugs I’ve documented and passed along and there can be inconsistent delays between pressing the shutter button and actually taking a picture, leading to missed opportunities (pronounced in puppy or baby pictures). I’ve loved taking HDR pictures on the OnePlus 5, as it manages to bring out more detail without oversaturating or changing the general composition of the picture, and with a quite precise auto-HDR mode, it’s not something you actively need to worry about anyway.
Assorted shots, to demonstrate some observations
Excluding those issues listed above, the OnePlus 5 offers an improved camera experience that can, indeed, offer impressive results. While the UI of the application is also designed in a way that doesn’t impair the picture-taking process at all, some other UX annoyances such as inconsistent or delayed pictures, indoors noise, aggressive sharpening in various instances and a few other oddities can detract from the experience. I also sort of wish that the camera setup’s asymmetry wouldn’t lead to such inconsistent camera quality when hoping from one sensor to the other, as the Sony IMX398 main camera is definitely superior and the image processing solution benefits it quite well in color reproduction and detail, which noticeably changes the moment you use the telephoto lens camera. I still have many pictures to take and I will be revisiting this assessment for my full review, but while I think the camera experience itself is ultimately quite good, I do feel it could be much better given the amount of attention being put towards this specific item, with the DxOMark partnership as well as the increased advertising and hype going towards this one aspect of the phone.
I am still reserving my final judgment on this device’s battery life for my full review, but so far, I’ve been getting a lot of usage out of the OnePlus 5. I am able to comfortably hit over 4 hours of screen-on time in the most extreme circumstances including full LTE usage, some GPS and camera, and streaming when possible (I’m talking about a very long drive, essentially) with enough remaining battery life to make it through the rest of the day. On more casual days, I’ve been able to hit 5 hours of screen-on time across two days, with some battery still left. I haven’t been able to outright kill this phone through regular usage (benchmarks are a different story), essentially, and when it does need to be topped up, Dash Charge does a fine job.
In case you were wondering whether Dash Charge is any different this time around, the answer is no, not really. There might be some differences in resulting charging speed due to battery capacity and perhaps some small changes in software, but the charging brick is still the same 4V 5A one we had with the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T, and it ultimately still charges at relatively the same rate, with OnePlus continuing to use its “a day’s power in half an hour” slogan. I did see a slightly-faster charging time than I’ve obtained from the OnePlus 3T, though I haven’t been able to see if the difference isn’t simply due to different battery capacities (though the delta is bigger than the ~3% I expected); I should have more thorough figures by the time our full review arrives. The benefits of Dash Charge go beyond mere charging speeds as we’ve noted in an in-depth analysis last year, which we intend to revisit shortly.
Once again, given the testing that went into some of the other articles we are releasing alongside this hands-on and other testing that resulted in atypical usage, I can’t make decisive statements about battery life just yet. But with a battery capacity of 3,300mAh, a minute decrease from the OnePlus 3T’s 3,400mAh, and an improved processor, power-efficient memory and a few other optimizations, it stands to reason that from hardware alone, you can expect this device to perform better than OnePlus’ predecessors.
Odds and Ends
There are a few other things OnePlus has improved with this generation, which are not only welcome changes but also things that could have been seen as compromises before, and that detracted from image of the OnePlus 3 and 3T as proper flagships. For example, the vibration motor of the OnePlus 5 has been vastly improved, and it’s now not only quieter but much sharper, stronger and more consistent than before. Wi-fi speeds have also been improved with 2×2 MIMO support, and OnePlus claims these can be twice as fast as those on the OnePlus 3 — ironically enough, this is hardly something to brag about given the OnePlus 3 was arguably half as fast as it should have been in this regard.
There are some other advantages such as the inclusion of Bluetooth 5 for further future proofing, and of course the fact that unlocking the device’s bootloader and rooting will not void your warranty. OnePlus also keeps steadily improving its customer support, though that doesn’t mean you still don’t find horror stories on our forums, their forums, or the OnePlus subreddit. The only aspect of this device that has really stood still is the screen resolution, which OnePlus sees no real reason to upgrade at this point in time, and the screen is overall the same as the OnePlus 3T’s — OnePlus hasn’t focused on the display nearly as much as other aspects, and the company has all but dropped the inconsequential “Optic AMOLED” branding. While it’s true that 1440p makes for a more premium device, do recall that even Samsung offered 1080p as the default resolution for their Galaxy S8 and S8+, implying that their market research suggests the additional image resolution might not be worth the additional costs to the UX.
However, while I am personally not a crusader for 1440p as a standard, there is a case to be made for higher resolution displays as they are optimal for VR and they ultimately do look sharper, with some people loving the additional clarity. Many hoped the OnePlus 5 would finally see the company jumping to a higher resolution display given it’s been “stuck” at 1080p for 4 years and 6 device releases, but it seems we might need to wait for another revision or generation for that.
An Amazing Device, but a Tough Upgrade
The OnePlus 5 is something I’d describe as “delightfully unexciting” — and that’s far from an indictment. It offers a no-nonsense approach to hardware with top of the line specifications (again, barring the display), improving upon those things that made the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T such good offerings, and then fixing some of their smaller issues and compromises. It doesn’t offer anything that’ll catch your attention, necessarily, as it doesn’t bring forth a flashy design with micro-bezels, nor squeezing features, nor modularity or anything of the sort. It’s the kind of phone everyone can enjoy, but that has also been crafted through the continuous feedback of OnePlus customers. In short, if you love your OnePlus 3 or OnePlus 3T and can look past the arguably-uninspiring design, you would most definitely love this phone as well. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you should buy it.
The problem is that the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T were already tremendous devices, with prices that made them very good value propositions
That’s probably OnePlus’ biggest conundrum: they made a phone by improving what people liked about their previous offerings, and listening to feedback on what should be addressed next. For the most part, they succeeded at making a phone that’s better in every way — but the problem is that the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T were already tremendous devices, with prices that made them very good value propositions. Those devices were also very future-proof when they came out, and the last one came half a typical release cycle ago too. What I am getting at is that I am not sure how many OnePlus 3 or OnePlus 3T owners are looking to upgrade after a year with their future-proof, valuable purchase. And of those that are looking to upgrade, how many of them see the OnePlus 5 as a device that’s worth dropping another $480 or $540 to upgrade to?
Ultimately, the user experience that the OnePlus 5 offers isn’t significantly different than what we’ve seen in last year’s devices, and when you take OxygenOS beta builds into account, that difference shrinks further. Upgrading gets you an overall-faster device that’s even more future-proof and has better camera capabilities. OnePlus allegedly intends to support the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T for a long time, though they’ve been a lot more careful with their promises lately — yet even if they don’t update them to Android P, the strong developer community of these devices will. And if they don’t bring the advancements in the OnePlus 5’s OxygenOS over to the OnePlus 3 and OnePlus 3T (where possible), the same developer community will bring them as well. If you are perfectly content with your OnePlus 3 or OnePlus 3T, then I advise you wait to see how the developer community evolves on this new device.
But if you are new to OnePlus, and if you are looking for an excellent flagship at a decent price, this phone is definitely worth considering. It might not have water-proofing or a 1440p display, but it does satisfy the needs of most users, and the core needs of every user. There’s nothing that this device does wrong, though it’s not particularly good at every little thing. It’s one of the best at some of the things that matter to enthusiasts the most, though, such as performance, and I believe that with a healthy developer community, this can become one of the most flexible and exciting devices of 2017. I certainly have enjoyed my time with the OnePlus 5 and there’s more to discover in preparation for our full XDA review. It’s a phone everyone can enjoy, that OnePlus 3 or OnePlus 3T users should cautiously consider, and that all Android lovers should closely evaluate. I do think that its relative value proposition is lower today than the OnePlus 3’s was at its time, but it doesn’t stop it from being a solid purchase. But as always, we advise you to read multiple reviews and opinions before pulling the trigger.
Do you have any questions you want answered? What do you want to see in our full review? Let us know and join the discussion!
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